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    I haven’t received an PRs requesting this change but would like to find a polite way to decline that minimizes the bikeshedding.

    Does anyone have success stories for handling this?

    I think it’s pretty easy to start a project with main instead of master, but it seems like a boring housekeeping task on existing stuff.

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      Just say no and close the issues as “won’t do”. Nobody is owed an explanation.

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        I showed one of my supervisors an article where it talked about github and microsoft and other companies changing it. It ended up turning into company policy about a month later - albeit low priority. Technically you could call it bikeshedding, but a lot of “social justice” issues seem utterly trivial to those not advocating or affected by it - so I don’t know.

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          Bikesheds are really important to bikers right? I think the point of bikeshedding is that it’s focusing on not very important things and crowding out important things.

          I think it’s cool if company policy is to use main instead of master as that’s pretty easy to do consistently. And companies can spend money on whatever they want (I remember using VSS and ClearCase).

          I’ve not actually met or even read anything from someone offended by a “master” branch. I’ve read metaoffense, or potential offense, but not anyone affected by it. Of course people advocating have a belief that it is positive, I think. But I’ve yet to see anyone affected.

          Of course, many other issues have great affect and I’m not trying to discount all social justice topics, some that I think are very important (eg, racial equality).

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            I have not yet heard of anyone directly affected either. I believe there is a side benefit to this, it could certainly be interpreted as a politically good move internally - but there are a lot of little things that can be considered trivial. But when taken as a group, I feel that it makes other conversations easier (kind of an appeal to the overton window).

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              I don’t know, I’ve had bad experiences with making changes based on irrational feedback as it leads to more and more irrational requests.

              Just because people have good intentions, doesn’t mean it will have good outcomes. I think the motivation here is positive and I interpret it as “let’s reduce potentially offensive things.” I think it’s better to put more energy into helping people not care about unimportant things. We choose what offends us and what we focus on and give energy. I think, for sustainability, it’s better to learn to not care than to sanitize everything against what offends anyone.

              Especially for programming, it’s so important to focus on real stuff.

              I remember a while back when people were calling for removing swearwords from Linux and the argument was “why not just make the change?”

              I’ve mostly experienced this with internal changes where people request changes for not well understood reasons and giving in and making them leads to an unproductive cycle of churn and discussion.

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        Does “master” in the context of git mean master like in “master and slave”, like “master bedroom” or like “come here young master!”? I’m not a native English speaker, but it’s a word with multiple meanings, right?

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          It is indeed a word with multiple meanings. But the people who initially developed git had previously used a tool called bitkeeper, and were inspired by its workflow. It used the term master like in “master and slave”.

          https://github.com/bitkeeper-scm/bitkeeper/blob/master/doc/HOWTO.ask#L223

          So the most benign explanation is that git used the term in the same sense.

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            And until people started talking about it recently, if you asked anyone what the “master” branch meant, they didn’t give that answer – they thought it meant like “master copy”.

            So in a very real sense, the people promoting this explanation are actually creating an association that did not exist in people’s minds before, and incurring stereotype threat that did not need to exist.

            I understand the sentiment, but I think this has negative utility overall.

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              I don’t think any of the meanings commonly assigned to “master” really fit git’s usage. The only explanation I have heard that I find particularly satisfying is that people accustomed to bitkeeper adopted a familiar term.

              It’s not really like a “master copy” or a “master key”. Nor does it control anything, which is usually the sense for “master/slave”. I expect if they had been working without the context of BK, it’d have been called “primary” “default” or “main” in all likelihood. I think giving it a clearer name rather than continuing to overload the poorly chosen term “master” has some small utility, as long as it doesn’t break too much tooling too badly.

              And I think a much more interesting question about git is whether Larry McVoy still thinks it was a good move to spawn its creation by revoking the kernel developers’ license to use it on account of Tridge’s reverse engineering efforts.

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                I think it means master copy in that all branches come back to it when finished. So at any given point in time it has the most finished, most production, most merged copy.

                Like if you are mixing a song and you put all the tracks together into a master copy. That’s like bringing all the branches together and tagging a release on master.

                If anything, git branches are in no way “slave” or “secondary,” just works in progress that will eventually make it into master, if they are good enough.

                That’s at least how I understood it.

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                  I certainly would have no argument with using main, default, or primary if creating a new system. It would be a little more descriptive, which is good. I don’t think it’s better enough to upset a convention, though.

                  (One argument against master/slave in disk and database terminology, besides the obvious and very valid societal one, is that it can be terribly misleading and isn’t a good description.)

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                But git never adopted the concept of master as in the meaning “master/slave” only in the meaning “master branch” (like “master key”), right?

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                  I thought it was more in reference to “master copy” akin to an audio recording.

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                    I don’t recall any usage of the word slave in git.

                    I find it impossible to say, though, because none of the meanings you listed are really a good fit for git’s usage of the term. I think the only answer is that it was familiar from BK.

                    Something like “main” or “primary” would better match the way it gets used in git.

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                      Or something like “tip” or “trunk”…

                      yep I’m using trunk in new projects now, as an SVN reference :D

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                        Heh, i’m tempted to use attic to be even more contrarian then.

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                          I would encourage main simply because it autocompletes the same for the first two characters. :-)

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                    There is some further discussion about this on the GNOME desktop-devel mailing list. Petr Baudis, who was the first to use “master” in the git content had intended it in the “master recording” sense.

                    Edit: Added additional link and removed “Apparently”

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                      Yes, for example Master’s Degree

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                        But it’s the dumbest branch. It knows less than other active branches, it only eventually collects the products of the work on other branches.

                        Of all the meanings of master, I can only think of one where this analogy applies.

                        It also doesn’t “do everything” like a master key, it does the same thing as all the active branches, or one thing less if a feature is completed on that branch. Code in the master branch should be the most active, so it’s not a bedroom. It’s the parent of all the others so it’s not a young master.

                        It’s a boss, a leader, a main, or indeed a slave master. Any of these analogies would fit.

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                          Master in git doesn’t mean master like any of those things. It means finished product, master. The exact same way it’s used in media, for example, when a “remastered” song is released.

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                            Gold master.

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                          Arguably language changes with usage, but in this case if you look at where the word came from, Git is based in many ways on Bitkeeper, which had master and slave both, so it would fall into the first category.

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                            But surely git isn’t using the word with that neaning, since there are no slave brances? Or?

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                              That’s how I feel about it, but apparently others disagree.

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                                Git was made by Linus Torvalds. If you know anything about the guy, you’d know that the only human aspects he takes into consideration is efficiency of tool use. Having named slaves is more useful, and once they have name there’s no reason to call them that anymore.

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                                  Linus didn’t introduce the master branch concept, that was a dude named Petr ‘Pasky’ Baudis. He recently clarified that he intended to use it in the sense of ‘master copy’, but he may have been influenced by ‘master-slave’ terminology.

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                                Thinking in terms of what the authors themselves meant at the time, and whether or not the word “slave” is explicitly stated is a pretty limiting framing of the issue IMO. In reality, people react negatively to using metaphors of human dominance to describe everyday tools.

                                1. 3

                                  In reality, git’s use of master has not resulted in a preponderance of negative reactions.

                                  It’s used millions (billion?) of times a day with neutral to positive reactions, I expect.

                                  I would like to see this empirically validated, but I think “In reality, people react negatively to using metaphors of human dominance to describe everyday tools.” is unverified at best and probably false.

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                                    You can either argue the need for some sort of empirical sociological analysis of the quantity of people bothered vs not bothered by the word “master” to gauge the importance of the topic, or you can make your own anecdotal assertion as to how big or important the controversy is, but it’s not terribly consistent to advocate for both IMO.

                                    I make no claim as to the number of users bothered by “master”, and I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a “preponderance” of the userbase. But again IMO you’re further missing the point if you think that the broader issue has anything to do with the particular size of the anti-“master” crowd. The fact is, if you’ve followed recent online discussion on the topic, you’ll have noticed that there’s clearly some number of users that would prefer for their main branch not to be named “master”. Does it bother you if they choose an alternative name that doesn’t draw a metaphor - intentionally or not - to systems of human hierarchy and control?

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                                      I certainly haven’t read all the discussion, but I feel I’ve read a decent amount and while there are some people, it doesn’t seem that large.

                                      For me, the issue seems to be whether there is any intended malice in the term. If not, then the individuals who are offended may want to reconsider being offended.

                                      I say this because it seems like a small amount. While I would like to know the actual level, I don’t think it’s reasonable for many people using a common, non-racist connotation of the term “master” to change because some people think that there’s a metaphor to human systems of hierarchy and control that wasn’t intended by the author and isn’t interpreted as such by the vast majority.

                                      Potential offense and misinterpretation doesn’t seem like a worthwhile level of effort. Mainly because people can be offended by all sorts of stuff. The three tabbers are upset with two and four, should we change to prevent offense?

                                      I would feel very differently if this was a racist term or the number of people offended was very large.

                                      Also, if someone chooses to make the change on their own project, it wouldn’t bother me at all. It’s their project, they can name master whatever they feel like.

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                                        For me, the issue seems to be whether there is any intended malice in the term. If not, then the individuals who are offended may want to reconsider being offended.

                                        That’s highly unlikely to happen, I’m afraid.

                                        The parallel to draw is the re-branding of Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Jemima. Despite Aunt Jemima’s old marketing material looking quaint and “racist”, they were laudations of excellence in times when racism was much more rampant. Uncle Ben was a competent farmer, and no one knew as much about as cake as your (likely black female) housekeeper.

                                        Now with all that’s going on, those companies have not stated that case, but instead issued statements bending a knee to the masses. This is counter-productive to any minority cause, because it literally kills off appreciation if it happens.

                                        On the coder side of the fence, where master isn’t even misinterpreted marketing material from the late 1800s, but a technical detail, this will swiftly blow off. Like I believe the master/slave vocabulary pretty much blew over in networking and other contexts as well.

                                        Which is not to say another word than “slave” is inherently worse, but the effort put into churning a codebase to get rid of something that’s essentially a homonym combined with a neologism is simply wasteful.

                                        It’s marginally sad, in the sense it will incur some technical difficulties, that you can’t rely on the name of the master copy of the code in the Git repository. You could before.

                                        It’s also sad that there’s very little, or nothing I know, in common code vernacular that elevates minority achievements, but I un-ironically believe that such vernacular would be at risk of being labeled racist as well :(

                                        Wouldn’t expect too many “Oh yeah, I can see that!” type responses, because people tend to “Raise shields! Go to red alert!” (In Sir Patrick Stewart’s voice) when their view is challenged, and instead give some Off-topic or Troll downvotes, maybe a defensive reply, whenever this point of view is brought up.

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                                          it doesn’t seem that large

                                          “Large” is a pretty relative term, and I’m frankly not sure what the point is in continually attempting to size up the number of people who don’t like to call their main branch “master” is aside from trivializing their belief.

                                          For me, the issue seems to be whether there is any intended malice in the term. If not, then the individuals who are offended may want to reconsider being offended.

                                          That may be a framing you find useful in defending its use, but from what I’ve seen, this really isn’t how the anti-“master” crowd sees it. This suggests to me that you’ve either misunderstood objections to “master” terminology as somehow connected to intent, or that you wish to make it about intent in order to win the argument, since you know that the original namer was unlikely motivated by racist sentiment. By making it about intent, one makes it personal in that it’s now about the original namer vs the objector, and we’re quickly debating hot topics like cancel culture and the carceral logic of punishment and shaming. I don’t believe we have to go down that path.

                                          Along the same line, I think it’s a mistake to frame this as “offense” because “offense” implies a negative reaction to what the offended party perceives as a malicious act of intent. For example, I’m offended if I show up to a family meal and someone maliciously tries to feed me something I’m allergic to despite knowing about it, whereas I’m simply upset if I accidentally eat a peanut or something along those lines.

                                          I think a more positive framing, and one that feels more productive and truer to my reading of the anti-“master” view, is that they see the term as unnecessarily violent. Most of them are not here to inflict shame or make anyone feel bad; they’d simply prefer terminology that doesn’t fire off negative associations. One can reasonably hold a different association with the term, but notice how the debate is no longer so personal.

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                                            I think it’s part about intent and part about trivializing.

                                            It’s hard to trivialize incorporeal, nonspecific complaints. Perhaps if I knew the individuals, I would understand better. I’ve read the explanations and the complaints do not seem significant to me. That’s not quite trivializing, but it is assigning it a low priority.

                                            Aside from that, I think intent is very important because it’s important to understand the entire context of a situation before I pass judgement. Trying to assume someone’s intent is a recipe for grief and self-pain because it’s so hard to do that effectively.

                                            It’s much easier for me to ignore as much as possible that isn’t important. Just because someone else thinks it is important, doesn’t mean I have to acknowledge it and make it important to me.

                                            In this case, I cannot comprehend how someone thinks master, as git uses it, is unnecessarily violent in a way that doesn’t lay out a cogent argument. As such, I’d rather just move on to better things than try to understand the line of reasoning where someone thinks that language is violent. As I fear it would also lead to many other expressions that someone thinks is violent for tenuous reasons.

                                            I hope peace for people who are offended by appropriate uses of “master.” I hope that whatever trauma they experience can be healed ,individually, in a way that doesn’t externalize the pain onto others.

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                                              Whether people use master or main doesn’t affect me in the slightest, but clearly there are plenty of people who do care quite deeply. I’m perfectly happy to let them figure it out while I’m doing the things I care about.

                                              I’d rather just move on to better things than try to understand the line of reasoning where someone thinks that language is violent

                                              I know I have a tendency to get sucked into discussions I don’t need or want to be in. If you are like me in that regard, it’s worth reflecting on how deep this discussion thread has gotten and whether that’s a good use of energy.

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                                                I’m not going to continue replying to you.

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                                                  This is a funny comment. Did you think I was concerned that you would or wouldn’t reply?

                                                  I think no comment whatsoever would have made the same point, but with less effort.

                                                  I think danielrheath’s comment is really important as to putting attention toward minutiae.

                                                  I thought I would no longer reply as well, but your comment was just so weird and funny.

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                                        Just calling out that I have “-1 incorrect” and “-1 troll” on this reply. I wrote two sentences, the first qualified as opinion and the second is a good faith summary of the anti-“master” branch opinion. Please tell me how I’m trolling and what about this reply is incorrect.

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                                          -1 troll

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                                      Do words become taboo only due to their original meaning, or to their current meaning? Or both? What if I make up a false etymology to make a word sound bad, do you then have an obligation to stop using it?

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                                    In three steps you have renamed a git branch without making a big deal out of it, all while avoiding the wrath of internet reactionaries.

                                    Except for any tools/users/whatever that depend on the branch being called “master”. It’s not the best idea to depend on a branch instead of a SHA, but it does happen (e.g. https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab/-/merge_requests/36947, which caused our release process to break for a backport we were preparing).

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                                      all while avoiding the wrath of internet reactionaries.

                                      On top of that, slipping this in at the end of the article is IMHO a bit underhanded. OP gets to fire off his barb, putting anyone who disagrees with the movement to rename branches into the bucket of “internet reactionary”. At the same time, it’s not a prominent point in the document, so anyone who objects to that characterisation is exposed to accusations of being petty.

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                                        Presumably, the “internet reactionaries” would be the ones who requested changing the name from master to main? That’s how I read it, at least.

                                        I did also feel it was kind of unnecessary.

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                                          As somebody else mentioned, a “reactionary” is conventionally a person of regressive or conservative leanings who resists efforts to change society by progressives. In this context, I used it to refer to people who feel that the word “master” is something worth protecting.

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                                            Thank you for clarifying. I agree with your characterization.

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                                          That line in the article had me slightly confused as a simple definition of reactionary is a “person who is opposed to political or social change or new ideas”. Surely by changing a branch name in the way described would attract the wrath of of “internet reactionaries”?

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                                            I believe that the author’s claim is something like: this change is sufficiently simple that there is no ground for “internet reactionaries” to stand on.

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                                              This is a fair summary of the piece.

                                              I am aware that I brushed aside with a footnote some difficulties with changing certain upstream sources’s default “checked-out” branch. I really did not want to turn the piece into a GitHub web UI tutorial that would be fully obsolete in 6 months. Despite that, I still think this request is too modest to reasonably refuse.

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                                        If your new project-approved main branch is quux but like me you have muscle memory you don’t want to retrain, something like this may help:

                                        $ git symbolic-ref -m "save on retraining"  refs/heads/master refs/heads/quux
                                        
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                                          What does “quux” refer to?

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                                              foo, bar, baz, quux.

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                                                Quux refers to none other than Guy Steele, co-creator of Scheme! :)

                                                http://catb.org/jargon/html/Q/quux.html

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                                              This is neat and handles the folks who say “IT’S NOT BROKEN I FEAR CHANGE”.

                                              The only down side is that now we’ll never know what the main branch is when we check out a new repo.

                                              I may name mine veeblefetzer just to be difficult :)

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                                                That’s what git symbolic-ref HEAD is for!

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                                                  Doesn’t that just tell you which branch you’re on?

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                                                    Oops, yeah, it doesn’t do what I thought it did. Still, you can do git show-ref and check which branch matches refs/remotes/origin/HEAD.

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                                                      Good idea! I’m happy that the default remote name is a local config option, otherwise this wouldn’t be possible

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                                                Some hosts for remote repositories do not appreciate you trying to delete the branch named master. This is the case for both GitLab and GitHub. For these, you will need to use their respective web interfaces.

                                                At least on GitHub, you can change the “default branch” to your new branch in the web interface and then delete master: git push origin :master.

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                                                  For a long time, I’ve viewed the liberal camp of the US cultural war as “my camp” or something close to it. Fixing health insurance, protecting minorities, fighting for gender equality, working to avert climate change and so on.

                                                  Nowadays, it seems to me it has radicalized in all the wrong ways. What makes headlines is never health insurance and climate change - the hard things, but instead empty gestures that mostly just signal virtues. That and canceling people.

                                                  The last straw for me was the moment so called liberal, left or progressive movement attacked Richard Stallman on an absurd basis, forcing him to eventually relinquish his position of a board member of FSF.

                                                  And now the cancel crowd has came for a word.

                                                  Master is an agent in position to order around slave agents or, more generally, the one that is always right. It is a perfectly valid pattern many of us use frequently (Ansible, Puppet?) and I will not replace it with a less precise word just because.

                                                  I also need that word to have one day a conversation with my kid(s) where I tell them NOT to treat other people or themselves as slaves and the very good economical reasons for that as well as voicing my aesthetical preference of people being equals.

                                                  But when I explain distributed systems, I will mercilessly suggest the master slave relationship as an established coordination pattern.

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                                                    What does this do to all the branches forked off of master? Do they now track main?

                                                    What does this do to everyone else’s repository? Does their local master branch automatically start tracking the remote main branch?

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                                                      Branches don’t reference the branch they are forked from, they “just” have a common history which can be used to merge them.

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                                                        They do reference it as well as sharing a common history. Many git commands rely on that reference. You can change the referenced branch with git branch --set-upstream-to and see it with git branch -vv

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                                                          I think you’re talking about two different things - remote relations vs what commit a branch was created from.

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                                                        All good questions!

                                                        Branches based on master do not “switch” to main, but since no tracked data has changed those branches can be automatically rebased.

                                                        Others who have master checked out and write permission could still push to master and re-create it. There’s no real solution to this unless the “upstream” can be set to reject branches named “master”.

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                                                          No, it breaks clones, and every fork has to rename as well, or change the tracking.

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                                                          by god, we’ve done it! we’ve fixed racism.

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                                                            Not all changes are positive in the fight against racism. I think you’re being sarcastic, but I think superficial things like this sometimes make racism worse by celebrating non-victories and removing motivation for real change.

                                                            Kind of like how joining a gym and paying money is worse than working out because it creates the mental perception of positive action. If everyone who joined a gym and didn’t go would just walk 2 hours a week they would be much better off. Of course, if they went to the gym they’d be better off as well.

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                                                              If you don’t even believe in incremental change you probably aren’t using git, so no problem for you either way, right?

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                                                                I think the disagreement is more whether or not this is even a “racism” question in the first place, rather than whether or not we should do anything about racism (something pretty more or less everyone agrees on, anyone not on the fringes of the right anyway).

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                                                                  In my experience whether it was one in the first place is irrelevant, it’s whether it is one now. You can generalize this to bikeshedding moments well known to us developers. Something comes up which is easy to have an opinion about. Either everybody has their say, a decision is made and it gets forgotten. Or it gets tied into office politics and the discussion keeps coming back, but by the 3rd time you realize that it’s not really about whether the button should be in a menu or not, it’s about should we listen more to the UX designer who has a degree or the project managers who’re with customers every day? A decision has to be made which means there will be a “winner”.

                                                                  It’s not about whether this is racism in the first place, all racists have banded together behind resisting this change. Lobste.rs is pretty civilized but you should see the garbage being spouted on some sites against those who want to give you the tools to maybe make this change for your own project. The fringes of the right like to turn everything into culture wars and I’m glad they’re losing this one.

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                                                                    whether it was one in the first place is irrelevant, it’s whether it is one now

                                                                    This is an interesting point! It also puts people whose opinion on the entire matter is a mere “meh” – probably the vast majority of people – in an extremely uncomfortable position, as:

                                                                    1. you either have to invest time and effort in to what you see as a pointless meaningless change that’s completely ineffective at fighting racism, or;
                                                                    2. you give in to the right-wing toxic trolls ranting about Cultural Marxist SJW Nazis, or whatever the lingo these days is.

                                                                    The only reason I’d be tempted to rename any branch is as a big “fuck you” to the people from item 2, but at the same time I think the entire thing is also completely meaningless beyond that.

                                                                    I don’t think it’s just the “fringes of the right” turning everything in to culture wars. I feel this is a good example of a “culture war” instigated by the left based on some extremely tenuous arm-chair psychology, and the ensuing conflict has left most people in a very awkward position :-/

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                                                                      It’s not about whether this is racism in the first place, all racists have banded together behind resisting this change

                                                                      I buy the explanation that the term “master branch” is more appropriate in the sense of “master copy”, and ambiguity is arguably the defining characteristic of the English language (we’re still fighting about free vs. open vs. libre after 60 years).

                                                                      This makes me a racist. Go figure.

                                                                      1. 0

                                                                        As a programmer you should understand logic. All ducks are birds. Not all birds are ducks. All racists resist the change. Not all who resit the change are racists.

                                                                        Why pretend that you do not understand it in this case? What other reason could you have other than to add fuel to a racial fire?

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                                                                          My purpose is to make sure overly dramatic posts like yours don’t go unchallenged.

                                                                          It’s not about whether this is racism in the first place, all racists have banded together behind resisting this change.

                                                                          Your initial statement is heavy with connotation that resisting the change and racism go hand in hand. You left no room for non-racist resisting of the change.

                                                                          You’ll notice arp242’s reply interprets your message the same way I did, and the same way you intended. Don’t try to weasel your way out of this one.

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                                                                            Why are you doing this? Speaking for others, twisting words and reading the worst into it, getting defensive about it… I expect more from Lobsters discussions.

                                                                            Don’t let yourself be gaslighted. I really just meant what I said. Remember that nobody is forcing anything upon you. It is about being given the tools to do what you want with your own repo.

                                                                            The linked article just gives you tools, it only vaguely references the controversy. “In three steps you have renamed a git branch without making a big deal out of it, all while avoiding the wrath of internet reactionaries.” Yet there was wrath. Because, as I was saying, changing the name of the master branch will never ever again be about just that.

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                                                                FWIW, if you have a freshly inited repository, but you don’t yet have a git version that supports init.defaultBranch, you can cleanly change your local default branch with git symbolic-ref HEAD refs/heads/main (to change it to main).

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                                                                  At least for github, they say tools to smooth over this transition are coming later this year: https://github.com/github/renaming#later-this-year-seamless-move-for-existing-repositories- that will cope with adjusting PRs and providing server-side aliases.

                                                                  On one hand it is fair to say that this renaming is mostly performative, but I think this is also a good opportunity to all re-examine our internalized biases and the *isms literally embedded in our language.

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                                                                    git config –global init.defaultBranch main

                                                                    Clean and easy, so I don’t see why not.

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                                                                      Bizzarely my mobile provider (Three) blocks access to this domain. Works fine via WiFi!

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                                                                        That’s really strange. I’ve been using it for several years via gandi.net. Do you have any guesses why?

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                                                                          Unfortunately no idea; going direct to the IP works fine so a real mystery. Sadly there’s no mechanism to discuss this with them either, only thing I can think of is an accidental content block :/

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                                                                            I suppose I asked for this treatment by describing myself as a “hacker”. :v(

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                                                                            I’m on Three (UK) and can access your website fine

                                                                        2. -7

                                                                          This is unfortunate what git fallen under pressure from insane people.