This was something I wrote back in April of '05 but it's just as relevant today, three years later. It was first set into a discussion in the ASK Maureen group over on ERE. I've been long meaning to set it into MagicMethod as one of the lessons but have not - as of yet!

Browsing through Mark Twain’s personal narrative of variegated vagabondizing “Roughing It”, I came across a term in reference to gold mining I’d never seen before, “pocket hunting”. Twain describes it, “In that one little corner of California is found a species of mining which is seldom or never mentioned in print. It is called "pocket mining" and I am not aware that any of it is done outside of that little corner. The gold is not evenly distributed through the surface dirt, as in ordinary placer mines, but is collected in little spots, and they are very wide apart and exceedingly hard to find, but when you do find one you reap a rich and sudden harvest. There are not now more than twenty pocket miners in that entire little region. I think I know every one of them personally. I have known one of them to hunt patiently about the hill-sides every day for eight months without finding gold enough to make a snuff-box--his grocery bill running up relentlessly all the time--and then find a pocket and take out of it two thousand dollars in two dips of his shovel. I have known him to take out three thousand dollars in two hours, and go and pay up every cent of his indebtedness, then enter on a dazzling spree that finished the last of his treasure before the night was gone. And the next day he bought his groceries on credit as usual, and shouldered his pan and shovel and went off to the hills hunting pockets again happy and content. This is the most fascinating of all the different kinds of mining, and furnishes a very handsome percentage of victims to the lunatic asylum.”


I know that feeling! That’s what we call names sourcing today, AKA name generation, name-gen, fetching-the-goods, competitive intelligence, capturing-the-lightening, stealing-the-thunder, free-enterprise-at-work, or any and all of the various creative references we have to it as the starting point in the human resources function of hiring-the-right-person.

Twain goes on, “Pocket hunting is an ingenious process. You take a spadeful of earth from the hill-side and put it in a large tin pan and dissolve and wash it gradually away till nothing is left but a teaspoonful of fine sediment. Whatever gold was in that earth has remained, because, being the heaviest, it has sought the bottom. Among the sediment you will find half a dozen yellow particles no larger than pin-heads. You are delighted. You move off to one side and wash another pan. If you find gold again, you move to one side further, and wash a third pan. If you find no gold this time, you are delighted again, because you know you are on the right scent."

"You lay an imaginary plan, shaped like a fan, with its handle up the hill--for just where the end of the handle is, you argue that the rich deposit lies hidden, whose vagrant grains of gold have escaped and been washed down the hill, spreading farther and farther apart as they wandered. And so you proceed up the hill, washing the earth and narrowing your lines every time the absence of gold in the pan shows that you are outside the spread of the fan; and at last, twenty yards up the hill your lines have converged to a point - a single foot from that point you cannot find any gold. Your breath comes short and quick, you are feverish with excitement; the dinner-bell may ring its clapper off, you pay no attention; friends may die, weddings transpire, houses burn down, they are nothing to you; you sweat and dig and delve with a frantic interest--and all at once you strike it! Up comes a spadeful of earth and quartz that is all lovely with soiled lumps and leaves and sprays of gold. Sometimes that one spadeful is all--$500. Sometimes the nest contains $10,000, and it takes you three or four days to get it all out.”

Twain remarks at the end of his chapter that, “I have dwelt at some length upon this matter of pocket mining because it is a subject that is seldom referred to in print, and therefore I judged that it would have for the reader that interest which naturally attaches to novelty." Just as surely as his reader regarded pocket mining as a novel subject, I've found many who find the subject of “names sourcing” a mysterious, elusive and novel approach. Without belaboring Twain’s narrative of pocket mining, take and apply it directly to the names sourcing activity and you have an allegorical match. It’s modern day gold mining!
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