Twitter engineer leads movement to replace racially-loaded tech terms

What sort of impacts do words have in our everyday jobs? For Regynald Augustin, a programmer at Twitter, the unquestionable drive to change the terminology used in his day-to-day job was an effort that started back in January. The impetus for change started after he received an email with the phrase “automatic slave rekick”, which referred to restarting an application process some Twitter employees were working on. 

The reality is that Augustin, like most tech-workers, is exposed to questionable terminology regardless of the company they work for. For example, the terms “master-slave” are unanimously used for processes that depend on previous actions. The “master” is the triggering process, while the “slave” awaits for the “master” action to occur. This term can be seen everywhere from hard drives communicating with a computer to databases connecting to other databases, or even simple electronic circuit designs used in modern computers. 

“Master-Slave” is not the only term that has come under the spotlight. Words such as “whitelists” and “blacklist” are used normally to refer to a list of desired processes or actions versus undesirable actions. Other charged words such as a “dummy value” refer to values and inputs used to test software or hardware before being released to the public. 

Twitter, alongside other Silicon Valley companies like Microsoft and Google, are trying to move forwards with terminology changes, which have mostly been led internally by employees like Augustin. Earlier last month Github, a popular project management tool owned by Microsoft, made the headlines by changing the word “Master” to “Main” when referring to the primary project within the application.  

Twitter has also changed a wave of terms for less socially-charged words. “Master/Slave” has been completely wiped out for “Leader/Follower” or “Primary/Replica”. The term “Man Hour” has been replaced by “People Hour” or “Engineer Hour”, and “Whitelist” and “Blacklist” have been replaced by “Allowlist” and “Denylist”. 

You can see the full list of changed terminology at Twitter right here.

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Twitter engineer leads movement to replace racially-loaded tech terms

What sort of impacts do words have in our everyday jobs? For Regynald Augustin, a programmer at Twitter, the unquestionable drive to change the terminology used in his day-to-day job was an effort that started back in January. The impetus for change started after he received an email with the phrase “automatic slave rekick”, which referred to restarting an application process some Twitter employees were working on. 

The reality is that Augustin, like most tech-workers, is exposed to questionable terminology regardless of the company they work for. For example, the terms “master-slave” are unanimously used for processes that depend on previous actions. The “master” is the triggering process, while the “slave” awaits for the “master” action to occur. This term can be seen everywhere from hard drives communicating with a computer to databases connecting to other databases, or even simple electronic circuit designs used in modern computers. 

“Master-Slave” is not the only term that has come under the spotlight. Words such as “whitelists” and “blacklist” are used normally to refer to a list of desired processes or actions versus undesirable actions. Other charged words such as a “dummy value” refer to values and inputs used to test software or hardware before being released to the public. 

Twitter, alongside other Silicon Valley companies like Microsoft and Google, are trying to move forwards with terminology changes, which have mostly been led internally by employees like Augustin. Earlier last month Github, a popular project management tool owned by Microsoft, made the headlines by changing the word “Master” to “Main” when referring to the primary project within the application.  

Twitter has also changed a wave of terms for less socially-charged words. “Master/Slave” has been completely wiped out for “Leader/Follower” or “Primary/Replica”. The term “Man Hour” has been replaced by “People Hour” or “Engineer Hour”, and “Whitelist” and “Blacklist” have been replaced by “Allowlist” and “Denylist”. 

You can see the full list of changed terminology at Twitter right here.

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