Understanding codes vs words

The meeting rooms in my office used to have names. The facilities guys recently removed all the name plaques and replaced them with coded room numbers. For example, 3W-CR3, which decodes to third floor, west wing, conference room 3. They replaced all of the Outlook room names with the new encoded ones also. The result is that for over a month now, me and all my coworkers are confused. Is the meeting in this room? We look at the plaque on the door in puzzlement, coach and help each other with “yes, it’s in here” or “no, one room over”. Lots of times we try to confirm a location by asking “is this the Mountain Room”? It’s just been kind of a mess.

I think it’s an interesting psychological experiment. Is the problem just that we’re all resistant to change? Or is it really harder to remember a coded sequence than a word? I’m a former software engineer, so no stranger to code or numeric data, but even I am finding it hard to remember which room is “3W-CR3”. I have very good spacial ability, so when I hear a room name (or code), I visualize it in my head spacially, where it is in the floor plan. But I have yet to mentally attach the new coded names to the rooms in my mental map.

A name doesn’t tell you where something is. A code like this does. So it seems the codes would be more efficient. Of course it would have been better to change the names to “ABC5 Volcano” rather than just “ABC5” for those who are already familiar with the old names… But why the confusion, didn’t they put labels with the new names on the rooms?

I think there are some people who will just block out “3W-CR3” as being meaningless noise. If these rooms had always had these designations, perhaps they would have met with less confusion, but since people already had name associations with those rooms, they make the connection “3W-CR3 = Mountain Room”, instead of "3W-CR3 = 3Rd Floor, Conference Room 3.

“3W-CR3 = Mountain Room” is a difficult connection to remember as you have to visualize a floor plan to make it. “Mountain Room”, on the other hand, gives the user a visual of the side of the hall the door is on, the size of the room, location and number of windows, etc… Like I said, if they didn’t already have a mental image of what “Mountain Room” was, it would be easier.

In my experience, most people like, and learn, such things faster when they have names such as “Mountain Room” or “Seaside”.

I highly doubt that. It’s of course always risky to base any conclusions on just your own experiences, but those fantasy names are meaningless to me and completely unhelpful, while numbers are easy to understand. Ok, I need to be in conference room 5, I just passed 7 and now I’m at 8, so I have to turn around and go in the other direction.

Just wait for phase 2, Employee #1579 Function DX-IZ-P3-C2.

I like your logic, but where it breaks down is in the middle part of the scheme. Remember my example was: 3W-CR3, which decodes to third floor, west wing, conference room 3? In the place of the CR there, we also have MP for multipurpose room, BR for board room, LR for learning lab, and MM for multi-media room (i.e. teleconferences).

So what if you walked down the hall looking for CR3 and passed CR1, then MP1, then LR1?

Yip, that’s a problem. Numbering should be in sequence. You can divide by natural features, but dividing by type of room is problematic. There is no inherent order to CR, MP, LR, etc.

Personally, I’d reformat to something like W309 or something. That’s the type of thing I see at colleges, and those were never hard to navigate.

Code is far better for rooms … I’ve been in workplaces where they have gone the opposite: from 3South (level 3, south) … to “Innovation Room” and “Collaboration Room” … no one ever had any idea where those were!

I personally would hate, HATE that system. I have a real mental block about remembering seemingly arbitrary and random combinations of numbers and letters. It would be easier if the different floors were different types of things - first floor was say geographical features (i.e. Lake Board Room, River Conference Room, Peninsula Lunch Room, etc.), second floor was nearby streets (Pico Board Room, Sepulveda Conference Room, LaBrea* Lunch Room), third floor was some other thing, etc.


That fails when you’ve got a meeting in Sunset and you don’t know if that’s in the building where rooms are named after streets or the building across the street where the rooms are named after times of day, especially when assigning the naming scheme to that area was totally arbitrary.

My undergrad was numbered (there were building names. For the most part, no one knew them.) As there was a system to the numbers, if you knew the system, you knew approximately where everything was just by hearing the number.

Sounds like a way to make the workplace more efficient at the cost of its (apparent, at least) humanity. Please be productive, worker ant. Your queen requires it.

I work in a brand-new building with an almost incomprehensible room-numbering scheme. Rooms are quickly getting nicknames based on salient features. One is near a certain kitchen area, it has become “the kitchen conference room.” One has pictures of Guam. You get the idea. You still have to reserve them using their 8-character alphanumeric code, but you can tell people “The roof deck conference room” and they know where to go.

I did a tour of duty in the Pentagon in the early 80s. I worked in 4C686 - 4th floor, C ring, room 686, so between corridors 6 and 7. Perfectly logical and absolutely necessary in a building that huge.

Then again, I navigate by route numbers rather than names, especially when the names change. Rt 5, which passes my neighborhood, is variously called Pt. Lookout Rd, Leonardtown Rd, and Branch Ave. Not confusing at all… yeah. Just looked at a map - it’s also Three Notch Rd at one stretch.

Yeah, this is the part I still don’t understand. If there’s a plaque on the door that says 3W-CR3, why would there be any doubt over whether or not this was room 3W-CR3?

It sounds to me like you have a visual mind/memory. There’s no inherent reason why “Mountain Room” would give anyone “a visual” of any of the details of the room unless they had already associated that name with that room, which could happen just as easily with “3W-CR3.” But “Mountain Room” itself may be easier to remember because it has a visual association: you can associate the name of the room with an image of a mountain.

The last few places I worked, they had similar numbering schemes for the cubicles, and it worked just as well as this (that is, not very). We still always have to give each other landmarks to find each other. A few months ago I had to do a business trip to a client site that happened to be the headquarters for a major airline. That was a HUGE building (the only one I went into and it was part of a campus), all cubicles. You walked in and were faced with a veritable sea of cubes. But they’d painted the tops of the building support columns with aircraft model numbers in very large letters/numbers. So you could tell a coworker who wanted to come talk to you something like “I’m on the third floor, near B747” and they’d have a pretty close idea of where to start looking for your cube number. I thought that was brilliant and aesthetically pleasing.

Yeah, that’s kind of why I started this thread. We all seem to have a mental block on the numbers. When the room was “Chicago” I would go straight to it. Now that it’s 3W-CR3, I walk to the first room in the row, look at the door, go to the next one, look at the door, etc. We’re all doing that. And amusingly, we’re all doing that with a look of confusion on our faces, as if we’d never been in this building before.

When I visited Stanford in 1997, they had recently moved into the Gates Building (funded by guess who). The pointy heads who administered the building wanted to use 4 digit room numbers and were prepared to number each floor independently of the floor above and below it. There were just around 100 rooms on each floor. My host didn’t like this and did what any professor would do: he tasked a grad student to work out a more rational scheme. It would have been easier had the layout been the same on each floor, but still the student managed to find a 3 number scheme (he numbered the rest rooms with the same number and an M or F suffix) in which below, say, 245 would be around 145, as close as possible. This left everyone happy. The student’s name: Sergey Brin.

I’d like that- at least the name means something.

I’ve worked at my current job for about seven and a half years, and in my tenure, they’ve renamed the conference rooms 3 times. Initially, they were simply letters - “Conference Rm A” for example, with one non-Outlook enabled IT-only conference room called 'The Clubhouse" for some weird reason. Then about 2 years after I started, they renamed them to a set of more abstract names; Clubhouse, War Room, etc… for no apparent reason than they thought mere letters weren’t sexy enough or something.

About a year and a half later, after we were purchased by “Big-would be evil, if it wasn’t so big and incompetent-insurance company”, they renamed them to more “inspirational” names- Innovation, Transformation and another “-ation” word that I’m not recalling. Confusing enough? Then the one that I can’t recall got renamed after the group/software product that basically claimed the room as their own.

To compound matters, this same thing happened on the other floors, but instead of inspirational names, they’re now people’s names.

Having what amounts to a coordinate system would be awesome. You’d know everything you needed to know to at least get to a point in the building where you could start searching for the actual room.

The principle behind the What3Words mapping project is that it’s easier to remember words than co-ordinates, zip codes, etc.

The Chicago Reader is at “weeks goes hello”, btw.

This is why we have web site names like “boards.straightdope.com” instead of “”. (Didn’t know that server was in Tuscon!)

Code names for rooms is very helpful for certain people. E.g., to schedule maintenance, etc. who might not be familiar with the building but need an absolutely specific ID. But not for regular folk.

Our building just did the opposite, going from codes like B001 (suite B, conference room 1) to city names (Savannah, John’s Creek, Atlanta). I could deduce at least the general area of any conference room. Now the names have nothing to do with location in the building. I think it stinks.