IBM, Red Hat and others want inclusive language in software

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IBM, Red Hat and VMWare are among several companies that have come together to create the Inclusive Naming Initiative which aims to eliminate problematic language from projects and replace them with an agreed set of neutral terms. To do this, the initiative will define processes and tools to remove harmful language from projects.

Some of the processes and tools which the Inclusive Naming Initiative will be creating include a comprehensive list of terms with replacements, language evaluation frameworks and templates, and infrastructure to aid the transition.

Explaining the need for more inclusive words, the initiative says:

“If software is truly meant to be inclusive and a place where anyone can participate, it must be welcoming to all. If words or phrases convey secondary unintended meanings to our audience (or are simply confusing!) we are potentially limiting participation in our projects, which is antithetical to this goal.”

Initially, attention will be aimed at replacing the terms ‘master’, ‘slave’, ‘whitelist’ and ‘blacklist’ because these are the most visible and problematic across the industry. Over time, it will expand its scope to find replacements for other terms that reference mental health, gender, physical handicaps, and several other categories. In the future, it might also give tips to avoid colloquialisms that don’t translate into other languages very well or are a barrier to understanding.

While some people may be against the changing of these terms, the Inclusive Naming Initiative argues that the neutral terms are more descriptive, for example, it says that ‘Denylist’ is more precise and more accurate than ‘blacklist’.

Source: Inclusive Naming Initiative via Phoronix

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