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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Here are some resources on the topic: