New Tech Vocabulary for 2020 Could Break Software Compatibility

2020 has been an interesting year with plenty of disruption to most people lives, and political changes. Now it appears some of those changes will affect technology, and by that, I mean things like changes to datasheets and even source code.

I’ve been seen a lot of talks about slave/master terminology on Twitter, blogs, and CNET is now reporting Twitter Engineer will remove racially charged technical terms from the source code and interface.

Whether you are a veteran or just graduated last year, you may have to learn a new set of vocabulary to understand datasheets and code.

Old VocabularyNew Vocabulary
WhitelistAllowlist
BlacklistDenylist
Master/slaveLeader/Follower, Primary/Replica or Primary/Standby
GrandfatheredLegacy status
GuysFolks, People, You all, Y'all.
Gendered pronouns like He / HisThey or Their.
Man hoursHours or Engineer Hours
Sanity checkQuick Check, Confidence Check or Coherence Check
Dummy valuePlaceholder value or Sample value

Twitter’s senior management is allegedly backing the effort for the changes. This goes beyond racially charged terms, but if it’s the world we’re going to live in so be it. Some changes in the datasheet may not be a big issue, except for the initial confusion, but it may become problematic when changes happen in the source code as it may break other programs and scripts.

One example is Github planning to replace the master branch by another name.  If it’s going to happen, and others are going to follow suit, I wondered about many “slave” code results there are in the Linux kernel. Answer: 2,878.

It’s OK to change the code for internal variables and functions, but changing anything exposed to user space will break programs. Linus Torvalds really does not like to break userspace as attested by a 2012 rant, so it may never happen. But things have changed since then, so we’ll have to wait and see. Of source, it’s not limited to the Linux kernel, and any master/slave API may be impacted. It may become interesting for closed-source blobs, if some companies pledge not to ship any software or firmware with any reference to slavery in the source code.

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27 Comments
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dimtass
30 days ago

Don’t get me wrong but all this is so hypocritic. I mean sure, let’s change the words, I agree; but this won’t change the reality. It feels like some people focus on things that bring no real value and they feel nice because they think they did their part. Well, they didn’t. Change master/slave terminology doesn’t change the fact that there are still masters and slaves in 2020 and there will be for many years to come.   I would expect a more substantial reaction on that matter, especially from companies that shout out loud how proud they are, because… Read more »

P.P.A.
P.P.A.
30 days ago

These are the dynamics at work here, the professed subject is pretty much irrelevant:
http://abandonedfootnotes.blogspot.com/2012/10/ten-thousand-melodies-cannot-express.html

None Needed
None Needed
27 days ago

Hard to say why you’re downvoted.
You’ve linked a very interesting piece on social dynamics in certain conditions.
 
The unique thing in there I haven’t met anywhere else is mentioning “those “wielding the power of interpretation”” as a separate cohort.
Indeed, there’s no need to make rules logically consistent as long as the power of interpretation is sure to stay in the right hands.
 
The dynamics that made Mao worship sectarian are also very interesting.
When a lot of people try to be ahead of the curve even in following the party line, that leads to divergence.

Anonymous
Anonymous
30 days ago

“Master/slave -> Leader/Follower, Primary/Replica or Primary/Standby”
 
Larry Garfield could not be reached for comment.

itchy n scratchy
itchy n scratchy
30 days ago

The funny part is in many other languages those terms are much less weitd, but we took them over in the recent years with the continuing anglification of terminology. Just one example from outside IT.

In my mother tongue there is the term parents bedroom, now to be hip you call it a master bedroom.

We can scrub the language but we can never overcome stupidity it seems.

T-C
T-C
30 days ago

Why not Primary/Secondary

Anonymous
Anonymous
30 days ago

Why not let the perpetually offended fork the code? Assuming they know how.

itchy n scratchy
itchy n scratchy
29 days ago

In watchmaker terms they spoke about a daughter clockwork, maybe we could make it parent/child but that would enslave children…

David Jashi
30 days ago

I won’t even apologize or write “don’t get me wrong” in advance, as it would only add to hypocrisy we are witnessing. Outlawing words and inventing new ones isn’t new thing, it was done by all kind of leftist revolutionaries during, for example, French and Russian revolutions. And it never ended up quite well. If you are offended by something – walk away, don’t look at it, in this case – fork it and create your own safe and politically correct code. Spend YOUR resources on “cleaning” it up. Don’t demand someone to spend their.

dgp
dgp
30 days ago

>walk away, don’t look at it, in this case – fork it and create your
>own safe and politically correct code. 
 
Too late for that. I’d guess that the people wanting to revise history are the minority.. the problem is that minority bullied the vast majority of big projects into having Code of Conducts which basically outlaw having a spine.

NicoD
30 days ago

I’m pro freedom for all. And surely against slavery. But no person ever got hurt by programmers using the word slave and master in another context then slavery. But with these words I’d accept it to replace with primary and secondary. I already used those terms. But words as dummy, man hours, sanity check??? What are they thinking? Problem I see with banning words, is people will do witch hunts towards anyone using these words. It’s the one putting another meaning out of context who are wrong. Look at other things to improve. Do something for equality in life.  … Read more »

draftpost
draftpost
27 days ago

What are you talking about? White males created IT… and trained their replacements. A recent study in New Jersey found that only 1 in 7 IT developers are white. ONE IN SEVEN… is that what you call “white domination”? Some even call it supremacy. The situation is similar around the corpo-landscape, I can’ t think of a company with ratio higher than 1 in 3. How weak one has to be to feel dominated by people 7 times less in number?
 

dgp
dgp
30 days ago

I wonder how many people complaining about these terms are doing it from a mac book built by modern slaves.. oh the irony.

PhilS
PhilS
30 days ago

Pathetic does not begin to describe this move and it will open the floodgates for anybody to be offended by something and come up with some kind of tenuous link.   Twitter backs this but will they remove the name  Noah Glass from their books because it might offend atheists?   I hope that more calm headed and normal people will continue to use these phrases because they are far from racially charged.   And why, of such a move was even considered reasonable, would the focus only be on race, which rather proves that this is nothing more than… Read more »

Peter Irlam
30 days ago

Over the last couple of years Ive put on a little weight and would be considered overweight now and Ive become rather sensitive about it. So could we stop using the word fat? Seeing that word now makes me uncomfortable. Like fat32, could we change it to something like wide32? I understand that in the context its being used it doesnt relate to a persons weight but means File Allocation Table but it still reminds me Im overweight so I would like something done about it. Thank you.   hehe, change the words if it will make some people happy,… Read more »

David Jashi
29 days ago

bodypositive32 it is, then

itchy n scratchy
itchy n scratchy
29 days ago

Yesterday I read a newspaper article where absolutely consequently the male and female forms were both used in every possible way and then even separated by colons. You can imagine reading flow was gone completely. And speaking about equality if you flange the female ending behind a word, it cripples the male form. So in fact to celebrate equality they should add another colon to append the missing male ending. 😉

abraxalito
29 days ago

What’s the ‘new vocabulary’ for ‘gender bender’ ? Asking for a friend.

Anonymous
Anonymous
29 days ago

Genderfluid or genderqueer, maybe.

abraxalito
29 days ago

Those sound like adjectives, I’m looking for a noun.

gotj
gotj
29 days ago

There are more masters than slaves:       Shell [email protected]:/home/pi/linux# find . -type f -name *.c -exec cat {} + | grep master | wc -l 22238 [email protected]:/home/pi/linux# find . -type f -name *.h -exec cat {} + | grep master | wc -l 2186 [email protected]:/home/pi/linux# find . -type f -name *.c -exec cat {} + | grep slave | wc -l 16168 [email protected]:/home/pi/linux# find . -type f -name *.h -exec cat {} + | grep slave | wc -l 1627 [email protected]:/home/pi/linux#  123456789 [email protected]:/home/pi/linux# find . -type f -name *.c -exec cat {} + | grep master | wc… Read more »

Drone
Drone
29 days ago

This progressive political correctness is designed to divide and conquer us. Those that fall into this trap are weak and pathetic. They have become the new slaves on bent knee before their fascist dictators. Do not fall victim to this scourge. Stand strong, eye-to-eye with evil, and defend yourself.

abraxalito
29 days ago

I don’t think the reasonable response is defense, rather ridicule.

draftpost
draftpost
27 days ago

Ridicule is a form of defense, you can think both, no problem.
 

FransM
FransM
28 days ago

Changing words only will not really change things and actually may even make things worse.
 
One of the cases I personally encountered was a company where developers were called “resources”. I really felt on par with a soldering iron there.
Being a resource suggested I was easily replacable.

None Needed
None Needed
27 days ago

Welp, my knowledge of old Soviet political jokes slowly becomes relevant again.
 
Here’s one:
“1) Don’t think.
2) If you think, don’t talk.
3) If you think and talk, don’t write.
4) If you think, talk and write, don’t sign.
5) If you think, talk, write and sign, don’t wonder.”

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