Red Hat Makes Open Source Code More Inclusive By Eradicating “Problematic Language”


Editor’s Note: Chris Wright is CTO at Red Hat. It writes about open source, which refers to software for which the original source code is made available free of charge and can be redistributed and modified.

RALEIGH – Open source has always been about bringing together different voices to share ideas, iterate, challenge the status quo, solve problems and innovate quickly.

This philosophy is rooted in inclusion and the ability for everyone to contribute in a meaningful way, and open source technology is better because of the diverse perspectives and experiences that are represented in its communities.

Red Hat is fortunate to see the impact of this collaboration on a daily basis, which is why our company has also always been anchored in these values.

Chris Wright from Red Hat

Like so many others, the Red Hatters have gathered in recent weeks to talk about systemic injustice and ongoing racism. I am personally grateful to Red Hat’s diversity and inclusion communities for creating awareness and opportunities for Red Hatters to listen in order to learn, and I am grateful that so many Red Hatters are taking advantage of these. opportunities to seek to understand.

At a recent corporate meeting, Demetris Cheatham, Red Hat Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, reminded us that having a space to listen and learn is really listening to each other. with empathy and without debating or questioning anyone else’s experience, and recognizing that people around the world, including our Red Hat community, feel a lot of pain. She said that “it will be the thousands of ongoing conversations that take place throughout the year between peers and in teams that will really make the difference.”

I am committed to continuing to keep the space to listen, learn and have these important conversations.

At the same time, questions have resurfaced about problematic language in communities and open source code, and in particular the use of terms such as “master” and “slave.” This is not a new conversation – you can find instances where people have reported the use of this language since the early 2000s.

Despite pockets of change in a few communities over the years, there has never been much progress. There is no good reason for this. This includes in many of the open source communities that Red Hat sponsors or plays an important role in as well as in our own products and documentation.

This must change.

If open source is really meant to be inclusive and a place where everyone can participate, it really has to be welcoming to everyone. These are great challenges that large communities must respond to in order to drive systemic change. With this, Red Hat is committed to reviewing our own use of this problematic language and what we can do to eradicate it from our practices and vocabulary.

Red Hat begins by putting together a team to audit our own work – our code, documentation, and content – and identify a potentially divisive language. We would like to standardize alternative terminology where we can. We’ll start making changes to the documentation and content where problematic terminology is used conceptually (i.e. without referring to anything in the code).

In the code, some changes will take time because they will change APIs and configurations used by running installations. We are committed to not disrupting the user experience, which is why our engineering teams will assess the impact and create roadmaps with depreciation cycles. In open source, it will take community effort to make these changes, and in projects Red Hat is involved in, we will advocate and contribute to fixes.

These efforts have already started. The Ansible community, for example, has started renaming its “master” branch to “main” branch and gradually phasing out the use of “whitelist” and “blacklist” in favor of “allow list” and “list. of refusal “.

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I have seen all kinds of arguments as to why these changes are unnecessary. Some see these efforts as exercises in political correctness. Others argue that the intention behind the language was not malicious or that they do not find the use of these terms offensive or racist because they are not used to refer to people. I challenge you to remember what Demetris urged: Listening to others with empathy is not about debating or questioning someone else’s experience.

If a person or group of people does not feel welcome because of the language used in a community, code or documentation, then the words must change. These changes will take time. They will require many conversations within communities and between vendors to be fully activated. But these actions and conversations are worth it and we are committing to them. In order for open source to continue to be the best way to create better solutions faster, we need to remove any barriers that could potentially hinder participation.

Conversations will continue at Red Hat about what we can do both individually and collectively to drive real change. And while working to eradicate problematic languages ​​from open source code and documentation is just one action, we hope you will join us and continue your efforts to make open source more inclusive and welcoming for all.

(C) Red hat


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