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[flagged] On Redis master-slave terminology (2018) (antirez.com)
188 points by markdog12 23 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 141 comments



Note that this is from 2018.

I personally totally agree with the author. Anyone who chooses to be offended by words used in a totally different context is doing exactly that - choosing to be offended.

If we keep going down this path of endless meaningless virtue signalling, where will we stop? Is the term "black hole" racist too? What about blackout? Etc, etc.

No one really cares about these terms and it they do their opinion shouldn't outweigh the time, effort required to fix it, or the opinions of everyone else.

Supporting this kind of asinine shit is essentially letting big corps like Google get away with doing practically nothing while seeming like the good guys. Stop focusing on the surface level shit and start focusing on the real issues.


> Is the term "black hole" racist too?

That has been objected to [1][2][3]. A white county commissioner described a slow office as a black hole for paperwork, a black county commissioner said that was racist and it should be called a white hole, and a black judge asked the first commissioner to apologize for his racist remark. Also, "angel food cake" and "devil's food cake" were also declared racist, apparently, in the same incident [3].

[1] https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/sometimes-a-bl...

[2] https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2008/0723/p09s0...

[3] https://www.npr.org/sections/newsandviews/2008/07/is_black_h...


Perhaps not racist but the origin is quite horrifying

According to Hong-Yee Chiu, an astrophysicist at NASA, the Black Hole of Calcutta was the inspiration for the term black hole referring to regions of space-time resulting from the gravitational collapse of very heavy stars. He recalled hearing physicist Robert Dicke in the early 1960s compare such gravitationally collapsed objects to the prison

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Hole_of_Calcutta


Despite the origin, I would guess most people associate the name to the fact that black holes suck up all light (with the color black being the absence of light), as well as how pictures of black holes show the color as black.


Again, a result of insertion of racially charged connotations into a context in which there are fundamentally none. A black hole is a stellar remnant of such density everything around it gets sucked in, but can't get out. The quote "white hole" is representative of a theoretical region of space where the outpour of mass and energy is so high as to render it inaccessible.

Any value judgement of racial significance being attached to those terms is fundamentally a byproduct of the racially charged thinking of the participants.

I want to make this clear; if one thinks something may be racist, one would be well served double checking one's own thinking, and the context behind it first for whether it is the perceiver themselves projecting onto a situation in which none is present. Failure to do so renders one completely blind to the actually extant major sources of systemic racial discrimination that are in dire need of wiping out. Namely things like Euclidean zoning, statistical redlining, demographic segmentation, the lack of humanity in our methods of effectively dealing with discrimination of criminal offenders simply in need of rehabilitation, and those we need to isolate from society at large.

But no, perpetuation of bread and circuses, the politician's fallacy, scratching the surface, and doing nothing to actually change the underlying structure of the mechanisms and operative factors at work in the world is so much easier.

It isn't enough to rage at perceived injustice. You have to grapple with it, run it down, understand it, reckon with it, and figure out how to keep life going without it. This also includes being honest about all the contributing factors and accepting that you might be a factor in it.


LOL. That was a wild ride, thanks for sharing.


When you assert “nobody cares”, you’re just being a jerk. Lots of people do, you just don’t care.

And your reduction ad absurdum argument is not convincing at all here. Yes it is possible to take this too far. Some people probably do take it too far. The concepts of light and dark are physical realities as in a black hole being the absence of reflected or emitted light. And they have long been used as metaphors for opposing forces, as in yin and yang or many cultures’ representations of good and evil. I think there is very reasonable argument that analogies to these things can be separated from the concept of white and black as races of people in American.

There is really no reasonable argument that master and slave is a good terminology to use for databases. It’s an overt and completely unnecessary reference to slavery, and not even a particularly apt or useful analogy. There are better words like primary and replica or follower that are easy to use.


> It’s an overt and completely unnecessary reference to slavery, and not even a particularly apt or useful analogy.

Is it not far more demeaning to act like anyone would crumble under the weight of mere words used in a technical context?

Should we drop the term clone because it causes the religious to dwell on evil scientists playing god?


> Is it not far more demeaning to act like anyone would crumble under the weight of mere words used in a technical context?

No, it's not far more demeaning. You're really arguing that it's demeaning to be decent and respect other people's feelings and reactions to things?

With that attitude, should I just walk around insulting people for no reason, telling everyone I come across to go fuck themselves? Because it would be far more demeaning to assume that someone can't handle being told to go fuck themselves.


> There is really no reasonable argument that master and slave is a good terminology to use for databases.

That doesn't mean that it's reasonable to insist that all databases which already use this terminology should potentially break compatibility with prior versions of themselves simply because a handful of other people see the words "master" and "slave" and entirely ignore actual context in order to look "woke" (coming across as superficial and insincere in the process).

It is what it is. Maybe there are more descriptive terms, but "master" and "slave" are descriptive enough.


I'm surprised to see your comment is voted up to the top place. The moment I read your comment, I could imagine what people would say with outrage: tone deaf; you just don't care; you're a racist so you don't see the racism in such oppressive language; if someone feels offended, then the language is offensive so we must take it out; if you're not with us, the you're against us, etc and etc.

I personally always wonder where the boundary is for such demand of total conformity. Anyone who's familiar with The French Revolution and The Chinese Cultural Revolution will be cautious, to say the least, because it is so easy to see how much evil was done in the name of righteousness. That said, I find it hard to argue about the framework of this second-international-like movement. After all, you're tone-deaf if you deny that a phrase may be offensive to even one person, right? Moral high ground, well, is a high ground.


Agreed. There is widespread discrimination in the media against politically incorrect people. Political incorrectness is part of my personal identity. I didn't choose to be born careless, it's a natural tendency that I have. I'm sorry I wasn't born as an easily offended person.

I don't get offended by other people's words and I don't expect other people to be offended by my words either. Does that make me a bad person? Should we just get rid of people like me from society? Replace me with more offended people who take everything seriously?

I thought that division and extremism was a problem of our modern society? I guess I must be wrong there too. Opinionated, offended people often tell me that I'm wrong. They say it so aggressively, I guess they must be right.

Usually, when people feel strongly about something, it's a good indication that they're right.


I'm gonna give you the benefit of a response coz I don't think it's helpful to express disagreement through a downvote without attempting to explain why.

> I don't get offended by other people's words and I don't expect other people to be offended by my words either.

You shouldn't expect other people to feel the same way as you either. You can't decide how offended someone should be, as that's their own reaction to you. It might seem extreme or overboard to you, but how much do you know about them to judge that?

> Does that make me a bad person?

That's not really the question to be asked if we're talking like mature adults, because this isn't anywhere close to as simple as being 'good' or 'bad' (whatever that even means).

Which is all to say, sure... you're fine to be a naturally born careless person, as much as a cop-out that actually is to hand-wave everything away with "it's just who I am," or "I tell it like it is!". It's fine for other people to think you're an asshole for it, and if I were you I'd grab my friends over a drink or something and ask an honest question: "how do I generally come across to you?". Prepare to possibly have your feelings hurt.

And the reason why I say that is because you come across as quite casual and dismissive about people getting aggravated with you when talking about things, and maybe you're not listening to what they're actually saying.


> You shouldn't expect other people to feel the same way as you either. You can't decide how offended someone should be, as that's their own reaction to you. It might seem extreme or overboard to you, but how much do you know about them to judge that?

That's a difficult argument. It's totally fine to physically defend yourself if you're being attacked, and what constitutes an attack is obviously perfectly subjective, but we do very much have a common understanding of what it means. Whether someone feels attacked is of importance to themselves, but generally of little importance to how we judge their actions.

The same is true for being offended. While people don't control what they feel, I don't believe it's helpful to reach for complete relativism and say "all feelings are valid, therefore you must act a certain way". It's also not what anybody seems to actually believe. When I trollishly ask them to stop doing something because it offends me, they respond that I'm lying (which I usually am, but they cannot know, they cannot judge that, as you wrote). It seems "do it, because they feel offended" is only the motto when they are sympathetic to the person claiming to be offended. Moral arguments that are based on personal sympathy are pretty problematic.


I'm not really sure what you're trying to say; I can see where you're coming from but I'm not sure how you draw your conclusion.

> "all feelings are valid, therefore you must act a certain way"

Thank you for proving my main post under this topic correct, where I state that people will choose what they hear and respond to that, and not respond to what was actually said. Total failure of communication.


> I'm not really sure what you're trying to say; I can see where you're coming from but I'm not sure how you draw your conclusion.

I'm trying to say that while I do believe we should try to understand whether and why someone feels offended or attacked, we shouldn't use them feeling attacked or offended (or claiming to) as a strict guideline for actions, and we should judge their actions and reactions not based on whether they felt offended, but on whether a reasonable person would have felt offended, much like we do for e.g. self-defense.

> Total failure of communication.

That may be a total failure in the way I'm trying to communicate. I didn't mean to suggest that that's what you said, I exaggerated what I understood your position to be to make it obvious why I believe it to be a difficult approach.

When we allow subjective things like feeling offended to be used as general facts, we're going to end up with two opposing parties both claiming offense - if there was no opposition, there would be no issue.

Once we're there, we are back to square one: who is right in being offended? If we then say "well, I like that person, so they are right", we really don't need to talk about the whole thing, because sympathy-based decision making has always been a thing and everybody understands how it works, and very few people would claim any sort of fairness or system (after all, we cannot deduce anything from any previous decision, as the decisions depend on who the parties are, not on the issue itself).

If we instead try to find some general rule, we can just skip the whole "I'm feeling offended" stage and proceed directly to this one, that is, to the claim "this is offensive", which implies "a reasonable person will agree, it's not about my feelings, my tribal membership, my background, my experiences and personal convictions".


[flagged]


If you are born careless and not easily offended, why would the downvotes affect you?

There seems to be some inherent conflict in your statements. If you have no opinions, then you take no stand. Why should people take you seriously? I believe that you have strong opinions about people should act and feel (No one should get offended because you do not get offended by a particular statement) and that comes across as very callous.


I was just being sarcastic. I was just trying to make a point about double standards of discrimination. Discrimination about physical attributes is not OK, but discrimination against thinking and personality is OK.

My view is that discrimination is never OK.


What does offended even mean really? What if someone just thinks your views are not constructive? (I haven't voted either way on any of your comments, but/although I support these easy changes.)


I agree there's good reason to be skeptical about claims that certain language is inherently harmful, but let's be charitable and believe people are genuinely offended.

I have 2 questions: 1. Does offence in this case constitute harm? 2. What percentage of the population needs to be offended before it should be taken seriously? 51%? 10%? A single person? Perhaps the majority of people in an affected group?


The first comment on the page is important to pay attention to: http://antirez.com/news/122#comment-4084872912


The one that gets its cachet from its ostensibly having been written by a Black man but is associated with an avatar which is a stock photo of a Black man?

I’m less sure than you are.



> Anyone who chooses to be offended by words used in a totally different context is doing exactly that - choosing to be offended.

It's even more absurd in these situations, since the ones "offended" are almost always whites who have nothing better to do than to stir up controversy.


The cynic in me thinks that these might be people trying to discredit actual human rights movements by masquerading as members thereof and spamming every possible venue with trivial nonsense.


You're giving them too much credit :) I think they're unaware of the dumbing down they're doing.


> Anyone who chooses to be offended by words used in a totally different context is doing exactly that - choosing to be offended

This argument seems like it could be used to absolve anyone of guilt for using racist terms. "I'm not racist, that person chose to be offended by my statement".

> No one really cares about these terms

Seemingly people do care about these terms because we're having this discussion. In our white-dominated industry I would bet many don't, but why not make an effort to make the terminology we use more inclusive.

> their opinion shouldn't outweigh the time, effort required to fix it, or the opinions of everyone else

I don't think people are expecting open source maintainers to drop everything to fix these terms. In some cases it will be unfeasible and they could just say that.


> This argument seems like it could be used to absolve anyone of guilt for using racist terms. "I'm not racist, that person chose to be offended by my statement".

Technically, yes. But what matters (should matter) in the end is the intent. (Did I say that to offend or did I say it because I didn’t know better?) What should matter is the intended meaning of words, not the formal appearance of words. After all that’s what language is about. Now, I realize this gets complicated once you consider that a language use that arose from injustice/bias continues to perpetuate that bias. But that is not the case here.


Where do you think the master slave name comes from?

Masters give the orders. Slaves follow the master. Slaves get all the heavy work. Slaves take the beating.

Its tone deaf to ignore this as why it might be offensive to some of your coworkers.

And in any case, the name is vague at best anyway.

Write db, read db, primary, replica, leader, follower, marshal, worker.

All better, more descriptive names for various master/slave relationships.


> Its tone deaf to ignore this as why it might be offensive to some of your coworkers.

I'm speculating: you believe it's a problem for African Americans, but e.g. not for Polish Americans, right?

I'm trying to understand your thought process here, because the word slave literally (literally literally, I'm not making this up) stems from Slavic people that were captured by Romans.


I dont believe it is a problem, you're misrepresenting my statement.

I said it is easy to see why it might be offensive. I am in no position to discern that but I also dont give a shit about what term you use, and its dated anyway. Further more, i find it trite to waste energy on these "decisive", and small sound bite sized issues that mean absolutely nothing to the vast majority of people.

Im discussing the use of the term master/slave in the context of a database master slave setup where one database has to take orders from another.

And you think its cute to "speculate" maybe im talking about where the word slave comes from? Opposed to, how it may or may not offend those with a cultural history of 400 years of slavery.

That is extremely disingenuous.


On the topic of romans and meanings changing, the word decimation used to mean the killing of one in ten in the Roman legions as a way to get military discipline. Nowadays there is no connection to Roman legions nor killing and actually is used to refer as a synonimous to anyhalation in general. It annoys me this slave thing because racism or xenophobia are often very complex and real problems of disaffection and social innequality yet we are policing words as if it has any corrective impact.


> yet we are policing words as if it has any corrective impact.

Exactly. There are far bigger fish to fry than whether or not some piece of software uses terms that can be misconstrued to be somehow racist (riddle me this: is BDSM inherently racist because that subculture uses "master" and "slave" terminology?).

We (at least here in the US) are in dire need of widespread reforms throughout our "justice" system, particularly when it comes to police and prisons. We are also facing an ongoing issue of white supremacists infesting our government at all levels. Harassing open-source projects over what words they use is a petty and pointless distraction from these very real issues that have very real and very strong impacts on American minorities.

I can't speak to other countries and their race relations, but my impression from hearing about their attitudes toward immigrants/refugees is that they ain't much better.


> I can't speak to other countries and their race relations, but my impression from hearing about their attitudes toward immigrants/refugees is that they ain't much better.

I wouldn't conflate the two, they are not connected. After WW2, ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe were forced to migrate to Germany. There obviously was no race-issue, as they were not only the same race, they were the same ethnicity, they spoke the same language. And still they weren't welcome by the local population, as their arrival primarily meant that whatever the locals had would now be shared.

Pretty much all opposition to immigration is economic. Race doesn't play a part in the motivation, it's a secondary thing that comes into play afterwards. If immigration was a (significant, visible) net benefit to every person in the country (it is not, and you'll usually find the anti-immigration opinions with those who stand to lose from immigration, and, unsurprisingly, the pro-immigration stance with those who stand to gain), there would be much, much fewer objections. Consider a headline like "Nigerian billionaire seeks to immigrate and promises to invest in the rust belt and create tens of thousands of jobs in manufacturing". Do you believe Trump-supporters would protest that person's immigration?


This kind of pretend action is worse than doing nothing - because not only you feel better about yourself and don't do anything actually useful - you also discourage people who actually want to do something about the real problem.

This is the reason people think liberalism and social justice is a meme. This exact shit.

Besides - do you know where the word "slave" comes from?

It comes from Slavic word "słowo" which means "word" (it was written differently in proto-Slavic, but whatever). "Słowianie" mean "people who speak words"="Slavic people". In English it's translated as "Slavs".

Słowianie were the original slaves, to the point that Latin used their name for the word "slave" (sclava) which was later adopted by French and English with small changes.

What will you do about it? Invent a new name for all the Slavic languages and people related to that word?

Slovaks/Slovenes/Slavs/Slovakian/Slovenian/Slovakia/Slovenia/slavic?

Do you think it's "tone deaf" to use a word for "slave" that comes from name millions of people call themselves? Do you think it warrants change of language? Why not?


Master/slave

Im not talking about where words come from, im talking about where and why it was applied to the master slave database concept when primary/replica or write/read actually conveys far more meaning off the bat.


same with bosses and workers, and nobody seems to mind that.


nvm


> No black person will ever, ever stop being offended by having to push their "slave" branch to a "master" branch, for the same reason no Jew would ever, ever stop being offended by having to push their "jew" branch to a "nazi" branch.

You're essentializing race and religion. Do you think Larry David gets thrown into a tail-spin any time someone uses the term "grammar nazi"?


> I'm guessing you are white, so you can't really fully grasp the experience of being pointlessly reminded day in and day out by a software product that your ancestors were systematically kidnapped, forced to work for their entire lives, raped, had their children taken, and then often murdered. For generations.

Eh, that describes how all humans lived as you travel back in time. That describes all of our ancestry. Kidnapping, rape, immense suffering at the hands of power hierarchies.

Hell, look up where the word "slave" comes from and which group of people it spawned from. Hint: it wasn't black Americans 200 years ago.


There's no such thing as a "slave branch"


In the meantime, the Slave terminology is on its way out in Redis too.

Here are a few commits: https://github.com/antirez/redis/search?q=%22slave+removal%2...

Here's the issue where some of the discussion happened: https://github.com/antirez/redis/issues/5335


"Personally I do not consider the effort worthwhile, but this is my personal opinion. [...] I don't want, as a result of my ideas, to create problems to the Redis community."


Interesting – looks like he made those commits a handful of days after this article came out (written Sep 7 2018, commits were Sep 10~13 2018).

It seems they weren't released in GA until 6.0.0, which came out in April 2020.


It's paradoxical that they want these changes merged to "master".


Master has multiple meanings, not just slave master. As in mastery, master tape, master craftsman. In git, there are no "slave" branches, so "master" does not evoke slavery.


On the contrary, naming of "master" branch in git does seem to derive from master/slave terminology... https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2019-May/...


That's hearsay. Bitkeeper uses master/slave for repositories not branches.


I agree with you but they seem to be changing the default 'master' in github because of this. https://twitter.com/natfriedman/status/1271253144442253312


They could always rename the "master" btanch [0] to something else, I suppose.

---

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23473387


Trunk is a better term for the long lived main branch of an SCM tree anyway.


I suspect this is one of those topics that at some point, everyone will have just switched terms because it's not worth the hassle to fight these fights over and over again. Kind of a "I'm not wrong, but is it a good use of 20 hours a year to argue about this?"



TIL thanks!


I agree and keep a set of topics that just aren’t worth the mental anguish to discuss. The list started in the 90s where every single time circumcision was brought up, it devolved into a few people who commented more and more while the rest of the participants commented less.

I’ve wondered how this affects actual opinions but can’t talk about it.

I also wonder what other topics I haven’t noticed but others have checked out of and I’m missing their participation.


This is the primary reason I no longer have accounts on "social media" (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.). It's not only exhausting. It's dangerous. It takes one minor misstep in the eyes of another and you're faced with a torrent of misconstrued, misinformed people pushing a narrative that you're a horrible person. Next, you've lost your job, business, or worse. And it's only getting worse now that the idea "silence is complicity" is becoming popular.

Nope, no thanks. I'll see myself out.

I know a lot of people dislike anonymity because trolls and bad actors abuse it. However, it also means voices like mine, who strive to operate in good faith, get lost.


For me, it just got boring. Every discussion was pre-ordained. Even simple “fun” stuff like Star Wars would devolve into the same pseudo argument, oppositionalist statements.

It’s not anonymity as Facebook is real people, who I think enjoy not being anonymous with getting internet points from people who enjoy it.

I think the issue is no social contract with me. They aren’t my friends so they don’t care so much about me. Private messenger groups with 20 people who know each other seems fine.

Interestingly, completely anonymous IRC on freenode results in good discussions.


Which means that the perpetually offended will dictate name changes every other year. If somebody argues that they cannot use $software because it contains $word as a variable in its source code somewhere, it's certainly not a good idea to argue with them. It also not a good idea to appease them by doing what they ask.

Maybe developers should steer clear of Twitter so they don't get exposed to the problem. The only winning move is not to play, much like with ads. You don't train yourself to ignore ads or to not be influenced by them, you just use an ad blocker.


Yeah? I don't see evidence that every two years a new word gets brigaded in source code. Do you have examples of projects this has been happening to? If not, this seems like a slippery slope fallacy.


You're right, master/slave and the new blacklist/whitelist demands did not have two years between them, not even this post is two years old.


Both of those have been discussions for much longer than two years. There's at least a decade of discussions around those two examples.

Edit: closer to two decades - in 2003 LA asked electronics manufacturers not to use the language. Presumably this was first discussed by the community. In the mid aughts, Microsoft was using allowlist/deny list.

So, hardly a recent phenomena, and certainly not every two years. Yes, some projects have been faster or slower to adopt replacements for these terms, which is why you have seen a few discussions in the past few weeks on HN.


Looks like that's the very point the author is trying to make. We can't give in to the dictatorship of the Small Minority specially when the most intolerant people seem to scream the loudest.


It's a bit unclear if you are just trying to express the authors views or your own, but if those are your own views I felt that it warranted a reply.

The concept of "dictatorship of small minority" implies that the only governing principle should be the vote of the majority. But that is a deeply flawed system, if there wasn't any other rule than "majority wins" then all oppression of minorities becomes valid and all abuse where the perpetrators outnumber the victims.

For a system to be fair there must exist more rules than that, for example "respect bodily autonomy" and "no oppression of minorities" and so on. Many of those rules are more fundamental than the "majority wins" rule and more important to uphold.

If those are not your own views: Sorry for the rant.


> The concept of "dictatorship of small minority" implies that the only governing principle should be the vote of the majority.

No, it does not. "I don't want to live under dictator A" does not imply "I want to enslave A" or "I want to live under dictator B", it only implies that I do not want to live under dictator A.


I'm kind of looking forward to when it gets far enough along that path for malicious compliance [1] to start kicking in. I think the Twitter blow up will be quite interesting the first time someone, say, in a discussion about the 19th century plantation economy in the southern US talks about white managers/black workers or white leaders/black followers to avoid the racist master/slave terminology.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malicious_compliance


They should just ignore them. Leave the github issue open, just don't respond to it. Let's see where it gets those SJW's


The project maintainer absolutely has the right to choose not to remove offensive language. Although, I find his position to be unnecessarily defensive. What is he really fighting for? The language is outdated and stems from a practice that is universally shunned. There is work involved in changing the language yet there is no harm in it. People absolutely have the right to be offended. Feeling offended is just that - a feeling. If we don’t have a right to experience feelings, then what do we have a right to? And the right to express our feelings with our speech and writing is known as “freedom of speech”, which is not a universal right in the world, but it’s a popular one. While it’s impossible to prevent offending everyone all the time, again, it’s outdated language referring to a shunned practice. This is more than a handful of individuals expressing offended feelings based on esoteric personal perspectives. Changing the language would be more welcoming towards people who still deal with the fallout of such a shunned practice. Again, doing so is not a requirement of any kind, and I’m not claiming racism. I’m just claiming a failure to understand, respect, and welcome people who live in a world still mired in the effects of a devastating practice. I would change the language.


> The project maintainer absolutely has the right to choose not to remove offensive language.

What offensive language has been communicated in this case?

> What is he really fighting for?

Wasn't that clearly explained in the post?

> The language is outdated and stems from a practice

Outdated? Has the 'practice' you're referring to dissappeared?

> from a practice that is universally shunned.

What to think of people practicing BDSM? Or bioligists describing insect behaviour? Is their language offensive?

> There is work involved in changing the language yet there is no harm in it.

It is harmful when it deflects from the actual problems we have in our society these days. Just because something is immediately actionable doesn't mean it is effective or even helpful.

> People absolutely have the right to be offended.

Of course people may feel offended, they just shouldn't automatically get additional rights by being offended.

> Changing the language would be more welcoming towards people

I agree with that. But I'm dissapointed that people are content with it. IMO it distracts from more pressing issues that need to be addressed.


Nice attempt at deconstrivism.

I will address a few of your points together:

> What offensive language has been communicated in this case? > Outdated? Has the 'practice' you're referring to dissappeared? > What to think of people practicing BDSM? Or bioligists describing insect behaviour? Is their language offensive?

I’m referring, obviously, to the language of “slave and master.” The practice of slavery, unfortunately, has not disappeared, but is universally banned and recognized as morally wrong. The use of language based on slavery in computer science was dreampt up long ago, and it’s time to rethink it - just as “mongoloid” used to be the official scientific word to refer to people with mental disabilities. I highly doubt you or the author would defend so vigorously the right to keep using that term in software APIs and documentation. It was a silly idea to use the word in the first place, and there’s simply no good reason to use it now. As for BDSM and language about insect behavior, that’s completely within a different realm, because those topics are not related to the long history of systemic suppression and subjection of an entire class of people

You and other proponents of leaving offensive language intact are blinded by binary thinking - the slippery slope argument. That if one thing is done to address offended people, then something must be done for everyone who is offended, and where does it end? Therefore the slippery slope. That misguided type of thinking supposes that all moral decisions can be made on a set of universally applied rules that will decide what is right and what must be done about it. But the world is gray - not black and white, and no two situations are the same. Judgement is necessary in every situation.

>> What is he really fighting for? > Wasn't that clearly explained in the post? Not really. What was clear from the post was that he didn’t want to do it, and he felt he wasn’t wrong for not doing it. That doesn’t explain why he went through the effort of presumably spending hours to write a lengthy blog post about it. The question then, is why is he fighting so hard against making some code and documentation changes?

And on a related note:

>> Changing the language would be more welcoming towards people > I agree with that. But I'm dissapointed that people are content with it. IMO it distracts from more pressing issues that need to be addressed. I think that actively fighting against changing the language by spending inordinate amounts of time writing blogs about his refusal to change the language is a huge distraction. Just do it or don’t do it.

>> There is work involved in changing the language yet there is no harm in it. > It is harmful when it deflects from the actual problems we have in our society these days. Just because something is immediately actionable doesn't mean it is effective or even helpful. And who has determined that is not an actual problem? Or that this is not effective or helpful? You? The white males who run the world?

>> People absolutely have the right to be offended. Of course people may feel offended, they just shouldn't automatically get additional rights by being offended. To which additional rights are you referring?


Thanks for your reply, I'll have to give it more thought. I agree with most of it though.

> You and other proponents of leaving offensive language intact

I was/am actually in favor of removing said language because I want language to be welcoming towards people and people are clearly taking offense.

> And who has determined that is not an actual problem? Or that this is not effective or helpful? You?

No, I am in no way able to determine that. And I really hope it is helpful.


After writing my post, I thought again about directing my arguments at you specifically. It was maybe too personal and assumptive. I think I got too defensive.

Anyway, I appreciate that you read what I wrote and chose to keep in the conversation.


Thank you. After reading my initial comment and having given it some thought I think I need to reconsider some of my points.

I really like how ljm put it in this comment:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23509854


> As for BDSM and language about insect behavior, that’s completely within a different realm, because those topics are not related to the long history of systemic suppression and subjection of an entire class of people

Neither is computer science, yet here we are.


I would say the opposite. Yes, people have the right to be offended.

But people don’t have a right to NOT be offended. That’s the right that’s being asserted here. You should change something so that I am no longer offended. Well, the fact that one is offended is a struggle that’s personal to them.


Fighting against the word police. The net effect of banning words instead of addressing the underlying problems has the potential for very negative effects on society.

> there is no harm in it

It is immensely harmful to switch core concepts of a product around and break compatibility.

Are we gonna ask record producers to stop creating “Master records” too? Rename the disk MBR?

Does eliminating racism require deleting history, or understanding and acting on it in the real world?

(note: my comment has already been flagged. this is incredibly disheartening)


@dang please add a year flag to this - it's especially important given that Redis and antirez moved in a direction opposite of what this blog post describes (see other comments in the thread)


I've read about a bunch of these renaming efforts in the past weeks and I think some of these are very justified while some of them seem to take it further than necessary.

The master/slave naming seems clearly outdated to me and this one is a direct reference to slavery. A better word like replica exists so I'm using that instead. This makes a lot of sense.

On the other hand there's efforts to rename white/black list or the "master" branch on git. I've never thought of these as even being related to racism until people started opening issues on Github projects about that. A master branch in this context is just like a vinyl master, or a master class to me. The final finished product and not any kind of reference to slavery. Am I wrong?


I always thought about it as the "vinyl master" analogy as well but it looks like it has a master/slave origin from the Bitkeeper days.

https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2019-May/...


Honestly, why does it matter where the word comes from? Virtually no one ever used a git master branch thinking about slavery and not the "vinyl master" analogy. Shouldn't that be the actual meaning that is worth evaluating? Language evolves over time, the "master" in the git context doesn't have any reference anymore (in meaning) to the master/slave (which is a stupid wording to be honest) from bitkeeper. A soft proof to that is that every time that discussion occurs, you have lot of comments expressing their confusion given that the word in git context is actually used as a "master record".


Interesting, thanks for finding that. I wasn't aware of that.


Thank you, that's exactly how I feel. I've got a Master of Science degree, should I feel bad about that?

On the other hand, I second that "slave" is not a good terminology and trivializes real slavery, while a lot of words like "replica" or "worker" are more descriptive in a software context.


Minion is another option. (Also primary/secondary in some cases.) Replica may or may not be the same thing depending upon context; there are a lot of situations (e.g. flash/strobe) where a secondary device is under the control of the primary/master).

I tend to agree that master has a sufficient breadth of meanings that you often can't/shouldn't eliminate its use.


Should Slavic people now be required to change the name of their ethnicity too? I mean they are literally called slaves. Yup, let's force them to do that because we're being consistent now. No more Slavs. Let's call them replicas. Makes about as much sense as changing "master slave."


This is downvoted but I found it interesting that the English word "slave" is derived from Slav.

From the Wiki article [0]: "In medieval wars many Slavs were captured and enslaved, which led to the word slav becoming synonym to "enslaved person

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavs_(ethnonym)

For the same reasons people argue against abusing terminology like "retard" or "gay", you could argue that using the word "slave" affects people's perception of Eastern Europeans.


We just renamed our use of whitelist and blacklist for two reasons, outside of any racial contexts.

The easy one is that we don't want to argue about it, much likes tabs vs spaces - the value for us is in having a standard, not necessarily what the standard is.

The other one is that I spend a ton of time convincing developers to be intentional and deliberate in their naming of variables and functions, and these terms just aren't very intentional. I've had to explain them to several ESL developers because it isn't intuitive.


Blacklist has been in English for hundreds of years with the current meaning... I guess it would not be obvious to ESL developers but do you avoid other difficult vocabulary? Just curious

Allowlist and denylist are great alternatives except they don't read well as verbs


The verbs would be "allow" and "deny".


It's an easy feel good change that people make to feel like they're such great people, rather than doing things that actually further the cause or help in any way.


Because the entire point is to be permanently offended. The people pushing for these changes hold political power based entirely on pushing for change. The push for political correctness can never end for them, because then they will lose power.


The problem I’m starting to see is that the continued use of phrases like this (master/slave, blacklist/whitelist) can be a constant reminder to some that they “don’t belong here.” Obviously, in this context, they aren’t meant to be racist; but they are a reminder that racism exists. The end result is that it makes more people feel unwanted and ultimately leave tech.


Yikes. "Blacklist" has nothing to do with skin colour. In a different context, "being in the black" is a positive situation and contrasted with "being in the red".

We start down that path and we'll end up banning "Paint it black" as a racist song.


A blacklist may not have anything to do with skin color, but being on a blacklist usually has negative connotations, not positive.

The related term is "whitelist," not "redlist." So I can understand why people might believe the pair has racial overtones.


I think this is a similar misunderstanding as attributing the spelling "history" (which is a typical transliteration of the word "ιστορία" from Greek, that doesn't have a "his" syllable) to the fact that history is dominated by male figures. Some have suggested the term should be changed to "herstory" to recognise the contribution of women to history.

To my mind, thinking that "blacklisting" has racist connotations because we all African people "black" also, is a similar kind of confusion.

Edit: to clarify what I'm trying to say. The fact that "black" is in "blacklist" is a coincidence and nothing to do with racism. Same as the fact that "his" is in "history".


>Some have suggested the term should be changed to "herstory" to recognise the contribution of women to history.

Which is funny in itself. "history" is sexist because it's male, so let's do some affirmative action and make it sexist in the other direction!


Well, the function of a blacklist tend to have negative connotations, so that those connotations match how they are actually used seems like a feature, not like something to avoid.


Right, and the GP addressed this by giving a counter-example.

Also, there is also debate about the 'redskins'.


>the continued use of phrases like this (master/slave, blacklist/whitelist) can be a constant reminder to some that they “don’t belong here.”

I'm sorry, but what? It's not like you're calling the CEOs/managers "masters" and the rank and file devs "slaves". It's literally a term assigned to an inanimate object.


>they are a reminder that racism exists.

So you want everyone to forget racism exists? (Because it does BTW).


Here we go again. But seriously, what's wrong with using "primary" and "replica" in a database context? They're generally clearer terms anyway. Obviously we'll be stuck talking about "master" and "slave" IDE connectors and the like, but other than that it seems to be falling out of use pretty much everywhere.


Also on the topic of Whitelist/Blacklist, I thought it was stupid to go about renaming, but then I saw the alternative was Allowlist/Blocklist, which IMO is much clearer (doubly so for non-native speakers).


> But seriously, what's wrong with using "primary" and "replica" in a database context

Those terms are fine.

The practical argument to change the terms because you think they're clearer isn't a compelling reason to change the terms. But, also, a practical argument doesn't really mix well with the moral argument. (If "master"/"slave" were better understood than alternatives, but agreed to be offensive, would it be better to use those terms?).

I don't see the argument as to being about which terms are best, though. The contention is 'the terms "master"/"slave" are offensive, and should be changed'.

In terms of "what's wrong": this discussion has enough comments in favour of / against the idea to get a sample of what people are disagreeing about. If I understand correctly: "it's a small change to make, that will reduce the exclusion some people feel", and "the terms aren't used in an offensive way, it's not of substantial worth to change it".


I have to be honest, I think this kind of conversation is a difficult one to have because it can be far too easy to start arguing against what you think the other person is saying, not what they actually are saying. There's a lot of nuance that isn't done justice to (perhaps ironically so), especially as these conversations kick off from github issues, or on social media, and almost instantly devolve from there.

I often find myself getting a headache while reading some of these 'conversations' as I try to get my head around the various perspectives at play. Some of it is truly exhausting, particularly the 'what about the slippery slope' argument that often comes up (in this comment section we have 'what about black hole', 'what about blackout'; in others it's 'what about maestro', etc.). Similarly, it's tiring to repeatedly hear the defence of censoring or erasing history. At the same time, the same is true of those in a hurry to brand others as racists, fascists, or otherwise phobic of something. These all feel like blunt instruments that do more to shut down the conversation rather than encourage it.

There are way more than two sides to this story, it really isn't as black and white as the conversation can make it out to be (on so many levels). And as far as I'm concerned it's a conversation that requires one to take a step back for several moments and seriously consider the things that are currently at stake, and to start healthily unpacking this before jumping to an instinctual response.

For me, the way we discuss this is just as much about compassion and genuine empathy, and adapting to change, as it is anything else. And also for me, if the terms 'master' and 'slave' have served their purpose and need to be changed, so be it. That doesn't upset me at all, but the toxic and hateful drama that often spews from such a decision really does.


Why do majority of people here hearing slave thinks about black people? "Slave" comes from Latin where it initially meant a Slavic person. Northern African slave traders, Turkish jasyr slaves, slavery of eastern European women (Slavic and Jewish) sold to brothels in South America are also all but forgotten. Racism is disgusting in any form but limiting slavery to only America is also racist.


(I have no opposition to replacing master-slave, this is not intended as bait - I'm curious what others think).

How about "robot?" From "Broken Metaphor: The Master-Slave Analogy in Technical Literature" [1]:

> a new term meaning "slave" was entering the English language to describe an autonomous device meant to obey its master: "robot," from the 1923 translation of Karel Cˇapek's 1921 play R.U.R. (the word robot having been derived from a Czech word for slave, "robotnik").

If 'robot' isn't problematic, why is that? Is it because because the word is more decoupled from its origin than 'slave,' or because the origin of the word is less well known? Or is the negative-ness lost in translation?

[1] https://muse.jhu.edu/article/215390


All the discussion on this submission tells me is that it's not enough to disagree with others, one also has to ridicule them and emphasize how stupid they are for having a position one doesn't understand. Maybe even tie it to a greater culture war where inferiors who don't deserve to be in tech are ruining it for the ones already here. Stay hackernews, hackernews.


My guess is that this was resubmitted due to this opinion piece the Washington Post ran yesterday:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/06/12/tech-indu...


He's right. Unfortunately there are many people like Mark. They fight worthless fights and attack people who disagree with them. It's very American to sweep problems under the carpet because of political correctness.


Between this and the commit replacing sexually charged hexspeak constants, I'm shaking my head this morning.

It makes me want to be less politically correct on purpose just to troll the kinds of people who advocate for this meaningless crap.

Words are not inherently offensive, if not used in an offensive manner. Can we just all please go back to being grownups now?


What a coincidence! I was just reading https://redis.io/topics/replication few hours back and when I saw this leader-follower (master-slave) I couldn't help but wonder why they were bringing in a new terminology.


Allow me to be offended on behalf of you, and if you aren't offended then you are a problem too.


I think of it as:

1) I am personally offended, so you should be offended to.

2) If you are not offended, then because my personal offense is rooted in a just cause, you are bad.

3) Because you are bad, I cannot have a dialog with you. Indeed, I should not even try, because the cause is just.

MLK Jr had wise words on this, noticing the danger of a person convinced of their own righteousness. Much of the non-violence playbook was predicated on the tightrope that is (1) convincing someone to believe strongly in a cause & (2) still act rationally enough to allow for discussion, negotiation, and compromise outcomes.


Flagged? Why guys?


Agree with antirez - this is not a problem.

However, the hecklers will probably end up having their way simply because they do not have better things to do.


I definitely disagree with some parts of the article, but his basic point on the futility of giving way too much power to harmless words is sound.

So much so that I don't understand why this got flagged (while, for instance, the one on github trying to change this wasn't).


On this subject: there's a conversation pattern that goes like this:

A: "Please change terminology X to Y because X is ethically bad, and Y is clearer anyway."

B: "I disagree about Y being clearer."

A: "You're an evil partisan of ethical-problem-in-question."

I've seen this far too often and I think it's terrible.

I strongly recommend anyone who is advocating a terminology change to either leave out the "and Y is clearer anyway" part, or be willing to discuss that part independently of the ethical part.


This is a newer post about the topic but was flagged. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23485533


Could I take a moment to be offended by the mere existence of the word “slave” and it being used in historical discussion about forced labor and treating people as property, on behalf of all slavic people?

It’s ridiculous that Americans appropriate the name of my people to deal with the problems of their own society.


I know you are just trying to make a point, but then, shouldn't we point out that Americans didn't invent English nor the concept of slavery?


Fork it like GIMP and you can have your controller / agent


Didn't GIMP get forked because some people were offended by its name?


That's the point. Same as people getting offended by master-slave. If you don't like it fork it. Controller/Agent is what I've been seeing lately.


Oh, great. So much progressiveness. An article that was discussed two years ago was quickly flagged today.


At this rate, looks like I'm about to be pursuing a Replica of Science degree...


what are people calling it instead of master / slave ?


Can a mod put [2018] in the title?


Needs 2018 tag. I thought this was a reprise of the old discussion in light of events in the USA. Instead, it's about something that happened two years ago.


(2018)


What does he mean that you can't say "fake news" on HN?


I think he's talking about this conversation:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17818978

Click on parent a few times to get the full background.

(I found that by searching for "antirez fake news" in comments, btw, I don't remember the conversation from the time it actually took place).


I find the top comment to be the most insightful thing here, and wish everyone who is running these campaigns would read it.


Suspicious though, that the profile photo is a freely available stock image: https://pixabay.com/photos/fashion-afro-american-black-peopl...


If you don't like what a project is doing then fork it and maintain it yourself.


It doesn't matter if YOU don't think it's offensive. It's about how others think and feel about it. Are people really so self-centered that they can't understand that? And the slippery slope argument doesn't hold water because it's very obvious when a good number of people have a problem with it vs one or two people who are trying to be provocative. People are reasonable and if they are telling you something bothers them, it most likely legitimately bothers them.


[flagged]


This is a great example of my point about "one or two people who are trying to be provocative". It's pretty obvious to anyone reading it that you are just explicitly trying to manufacture an issue.


Of course, I'm trying to prove a point, that's why I asked you: how many people do I need to say "me too" before it is an issue?

Avoiding the answer makes me believe that your position is essentially "it's an issue if I agree with the people, otherwise it's just provocateurs". That's fine of course, but it's really just "it is whatever I say it is" and all the stuff about feelings, offense and people are just charades because you don't want to say that.


No charades, context matters. The context surrounding your question lets me know where you're coming from and that it's not a legitimate question. If I didn't have that context, I might try to learn more about the issue. I also might not since the two scenarios are not equivalent: posting a comment on HN is not the same as stewarding a large community-involved open source project. Again, context matters.


> It doesn't matter if YOU don't think it's offensive. It's about how others think and feel about it.

Your premise actually means no feelings matter and it doesn't matter what anybody thinks. It's self-collapsing and reveals the contradiction in what you're proposing.


No it doesn't. It just means you can't rely on a single (your) viewpoint when it comes to a large community-involved open source project. It's the equivalent of "works on my machine".


The Long March through the institutions.

If you wanted to breed radicalization, this how you'd do it.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_long_march_through_the_i...


You know, of all people, it is Slavs who should be the most offended at the use of master-slave terminology. That's where the word comes from - "slave" literally started out as "Slav person". But as an actual Slav, I find it very hard to be offended. It's just a word, it can't hurt me and it doesn't imply anything harmful. Of course, the politics du jour will dictate your reaction to censorious demands, but I just find it a bit funny.


> was disappointed to see that Redis still uses the “master” and “slave” terminology in order to identify different roles in Redis replication.

What's funny to me, it's these people are against the terminology but not against the concept. Like if you are against the words, why is okay for a Redis node to be a slave and ordered around by a Redis master? Shouldn't all Redis nodes be equal?




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