Frequently asked questions

What is inclusive naming about?

The software industry sometimes uses certain words, like blacklist and slave, that may carry a great deal of emotional and historical baggage. We are encouraging projects to choose phrases that clearly communicate the technical meaning, without using metaphors or colloquialisms.

This has the dual purpose of removing problematic terms, and also communicating more clearly, particularly to those who are working in a secondary language.

Our goals are to identify where problematic terms are used, collaborate on replacement terminology, support project contributors in making updates, and report on joint progress.

Why is this important?

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.

What terms are we recommending you consider?

We have identified the terms “master/slave” and “whitelist/blacklist” to work on because these are considered most visible and problematic across the industry.

Over time, we may recommend consideration of other terms, such as words that reference mental health, gender, physical handicaps, and several other categories. We may also give tips on avoiding colloquialisms that simply don’t translate well or prove a barrier to understanding.

See the word replacement list for all terms we recommend replacing.

Oh no! Slippery slope! Newspeak!

We’ve heard concerns that this initiative puts us on a slippery slope to Newspeak portrayed in the 1984 dystopia by George Orwell. This initiative is completely different from Newspeak. Newspeak involved multiple changes but the most essential were:

  • Removing precise words in favor of general words so that it would become difficult to form precise thoughts
  • Using the opposite word for the true situation to disguise what’s really happening

Everything in the conscious language initiative is the exact opposite of that.

For example, “waived failures” is both more precise and more accurate than “whitelist”;

“Primary” is both more precise and more accurate than “master” in projects that have made the switch.

The goal of this project is to use more precise words, in order to avoid unintended connotations that some common words and phrases have. Not only does this eliminate the hurt caused by those connotations, it also improves understanding, particularly for people who are reading in a second language, where those idioms may be confusing.

How can I educate myself on why these terms are problematic?

Here are some resources on the topic:

How do I get my organization involved?

  • Join our mailing list to receive project updates and invitations to community meetings.
  • Identify key people in your organization who can represent this effort in an ongoing fashion
  • Read our Implementation Guide and other resources to start making effective changes