#BlackLivesMatter: Taking a Stand with Terminology and Recruitment

#BlackLivesMatter: Taking a Stand with Terminology and Recruitment

Alongside the protesters in the US and around the world, the Mixxx team unequivocally condemns police brutality. The systemic racism that burdens people of color every day is the responsibility of white people around the world to address. Mixxx' core development team feels it necessary not to remain silent on this issue, for "silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor."

Going beyond the hashtag, we have been discussing concrete actions we can take as a community and today we announce two efforts: first, to eliminate master/slave terminology from our code base and second, to recruit paid interns from underrepresented communities to join our contributor base.

Terminology Changes

Major projects like Python, Go, and now Github have all worked to eliminate the use of the problematic terms, "master" and "slave," and today Mixxx joins them. The issue of nomenclature and terminology in software is one example of how deeply embedded white privilege is around the globe and we hope changing these terms is one small step towards a more inclusive and diverse coding community.

Although we eliminated the use of the word "slave" back in 2016, "master" still appears in a number of places. We have a "master" code branch, a "Master Sync" feature, an "EngineMaster" object, and more. We are working to migrate our code away from these words, even in many cases where the particular meaning of "master" was never explicitly associated with a problematic context.

It’s important to note that there will be some cases where the word will remain. Many DJ controllers have buttons marked "master" on them, and we need to refer to those buttons by name. There are also the audio engineering concepts of a "master tape" or "audio mastering", so there may be areas of our documentation or code that would be less understandable if we tried to use synonyms. But in situations where "master" is used in code, we commit to changing the language we use in the next major release, Mixxx version 2.4.

But changing language is not enough.

Building A More Diverse Community

As an entirely online community that allows anyone to participate with a pseudonym, we don't know the exact demographic makeup of our contributors. Our impression, however, is that the Mixxx contributor base is largely white, male, and either from the US or Western Europe. This is especially disappointing given that people of color played a foundational role in creating DJing as an art form in the US and elsewhere. Technology companies have a tacit (and sometimes explicit) expectation that prospective employees "prove themselves" by contributing to open source projects. Companies also often value referrals, which increase the likelihood that new hires will be similar to previous hires, thus perpetuating homogeneity.

We want to break this cycle and ensure that the door to our open source network is open to everyone. It is our goal to make both the Mixxx community and the software we make as inclusive, accessible and welcoming as possible. As such, it is our responsibility to actively seek out and promote the participation of groups who are underrepresented in our community.

Research shows that blind admission and hiring tends to result in less diverse outcomes. To that end, we plan to participate in the Outreachy program and have a paid internship position by December 2020, the next available cycle. Outreachy’s stated goal is to provide "internships to work in open source and free software, for women (both cis and trans), trans men, and genderqueer people" and "residents and nationals of the United States of any gender who are Black/African American, Hispanic/[email protected], Native American/American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander." They encourage "anyone who faces under-representation, systemic bias, or discrimination in the technology industry of their country" to apply.

Our goal is that this Outreachy intern will be one of an increasing number of valued contributors from more diverse backgrounds that will help us be a healthier, more sustainable open source project. Provided that we're able to raise sufficient funds, we commit to participate in Outreachy for at least 2 cycles. At that time we'll evaluate our progress and decide if we'll continue our participation or focus on other ways to support BIPOC.

One Outreachy intern will cost Mixxx $6,500 to sponsor. To fund our two cycles of interns, we'll need $13,000. As a project that is entirely community-driven, we are looking to you, our collaborators and users, to secure the funding for this effort. There is no company behind Mixxx. All Mixxx developers are volunteers that work on Mixxx in their free time. We have never and will never charge for Mixxx, so this is a chance for you to contribute money that will go directly to a person working on the project.

We are currently working out the details of our fundraiser and we hope to have it launched in the next couple weeks.

We're aware that replacing some terms and participating in Outreachy might seem insignificant in light of the discrimination and violence that people of color and Black people in particular face every day. As a project that depends on donations and volunteer work, we invite all our collaborators and users to discuss further community action on Zulip as we continue to stand against racism and discrimination. Keep protesting!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://mixxx.org/news/2020-06-29-black-lives-matter/

What does this have to do with Mixxx ?

The subject is a massive political battle going on between Left and Right that has more to do with the Nov 4th elections in the USA. Is the Mixxx team endorsing any particular political stand point here ? If so then why ? Mixxx is a piece of software that has been written by countless people over the years from all over the world. Were any of them asked about this new standpoint by the Mixxx team ?

Fait accompli.

Hi, we made an effort in our post to explain the political stand that we are taking – that Black Lives Matter and that we would like the Mixxx project’s contributors to better reflect the diversity of the world and our users. The BLM movement is not about a particular election or is even specific to the United States. It’s a worldwide movement to bring awareness and change to the issues of systemic racism. We did this because we think increasing our diversity will make our software better.

This post was written, edited, and posted by the Mixxx Core Team, who are the project’s most active users. It underwent a full open review process, publicly on github. Our structure does not require, nor would it be feasible or reasonable, for us to consult every contributor that Mixxx has ever had to make any type of change, large or small, code or philosophical. Our contributor agreement makes this explicit for code contributions, which have special legal protection.

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It seems disingenious to use what looks to be a system to collaboratively write the website code, to bring these subjects into Mixxx. How was anyone beyond a handful of Mixxx devs supposed to know about this ? This is clearly politicising Mixxx. I have spent years honouring various agreements and unspoken politeness by not bringing my politics onto Mixxx forums. I believed that would not be acceptable here as well as it not being accceptable on other project forums (channels, IRC, code bases, etc) unless a forum section is clearly set aside for political discussion.

I could wade into a politcal discussion of BLM here but I won’t. Anyone can check both sides of the story. I am very sorry to see Mixxx bring these political issues into this software and am considering no longer using Mixxx or creating some kind of code fork.

You are correct in the general case that the Mixxx forums are not a place for general political discussion. We felt it was appropriate to raise and address the issue of systemic inequality because it impacts Mixxx directly, and Mixxx can have a direct impact with these efforts. We believe this stance isn’t an arbitrary or non sequitur, like, say, whether people should drive on the left or the right side of the road.

As for forks or using other software, our open source license gives you the right to do that too.

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I don’t get how this decision can be controversial.

Keep up the good work!

BLM!

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I’ve seen other Open Source programs fork for similar circumstances, thinking that by leaving over a divisive topic other than the software itself, that their new project would ‘brain drain’ the original one and leave them regretting the fork. Even then the majority of non-software-based decisions to fork that end up avoiding a new corporate overseer wind up lasting far longer (LibreOffice, MariaDB, etc.) over ideological ones. And there’s been very hardline advocates for Free Software (and that’s a clue who I’m talking about) who have high ethical standards that even those supposedly on their same side can’t live up to most of the time.

In reality, most folks who propose a fork for reasons other than the software itself rarely pan out. One project I work on had someone split off and declare that they were going to work on a better service (generalized and names changed for privacy) because of a news release concerning one of our developers getting bad press… nothing illegal happened, and it wasn’t big enough for us to ask them to step down, but it was distasteful. So the fork happened. 15 vocal people went with them. Surface changes mostly happened… our app was purple, theirs was orange. We went for A, B, and C usage scenarios, where he did the same and added D which we stood firm on not including for practical reasons. A year later, that brain drain they promised us never came. We still average 100,000-120,000 MAUs every week with our purple app, and they’re topping 30-40. Their orange app past those cosmetic changes hasn’t really changed or improved, their D usage scenario turned out not only a bad idea, but they regressed it back to our original format… where ours is already on a new major version.

Speaking from my experience, if you and your friends can’t carry the fork of the software someplace new, it’s going to be short lived.

Your’re just being destructive and very very silly. Changing “master and slave” terms in the code base ? Totally meaningless. You’ve been taken in by a domestic terror organisation and it will damage your brand just like every other brand has been destroyed by getting involved in meaningless political nonsense. If you want to protest then do it in the appropriate political forums or out on the street, not in code bases.

Here’s what BLM reallly is - https://www.discoverthenetworks.org/organizations/black-lives-matter-blm

Don’t you have a blog for posting batshit crazy content?

Exactly ! Doesn’t Mixxx have a politics forum section for posting YOUR “batshit” content ? If the BLM stuff was in such a forum section then I’d accept it (but not agree with it). But no, it’s on the front of the website so that every user and developer of Mixxx is now assumed to accept and endorse YOUR politics. Why can’t you understand this ?

The Mixxx developers unanimously agreed to this. We are choosing to take antiracist action where we can. Changing some names in Mixxx GUI and code is obviously not going to magically fix racism. Doing that alone would be an empty symbolic gesture. That’s why we’re also going to be participating in Outreachy. Whatever you think of this decision, every Mixxx user will benefit from having a paid intern work on Mixxx for 3 months. If you choose to stop using Mixxx or participating in the Mixxx community because of this, that’s up to you.

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Hey all, please keep language PG. Speaking for myself, I’m not sure further discussion is productive. We’ve made our positions clear and we are in disagreement.

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Freemans reactions is the best reason, why the decision regarding wording was the right decision. Thanks, Mixxx Team!

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Do you disagree with the message that Black Lives Matter, and that systemic racism absolutely exists in every part of the world? We fight daily with both race and gender bias which is heavily slanted towards white(race) males(gender) in both the technology and DJ worlds. I personally applaud Mixxx FOR taking a stand, rather than sitting idly by while it happens. The steps the MIxxx team took didn’t cost a lot, but their small effort makes a world of difference to those it is tries to help.

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I’m Japanese. I want to parcitipate to develop mixxx.
But It is hard way.

  1. I’m web application programmer, and truely newbie about cplusplus.
  2. most hard things for me is English!!!

I send this post without deeply thinking, but based on feelings, Sorry.
To participate mixxx is difficult for me (and maybe non-English people.)
Strongly I pray to keep mind of Open source.

It’s great that you want to contribute! If you don’t know C++, you can still help out with other parts of Mixxx, e. g. testing patches, reporting bugs or contributing controller mappings (JavaScript).

The Mixxx development team is spread all over the world, so English is the only language that all of us know well enough to communicate. Unfortunately I don’t see an alternative to that.

We try to provide Japanese translations for both Mixxx itself and the manual, but these are fairly incomplete. If you’re able to understand English texts well enough, helping out with the Japanese translations might be a good way to get involved without C++ knowledge: https://www.transifex.com/mixxx-dj-software

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