July 1, 2011

Childish Behavior

A member of the PSF wrote to the Board to ask whether we thought the name of a particular package on the Cheese Shop was offensive, and if so whether we felt something should be done about it. This stimulated one of the more interesting recent Board discussions, in which we were even joined by the President (so you know how seriously such matters are taken at the PSF: normally Guido just lets Board business pass by, having many other demands on his time).

The general feeling was that the package name was offensive, but that unless we were faced with a legal request to remove content (as we have, very occasionally, from time to time, and with which we normally comply at some inconvenience to ourselves) we did not feel it was our place to police standards of decency on behalf of PyPi users. Censorship is a slippery slope, and can lead you into liability which transparency might not.

Given that I have done my best to encourage diversity, including gender diversity, among the international Python community, however, and even though I have on occasion been that guy, (as I suspect many of us have), it seems to me that if we truly want more women to feel at home in the open source software industry then we really ought to avoid giving our projects names like pantyshot. I was somewhat surprised by the name (for a piece of software that parses the MarkDown language?) until I saw that the author of that package had implemented the upskirt MarkDown parser. WTF? Perhaps I am missing something here, but when I ask Google what that means, it replies in somewhat unequivocal terms:
Upskirt is a term usually referring to up skirt photography, images of the view up a woman's skirt (as seen from underneath), including shots of a woman's underwear or crotch, or exposing her vulva or buttocks. Alternatively, an "upskirt" may be a video, an illustration, or simply a view... 
If you want to read any more I will leave you to do the research yourself. But the question it raises in my mind is: "What immature hooligan decided it would be a good idea to call a MarkDown parser upskirt?" Is that such an unreasonable question? Is there some rationale so obvious that all but me can see it?

It's coming up to July 4, so I hope that date's association with freedoms is strong enough (in American minds, at least) that the Foundation will be supported in its stance against censorship. But even though we agree so much with free speech that we will fight for your right to call your pissy little parser pantyshot or upskirt, we really would rather you grew up and called it something else. Don't you realize? Not only do you make the open source ecosphere hostile to women, you also show yourselves as hostile to the diversity of the ecosphere. That's not OK with me. Sorry.

If I am wrong, and I have overlooked some obvious (or even not-so-obvious) support for gender equality that is hidden in these package names then I would be grateful for the enlightenment. If this is just another juvenile set of geeks sniggering in a router closet somewhere about toilet language then yawn, I guess. I've got better things to do with my time than deal with that kind of stupidity.

DISCLAIMER [added July 2, 2011] This post was not intended as an official statement on behalf of the Python Software Foundation, but rather to give an insight into its decision making process. My personal distate for these particular names is heightened because it appears that the original libupskirt author's acceptance on trust of a foreign-language name for her library has caused her considerable discomfort and possibly harassment [EDIT July 12: apparently the primary issue was the way the development process was used to remove her identity from contributed code]. She apparently no longer wishes to work on open source.

80 comments:

Jack Diederich said...

I might be worried if this was a trend (and denounce it loudly) instead of a one off, but it ain't. The Python community has enough positive momentum and grace that it can handle listing the occasional package name that some people find offensive.

The individual people that make up the Python community are leading in open source by doing outreach to under served potential contributors (see: pyladies, core mentor list, sprint funding). Positive contributions come by way of example, not by way of punishment.

Let's not screw it up by giving a heckler's veto to those that take offense at the world as it is. In that world My PyCon 2011 talk would have resulted in banishment because I was talking about monkey patching and mentioned the "unicodenazi" module on a slide (it complains when you do unicode wrong). If that kind of accidental slight is punishable we will have far fewer contributors and far more complainers.

Amanda C. said...

Not only is it juvenile, it is offensive and troubling that someone would title any project "upskirt". The title conjures images of personal privacy violations and sexual assault (albeit non-violent, though that shouldn't diminish it's impact). Furthermore, it makes light of a fairly gender-specific issue, causing me to raise an eyebrow about the creator's attitude towards women in general.

Perhaps I don't know enough about programming and software culture to "get it." As the partner of someone who is very active in the Python community, I've heard so much about what is being done to make the Python community more open and welcoming to women; You can imagine how surprised and appalled I was upon reading this. I find it hard to believe that anyone would consider it "censorship" to disallow the use of sexually perverse language that implies any form of sexual exploitation. To allow it seems deleterious to any outreach efforts.

glyph said...

Bravo, Mr. Chairman.

I feel that the board was correct in allowing the package to remain (it shouldn't be the PSF's mandate to censor these things), but you are equally correct to call it out. I suspect that the author of the package in question was simply inconsiderate. I hope that they'll consider changing its name. But, I think it should remain within their rights not to, and if they don't, at least this will serve as a signal to the community at large that just because we might tolerate this kind of thing, we don't endorse it.

If a trend were to develop, it might be worth considering adding ESRB-style ratings to PyPI, but I certainly hope it won't come to that.

-glyph

Steve said...

@Amanda:

We are troubled too, which is why I have taken the time to raise this issue on my blog. I hope that nothing you read here implies any support of the naming choices described.

The issues are complex. We cannot become the moral police for the whole open source community, and do not see any clear line of general agreement about exactly what is and is not acceptable. Any attempt to censor content of this kind ultimately becomes a slippery slope.

As Guido said during the Board's discussion:

"I used to get requests from people to change Python's name, either for being 'not serious enough to let my manager approve its use' (by folks
who at least did get that it was a Monty Python reference, although they apparently did not get Monty Python) or because snakes were considered offensive in their culture.

"Let's follow the spirit of free speech: like Voltaire, we can disagree strongly with what they are saying and still defend their right to say it.'

So that's our stance, and I hope it doesn't alienate you from the Python community: it's precisely because we care about such things that this wasn't just swept under the carpet. I can't see anything stopping the projects from changing their names ...

Anonymous said...

The Ruby binding is called RedCarptet, which is another racy reference.

I don't see why the couldn't have called it something a bit more descriptive, like "fastmarkdown" or "fmarkdown" for short.

Selena Deckelmann said...

Thanks for speaking up and addressing this ridiculous behavior.

It would be delightful if the links to those two projects 404'd because the names changed in the next few days.

Dj Gilcrease said...

Though I think the name is odd just an FYI a female developer initially created libupskirt which was forked to the Upskirt library which is used by GitHub as it's Markdown parser.

Steve said...

@Dj Gilcrease I do remember seeing that, and finding it somewhat odd. But ultimately I don't really care whether it's men or women creating the hostile environment, and there was no need for the libupskirt name/theme/meme to be adopted by later contributors.

Nick Coghlan said...

It seems to me that "we disapprove, but it isn't our place to blacklist it" is the right stance for the PSF and PyPI to take, but people should certainly be encouraged to ask the *developers* to consider changing the name of their package to something less deliberately offensive.

Anonymous said...

Have the courage of your convictions and remove it. You are not the "moral police" of the open source community, but you certainly could be the moral guardians of pypi. "Censorship" is not necessarily the evil some people assume it to be.

autoloquist said...

Either it's OK or it's not OK. You can't have it both ways.

If it's not OK, take a stand and do something about it. If it is OK, don't make these sideswipe remarks. This type of commentary only paints you as a point-scoring fence-sitter.

Frank Smit said...

Hello all.

Looks like you guys don't like the name I choose for my package. I quite like it though. And I don't think it's an offensive word.

What I don't understand is that you don't send me an email. You can just say "We think the name you chose for your package is not appropriate. Can you change it?". My email is on the package page.

But no, instead I get an email from someone else saying it would be better if the name's changed.

Meh.

I have no problems with changing the name. Just ask directly. Most of the people are saying "bla bla I don't like this shit", but actually saying it saying it to me... no.

Well, anyone got suggestions for a new name?

Joe said...

Steve, the concept of censorship is usually misunderstood. A government can censor something, e.g., by shutting down a newspaper, not allowing a book to be published, or taking some other coercive action against someone based on some usually ambiguous edict. The PSF is a voluntary association. It's entirely within PSF's rights to dictate parameters for what material will be published through its websites. That would not constitute censorship, because any person who had a problem with your guidelines (or decisions) could still publish the package on their own (whereas a censored book author --think Solzhenitsyn, doesn't has such a choice except outside his country).

Steve said...

@Joe, thanks for the clarification on censorship. Given modern Python distribution techniques and technologies I believe that removal from PyPi would effectively render the software much less available than a simple pip install. Until the distribution system can easily handle multiple repositories (and is adjusted to do so) PyPi is effectively the only game in town.

David Eyk said...

Steve,

I would agree with Anonymous, autoloquist, and Joe--this would not be censorship, but ostracizing, with the goal of upholding and reinforcing established community values. I see no problem with community leadership deciding that Mr. Smit can choose an inoffensive package name, or he should take his code elsewhere. (PyPI is not the only game in town--plenty of python projects eschew the package index, and are installable with something like `pip -e`.)

If the PSF is truly committed to providing a welcoming environment to all, regardless of race, creed, or sex, at some point you are going to need to stand up for those convictions--not in self-righteousness, but out of humble concern for the health of the community. Would the PSF tolerate a vaguely racist package name?

Please do not misunderstand me: the Python community does not need a vice squad. Jack Diedrich is right, in that this is *not* a common problem in this community. I am very happy that I can attend PyCon or DjangoCon, and I can expect not to be subjected to pornography or demeaning jokes in the course of a technical presentation. This is not the case in certain other language communities. We need to understand and value this distinction, not sit idly by while such churlishness seeps into our infrastructure.

I would also agree this far with Mr. Smit--he has the right of common courtesy, instead of this passive-aggressive treatment. Rather than going from closed-room discussions straight to public blog post, this could have been handled quietly, personally, and politely. If Mr. Smit had been disagreeable at this stage, a blog post and community discussion would then become appropriate and timely.

We may not need police, but we do need humble and courageous leadership. Humility seeks the best for others, thinks the best of others, *expects* the best from others, and draws the best out of others through patience, love, and service. I've seen the PSF act this out time and time again, and I hold you guys in high esteem for the ways you're steering the community. Please don't back down simply because this is a thorny issue. You're going to draw criticism either way--best to be criticized for doing the right thing for the community.

We in the community also need to do our part. I actually encountered Mr. Smit's package several weeks ago. Even though the technical functionality would be especially useful to me on my current project, I did not use it, in the end because of the name. I thought about contacting the author to complain about the package name, but I didn't, and I should have, and perhaps I will. If we're to expect courage of conviction from our leaders, we should learn to develop it within ourselves.

peter9477 said...

I dislike political correctness in all its forms, and to me this discussion just reeks of it.

When I see a name like upskirt for a package, I chuckle briefly and move on (or, perhaps, use it, but either way it's not that important what its name is). I do the same even for those which reference and mock things that might define me, such as being a geek, a WASP, middle-aged, balding, lazy, uptight, or whatever it might be.

Maybe my problem is simply that I have a sense of humour...

If there's anything that seems "juvenile" about this to me, it's making an issue out of it. Remember? sticks and stones can break my bones, but names (especially the names of software libraries I may use) can never hurt me.

Anonymous said...

""" My personal distate for these particular names is heightened because it appears that the original libupskirt author's acceptance on trust of a foreign-language name for her library has caused her considerable discomfort and possibly harassment. She apparently no longer wishes to work on open source."""

Do you have any backup for these statements? It seems odd, because (1) she could have changed the name when she found out and (2) she made public commits just last month to libupskirt when the library has been active for years.

Also, some foreigners speak English very well; Natacha's English posts are written in perfectly good English. Maybe she knew what it means and thought it was a funny twist on markdown.

I don't know. I would just like to see a link to an online statement or similar.

Steve said...

@David Eyk I agree that in retrospect it would perhaps have been better to contact Mr. Smit directly about his choice of names (and I still hope to reply to his comment above). That would, however, only have solved a single incident of a problem that is really much wider, and it was really the wider problem I wanted to bring to people's attention.

@pter9477 easy for you to chuckle from your point of view coming from (I presume) white male privilege. Women are fighting this kind of stuff every day, and it just gets a bit too remorseless to let you keep your sense of humor when it's directed at you rather than some other group.

@anonymous Yes, I have corresponded personally with the original author of libupskirt. She is very bravely taking responsibility for the name, though it was suggested to her by a third party. She is already upset enough about this to be leaving the open source world, so your wish for "an online statement or similar" will just have to go ungranted.

Frank Smit said...

I changed the name of the package to Misaka. Not because of this blogpost, but because some people actually asked me and had a very good reason.

http://pypi.python.org/pypi/misaka

David Eyk said...

Taking my own advice, I have been in touch with Frank Smit by email. He has been very gracious, and says that he will be renaming the package today (Sunday), allowing time for the subdomain DNS to propagate.

@Steve: Agreed, it's valuable to have this discussion.

Steve said...

@Frank, @David: thanks for doing this.

I agree that (particularly had I *only* wanted to make this change) it would have been better to content Frank directly. I don't claim perfection in the ways that I do things, and I am glad for your assistance in reaching a satisfactory conclusion.

Simon Hibbs said...

This has nothing whatsoever to do with censorship. Pulling these packages from the Cheeseshop would not suppress their existence or infringe on anyone's rights. The ability to upload to the Cheeseshop is a privilege, not a right.

The PSF owns the Cheeseshop and can host or not host whatever packages it wants for whatever reasons it wants. It's also responsible for making those decisions.

There's nothing brave or noble about aiding and abetting the promulgation of abuse.

Simon Hibbs said...

One more thing.

The fact that the PSF never even contacted the package's author/maintainer just reinforces my opinion that this is a case of collective responsibility-dodging. It appears that a polite request is all it would have taken.

Steve said...

We'll never know, will we? This begs the question of why an English-speaking author would willingly choose a name like "pantyshot" in the first place. If you had read the comments above you would have sen me acknowledge that contacting Frank Smit directly would have been preferable

Note that "the PSF" felt (which is to say the Board collectively decided) that it was not our place to start policing the names of packages in the cheese shop. Therefore this post was not made on the PSF blog.

Just the same, if this makes people think twice before choosing obviously contentious names then we may have done something to make the open source environment slightly less hostile to women. Anyone who says that isn't a desirable goal is still living in the 20th (or should that be 19th?) century.

Steve said...

@Frank Smit: an otaku member of the PSF has explained the associations of the new name in anime. It sounds like rather an apt choice!

Frank Smit said...

@Steve: Heh, I first had to figure out what "apt" means. I'm happy everything is solved now.

Anonymous said...

It's sad to see that political correctness has leaked to the OSS world.

Anonymous said...

@Amanda C:
Not only is it juvenile, it is offensive and troubling that someone would title any project "upskirt".

How is it troubling that there are immature people on the internet? Are you really that easily offended? Let me recommend something non-interactive, like CSPAN or button collecting. The internet is *not* for you, too much free speech can be overwhelming for some.

The title conjures images of personal privacy violations and sexual assault (albeit non-violent, though that shouldn't diminish it's impact).
People can indulge in 'deviant' activity safely and harmlessly; an act like this doesn't have to be assault, and making this assumption proves you to be as small-minded as the people who made this (maybe moreso, since there's a chance they did it to spark debate or be racy, whereas you are obviously reacting in a knee-jerkish fashion).

Furthermore, it makes light of a fairly gender-specific issue, causing me to raise an eyebrow about the creator's attitude towards women in general.

Fair enough, but sometimes men wear skirts, too. Pretty gender-specific, though, yeah.

Perhaps I don't know enough about programming and software culture to "get it."

Now you're just playing dumb. People are posting here to denounce this and you're sighing melodramatically and shaking your head. "Maybe I'm just a silly country girl and I just don't 'get it'..." Nobody gets it, they're probably 15 years old. The point of this post is that this sort of childish behaviour doesn't -- and shouldn't -- be considered representative of the programming (specifically py/os) community, which is very friendly, respectful, and welcoming to anyone who is willing to put forth the time and effort to become a part of it.

As the partner of someone who is very active in the Python community, I've heard so much about what is being done to make the Python community more open and welcoming to women; You can imagine how surprised and appalled I was upon reading this.

Because someone named a python package 'upskirt' or 'pantyshot'? Grow up, please. "Picture of girl in underpants" should *not* send you into this kind of tizzy, and the fact that it caused such a kerfuffle as to merit so much attention (board and Guido himself) should be indicative that this is absolutely not the norm.

I find it hard to believe that anyone would consider it "censorship" to disallow the use of sexually perverse language that implies any form of sexual exploitation.

Well, FUCK YOU. I find it hard to believe you are so quick to compromise one of the most basic (and probably most important) tenets of freedom, and for such a silly reason. If I find homosexuality perverse, or females using computers perverse and unwholesome, or your piercing fetish perverse and disgusting, I have no right to disallow you from naming your creations "gaylove" or "femPower" or "pierced_glans", that's just not how it works.

To allow it seems deleterious to any outreach efforts.

Obviously I'm in the minority here, as most people are so falling over themselves to prove that they can be sensitive and butthurt that they can't see your selfrighteous tirade for what it is, but if you were a representative sample of our outreach targets, I'd cease to be a supporter of said outreach.

postmodern said...

I really wish developers would give their projects meaningful names. Upskirt or Pantyshot tells us nothing, and is just pandering for some laughs.

Names, they should mean something.

Anonymous said...

You should definitely submit an Issue about the name of Upskirt on the GitHub project (https://github.com/tanoku/upskirt/issues). Blog posts can only accomplish so much, eventually bugs or patches have to be submitted.

PS: Apparently @tanoku decided just now to rename Pantyshot to Misaka (https://github.com/tanoku/upskirt/commit/a87645ed92acee789d9305f26a236ff3d4b3cd62).

postmodern said...

Wow, I posted before reading the Disclaimer (might want to move that up to the top). I hope she does not leave Open Source, and just change the name of the project before it becomes cargo-culted.

Anonymous said...

For the sake of the conversation: The .NET binding for upskirt is named "DownBlouse" and nobody has a problem about it. If Pypi is going to become a "think of the children" area which is policed for project names, I'll move to greener pastures, Bye and thanks for the fish

Anonymous said...

Misaka is a better name? Google it people.

Frank Smit said...

The anonymous person from Tue Jul 05, 07:20:00 AM EDT.

Still no satisfied with the rename? How? I did not explain in public what I meant with Misaka.

It depends on how you interpret it, but it's just a Japanese name. Like the name of my other Python module, Momoko.

Anyway, I chose a normal name this time. Linking it to other possible offensive is your own doing.

Frank Smit said...

For the anon at Tue Jul 05, 05:18:00 AM EDT.

I send Tanoku a message, because I renamed my project. That's why he did that.

@postmodern: Pantyshot was meant to make people laught, but that didn't work because it's, for some reason, offensive and childish.

That was probably a misunderstanding of me since some people don't think like me.

Anonymous said...

"What immature hooligan decided it would be a good idea to call a MarkDown parser upskirt?"

Oh, get over yourself. Stop crying about a name of something. It is not your project so you shouldn't complain about it. What kind of prude are you? Is this 1930s America or the modern "take your old, outdated conservatism and shove it up your arsehole" age? Why waste your time focusing on something so trivial when there are a million other things you could have done with your time? Don't like the name? FINE! Don't use the package!

Anonymous said...

"your right to call your pissy little parser pantyshot or upskirt,"

Your pissy little parser? That's a lot more offensive than some wordplay on markdown, and hurts your point more than it helps it.

Everyone, get over yourself.

Upskirt is an upskirt. If you wear a skirt and are not careful, people can see up there. See also: famous people getting in and out of cars. Applies to both men and women, who choose to wear skirts.

Geez. Get a life offended people, stop ruining it for the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

"If Pypi is going to become a "think of the children" area which is policed for project names, I'll move to greener pastures, Bye and thanks for the fish"

Right on!

Anonymous said...

Mental note: next package I create to be called TinyPenis

euromix said...

What seems immature to me is to lead a "serious" project and grab the library of some geek teenager who asked nothing to no one, just give her work to whoever wants it, complains about having used it and put the blame on her.

And for those who can read french, she stopped giving her code and contribute to open source because people take her code, fork it and get credit for her work, change the philosophy of what she tried to build, and complains about her.

if you are too lazy to write your own code, at least dont complain about the one you get for free.

arjie said...

Steve: By the wording of your statement, you seem to imply that the original author was unaware of the connotations of the word 'upskirt'. Is this true? Also, about the harassment that she is receiving: Is she being harassed by opponents of the name or by other people?

Anonymous said...

when serious talk about thoughtcrime starts making it's way into an organization, it's pretty clear that it's past it's prime.

Anonymous said...

You might want to know that the original author of libupskirt, Natacha Porté, is a woman. Is she detering other women from taking part in FLOSS community?

Anonymous said...

If it was socially acceptable for men to wear skirts this wouldn't be a gender issue. But that's likely not going to change anytime soon. Though the men who are brave enough to wear kilts, well good on ya.

What's offensive to one person is not necessarily offensive to another. The person who named the library has the right to name it whatever they want. After all you are not forced to use it and no one is stuffing it in your face.

Someone mentioned that the library name should be more descriptive. I don't think that holds true. There are lots of libraries named after things the developer is interested such as mythology, astrology, tv shows or movies. This particular developer is interested in upskirts apparently and they aren't afraid to share it with the world.

Try not to get your panties in a knot over such a trivial thing.

Paddy3118 said...

Add a rider to the site about offensive content and delete or forcibly change the name shown on your servers to something inoffensive like a plain number.

It is not the kind of community behaviour I would like to encourage.

cdjaco said...

This whole debate is Pythonic -- not the language, but the group it is named after: Monty Python. Am I the only one struck by the absurdity here, in the outrage over what something is *named* rather than what it *does*?

Note to self: when designing a human-slaughtering robot, call it "FlowerPuppies" so nobody is offended.

manuel "moe" g said...

On the one side, it is offensive to assume that juvenile humor implies causing active harm to women. If one is amused by the names "upskirt" "pantyshot", this does not imply that we are talking about a fellow who doesn't cherish and support the women in his life. To assume the implication is inescapable is hysterical.

One the other side, "political correctness" is simply a tool, it is not good or bad in of itself, it is only good or bad situationally. Sometimes political correctness can be used to attack the well meaning, and score cheap points through cynical lip service. When it is helpful, it communicates that a community differentiates itself from other communities by tolerating this and being intolerant of that, to the benefit of the vast majority of the community, by stopping the actually destructive behavior and by pushing the actually destructive people out to other communities (with the possibility of collateral damage taken seriously, because no rule can compensate for the fact that we do not have access to the internal motives of others.)

Those who wish to wield "political correctness" could prove their sound judgement by always making it clear that potentially offensive speech does not inescapably imply bad motives or willingness to take bad action, and can be quite compatible with good motives and good action. Make the case that using "political correctness" to advertise differences between our community and other communities ultimately benefits the vast majority of people in our community.

The other thing is that these type of comment threads attract idiots. Case in point: me.

Brandon Croft said...

Author of downblouse, the .NET bindings for upskirt, here.

As a .NET developer, I like to take every opportunity to add some irreverence to the sterility and corporate tastelessness of my particular platform/community. I'd go so far as to say that my juvenile project naming contributes directly to 'the diversity of the ecosphere'. insofar as it affects .NET.

Admittedly, I'm a male and may be suffering from the kind of biases that perpetuate our male-dominated society and industry. I'm not sure yet.

In another line of reasoning, I would just as quickly name a software project in such a way to be marginally offensive to any sex, social group, ethic or religious group, or subculture. I like being marginally offensive, especially as it relates to my stupid little profession, and I do this shit for free.

Perhaps we should complain to the authors of The Gimp for their juvenile project name next?

Steve said...

@Brandon Croft: I fully understand and appreciate your wish to retain humor as an element of the open source ecosystem—after all, as has been pointed out, Pythonesque has come to mean quirky and irreverent. I don't ever remember it being deliberately offensive about anything (although John Cleese had some sharp words for Malcolm Muggeridge and an archbishop on the subject of whether Life of Brian was offensive to Christians). But smiling is both easier and healthier than frowning.

This whole thing wasn't a ruse, it was simply a documented response to a particular set of circumstances, some of which I did not fully appreciate at the outset. I think that's called "life".

I have read enough comment threads to blog posts on broadly feminist issues to understand that much of the comment will be knee-jerk (sometime less knee, sometimes more), and I believe so far I have published every comment that I have received.

Several women have told me privately that they are glad I took this action, but have not publicly joined this thread for fear of inflaming the comments just as things seem to be nicely dying down.

For the record, I do agree it might have been better to contact Frank Smit directly first (and a colleague had planned to). Fortunately Mr. Smit has shown grace under fire and transmogrified his offensive-to-some name into a cunningly derivate name much less likely to offend. It goes without saying that the foregoing is my opinion. Readers are free to differ. Offense, after all, is taken as well as given, and intent is difficult to read in those who are known only as text sources.

As to whether you are suffering from male biases I wouldn't presume to look inside your head, but I will say that since the diversity list started (and early on I engaged fully in the dialogues) I have perceived such biases in myself and others, and tried to do something to adjust them (the post that started this discussion being one such attempt, by the way).

It has been interesting seeing the broad spectrum of reactions as the conversation developed. Clearly with a topic that provokes such polarized views not everyone will be happy with any given action, so I suppose it is gratifying that those who believe I took a legitimate action do pretty much balance out the number who believe I am a pathetic moron for bringing this up in the first place.

I should like to thank everyone who has taken part. I believe this matter is now closed. Though readers are again free to disagree, if things get out of hand I shall have no hesitation in shutting comments down or even (dare I say) censoring them. This is my blog, not a newspaper, after all.

Finally, in suggesting that The Gimp is anything other than a name intended to honor our wounded troops you sully the name of a fine piece of software. Shame on you sir, have you no decency? [Is a smiley really necessary? Very well, then. ;-)]

Natache Porté (if I may presume to speak for her, though she has not asked me to do so) has chosen to leave open source because of both the package naming issue and the issue of being written out of a package's history. I should say neither of these reasons reflect well on the open source community to which she made a valuable contribution, and her gain is definitely the open source community's loss. I regard that as very unfortunate, and a useful exemplar of the way that groups can be (sometimes unknowingly) self-selecting.

Anonymous said...

> This begs the question of why an English-speaking author

Argh!

Excuse me, but a literate English speaking person should know that "begs the question" means the rethorical 'petitio principii' ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question )

(Not a native speaker, just annoyed at creeping misuse)

softglow said...

I have to say, I don't get the 'offensiveness' of Misaka. Bing and Google are both leading most prominently to A Certain Scientific Railgun, and it's not in urban dictionary. Bing helpfully "corrects" my spelling and adds Mikasa crystal to the list. Perhaps your search engine has learned the types of things you search for?

Regarding the topic at hand, I'm not entirely sure anymore where I stand on feminism (and which parts of "feminism" in my head are actually straw feminism), but I have to say that none of pantyshot, downblouse, or upskirt are good names. Day-to-day work should not be a place where creepy/sex-related names are lurking. It's just something I don't want to be ever-present.

And for the "don't like = don't use" camp, if something with a bad name is the only alternative, it's lose-lose.

Euro Eddi said...

Who the hell cares about those package / library names?

Really, you Americans need to stop worrying about such things.

Steve said...

This would be a more pointed comment if I were, in fact, American.

Anonymous said...

I must admit that being an OSS contributor, I find that ripping out one's author name from an OSS project is much more offensive to me than a "mere" (?) naming issue.

Feminists or females may be offended by the library name, we may label it as juvenile humor...

I would simply point out that the primary author of this library is a *female* *student*. She may have, like me, thought of Marylin Monroe's famous white dress photo.

I would add that:
- programming for a living, I appreciate humour (even black humour) in software, it enlightens my day
- I find good practice for a port to another language to retain the name of the original, it makes it easier to track

Finally... I am saddened that Natacha decided to get out of the OSS world. We lack females in the programming, and their different point of view cannot be emulated.

Michael Chermside said...

If I might, I have one contribution I would like to make to the discussion. It is a note to Frank Smit.

Dear Frank:

I just wanted to say that I agreed with the PSF’s decision not to engage in censorship and with Steve’s decision to make a personal public statement about the issue. But that put you in a very difficult position: being criticized in a very public forum. I am impressed with and respect the way in which you handled this: explaining that you never intended to cause offense, but simultaneously expressing your willingness to voluntarily change the name to avoid any offense. Reacting this way, rather than expressing your own feelings of being under attack, took maturity and some guts on your part but it was the best thing for the Python community as a whole. (In fact, for the Open Source community as a whole.) I hope everyone addressing this and similar issues can strive to respond this well.

Brandon Croft said...

I dont understand the comments about Natacha being 'written out of the history' of the project. She's been mentioned as the original author since the beginning of the readme, albiet with longer story up until more people got involved, at which point it became a list of contributors. Tanoku is listed in the credits after Natacha, and Natacha's website is the only hyperlinked entry.

Contributor list change: https://github.com/tanoku/upskirt/commit/cfa4e0934de0d1318c179f4b226b48b49b0dfb65#README.markdown

Today: https://github.com/tanoku/upskirt/blob/a87645ed92acee789d9305f26a236ff3d4b3cd62/README.markdown

Steve said...

@anonymous: """Excuse me, but a literate English speaking person should know that "begs the question" means the rethorical 'petitio principii' ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question )"""

Well I guess that makes me fucking illiterate, then, doesn't it? Thanks for your contribution :-)

Steve said...

@Michael Chermside: thanks Michael, you expressed your admiration for Frank Smit's response better than I was able to (though I tried). It would be nice to think that these issues can be taken seriously in the open source world, and that people of goodwill can make real progress on these complex and troubling issues.

Alitoh said...

Steve, as much as I respect your professional work for he community, I must stand against your anally retentive morals.

So what if it's offensive? Just use any other goddamn parser.

Making this much of a big deal over something this retarded is immature from everybody even remotely offended.

The need for political correctness of most people today would be hilarious, if it weren't so sad. Instead of taking the highway and just pointing it out as just a "childish, stupid name", you decided to play pretend like "it's not a big deal" while clearly stating this as "omg! so hurtful for community".

The only people offended by this are stupid people. Smart women will know to not pay any attention and don't mind what some nobody with too much time in his hands names his code. Why can't smart men do the same, I wonder? Man-guilt?

Also, I'm terribly sorry that the tone of my message most likely is aggresive. It's my wish to make it clear that I admire your work and appreciate the community and wish for its well being ... But I don't think something so silly and irrelevant as this is actually doing us any good.

@Frank Railgun sucks, bro. Go buy a taste at seveneleven.

sgtrock said...

Steve;

I have been a huge fan of Python for more than ten years. I strongly urged the adoption of the language at a very large U.S. corporation. Now I wonder if that loyalty has been misplaced all these years.

The issue that you and Frank are missing is covered quite eloquently by Violet Blue. If you don't know Violet Blue, she has been writing about porn, erotica, sex education, and technology for years. She has written a weekly column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, and ZDNet (which is how I got linked to your blog) as well as several books. When this woman says you're off base on this topic, you had better listen carefully:

“Upskirt” is shorthand for porn (images or video) that features a nonconsensual look up a girl’s skirt or dress.

Because you are a fine, upstanding kind of reader, I’m sure you know very little about online filth such as pornographic subcategories, their nicknames or history. Luckily for you, I am here to go where bald eagles dare.

Back in the early days of porn on the open internet that there was one red-hot minute when upskirt porn was legal. It is, in fact, illegal. Though I don’t think the FOSS community knows that detail - they were just up in arms about what to do when someone submits a package with a name that seems, well, sexist.

Pantyshot is a bird of identical plumage. It’s basically the same thing, but that term (rather than upskirt) is what describes “an upskirt” instance in Japanese anime and manga: the term panchira refers to a panty-shot. Whoever did the naming liked the nonconsensual act so much, they gave it the same name twice.


Get it now? These names are about NONCONSENSUAL ACTS! Frank is rubbing your nose in his fecal matter when he chose Misaka and pretended it didn't mean the exact same thing. The only appropriate step at this point is to remove these libraries from The Cheese Shop. Any other decision by the board would be condoning a misogynistic attitude that has absolutely no place on _any_ FOSS community.

And you wonder why we find it hard to recruit women to FOSS projects.

Steve said...

@alitoh and @sgtrock: How fortunate that two such contradictory posts should arrive so close together.

If anyone can tell me how to reconcile these two views I would be grateful. For now the fact that such opposing views coexist tells me I am at least giving equal-opportunity offense.

So my morals are anally retentive (@alitoh), and yet @sgtrock is quite happy to take me to task on behalf Violet Blue, whose views seem generally sound, and yet appear to include the beliefe that "Misaka" is an "illegal porn term" (whatever that is).

While not being a fan of anime myself, a colleague who is has explained the significance of Misaka. As I understand it (and, as always, I am happy to be corrected) the Misaka character is a kick boxer who has taken to wearing boxers to avoid the possibility of being subjected to panty shots. Which is why I thought Smit's renaming was apt, and at least responsive to a community wish to avoid giving unnecessary offense.

Violet Blue is correct in saying that "in an open source community, I kind of think [these issues are] everyone’s problem."

It wasn't desirable to say nothing, as that would have meant acquiescence to a situation which some people doubtless do see as offensive. It wasn't desirable to do too much, because the open source community as a whole is only just starting to come to grips with these issues, and the primary need os for education rather than punishment.

It's easy to go over the top on one side or the other. It's my job to steer a middle path through this minefield (though the post wasn't written in my official capacity). I am doing my best, and the intolerance for other points of view that these last two comments display ("I don't think something so silly and irrelevant as this is actually doing any good" and "Now I wonder if that misplaced loyalty has been misplaced all these years") is unlikely to be helpful in developing the broad consensus on these matters that we have to build across the whole FOSS community.

They aren't easy issues, and they require great sensitivity to handle with respect to a broad range of points of view - more sensitivity than I can sometimes muster. So thank you for your comments. Perhaps you should be talking to each other, not me.

Alitoh said...

Allow me to tell you how to reconcile our perspectives.

I'll concede. Because this never really did matter...

And that's exactly my point. It just shouldn't matter. At all. And that so much exageration over something so seemingly stupid shouldn't even be thought about.

However I'll grant people the right to be offended at it and the right to, at the very least, POLITELY request a name change.

I am, nonetheless, abiding by my views; It's silly to overreact over something that, we all agree, is just plain childish and not throughly thought over.

I believe this makes Smit no more nor less a member of our community and to belittle him on this event IS immature and questionable on ourselves.

Again, if I ever seem aggresive, please do overlook that, as I am aware that I can be vulgar in my speaking and I assure you it's not my intention to aggraviate anyone.

Steve said...

@alito : Thanks for your reply. Seems to me we are way past belittling anyone about this, and Frank Smit certainly seems OK with the way things are. If you grant the right of people to be offended, however, it seems to me you at least owe it to those offended to acknowledge that they might be.

I don't personally have a great deal of time for political correctness, but you need to be aware that some of those offended are so on the basis that names such as "pantyshot" relate to unpleasant personal experiences that people have been unwillingly (and illegally) subjected to. It's a little insulting to them to belittle their views with a blanket statement that "it's silly to overreact" simply because what constitutes an overreaction is not a belief shared across the whole community.

I'm glad you aren't trying to offend anyone (and I have no evidence that you have done so). Sometimes, though, we can cause offense unintentionally with actions which are to us quite acceptable. Is it then our responsibility to apologize for the offense given, or should the response be to tell those offended to "harden up"?

As I said in my last comment, these are difficult issues. I think the FOSS world will be better for bringing them out into the daylight and debating them vigorously.

It certainly doesn't help that political and social debates are nowadays so often framed in terms that would apparently deny those with opposing points of view the right to exist. We must ultimately come up with solutions that everyone* can work with. That isn't going to be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.

* for some value of "everyone" that probably does exclude diehard reactionaries who refuse to accommodate other points of view themselves. In the end, if someone isn't going to play nice in the sandbox our only choice is to deny them the right to play in the same sandbox as us.

sgtrock said...

Steve;

I appreciate the evenhanded tone that you are keeping through what has been at times a somewhat acrimonious debate. However, I firmly believe that you and Frank still don't have a clue just how bad this makes the Python community look.

My own admittedly angry response comes from my reaction as a parent. I have two stepdaughters and a daughter between the ages of 21 and 16. Now imagine my reaction when I pictured showing off one of my hobbies, Python, to one of them:

"What's this Cheese Shop entry about Pantyshot, Dad? Is that for porn or something?"

"No, that's just a library with a really bad name."

"EEEEWWWWW!!!"

And they would forever think that their father was a major creep.

In my view, the DownBlouse library for .NET has a similar, somewhat creepy feel to it. Less so because it doesn't have quite the same non-consensual connotation, but it's still a name that is bound to make most women feel objectified at best.

The point is that such names simply do not belong in any community which is serious about recruiting women to their ranks. But for heaven's sake, don't just take my word or Violet Blue's word for it.

Try this on instead. Picture yourself describing this Python library and its name's history to your own daughter. Or your wife. Or your sister.

Don't have any of those? How about describing the situation to your mother? Or grandmother? The name choice suddenly doesn't seem so inconsequential, does it?

The best possible solution at this point would be to pick a name with no such connotations whatsoever. Failing that, I strongly urge the board to reverse its position and reject the libraries in question. There is NO place in any healthy FOSS community for disrespect of others.

Dave said...

It is simply as offending to women as nicknaming the author Frank Smut would be offending to the author.
Can't the guy grow up?

We need more women to join open source projects because women fight well against serious oppression and they fight quite long battles for freedom.

We always need many good fighters against software patents, MafiAA.

Women are the ones whose voice nobody can crush because "think of the women and children".

This is totally against that.

Someone should tell the author to please sacrifice his LULZ urges a little for the very values he wishes to defend - freedom from censorship, etc.

Women are good fighters in such movements, we want more women in opensource.

Anonymous said...

This isn't limited to the Python community. RVM, one of several Ruby Version Managers, has a command "get head" - https://rvm.beginrescueend.com/rvm/upgrading/

Brandon Croft said...

As of about 5 hours ago, tanoku has changed the name of upskirt to sundown, which is a name that Natacha may recognize and approve of.

Steve said...

One can only hope so. Dare we count this as a victory for common sense?

Frank Smit said...

Back from vacation and more bullshit. I thought this was solved and done.

Violet Blue has some errors in her article so I'm going to ignore it and tries to make my other package, Momoko look bad too.

Do you know how I choose my names? I google "list of japanese names" and choose a name from some list. Not a list of porn stars.

@someonescomment: "Frank is rubbing your nose in his fecal matter when he chose Misaka and pretended it didn't mean the exact same thing."

That's just you making things up or Violet Blue.

@Alitoh: "@Frank Railgun sucks, bro. Go buy a taste at seveneleven."

I don't really care if the anime is worth watching. If I like the name I use it.

For everyone: For me this is problem is solved. When I saved up enough money I will attend a Python conference at the other side of the world and drink a beer with you.

Bye.

Unknown said...

"Easy for you to chuckle from your point of view coming from (I presume) white male privilege"

Have to love the double-standard: "Your opinion is diminished because of my assumptions about your race, gender, or social status".

Cliff Wells said...

"Dare we count this as a victory for common sense?"

Not really. But it is a victory for mob mentality, phony political-correctness, and bandwagon-jumping.

I'd agree that the name was inappropriate. Offensive? Not really, but perhaps somewhere on the same scale as a fart-joke. I'm far more offended by the over-reactions I've read here.

And by the way, no one has bothered to thank Frank for his great work on this and other Python libraries (Momoko is great). Talk about discouraging people from contributing. If he were really the "immature", "childish" person (love the name-calling) he's been labeled here, I'm sure he'd just port his libraries to Ruby and tell you all to go to hell.

This general lameness in the Python community is why I quit comp.lang.python years ago. I'm all for politeness. I'd also agree that the name perhaps took the "upskirt" joke one step too far. Regardless, the backlash here was way out of proportion and pretty damn offensive to me.

BTW, "Python" is frequently used as a sexual innuendo. Someone should get themselves offended by that, for consistency's sake. That is, assuming there's ever been a "politically-correct" person that cared about consistency.

Cliff Wells said...

Sorry to carry on here, but I also wanted to address the "we need more women to open source" crowd.

First off, there's a decent chance that most women simply aren't interested, and never will be.

Secondly, you should stop assuming that what you do is so interesting that women everywhere should drop whatever it is they were previously doing and rush to join you (for free, no less). Programming is largely the task of mentally digging ditches. Sometimes interesting, but mostly repetitive drudgery. Yes, I know lots of people tell you that you're smart, but you aren't. You are simply employed in a field most don't understand, like electrical work or plumbing. Get over yourself and realize that few smart women would want to do this for free.

Finally, you should read the following article to get a different view on why men and women might be differently motivated:

http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

After you've finally digested the information there, please feel free to return to shrieking and throwing rocks at each other. I think we can all agree that it's a lot more fun than programming.

Cliff Wells said...

Finally,

http://fossil.instinctive.eu/libupskirt/wiki?name=about-the-name

While, unlike Steve, I haven't personally contacted the author, what I'm reading here suggests that she quit open source because of the backlash, not due to some latent guilt over inadvertently using an offensive name.

So, being politically correct (read: rabidly offended), appears to have created an environment hostile enough that it has driven at least one woman away from open source.

I'm curious how many women were driven away from open source by the name itself? Probably zero, but someone should keep score so we can declare a winner.

Steve said...

In point of fact the author left the open source world for matters relating to the upskirt package but entirely unrelated to its name - and therefore little to do with "political correctness". But as long as your preconceptions fit your conclusions I suppose you'll keep on making these fatuous comments.

Also I don't really like the implication that driving women away from open source is "winning", but I will assume that's just careless wording.

Cliff Wells said...

@Steve

My preconceptions were merely echoes of those of previous commentators that you chose to left go unchallenged since they apparently dovetailed with your own position.

In any case, having read the author's own page on the topic (which I linked above) wherein she states:

"The whole github-triggered curse has been extremely painful for me. It's by far the worst coding-related experience I ever went through. That made me retire from Open Source."

Since this is in the context of the naming controversy, I cannot see how any other assumption can be made. You can claim superior knowledge since you've personally corresponded with her, but since you are not sharing that correspondence, I fail to see how you can criticize anyone else for using the information that has been made public by the author herself.

My reference to "winning" was intended with extreme irony. I certainly don't consider driving *anyone* away from open source to be "winning", but some people are so bent upon what they see as a larger moral issue that they fail to detect that their own stated goals have been undermined by their abusive tactics.

Cliff Wells said...

@Steve

I should also make it clear that my ire is mostly directed at a handful of commentators here, rather than at the PSF or yourself.

You and I clearly have a different opinion on what may or not be offensive, but overall I felt that your and the PSF's reasoning was sound. I do feel you used some pejoratives (see the article's title as an example) that could have been omitted, but overall I find your position reasonable.

I feel that differences in opinion are desirable and should not be suppressed, despite the clamoring, fear-mongering, emotion-based appeals of those who choose to be offended by opinions or tastes that do not correspond with their own. Being offended on occasion is part of life. Sometimes it's good for you.

In any case, I suspect the disjoint here is that new contributors to open source often consider their code to be "personal" and made available to those who might want it. This attitude is reflected in Natacha's article (she didn't see it as public since it had only three users). The reality is that they are *publishing* their code, which carries somewhat different connotations and expectations along with an ill-defined set of norms. I'd venture to say that the name was more impolite than offensive and should be addressed as such. If my zipper is down, please don't write a blog article pointing out how childish I must be, but I'd certainly appreciate a quiet nudge pointing out my faux pas.

As Jack Diederich stated in the very first comment, "Positive contributions come by way of example, not by way of punishment."

Incidentally, I'm slightly surprised that "asciiporn" has survived in the Cheeseshop without comment for so long, although personally I find "Bible" to be the most offensive entry there.

Steve said...

@Cliff Wells

Cliff, sorry I didn't notice that your comment languished unpublished for so long. I am talking about the one that began """Sorry to carry on here, but I also wanted to address the "we need more women to open source" crowd."""

You said

"""Secondly, you should stop assuming that what you do is so interesting that women everywhere should drop whatever it is they were previously doing and rush to join you (for free, no less). Programming is largely the task of mentally digging ditches. Sometimes interesting, but mostly repetitive drudgery. Yes, I know lots of people tell you that you're smart, but you aren't. You are simply employed in a field most don't understand, like electrical work or plumbing. Get over yourself and realize that few smart women would want to do this for free."""

Well, now I realize that I am dense as well as mistaken obviously I shall take your advice to heart. Not. In case you hadn't realized it, few smart men want to "do this for free" either. The open source community isn't the world: I doubt that more than one percent of the workforce are employed in information technology. So your assumption seems to me entirely bogus. There's no reason why women IT specialists should be any less interested in open source than men. Unless, that is, you are positing some difference in intelligence or other decision-making dimensions unsupported by the literature. Your Parthian shot was

"""Finally, you should read the following article to get a different view on why men and women might be differently motivated:

http://www.psy.fsu.edu/~baumeistertice/goodaboutmen.htm

After you've finally digested the information there, please feel free to return to shrieking and throwing rocks at each other. I think we can all agree that it's a lot more fun than programming."""

The talk you quote (and let's excuse the absence of any cited evidence on the grounds that it was a talk to the 2007 APA conference, given by someone we might reasonably expect to be well-informed) includes the following gem:

"The opposite result comes with salaries. There is a minimum wage but no maximum. Hence the high-achieving men can pull the male average up while the low-achieving ones can’t pull it down. The result? Men will get higher average salaries than women, even if there is no average difference on any relevant input.

"Today, sure enough, women get higher college grades but lower salaries than men. There is much discussion about what all this means and what should be done about it. But as you see, both facts could be just a statistical quirk stemming from male extremity."

This seems to conveniently ignore the fact that equality isn't about making averages the same, it's about giving people equal pay for equal work. When (a long time ago in a galaxy far far away) I was a bus conductor for Bradford City Transport, it didn't matter a jot to me what the captains of industry were earning. It was, though, a point of some pride that my home town had chosen to pay women just the same as men to issue tickets on public buses, when others were still discriminating.

Similarly I have no issue with someone of demonstrably superior ability earning more money, but when people of greater ability earn less simply because they lack a penis I think it's time to revisit some fundamental assumptions. You don't seem comfortable doing that. I'm not trying to insist that women join the open source community, but I do hope that we can at least see the necessity for equality of opportunity.

To characterize this discussion as "shrieking and throwing rocks at each other" is simply an attempt to diminish its relevance by dismissing it as insufficiently intellectual (a classic male ploy which, though I am no Camille Paglia, even I can discern). Kindly stop being a dick.

Cliff Wells said...

@Steve,

First off, I've been a programmer for nearly 25 years now, so when I declare it "plumbing", I'm not calling programmers "dense". I am, however, recognizing the false sense of superiority that many in this field experience (I've been guilty of it in the past, so it's pretty easy to spot).

My point isn't that you are dense (despite your attempts to convince me otherwise), but rather that we are perhaps assuming too much when we think that people should somehow desire to become like us. If that isn't arrogance, then I cannot imagine what is. I'm sure that Wall Street bankers feel we are all fools for not striving to be like them, but it seems a large part of the population has no such desire.

The article I linked had nothing to do with "equal pay for equal work", something I think anyone should agree with. It was specifically addressing why "on average" (an almost universally misleading number, btw), men make more than women, a number that is usually bandied about in order to prove that women are being oppressed by men. I do not doubt that there are obstacles for women in any field dominated by men. But to lay blanket claim that the lack of women in a particular field is due *solely* (or even mostly) due to discrimination without some sort of useful data to back it up is disingenuous at best, dishonest at worst.

But way to throw a straw man at the entire article.

Out of curiosity, were I a woman, would you have told me to "stop being a bitch"?

Anonymous said...

What a truly pathetic, knee-jerk overreaction.

This male-feminist, lynch-first-ask-questions-later kind of nonsense is infinitely more harmful and childish than any project name.

Why not contact the author(s) first before you throw bile all over the internet? Sometimes communication actually works better than passively shaming and humiliating people. It's the least you could do before you go to the effort to write a post like this.

Do you actually even care about the issue or did you just see it as a way to jump on your soap box and win some fem creds?

Steve said...

Whatever I did, I did openly rather than hiding behind anonymity. Those who know me know I do care about diversity of all kinds in open source.