Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF

Andrew Campling <andrew.campling@419.consulting> Thu, 25 February 2021 17:21 UTC

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From: Andrew Campling <andrew.campling@419.consulting>
To: Christian Huitema <huitema@huitema.net>, Vittorio Bertola <vittorio.bertola=40open-xchange.com@dmarc.ietf.org>, Hannes Tschofenig <Hannes.Tschofenig@arm.com>
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Thread-Topic: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF
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Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2021 17:21:10 +0000
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Subject: Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF
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On 2/24/2021 16:38, Christian Huitema <huitema@huitema.net<mailto:huitema@huitema.net>> wrote:

> The word "coder" is a somewhat insulting way to refer to software developers. Please stop. This vocabulary implies a hierarchy in which the specifications are developed by superior specification writers, then handed down to subservient "coders" who merely translate it into computer code. This is a very reductive way of considering software development. For example, it completely discards the interaction between implementation, deployment, testing, and user feedback. In the IETF, the writing of good specifications has always benefited from such interactions, and we want that to continue.

In previous discussions on this list, others highlighted the importance of assuming the good intentions of contributors and also of making allowances for possible differences in meaning between languages and cultures.  I think that the above text inadvertently demonstrates the problems that can otherwise arise. (For the record, I started my working life as a professional programmer, am a native UK English speaker and do not see any reason to be offended by the use of the term ”coder”, noting that it might be regarded by some as a little idiosyncratic in this context but nothing more).

I’d be concerned that someone who is not confident in their use of English could easily be discouraged from further contributions upon receiving such a negative response to a pretty innocuous use of language, or even in observing such a reaction to another person’s post.  If diversity is to be encouraged then a more forgiving approach is needed, especially from those in or having previously occupied leadership positions.

Separately, I hope that the proposed activity on terminology does not become a dumping group for the preferences and dislikes of individuals, otherwise we will quickly discover that some of us are easily offended.  Let’s instead focus on providing positive guidance on good choices of terminology, ensuring that any examples of words or phrases to be discouraged is kept as small as possible, with robust references to justify inclusion.  In addition, I’d encourage checks to ensure that any such list has input from as diverse a spread of nationalities and cultures as possible - a document that primarily focuses on the feelings of one cultural group or nationality is likely to reinforce views that the IETF is not a diverse organisation.


Andrew