Hi folks. Hope you're all doing well.
Today, I want to talk about something serious. It's something that concerns all of us, yet it often goes unnoticed because so many of us choose not to care.
I want to talk about the lack of political awareness among the dev community.
It has bothered me on several occasions in the past, but something was brought to my attention by a friend this time, and I had to write this post.
Yoren is a friend of mine whom I met during my trip to Taiwan in February. She is a Taiwanese developer and Wordpress expert, and she is part of a vocal community of people who want to keep the rights and identities of the Taiwanese populace secure.
So What Happened?
It all started when a certain PR on WooCommerce was generated.
#24237 add Hong Kong, Taiwan as Chinese states; fix name of Macao #24425
- [ ] Have you followed the WooCommerce Contributing guideline?
- [x] Does your code follow the WordPress' coding standards?
- [x] Have you checked to ensure there aren't other open Pull Requests for the same update/change?
Changes proposed in this Pull Request:
Closes #24237. Actually it's already closed, but as mentioned in the comment there appears to be several items missing in the Chinese state list. Also there seems to be a typo in the spelling of Macao, according to ISO 3166.
How to test the changes in this Pull Request:
- [ ] Have you added an explanation of what your changes do and why you'd like us to include them?
- [ ] Have you written new tests for your changes, as applicable?
- [ ] Have you successfully run tests with your changes locally?
Enter a summary of all changes on this Pull Request. This will appear in the changelog if accepted.
Taking a quick look at it, most of us probably won't think there's anything wrong with the PR. After all, the dev is just trying to follow the ISO 3166 guidelines, right? In the discussion, you'll see them repeatedly bring up this point.
You can see Yoren and her fellow Taiwanese devs arguing against it in the thread below, and they've clearly articulated why they think accepting the PR would be problematic.
But the issue goes deeper than this. We checked the profile of the PR submitter, and found a repository named One-China.
nobodxbodon / one-China
The open source projects below has content that's inconsistent with "One-China" policy, please use with caution.
注: 本人暂仅对明确表示数据来源于ISO 3166的项目进行交涉
尚未交涉 Not yet start communication
|fzaninotto/Faker||中文语言包无误. 其他语言包的国家列表中有Taiwan, 日语的国家列表中有港台|
Apparently, this person has been submitting pull requests to a number of open source projects that don't "comply" with the One China policy, and trying to get such changes implemented that would damage the identities of people living in disputed territories like Taiwan.
Why Is This Problematic?
This is being done under the guise of following the ISO 3166 standard to the letter. That's the usual argument or something similar. But the truth is that ISO 3166 is not a neutral standard. Far from it, in fact! It is heavily influenced by the UN, which doesn't acknowledge many countries like Taiwan as sovereign territories, even though they have their own separate governments, legal systems, passports, and currency.
It's hard to convince many fellow devs to understand that a widely adopted standard like ISO 3166 is actually disputed. Most of us lean toward the easy way out because it requires a lot of patience to learn about the history behind these disputes.
That 👆🏼 particular issue was thankfully resolved due to the efforts of many Taiwanese devs reaching out to the WooCommerce and Automattic teams respectively, and they finally switched to using the CLDR standard. But incidents like this are really sensitive for Taiwanese people, because each time something like this happens, it threatens to erode their very identities. If more of us were politically aware, they wouldn't have to jump in and fight back alone each time. This might seem like a trivial thing to some, but it can get really tiresome to fight for your identity over and over, even when there are plenty of precedents on how such issues have been resolved in the past.
As an example, Drupal switched from ISO 3166 to CLDR because they realized that "the interests of parties in the UN do not align with the interests of software developers (and open-source developers in particular), and, thus, doesn't make for a good source of country/territory data."
How Can We Help?
Taiwan wants to be called Taiwan; Taiwanese people want to be called Taiwanese. I think we should respect their wishes and accept their unique identity.
This is about more than just Taiwan, however. It concerns everyone fighting for their place in the world.
Some of you probably already knew about the protests going on in Hong Kong, since it has been covered extensively in international media. But did you also know about the issues going on in Iran, Syria, Crimea and the likes? GitHub recently had to block users in these countries. Since these countries are on US export ban list, and GitHub, being a US-based company, has to adhere to US trade laws.
Can you imagine how confused, shocked, and heartbroken developers in those countries must've felt when they suddenly discovered all their work had just gone poof? GitHub did eventually restore some functionality to their accounts, like free public repos, but it only happened after a massive uproar. The hashtag #GithubForEveryone and the repository linked below gained a lot of support, and GitHub finally restored partial functionality to the user accounts in those nations.
1995parham / github-do-not-ban-us
GitHub do not ban us from open source world 🇮🇷
A Message to GitHub
English | 简体中文 | Español | Ελληνικά | Italiano | Русский | فارسی | Français | Deutsch | Հայերէն | Српски | العربية | Türkçe | Português do Brasil | Nederlands | 한국어 | 日本語 | नेपाल | 繁體中文
Attention! We are so thankful for your support. This repository always shows that people are all together against unfortunate happening around the world As GitHub revised some of the previous restrictions, we decided to reduce this repository's activity. Of course, it does not mean that we agree with the sanctions and the GitHub We will post a conclusion and explain more soon, please wait for that The campaign will be terminated Thursday 1 August 23:59 (Tehran Time GMT +4:30). After this time we won't merge any new PR. Once again thanks for your support and kindness Please wait for our final conclusion
Tip: You can use …
If people didn't come forward in support, so many people would've lost their work for no fault of their own. Something similar happened with Slack as well, and they later came forward to apologize for it. If that isn't a strong case for political awareness, I don't know what is.
One More Thing
This is more than just a political issue. It is also a user experience issue. As developers, it's our duty to respect our users and make sure what we build is actually beneficial to the users, right?
Take the case of the WooCommerce PR above. If the reviewer were to accept it without actually thinking about the issue critically and listening to the voices of Taiwanese devs, it would've damaged WooCommerce, wouldn't it? Because no Taiwanese individual in their right mind would select China as their country and then select Taiwan as their province. It just clashes with their identity and how they view their country. To them, Taiwan is clearly a sovereign nation with a democratically elected government.
So it was smart of the devs to actually listen to the people, recognize it as a "disputed" case, and move forward based on user experience rather than the ideology of people who don't live in Taiwan. After all, the people who're gonna be ordering stuff to Taiwan/HongKong from various e-commerce websites are the people actually living there, so it makes sense to care about their user behavior.
There's plenty of propaganda churning machines in the world, and if we're not careful, it's easy to be swayed by their opinions. It's natural, then, to think we made a mistake in our project and want to fix it asap. That is why we need to make informed decisions based on user experience.
There seem to be multiple people who're trying to exploit the political ignorance of others in this manner and manipulate them hence. That's why I want to strongly urge all of you to become conscious of this and start becoming more politically aware.
I highly recommend you start by watching these videos:
I believe this is a really important issue. Let's educate each other and raise awareness about political issues where it's important for us devs to be informed.
Do you know of any such instances or political issues that have impacted developers in some way? Or perhaps even stories where developers have united to influence political issues? Please share your own experiences and anecdotes.
This issue hit close to home for several reasons, one of them being the fact that open-source projects are being targeted. For me, there's a certain special place that open-source holds in my heart. In fact, for all of us here at Team XenoX. So nobody gets to mess with open-source, not on my watch. 😤
If you hold the same love for open-source and want to use it to do good in the world, our doors are always open for you! Doesn't matter whether you're a newbie or a veteran, everyone is welcome to join the partayy! Join the XenoX army and help us change the world, one step at a time. 🔥 Just follow the instructions here and you're all set.
And if you need help for a commercial project, there's a kickass team always ready to jump into action. 😉 Feel free to reach out to us.
Top comments (30)
As someone who identifies as Taiwanese American, and strongly advocates for Taiwanese independence, I really appreciated waking up to this article on DEV. Thanks for bridging my worlds a bit, @sarthology . The way companies have handled China's pressure on Taiwan, Hong Kong, et al. has felt like the slow death by a million cuts. For example, I can't fly to Taiwan on US airlines anymore (I can physically, I just can't call it that). And on a personal level, I recently had to support a Taiwanese friend who was physically threatened by their Chinese colleagues because my friend was trying to host a discussion surrounding the events in Hong Kong (in solidarity). This all happened at a U.S. tech company. Anyway, I digress.
Because people will want to poke holes in controversial articles like this, I just wanted to leave a note here to clarify that not all people who live in Taiwan identify as Taiwanese or are seeking independence. The result of foreign occupation and waves upon waves of immigration to Taiwan throughout the years has made the concept of 'identity' extremely complicated for the island. I thought you might find these two surveys done by the National Chengchi University interesting:
For anyone who's interested in learning more about Taiwanese history, check out Of Taiwan. It's what I do in my spare time.
At the end of the day, I hope folks will take an interest in these topics and make their own, informed, decisions. Thanks again Sarthak for challenging devs to question standards.
I was waiting for this. It’s my pleasure that I could write about it. I have been to Taiwan and happened to know about the history but I know that rest of the world don’t. Similarly there can be many countries that can be going through the same. That’s why we all do need to be more politically aware. It’s our responsibility.
Thanks to Sarthak for such a thoughtful and touching post. I appreciate any efforts that can help us who identify ourselves as Taiwanese keep this very unique identity. This means enormous to us that I believe people from a
REAL** regular country (which is be in part of UN etc.) hardly understand why we get emotional when people say to us - "I (we) will just call you Taiwan, not Taiwan (province of China)".
I was asked a few times why don't we like to be seen or called as part of China? I was like - "because we're not"? It's like if you are Jonh and people keep calls you James or John (property of James), you must say it every time when that happens - "Hey - just call me John".
So that is basically what I and fellow Taiwanese like Jess do, when every time we get called in the name against our identity, we say - Hey, just call me Taiwan!
** editing to use "regular" instead of "real", since I actually feel like Taiwan is REAL but just not a regular country as most people read from books.
Thanks for the article, I think think this really show the problem with over control and communism I never really thought of china's influence in open source, I will do my best in my little slice of the open source world to protect people's rights as if they were right next to me in, portland oregon usa, Thanks again for that new angal.
Well... China is a capitalist nation. The problem is blatant imperialism, not communism.
You are right and wrong, Main land china is communist hong kong under a deal with great Britain is not.
I appreciate your perspective, but the fact is, CCP literally means Chinese Communist Party. China has been a communist nation since 1949. britannica.com/topic/Chinese-Commu...
That was the motive of this article Fulton. All the best for your Quest 😊💪🏼
I love this post and the idea of being more involved in political issues. I see too many devs taking the neutral path about well... everything political ( racism, sexism and other issues). We have too much "power" in the tech world to just blindly accept things. We all know the quote " If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor". It's definitely something to think about...
Thank you for this post!
Well said. Glad to see your views. 😊💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼
Oh wow I'm not taking any stand in any direction regarding these issues. Country borders are a very slippery slope. Very.
My policy is the following:
As a general rule, stay out of politics when doing code :)
That’s the point Rémy. One should not. Political issues are kind of new taboo but thanks to internet we can more sure about what’s going on by just talking to few people online from the same country. It may take time but it’s more responsible way. Though I do respect your choice here.
The issue is you are assuming by “talking to few people online from the same country” will just make you competent to make right decisions for those political disputes. But the reality is those issues are usually involving multiple countries, histories, economic factors. Who are we here to make the decision? And if it’s just your private project, it’s fine, but for an open source project, it gets worse if any political sides slipped in, because it will have a bigger influence to whoever is using or learn from the project. So focus on being neutral and like Remy said, let the clients make decisions.
Oh well but who am I to decide if Crimea is part of Russia or if Taiwan is independent. As a developer that's not really my problem and in fact I have clients in China that would be very offended if considered Taiwan and independent or vice versa. So it's up to my clients to decide.
Although if you edit a service yourself it's a different story, but politics and software should be orthogonal issues :)
If you read the woocommerce PR discussion, you will find that they resolved by choosing CLDR, which is “a much more politically neutral approach to list countries in a more loose way”. So, yeah, we're all in agreement :)
Thank you so much for this article! This is the type of point a lot of developers miss. I too take this stand when I work on projects.
I hope this article can make a change.
What about the torrent of biased reports and fakes news from Western MSM? I do think devs do need to be more political but they should do a bit more independent research than simply taking the MSM narrative, often they paint a bias if not outright deceptive picture.
I support your idea of being more aware of political situations in an open source world, but which, should in a way to help our developers to be more neutral, not making the coding field another world of propaganda and politic battles. Your strong political opinions in your article undermines this purpose. (I don’t need to be pushed someone’s biased political opinion by dev.to, I can just read twitter myself)
So are you saying we shouldn't listen and respect the developers and users from mainland China? 🤔
The woocommerce issue was resolved by choosing CLDR, which is “a much more politically neutral approach to list countries in a more loose way”. That means they tried to respect everyone :)
This is fair and I 100% agree with you, but this article itself seemed a bit biased to me...
No, what we're saying is that there are always compromises. But as stated, we should always try to make informed decisions. I agree with Andi here.
Hey Sarthak, I personally appreciate the effort you put into fighting a battle for the rights of all people (and I do support everything you bring to our attention), but starting your piece with assuming "the lack of political awareness among the dev community" is a little presumptuous... :)
Mind your own business! What do you know about Taiwan history, mostly likely read some english article about Taiwan, obviously biased for western democracy, which fall prey to western narratives. GTFO
Picking part of the problem and rally people to support your own agenda, whatever that may be, isn't going to work. Devs are way smarter than that.
The fact is that, connect to GitHub is prohibited in China...
U need to do it via VPN or shadowsocket
I didn't realise this about Github, they would have lost all their work? That's so sad.. interesting this hasn't been on the news. Or at least even tech news.