I wrote my first computer program when I was 10 years old.  It wasn't much - it ran on DOS, only displayed a few lines of text, and took forever and a half for me to figure out.  Oddly enough, I was so jazzed about programming that I announced to my parents that I wanted to work with computer when I grew up.  I taught myself QuickBASIC and spent far too many days inside working on my computer than I'd like to remember.

When I was in middle school, I transitioned into web programming.  The Internet was still young, and Google hadn't gotten off the ground yet.  I built my first web page in the 6th grade and quickly got caught up in the world of blogging (before there was a term for it) thereafter.  Unfortunately, blogs at the time were hard-coded and difficult to maintain.

I kept a weekly blog through most of college, eventually transitioning to Google's Blogger service, and later abandoning web development all together.  I was resistant to the changes in the industry - they were too often, too complicated, and downright frustrating for a recreational coder.

In graduate school, though, I decided to add my "years" of experience on the web to my resume.  Friends told me it would help my background stand out from the pack ... all it did was require me to build yet another website.  It seems that, if you put anything Internet-related on your resume, employers will immediately throw your name into Google to verify the information.

At the time, that was a very bad situation for me.  Out of the thousands of results for "Eric Mann" on Google, I was maybe on the 50th page.  Not really a good impression.  I built a website and added a blog to exercise my marketing chops and improve my search engine rating.

Now, years after I built my first Microsoft program in BASIC, I'm returning to the world of Microsoft programming.  Whereas my website and blog are built on open-source platforms running on a Linux server, I need to learn a newer Microsoft language to accommodate the needs of a current client.  I've spent the past few days reading up on the new coding language (Visual Basic 2008), and I've discovered a few things:

  1. I was crazy to think I ever wanted to be a computer programmer
  2. As much as things have improved over the past several years, not much has really changed in the world of code
  3. Putting a new name on an old product only scares away previous users

Item #3 is the important part here.  I learned to program in BASIC, so it follows that Visual Basic should actually be easier for me to work with.  No more building elements and objects from scratch, right?  From a first glance, it looked like I was in a world of hurt ... until I started looking at the actual function libraries.  Moving from my old-school code-bases to the newer systems Microsoft has developed is as easy as it should be.  The fancy .NET names and tech-y descriptions attached to the system had me scared out of even attempting to work on the new platform.

So tell me, with this in mind, how much sense does changing your product's name make?  If you're adding new features to an old system, shouldn't you just change a version number?  Or attach something to the name?  "Company Widget" becomes "Company Widget Plus?"  What happens if you disguise the old product in a new package?  Do you think you'll be at risk of alienating long-time users?