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Linux Foundation, IBM, Cisco and others back ‘Inclusive Naming Initiative’ to change nasty tech terms

But Red Hat points out its code-base is so big that mastery of inclusivity will take time

A new group called the “Inclusive Naming Initiative” has revealed its existence and mission “to help companies and projects remove all harmful and unclear language of any kind and replace it with an agreed-upon set of neutral terms.”

Akamai, Cisco, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, IBM, the Linux Foundation, Red Hat, and VMware are all participants.

The group has already offered a Word replacement list that suggests alternatives to the terms whitelist, blacklist, slave, and master. There’s also a framework for evaluating harmful language that offers guidance on how to make changes.

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The Initiative lists related projects from the Internet Engineering Task Force and Linux Foundation Networking among others but in its kickoff slide deck also says it wants to avoid standards proliferation. It is unclear how the group aims to achieve that goal, but as it is yet to meet there’s time to sort that out.

And time will be needed: Red Hat’s post announcing its participation in the Initiative links to a dashboard listing all instances of terms it wants changed and reports over 330,000 uses of “Master” and 105,000 uses of “Slave”, plus tens of thousands and whitelists and blacklists.

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Changing them all will be a big job, wrote Red Hat’s senior veep and CTO Chris Wright.

“On a technical level, change has to be made in hundreds of discrete communities, representing thousands of different projects across as many code repositories,” Wright wrote. “Care has to be taken to prevent application or API breakage, maintain backward compatibility, and communicate the changes to users and customers.”

The Initiative nonetheless hopes to move quickly, with its roadmap calling for best practices to be defined during Q1 2021, case studies to be available in Q3 2021 and a certification program delivered in Q4 2021.®

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