Question in common sense

In organizing technical descriptions, IPFire it needs better in terms of common sense we should change blacklist, whitelist by blocklist and allowlist

To me this is a good idea and the right thing to do. If agreed, I’ll make Wiki changes. I don’t have the skills to change the IPFire web interface side…

EDIT: There are master & slave terms that should also change.

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More information:




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first: Thank you for opening up a new threat for this. :slight_smile:

For several reasons, I am not very convinced changing language due to political correctness in general and this one in particular:

  1. It won’t help the victims.
    To the victims of structural racism (primarily in, but not limited to the USA), changing words in the GUI of a rather small open source project most probably will not make any difference. If you are killed by a policemen, I assume you do not care about it - which does not necessarily mean it won’t have any effect in broader terms.
    Civil victims of wars do not care if soldiers are called soldiers or (which describes their jobs more precisely in my point of view), murderers. Of course, this is a rather polemic example, but to me, effort for supporting Black Lives Matter et al. is spend much better on local politics, organising protests and protecting protesters.
    (Perhaps a tutorial on cybersecurity for BLM demonstrations attendees might help as well. In Hong Kong, people were, for example, advised to disable biometric authentication on their smartphones before going to a demonstration to make forced unlocking of those devices more hard.)
  2. This is an ongoing political matter.
    The whole topic of racism, police violence and anything else related to one of them (or even both) is a current matter and heatedly discussed. Personally, I consent with and applaud those discussion taking place, as the underlying problem certainly is one.
    However, when it comes to concrete steps, I have always disliked actionism and too quick “solutions” because they turned out to be false or creating more damage than they solved too often.
    In Germany, happenings in and before WWII has been exhaustively researched, discussed and analysed. Among the results are prohibits of denying holocaust, a complete destruction of centralised governmental structures, and endless efforts to keep memories awake and prevent such things from ever happening again.
    While structural racism unfortunately has a very long history, there has not been enough time yet for doing the same in order to find out which measures are needed to improve things sustainably - and preferably, worldwide.
    I look forward to such research and discussions - but in the meantime, it am not in favour of quick changes emerging from heated discussions and headlines.
  3. Is there a “common sense”?
    Speaking about denying holocaust, laws differ even across Europe. As somebody who is processing abuse reports regarding illegal or malicious online content on a regular basis, I observe, for example, web pages glorifying WWII to be served by machines located in countries outside Germany (mostly USA), since such content is not illegal there.
    Again, BLM is a new albeit necessary movement. I do not think there is a “common sense” yet. In fact, from the news I happen to observe in European media, the USA seems to be actually heading to a civil war, thus expressing the absence of a common sense.
  4. Simple answers to complex issues are most likely false or undesirable.
    Changing words sounds simple indeed - it is not when it comes to internals of the IPFire infrastructure, such as the master branches of our Git servers -, and aims to be a solution to a very complex issue.
    From my own experience, simple solutions use to be very popular (everybody understands them - or at least thinks of having them understood), but usually do not solve anything at all. Instead, they create more trouble somewhere else, make the problem disappear for a short amount of time or are not desirable for other reasons.
    My humble self is not bright or educated enough to think of comprehensive (and working) solutions to structural racism. I wish it would, but being made aware of one’s own limitations on a daily basis leaves me with a certain suspicion regarding answers I might have thought of myself.

To stress this once more: Observing, discussing and eliminating racism, discrimination, police violence, and related issues is important to me, and I am against them all. At the moment, however, changing language/phrases used in IPFire neither contributes to a solution of those problems, nor does not seem wise to do so in my point of view.

There is a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon coming to my mind now:

Calvin: “I wonder if you can refuse to inherit the world.”
Hobbes: “I think if you were born, it’s too late.”

This, in general, sums it up.

Thanks, and best regards,
Peter Müller


Although new to this forum I would like to offer my opinion. I support Michael in his views. Changing names and terms purely on grounds of politically correctness is not reason enough in my view.

As an avid ipfire user I would much rather see developers expend time and effort on evolving and improving the product rather than the menial and useless task of changing names.

Michael, thanks again for making a stand on this. You have my vote.

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The point is not to resolve the facts, it is conceptual. What was the reference for conceptual blacklist, slave? Probably the concept of something to be avoided or overlapping.

I can even understand that changing words in the system is difficult, considering the coding. If it is easy, why not change it?

For me, this is a conceptual bug, it must be fixed.


thanks for your reply.

I can even understand that changing words in the system is difficult, considering the coding. If it is easy, why not change it?

This precisely matches to the fourth point of my (rather lengthy) reply. Just because things are simple to do, it does not necessarily mean they need to be done (immediately).

For me, this is a conceptual bug, it must be fixed.

I disagree. In technical terms, inappropriate translations (let’s put it that way for the moment) are far from being a bug.

Personally, I hope we can avoid this debate into turning to “who is not with us is against us”, as - to me - nobody would benefit from that. Apparently, people stop listening after you have said “yes” or “no”, the “but” explaining your decision, sometimes even limiting it to certain aspects, does not matter in most cases.

However, I am pretty sure of having a different opinion if I were among the immediately affected.

Thanks, and best regards,
Peter Müller

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Smoothly. As an IPFire user, I contribute positively to the project. For me, the position of the dev IPFire team is obvious. greetings

Just a thought about the words black, white, master, slave.
These are words used for a long, long time. The colours black and white stand for opposite properties. In our western world white stands for purity, goodness, … ( the three abrahamic religions Judaism, Christianity, Islam even associate it with holyness ), black is associated with fear and danger ( night ), the evil, sorrow,… ( in religion the devil ). These associations are not necessary ( in asiatic religions white is the colour for sorrow ), but we are used to through education. Thus blacklist and whitelist are intuitive. But they can easily exchanged with denylist and allowlist. These words are also suitable, as they describe the function.
The word pair master-slave is somewhat more complicated. It describes the hierarchic structure of the principle very good. The master part dictates the behaviour, the slave part obeys to these rules. This is a very effective simple communications model. It is therefore implemented in many fields.
That this model can be ( and was/is ) abused, doesn’t change the usability.
Because a motorway or a railway can be used as transport medium for military things, doesn’t urge a pacifist not to use them. :wink:

As Peter mentioned above, the change of the name of a thing doesn’t change its nature. Naming a murderer working for a state ‘soldier’ doesn’t alter his/her job.

IMHO the actual discussions about “political correctness through new names” conceals our global inability to change antisocial behaviours.



INHO, It is not the topic proposal.

The purpose of this topic, is not focused on the concept of social/ethnic changes.
We are debating technical terms. Just like other companies are doing. No controversy, please.

We are debating the names for technical things.
The origin of this debate is the abuse of some names.
Black is a colour, which is used by racists ( humans, who believe in the existence of human “races” ) to discriminate people with a darker pigmentation. This doesn’t make the name/word ‘black’ a bad word. We can only say, there are misuses of this word.

BTW: Shall I change my family name ( Bitsch ), only because ‘bitch’ is frequently used insult nowadays?

You are not obliged to anything. And your personal question, with your name. In my country, names of people are regulated to avoid future constraints. And as I mentioned, the purpose of technical posting. Sociology is not being discussed. This is not the right space. I work in the OpenBSD community and we discussed these details there. With all due respect, for me, the matter is closed.

The discussion isn’t based on technical aspects, as I mentioned above, but by sociology.
Thus it is worth to mention these implications. For me, living in and grown up in Germany, there is no reason to change the name of the technical concept ‘master/slave’. A master is a person with much knowledge, a slave is a person who works for this master only and is alimented by this master. That is the principle. Surely this concept can be misused, when human beings are involved. This happens/happend very often ( the slavery by the colonialism and the USA, fascism and other dictatorships, … ) and this the base of this world-wide discussion, deeply sociological.

Ending the discussion when there is no consensus is unreasonable.

Please, decontextualize sociology/ethnocentrism from this discussion.

There was a time when I worked with LTSP, still with Debian Wood. Boot from floppy disk. In the beginning, we called this dumb terminals. But we reevaluated that terminology.

My aim is technical. There are terms that do nothing technically for their purpose.
Denylist and allowlist have correct and more technical concepts.

Terminology, Power and Oppressive Language

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is the premier Internet standards body, developing open standards through open processes.

“The IETF is a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. The technical work of the IETF is done in Working Groups, which are organized by topic into several Areas. Much of the work is handled via mailing lists. The IETF holds meetings three times per year.”

“The primary function of the IETF is to publish documents that are “readable, clear, consistent, and reasonably uniform” and one function of the RFC Editor is to “[c]orrect larger content/clarity issues; flag any unclear passages for author review” [RFC7322]. Given the importance of communication at the IETF, it is worth considering the effects of terminology that has been identified as oppressive, racist and sexist. Furthermore, we argue that certain obviously oppressive terms be avoided and suggest alternatives. These sets of terms are “master-slave” and “white-blacklist” for their racist and race-based meanings. Since the IETF is dedicated to a “culture of open participation and diverse collaboration” [RFC7704], terms that can create a hostile work environment should be avoided.”

Using Inclusive Language in the Applied-Science Academic Environments Mechatronics Systems Engineering, School of

"Language is not neutral or used in a vacuum; language is one of the most powerful tools we have as humans that incorporates personal assumptions, social norms, and cultural ideologies. It is therefore important to consider language critically and to watch for biases in usage. Language reflects the world it is used in, but it is also active in maintaining or redesigning that world. It can be a tool of discrimination or of empowerment. "

I want to clarify that I do not blame the IPFire project. It is recurrent in the technological environment. As it is an open source environment, it allows contributions and improvements. I respect and admire the level of organization of the IPFire project and the entire discussion environment. I like this organization, education and discipline. Congratulations.

You are right, Language isn’t neutral.
Therefore I didn’t study “computer science” but “informatics”. :wink:

I don’t have any problem to change blacklist/whitelist to denylist/allowlist, it makes things much clearer.
But the ‘master/slave’ term describes the hierarchy much better than ‘primary/secondary’. This is documented in the difficult discussion about the replacements.

Well, great discussion boys. I was hoping that we could avoid this whole topic in our community, but here we are…

We are very far deep into a political discussion here. It is all about what connotation some words have to some people and what their history is. Luckily, most of us have not experience slavery, or even racism first hand. That is great, but for those who have been exposed to this, the topic is difficult to describe and it is difficult to make yourself heard.

Discrimination is sometimes an invisible crime with no apparent victim, when in fact it is all around us.

I have personally spent a lot of time thinking about these things. Although Peter said that IPFire is a small project which has very little impact, I think that that still doesn’t mean that we could lead as a good example. It is a long process to make the world, or even only this little project, a better place.

We even had a discussion on the phone about how inclusive we think this project is and what can be done to make it better.

Our problem is a very simple one: We (the IPFire development team) are a white male group of people from Central Europe. We are pretty much the best example for the core of the problem.

But why is it that we (and by that I mean the people that I have been in touch with in person, who have attended an IPFire development meeting/summit, etc.) are all white? Why is there not a single woman (that I know of) part of the development team or even on this community portal? Why do we not even have regular contributors from the US (2nd in the users statistics)?

I think there are many similar questions to those here that you could ask.

But what are the answers? I am not aware that I myself, or other people of the team actively discourage people who are different to join. I do not think that we have any kind of culture here that is excluding people.

And that is for one simple reason: It does not matter who you are. It matters what you do.

I personally care about good code. That can be written by anyone who put enough time into it to figure out a problem and come up with a solution. Anyone who asks a question here will be answered no matter who they are and where they are from. What matters is how you ask a question and that you help us helping you.

Of course we all have cultural differences and those can clash. Brevity seems to be nice in some places, but is considered rude in others. Sometimes people who do not speak English that well might accidentally say something that they do not intend.

But the onus is not entirely on the sender. Sometimes people need to be given the benefit of the doubt and a second chance. People can also apologise - a thing the world is currently not making enough use of in my opinion.

Words can go a long way. They can empower people, they can heal. They allow us to work together on the same big thing and make the world a better place.

But they can harm, too.

Those words can be the same. It depends on how they are being sent and it depends on how they are received. Some people these days try to understand things the wrong way on purpose. For those I have no understanding, because they are actually making things worse for those people who are seriously hurt by some words.

All of our history is different. But racism, excluding people, even encouraging them to go to war against each other has been happening for centuries or even millennials. And to this day we have not learned. Humanity still makes the same mistakes over and over again.

We should be smarter now. We can fly to Mars if we wanted. We can cure deadly diseases. Science can do so many great things. But it does not seem to be able to cure stupidity.

Ruling out the use of certain words has never helped. I cannot cite a study from the top of my head, but last time I checked there was still racism against black people in the US although nobody is using the n-word any more.

In fact it makes it more difficult to talk about these issues when people suddenly hesitate to use simple words like black or white. They are not races. They are colours. Colours that we have on a chess board.

In technical terms blacklists/whitelists are about categorising two different things. I do not have to explain this to you what they are doing, but if anyone can, please explain to me why these terms are offensive. We cannot ban colours from technical documentation.

What happens to a red alert or an amber warning? What happens to the Black Forrest?

Nobody who I have spoken to who - if they would join the project - would make it more diverse have ever raised these terms as an issue. Maybe I spoke to the wrong people, or they did not want to admit it.

But women have told me about totally different things that stop them from pursuing a career in tech. There are physical things happening. Some have to be constantly on guard to protect themselves from men groping them at conferences. Pretty much every single tech conference I have attended has told a story and explained their code of conduct because of a previous incident.

If you want to help, then help to stop these things. Help us to encourage diverse people to join this project.

I am not an expert on this, tried to have plenty of conversations and still have no idea what we could improve.

Changing the language doesn’t convince me.

I think it is a proxy so that we all can feel better about ourselves and that we have done something. But actually we are still part of the problem.

I am part of the problem. And I do not know what I can do about it.

@rgnldo I appreciate that you started this conversation, but your one line opener did not convince me to do this. I think I can invest my time better in other things.

Technically it is an easy change. But that is not the issue here at all.

You started a big topic and now we are all here. I am sure that we all have the same intentions, but we all have different backgrounds which suddenly makes it very visible how difficult it can be to agree on something. That discussion needs to be had first and then we can consider to implement whatever is decided.

@jon Before this is all being updated in the documentation, the actual software would need to be changed, too. Otherwise we make things more confusing to users.

@rjschilt I think you are talking to Peter there :slight_smile:

No they are a bug. They could prevent people from using IPFire. Either because it is unclear or simply offensive. But how can we make sure that all translations are okay? We have a patch for Chinese somewhere that was submitted and I cannot check at all. Things work different in many languages. You suddenly have the same problem in all sorts of languages with all sorts of cultures attached to it.


Masters, slaves, and infant mortality: Language challenges for technical editing

“In this article we explore how some contemporary language usage presents challenges for technical editing. Drawing on scholarship in the rhetoric of science and in critical linguistics, we argue that language does affect our perception of reality. Consequently, the language used in some technical documents needs to be reconsidered or even challenged by technical editors. Present textbooks on technical editing do not directly confront this issue, though some scholars have begun to challenge the use of terms such as “studgun.”; We conclude by demonstrating how a critical analysis of metaphors in everyday technical documents would help students question these language choices and draw attention to the consequences of using them.”

You edited an error of mine in the post title. This spelling correction was important for us to better understand the post. Appreciate.

It is great that you quote literature about the topic, but I suppose you have to add what you want to say here.

The whole article can only be downloaded for money and the abstract does not mention any of the terms that you have raised earlier.

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