Shibu LijackShibu Lijack January 30, 2021 • 2 min read (291 words)Inclusive software code & documentation

Inclusive software code & documentation

The software industry has been one of the most progressive industries with companies like LinkedIn emphasizing diversity and inclusiveness. More and more Silicon Valley companies are establishing talent strategies to hire people from underrepresented groups.

Technology does have the power to help us combat racism. But first, we need to combat racism in technology.

For far too long, it’s been commonplace across the industry to use harmful and oppressive language in software and documentation. For instance, terms such as “blacklist” and “whitelist” have been commonly used to simply designate what application had access to a system or network (and which ones were denied).

It is high time we made some changes in the terminology to make the industry much fairer and a more inclusive community. Software engineers need to choose words that do not signal “white is good, black is bad”. For example, “whitelist” can be altered to “allowlist”, and “blacklist” can be redefined to “denylist.”

Words matter and we shouldn’t take their impact - be that negative or positive - lightly. As an organization whose vision is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, we embarked on a project to identify and remove non-inclusive language in our software and documentation. For starters, we set up tooling and automation to assist with identifying and replacing such language by writing an ESLint rule. The lint rule flags them as errors and also suggests recommended alternatives by providing a fix, thereby maintaining a consistent nomenclature.

GIF animation demonstrating the lint rule

Using this lint rule, we identified and replaced all the occurrences of non-inclusive language in our LinkedIn web's codebase. We're far from perfect, but we're marching towards the right path in making software and technology more inclusive.

#personal #tech #linkedin