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Suggestions for naming Signal groups

For roughly two years, I’ve been using Signal Private Messenger to exchange encrypted text messages with my family and some of my close friends. Earlier this week, my dad got a new phone and, at the same time, a new phone number. Adding his new number into several Signal groups revealed some shortcomings in the arbitrary names of the groups to which he belonged.

Group names are shared

When you create or change the name of a Signal group, remember, it doesn’t just apply on your device; it applies on every member device in the group.

For example, if Bob and Carol are in a Signal group created by Alice, and Alice names the group Bob and Carol, neither Bob nor Carol will know from the group name alone that Alice is in the group. Bob may then decide to change the group name to Alice and Carol, but then neither Alice nor Carol will know Bob is in the group.

For smaller groups, alphabetize first names

In my experience, a naming convention for Signal groups that works well — at least for reasonably small groups — is to comma-separate the first names of all the group members, including yours, in alphabetical order.

In the example above, I’d name the group Alice, Bob, Carol. This may result in a bit of awkwardness in certain situations, such as when I use my mom’s first name in a group name rather than just calling her Mom, but at least others in the group aren’t wondering whether it’s my mom or theirs.

For reasonably short names, you should be able to see three or four names on the Signal group conversation display on most phones, and even more if you rotate your phone horizontally. I’ve had good success with this naming convention for groups having up to six members.

Why the alphabetical order? Because it makes it much easier to pick out duplicate groups.

For larger groups, consider the audience

As stated above, the name given to a Signal group is shared with all members of the group. In situations when the naming convention suggested above doesn’t seem to apply, it’s still valuable to choose a name that means the same thing to everyone in the group.

To start with a bad example, this morning I discovered I belonged to several Signal groups named Family or some variation. Well, whose family? Is it immediate family? Extended family? If my wife and I are in the same group, we may have different definitions of who’s family. My sister? Her sister? My brother-in-law and I would probably differ even more.

By contrast, a Signal group name like Household might be a good choice, if appropriate, assuming everyone living in the given household lives in exactly one household. That’s not always a valid assumption, I know.

Another example: If someone were to add you to a Signal group called Classmates, is the group for high school classmates? College classmates? Yoga classmates? By contrast, a group named Polk High Class of 1987 would probably be unambiguous.

In short, exercise some good judgment, and create Signal group names that are meaningful to everyone in the group, including you.