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A Web Site by Any Other Name...
Note from Will: the posting of this article has led to a free-for-all of name suggestions on the board. PLEASE DO NOT POST PROSPECTIVE NAMES ON THE BOARD. If you feel you must suggest a new name for the new HC, then please do so via email, but read this article carefully and follow the guidelines listed here.
Much of the hubbub this past week has been over Virginia Tech's decision to disallow the use of "virginiatech" and "hokie(s)" in domain names of web sites not affiliated with the university. Recently, the university's Licensing Department, which is currently under the direction of Locke White, sent out about 150 "cease and desist" letters to the owners of registered web sites using "hokie" or "virginiatech" in their domain names.
The topic is covered in detail in a Roanoke Times article from last Saturday:
Tech defends trademarks on web -- Roanoke Times, 9/30/2000
The result, among other things, has been a ton of email into my InBox, most of it asking what I'm going to "do about it." Naturally, HokieCentral.com falls into the cease-and-desist category, and although I haven't received my letter yet (it was sent to the wrong address, and a fresh copy is now on its way to the correct address), I have been told that it is on its way.
Although I haven't gotten mine yet, I've seen a copy of one, and it's pretty simple -- it requests that the recipient cease using domain names that are in violation by November 15th. It doesn't say what the consequences are.
So, what am I going to "do about it"? I'm going to change HokieCentral.com's name to something else and keep rocking and rolling. I've got a web site to run.
As you can imagine, much of the commentary on this issue has been emotional, although overall, most parties involved have stayed clear-headed and rational. Many of the people who have contacted me, in particular my family and friends, have wanted me to "fight" and refuse to change the web site name.
Don't be silly, folks.
First of all, although the relationship between HokieCentral.com and the Virginia Tech Athletic Department has shriveled into nothingness in the last two years (Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver hates HC and has expressed his desire to "nuke it," according to a recent column by the Roanoke Times' Jack Bogaczyk), the web site has always had a friendly, business-like, and downright cordial relationship with Virginia Tech's Licensing Department, which does not fall under the umbrella of the Athletic Department. This is a Licensing Department issue, not an Athletic Department issue.
Since the time I established the site 4-1/2 years ago, I have stayed on good terms with Tech's Licensing Department, first under the direction of Marti Hale, and now under Locke White's direction. At the request of Tech Licensing, HokieCentral has never used VT logos or trademarked images on its pages, despite the proliferation of other Hokie fan web sites that have done so for years.
Secondly, any HokieCentral.com merchandise that was sold on the web site in the past has always been licensed with Virginia Tech, and Tech has received their 8% royalty fee on literally thousands of dollars of HC merchandise over the years.
And thirdly, I have anticipated that this cease-and-desist day would come for years. In fact, I have almost changed the name of the web site twice in the last year: in November of 1999, I was ready to pull the trigger on changing it to TheDrillField.com (a name which we still have reserved), and this past summer, we came even closer to changing the name to OandMSports.com.
Both times, I stopped short -- the first time, because I discovered that although it sounds neat, DrillField.com is kind of awkward when you actually start using it, and the second time, because I chose to take a wait-and-see approach, and to let Tech make the first move.
Naturally, says the cynic in me, Virginia Tech finally decided to make their move in the middle of football season, when the site is at its busiest, instead of in June, when the HC landscape is dead, with tumbleweeds blowing forlornly across its dust-covered server. Thanks a lot, guys.
But I'll comply. I will not fight. If you think I've got the (a) the money, (b) the time, or (c) the slightest inclination to get into a spat with Virginia Tech, then you're not thinking with your head. It's much easier to change the domain name to something new -- that probably takes a few days, total, but fighting would take weeks and months on end, maybe years, so I'm not interested.
And last but not least, it's the right thing to do. VT is protecting their trademarks, as they have every right to.
So What Now?
Well, as I said in the Roanoke Times article linked at the top, let's have fun with it!
After a long, long, long process of choosing prospective domain names, I have come up with a list of six names. Back in April, I asked web site visitors to send me prospective names, and I got a lot of dogs in the emails that I received, but I also got a lot of good ones.
Here are the guidelines that a new domain name had to fit:
Not too many syllables and easy to spell. The first part of this is self-explanatory. The "easy to spell" part means that if someone hears the name of the web site spoken (on a radio commercial, for instance), they need to be able to spell it quickly and easily when typing it into a browser.
This rules out some interesting alternatives, such as "UtProsimSports.com" It rules out the use of dashes as well, in my opinion. I'm not keen on dashes in domain names, so I won't, for example, change the name of the web site to "tech-sports.com" (techsports.com is already taken).
It rules out all misspellings, too. Many of you suggested changing to "HoakieCentral.com." Thanks, but no thanks -- I don't want to spend the rest of my life saying, "The name of my web site is HoakieCentral.com: H-O-A-K-I-E-Central.com."
Needs to shorten to a good acronym. One of the things I love about HokieCentral.com is the way people easily refer to it conversationally as "HC." I'd like the new web site name to have the same ability to condense down to a familiar two-letter or three-letter abbreviation its users can use.
And the abbreviation can't stand for anything else, either. One good web site name, for example, is TechPride.com, but unfortunately, that shortens to TP -- the abbreviation for toilet paper. And BlacksburgSports.com, likewise, shortens to BS.
Must be (at least somewhat) professional and must work in formal settings. The Web is "cool" and kind of sassy, and that led many of you to suggest some names that had a little attitude to them. Attitude is okay, but I'm not comfortable with renaming the site AssKickingChicken.com, for example (sorry for breaking my rule about using the a-word on the web site, but I was making a point).
This also rules out all domain names that use "turkey" in them. Not professional enough, in my opinion. Can you picture me calling up a high school coach or player to do an interview, and saying, "This is Will Stewart of TurkeyTalk.com"? I can't.
Which brings me to another point -- I'm not dead-set against it, but I'd rather not use a domain name with "gobbler" in it. For one thing, calling the Hokies "The Gobblers" is part of the past (and it should be honored as such), but not part of the present.
And although the Licensing Department has assured me that anything using "Gobbler" is fair game, it is also true that any time you create a piece of merchandise that refers to Virginia Tech as the "Fighting Gobblers" or "Gobblers," you have to slap a "TM" on it. So even though Licensing is telling me that Fighting Gobblers or Gobblers is okay, I'm not sure it will be in the future, and I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. I only want to do this name-change thing once.
No use of VT trademarked terms. I have a piece of literature from Tech's Licensing Department that I received about 4 years ago. It says:
In the literature, every term has a little "TM" next to it. This means that if you produce a piece of Tech merchandise using those terms, Tech's Licensing Department will make you slap a "TM" next to the term and pay royalties on the merchandise.
In an email I received Tuesday morning from Tech Licensing Director Locke White, he told me that where domain names are concerned, "hokie(s)" and "virginiatech" are off limits, but "Gobbler, Tech, and VT (not the logo) are all fair game."
I appreciate that coming from Locke, but if it's a term that VT makes you stick a TM on when producing merchandise, then I'm not going to use it. This includes "Gobbler" and "VT." Locke White may think it's okay for me to use "VT" in a domain name, but I don’t trust his successor to feel the same way.
"Tech" is another matter -- I consider that to be so widely used (particularly with regards to technology), that it's okay to use it in a Virginia Tech sports domain name.
Must use ".com" as the extension. Our web site is a commercial entity, which ".com" is reserved for. We are not an organization (.org) or a network (.net). Plus, I wouldn't want someone being told about "techsports.net," going home and typing in "techsports.com," and wondering why it's not that Hokie web site they were told about.
Must relate to all sports, not just football. Names like "TechFootball.com" are out, because this web site is about all VT sports, not just football (regardless of the fact that about 60% of you who read this site leave on January 5th and don't come back until late August).
The Names I Ruled Out, and Why
Before we get to HokieCentral's prospective new names, here are some interesting ones that I thought of, or that were emailed to me, but I ruled out:
TouchdownTech.com -- I would rather leave this to Bill Roth, should he ever want it, and besides, HC isn't just a football site.
TechTriumph.com -- we reserved this, but the words and music to Tech Triumph are copyrighted, so we're not going to use it. Too bad, because it's a hands-down winner.
GoTechGo.com -- too rah-rah.
OrangeandMaroon.com -- good at first glance, but too much room for confusion. Too many posters on the board are "O&M" this or "O&M" that. Plus, people talk about being an "O&M" member of the Hokie Club all the time, and that's still just more room for confusion.
SquareRootofOne.com -- I like this, but I would get a ton of complaints from a vocal faction who don't like it. Plus, if VT ever changes their logo, I'm out of luck, and the already tenuous link between VT's logo and the fact that it looks like the square root of one could be totally lost.
FightingGobbler.com -- potential future Licensing problem (see above).
SkippersReport.com -- this was one of the more interesting ones I received. Skipper is the name of the cannon that Virginia Tech fires off after the Hokies score. The problem is, very few people know that, and besides, if I gave the web site this name, the Gilligan's Island jokes would be endless.
TechTerritory.com -- this domain name belongs to someone else. Once upon a time, last fall, I traded emails with the guys who owned it, and they said sure, HokieCentral.com could have it if we wanted it. I never finished pursuing that, and now it appears that the domain name belongs to someone different. Too bad, it's a good one.
And Now, the Candidates…
After many hours spent over many months, perhaps years, pondering this issue, I've got a short list of candidates that I wanted to present to you. These candidates for HC's future web site name are presented in a home page poll for you to vote on. Here they are, in no particular order:
Pros: very serious sounding, and referring to the site as TSJ would work okay. And by golly, when you hear this domain name, you know what this web site is about. The only question is, which Tech is it?
Cons: not any I can think of right off-hand. A little too formal and unimaginative, perhaps.
Pros: also very serious sounding, and the OMS abbreviation is kind of cool.
Cons: "O&M" reference is a little obscure, though not very, and what do you call the message board? The OMSMB?
3. DrillField.com and TheDrillField.com
Pros: cool-sounding, and as one message board poster put it, the drill field is "ground zero" of every Hokie's Tech experience.
Cons: non-sports related, and somewhat awkward to use, when you get down to it -- the DF abbreviation is a little clumsy. I keep picturing someone introducing me to someone else as "Mr. Drill Field," in much the same way that people introduce me as, "Mr. Hokie Central." And I keep picturing the other person getting a strange look on their face and saying, "What?" And when people on the message board talk about the drill field, are they talking about the real drill field, or DrillField.com?
Pros: pretty cool, and definitely sports-related. The "TS" abbreviation won't set the world on fire, but it works okay.
Cons: none, really, that I can think of right off-hand.
Pros: cool name, and it has a this-is-where-the-winners-are connotation to it.
Cons: bluntly put, until Ricky Stokes's crew can get its feet on the ground in the Big East, this name is going to be tough to say with a straight face during basketball season. Plus, it's not VT related, either directly or indirectly. I could capitalize that T in Victory to make the connection, but the HC lawyer is frowning at that idea, feeling that Licensing may not like that move. Still, I'm open to it, if you guys like it …
Pros: draws on the primary color of Tech sports and portrays a sense of, well, pride in the Tech teams that wear maroon.
Cons: the MP abbreviation stands for Military Police. And those of you who visit opponents' message boards will very quickly get tired of being told to go back to "Moron Pride." Despite those shortcomings, it's a cool name worth considering.
Sorry this article is so long, but it's my attempt to stem the tide of emails that I get on this topic by explaining all aspects of it.
So, having read all this (if you made it this far), give it some thought, and vote for your favorite new name for HokieCentral.com in our new home page poll.
Two more comments:
1.) I won't necessarily use the domain name that wins the poll. I just want to get a feel for what you all think. I've got my favorites and my "un-favorites" among the six prospective domain names, but I could be persuaded, given the outcome of the vote.
2.) Think you've got a better domain name than my six candidates? Well, you can email it to me, but it better fit the criteria outlined here (don't dare suggest hokeycentral.com, after I distinctly said "no intentional misspellings"), and it better not already be taken (the next person to suggest "TechCentral" to me will get slapped, because it's taken -- most "Tech" domain names are, due to the large number of "tech"nology sites on the Web).
You can check and see if a domain name is already reserved by someone else by going here:
That'll do it folks -- go to the HC home page and vote, and look for the new "Hokie Central" soon!
Will Stewart is the founder and General Manager of HokieCentral.com. He writes the News and Notes section, game previews, and game reports for HC, and generally runs the place with his prodigious and productive brain.