This page is mostly a reaction to bad opinion about the name of the library. More specifically, I have encountered and read the following pages:
The project here is currently called libupskirt. Yes, it has a sexual connotation, it is offensive for some people, it might contribute to pushing women away from Open Source. If that's all you care about and you have no interest in how such a situation has been reached, you can stop reading this section now and directly scroll down to the question part.
I am not trying to find excuses here. I accept the full responsibility of all the consequences of that name choice. If anyone has a time-machine to wipe me off this world before I wrote the first line of the project, I beg them to go ahead and do so. I'm only reporting the raw facts that led to publishing a project with such a name, without any judgment on my part – yours will probably be enough anyways.
The first thing you have to consider is that I'm not a native English speaker, and my English is not very good. OK, that page might make you think otherwise, and indeed, I do fare decently in business and computer English. However I have much more problems with literary English, and I have a quite limited grasp of slang English, mainly because I'm not often exposed to it.
For example, I know “bitch” and “whore” are slang derogatory words for women, and that's about it. Without doing any research, I have no idea whether one could be more offensive than the other, whether there is some subtle difference in meaning (either literal or figurative), or whether they have non-derogatory meaning (a hazy memory goes towards “bitch” also meaning a female dog without connotation, but I wouldn't rely on it).
The second thing is that I'm terrible at choosing names. I can spend months hesitating between several possibilities, and even longer when I cannot come up with any. I get somehow locked in a mental state that I'm unable to leave by myself.
So when I started writing a markdown parser in C, I ended up asking for help in finding a name on #freebsd-fr. That was on October 13th, 2009. The first idea that came up from there was “upskirt”, with “up” in reference to the “down” of markdown, and the link between “skirt” and “mark” was “still to be decided”.
I did know the sexual and voyeurism connotations of the word “upskirt” and I was very hesitant to actually use it. For the record, my limited grasp of slang English means that I genuinely had no idea where it lied on the offensiveness scale, and whether it could be covered up as something more harmless (and have it be more of an innuendo than of a basic offensive word).
I tried really hard to come up with a name by myself, or to find other ideas anywhere. It failed, and I was left with “libupskirt”.
Around October 23rd, 2009, I reached the point where I really needed a stable structure, which means settling down for a name. So I chose somewhat uneasily to use the only possibly I had within my reach. That's how the repository named “libupskirt” was created, 11 days after the first line of code. The delay to chose the name is also the reason why none of the files or the contents of the library per-se (example binaries came in later) make any reference to the name.
For those who are checking the timeline with the commits, the late naming of the repository is not shown in the history because the current fossil repository is actually much more recent, and was made by converting git commits with their respective commit time.
One last point to consider in order to have an accurate image of what happened by then, is that I gave in using a name I wasn't comfortable with for one main reason: the lack of impact. For some reason, my code is extremely unpopular. So unpopular that when I started writing this markdown parser, there was exactly 1 user of all the code that I had ever written: myself. Before the buzz created by github fork, there was exactly 3 users of my code, myself included (and the guy who came up with the name being another), which is a personal record. So with such a little impact, so few people having actually a look at the code, I really ended up thinking: “Who cares?” You can be how offensive you want when there is nobody to be offended anyways.
The lack of impact is also the reason why by then I haven't bothered to do the research about exactly how much offensive it was. I just internalized it as a random sequence of letters that happens to be pronounceable and that refers to my project.
Why don't you change the library name now?
Again, I'm tempted to answer by “Who cares?” Despite the buzz created by github, I still have 3 users, and I can count on my fingers the number of unique visitors here (and most of the days I would still have a free hand). I have no media power. Whatever I do here will most likely go unnoticed.
I think the most striking evidence of this point is that despite the large amount of text published about the issue, most of the people actually targeted github's fork, while nobody except Steve Holden even tried to contact me.
My code has indirectly an awful lot of users now, but all of them (except 3, myself still included, but not for long) are using github's fork. Github would have a lot of impact. They have the power to change how women feel in Open Source communities (assuming the library name has that much of an effect). I don't. All I can do is annoy 3 non-offended users by having them change their code. Is it worth it?
Some might still answer “yes”. And indeed, so far I have only shown the lack of strength towards changing the name; without resistance even a weak driving is enough for action.
The active force preventing a name change is that I'm sick and tired of this project, of open-source, and of everything that goes along. Having anything to do with that brings up so many painful memories that I really want to get mentally as far away from it as possible, as fast as possible. To the point that every second counts.
I think if I actually renamed the library now, I would call it The Crow. Like James O'Barr said, “I wish I had never written the goddamn thing.”
Why don't you just tear everything down and be done with it?
Actually nobody asked me this question yet, but I raised it myself several times, and more than the previous one it's this question that I'm really considering.
People asking for a rename are not actually that much interested in a new name, they mostly want the old name gone. That's done just as well by destruction as by renaming.
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.
However I still feel a sense of duty, to fix whatever bugs it might contain, and occasionally going through the process of releasing a batch of fixes in a new version. Even for 1 user (myself excluded this time) I feel can't just leave like that. I feel responsible for maintaining the code base as long as it's used somewhere by someone.
However I don't know yet how long the sense of duty will stand against the increasingly strong disgust for whole thing.