Burning Question

Yahoo's CEO crowdsources for a baby name: A hot new parenting trend?

Marissa Mayer, who just delivered her first child, is taking digital group-think to a whole new — personal — level

While her controversially abbreviated two-week maternity leave is not a model for most women, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's unique baby-naming process is already a hot trend among digitally hip parents. Mayer is reaching out to her online community to crowdsource a name for her baby boy, born on Sept. 30. What is the Silicon Valley bigwig thinking? A closer look at her campaign:

How do we know Mayer's actually doing this?
With the help of Twitter, naturally. Journalist and Mayer buddy Jeff Jarvis tweeted on Oct. 1: "Just got a large-group email from @marissamayer. She's crowdsourcing suggestions for [her baby]'s name! How digital can you get?"

What exactly is crowdsourcing?
Essentially, it's the process of group decision-making, popularized over the past five years by the pervasiveness of Twitter and Facebook. It's typically used to solicit suggestions for restaurants, movies, and travel destinations — and even to reach consensus through voting. Even Microsoft's search engine Bing incorporates social-media mentions into its results.

But has anyone crowdsourced a baby's name?
Yes. In 2008, a Canadian couple hired PickyDomains.com, a free crowdsourcing naming service, to choose their son's moniker. It was a first for the website, which more typically names restaurants and businesses, although it once christened a rap star's dog. That same year a Google engineer and his wife had such a tough time deciding on their newborn's name that they created an online poll. And a new website called Belly Ballot facilitates a similar process. After registering, parents can choose names from suggestions and have friends vote for favorites.

Why would Mayer want to join the trend?
Now that women are live-tweeting their labors, crowdsourcing may be the future of baby-naming, says Jacoba Urist at Today. And as a digital pioneer, Mayer is naturally drawn to the cutting edge. Or perhaps this public process is just "a clever way to get people talking about Yahoo and its innovative new mom-CEO."

Is this really a good idea?
Naming a child is important business, says Bonnie Rochman at TIME, and polling the masses may only lead to headaches and more indecision. After all, the majority of suggestions are going to be bad — hello, "Homepage" and "Cloud" — leaving you with little to choose from. But if crowdsourcing doesn't work out, says Meredith Lepore at The Grindstone, the Yahoo CEO "could always just Google some names." Zing.

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