HomeBlogVMware (and Other Organizations) on IT Offensive Terminology

VMware (and Other Organizations) on IT Offensive Terminology

 VMware and other giant tech companies raised their views after the growth of the Black Lives Matter protests this year (2020). Many IT enthusiasts insisted tech language needed to be replaced to fight unconscious biases along with the movement. Divisive terminology in IT has been recognized for some time, but the industry is missing an organized framework to encourage nomenclature change. 

#BlackLiveMatter, Words Matter

This 2020 mid-year, VMware, through its vExpert program, announced that a series of changes need to be addressed in regards to politically incorrect language. VMware said that changes in all areas were taking effect to update their terminology and exclude "discriminatory" language. Although this is quite an old topic now, I craved to write about it following the vExpert email. I've been busy, but I absolutely wanted to show my support before the end of this year as I consider it a critical subject, one that concerns all of us. After all, before "IT guys," we are rational beings, and these topics need to be addressed.

There is no doubt, VMware changes in politically incorrect (IT) language were acknowledged after the return of the black lives matter (#BlackLiveMatter) movement. This time, the campaign was taking over the worldwide headlines. It started in 2013 but retook strength following the unfortunate killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police. People and organizations all around the world showed their support immediately into black and minority communities. 

"Black Lives Matter is a decentralized political and social movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against police brutality incidents and all racially motivated violence against black people."

Tech giants, such as VMware, indicated quick actions to revise their current coding nomenclature. VMware leaders and most of its employees were extremely active in supporting #BlackLiveMatter. Even The Virtually Speaking Podcast, the official VMware podcast, dedicated a short but solid episode on this subject.

Many other companies such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Phyton have been showing support for some time now (over ten years ago). Critical words to what they usually refer are under the label of "master," slave," "male," and "female." After joining organizations advocating for removing discriminatory language, these and other (many other) terms were also addressed by VMware.

VMware on Offensive Terminology

"VMware is making changes in all areas to update our terminology. Please be aware of the terms below. VMware encourages you to do the same."

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Below is the complete list of words and their recommended alternate by VMware. I believe this list has been growing in the past months.

Terminology Recommendations by VMware

For the word(s) abort, the recommended alternate is stop. Other situational alternates if recommended alternate does not work are cancel, halt prematurely, end prematurely, and stop prematurely.

For the word(s) blacklist, the recommended alternate is denylist or block. Other situational alternates if recommended alternate does not work is deny.

For the word(s) blackout, the recommended alternate is restrict or restriction. Other situational alternates if recommended alternate does not work is outage.

For the word(s) kill, the recommended alternate is stop. Other situational alternates if recommended alternate does not work is halt.

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For the word(s) master, the recommended alternate is primary. Other situational alternates if recommended alternate does not work are main, original, or control plane/control plane node in Kubernetes context.

For the word(s) slave, the recommended alternate is secondary. Other situational alternates if recommended alternate does not work is replica.

For the word(s) rule of thumb, the recommended alternate is rule. Other situational alternates if recommended alternate does not work is guideline.

For the word(s) segregate/segregationthe recommended alternate is separate or separation. 

For the word(s) whitelist, the recommended alternate is allowlist or allow. Other situational alternates if recommended alternate does not work are safelist or acceptlist.

Other terminology recommendations by VMware

For the word(s) black hat, the recommended alternate is unethical.

For the word(s) white hat, the recommended alternate is ethical.

For the word(s) female, the recommended alternate is jack or socket.

For the word(s) male, the recommended alternate is plug.

For the word(s) he or she, the recommended alternate is they. Depending on the situation.

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For the word(s) execute, the recommended alternate is run

For the word(s) suffer, the recommended alternate is run

For the word(s) eviction, the recommended alternate usage depends on what's being described; alternates can include: decreaselessenshrink, or increase, and grow.

Other words are To Be Determined (TBD). These words are:  ghettokill switch, and taint. I am not sure if, at this time, VMware has already come out with the alternates for these words.

Terminology That Does Need Changes 

VMware also included a list of words that they believe doesn't need to be changed: 

  • bind/binding
  • black box
  • black hole
  • black screen
  • invalid 
  • masterful
  • mastermind
  • masterpiece
  • master plan
  • masterstroke
  • simple
  • whiteboard

IT Communities Respond

 Not everyone agrees on linguistic changes, and it is understandable. Many of us are resilient to change. Some examples are comments like this one below. One more time, I do not expect everyone to support these movements and changes.

"This is getting so ridiculous that it sits impossible to take all that seriously anymore. Words in the software are not a problem; people who think these words are the problem, are the real problem." Same thinking about guns, uh!? (just saying…)

Several of unsupportive responses like that one can be found under this Reddit thread. 

VMware to stop describing hardware as ‘male’ and ‘female’ in new terminology guide

Final Thoughts 

Linguistic sensitivity and cultural issues have long been a matter of (usually heated) discussion. However, we need to consider that cultural diversity has been characterized strongly by linguistic differences in our current time. Nowadays, unfairness based upon gender or race has become less ethically tolerable. 

We must lose the use of sensitive terms linked with race. After all, we are in constant evolution, and not only a technological one but also (and of course), we are in continuous cultural development as rational beings. To work and promote ideal cultural (and IT) environments, we need to acknowledge diversity and advance towards a more gender-unbiased language framework.



Juan Mulford
Juan Mulford
I have been active in IT for over fourteen years now. I am a solutions architect, working with storage, virtualization, and VDI solutions. For the past ten years, I have been living and working in Taiwan.

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