As software developers, we exercise the power to name a lot. We name projects, products, servers, files, functions, variables and more. The names we use in our code and associated artifacts can invite people in or push them away.
|Article title||Inclusive Naming Initiative|
|Authors||Open Source Collaboration|
|Focus||Project Productivity and Sustainability|
There is probably no other human activity that involves the naming of new things as much as software development. There is power in naming and with great power, comes great responsibility. The names we use in our code and its associated artifacts (PR reviews, documentation, presentations, social media posts, etc.) are often shaped by our culture.
The importance of naming in software development is a frequent subject of bloggers and industry scribes. Many who author on the topic of naming, however, overlook a key issue and that is the imperative of inclusive language. Inclusive naming recognizes the role that language plays in contributing to a safe and inviting space for everyone. On the other hand, harmful naming appropriates underrepresented cultures, perpetuates stereotypes, and/or originates from oppressive or genocidal systems and will push many potential collaborators, developers, users and sponsors away.
An especially prolific, egregious and shameful example of harmful naming is the use of master-slave terminology. Although it has received much attention recently, it is believed the earliest public discourse for replacing this terminology dates back to at least the mid-1990's. The earliest available on-line reference is from 2003 while a 2007 article provides an excellent and comprehensive review of its history and impact.
The Inclusive Naming Initiative is a burgeoning, collaborative effort of technology organizations to address inclusive language across the industry. The initiative began in the fall of 2020 and is slowly gaining membership and momentum. All are welcome. The goals include...
- Develop a set of principles for identifying and classifying harmful terms.
- Collect and distill existing experience and expertise from member organizations and the broader community.
- Inventory harmful terms in current use.
- Document origins of harmful terms together with rationale and urgency for replacement.
- Propose multiple options for replacement terms for various contexts.
- Develop tooling similar to spelling and grammar checkers to facilitate making replacements.
Ways you can contribute...
- Clean up harmful language in your own projects.
- Encourage others to do the same in their projects.
- Participate in and promote the work of the Inclusive Naming Initiative.