Proposal for Web Editor: Replace random sketch name generator

I see the mobile-friendly web editor has finally arrived! :tada: :confetti_ball:

Now, there seems to a minor issue with saved sketches appearing to get a random name on reload–so I’ll go log that on the GitHub–but in the meantime, I’d like to kick off discussion of retiring the random sketch name generator in, (i.e., for replacement by a more predictable hash or user/timestamp scheme, similar to what the P5 Java IDE uses (as of Processing 4.3).

I’ll add my own opinion as a reply–I hope the broader community contributes opinions, too, so the dev team has some basis for future design/support decisions.


Here is a link to the proposal in GitHub:

Replace random sketch name generator with a more predictable naming pattern · Issue #2528 · processing/p5.js-web-editor · GitHub


Personally, I think the random sketch name generator should be replaced by a predictable default sketch name, (like “sketch [user_id] [timestamp]”).

I have been amused, mildly embarrassed, even at times inspired and confused by random sketch names in past. At this point, I feel the random sketch name generator is a whimsical, rather culturally-specific feature that has had a good run, but whose function could be better served by a more straightforward algorithm.

My main arguments against the random sketch name generator going forward are:

  1. Functional: The names themselves are not especially useful for users: The sketch name does not indicate it’s function, nor does it relate to the nature or character of the sketch it names, nor attributes like complexity or creation date.
    – In my experience sharing the p5.js web editor with newcomers (mostly teens and pre-teens), the feature can be disorienting for those of differing English language proficiency or idiom, even more so for those to whom the IDE and coding itself are already filled with unfamiliar language of various origin and significance.

  2. Ethical: Randomly generated offensive output might be equated with individual users giving sketches names offensive to parties in the community, intentionally or otherwise:
    – The ethical difference is, a human user’s work is worth the time and effort it may take to understand and reconcile with community standards and values.
    – An algorithm’s occasionally offensive output is an unfortunate, resource-consuming distraction unless (worse) it’s deemed “intentional” on the part of the author(s), subject to community sanction.
    – An inappropriate sketch name is a liability for users and may obscure the character of their work, (whether for better or worse).
    – Regardless of an algorithm’s origin and development history, we may be failing in due diligence as stewards and contributors if we did not eventually replace an algorithm for which less problematic alternatives exist.

  3. Practical: This Github issue explains the random name generator’s relationship to’s “friendly-words” project, which aims to curate a list of words that might avoid potentially offensive connotations when combined, (by culling terms that may form such a phrase). Personally, I question “friendly-words”'s sustainability, in either poetic or practical terms. On last check:
    – In the above issue, the offending combination was “ebony owner”. Apparently, “owner” was retained and “ebony” was banished, which seems like an impoverishing choice.
    – Other terms which might express colorism like “black”, “brown”, and “white” are absent, though “light” and “dark”, “bronze” and “yellow” are still present.
    – “Cute” is absent, but the project still includes potentially belittling modifiers like “childish” and “pretty”.
    – Animal names are present, with their various, culturally-specific connotations.
    – Deadly, traumatizing hazards like “poison” and “tsunami” are present.
    – Culturally, politically, and socioeconomically significant royal and noble titles are included, “emperor” and “empress”, “king” (but not “queen”!), “prince” and “princess”.
    – What may be understood as exclusively gendered terms are included, such as “fireman”, “mailman”, and “actress” (but no “actor” for some reason…?)

Thanks for reading–I look forward to hearing others’ thoughts and feelings about this feature.

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