Are you looking to make it big on GitHub? The odds are better when you’re white.

Researchers found that being perceived as white on GitHub generally increases a developer’s odds of having their ideas accepted.

Developers with names that sound white could have more popularity on GitHub than those who’s names are interpreted to be Black, Hispanic or Asian-Pacific Islander, as per an article published recently.

The results, published earlier in the year within IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, raises important questions about the impact of the absence or diversity GitHub as well as in an open-source community generally.

Researchers from University of Waterloo University of Waterloo analyzed more than 2 million contributions or “pull requests” that were submitted by 365,607 developer on GitHub. Making use of an AI tool known as NamePrism that analyses people’s names according to their perceived ethnicity and race, the researchers discovered that being considered White on GitHub generally boosts the developer’s chance of being accepted. In contrast to developers that are perceived to be Hispanic or Asian Pacific Islander the odds increase between 6 to 10 percent.

“Theoretically this is the only location where you can have the possibility of having a complete meritocracy. It’s rare to see someone who is an open source software developer. It’s doubtful that you’ve ever had a conversation with them or have an opinion about them. It’s at most their name.” explained Mei Nagappan, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo who co-authored the study.

A racial discrimination could still be present in the present it is troubling, considering the power that open-source communities like GitHub influence product development, Nagappan said. “If we don’t take into account different voices and opinions, then the software is designed by and for an extremely homogenous group of people,” he said.

In addition, GitHub has evolved into a type or portfolio site for developers. This means this tendency can have a negative impact on the careers of developers. “If you’ve contributed to any of the major projects, as a novice it is possible to turn that into a lucrative career with a company,” Nagappan said.

GitHub hasn’t responded to Protocol’s request for comments The company did not respond to Protocol’s request for comment. Nagappan stated that the purpose of the study isn’t just to address GitHub specifically but to address issues within the open-source community in general. Nagappan explained that these findings are based upon previous research that has revealed that developers who use GitHub are perceived to be women are less accepted. Acceptance rates also have been discovered to vary based on the country of origin of the developers.

He says it’s true that the NamePrism tool his team utilized does not have the best accuracy in making predictions about people’s race or ethnicity. Researchers did not assign a race or ethnicity to developers when the tool was able to provide an extremely high degree of confidence. For the rest they classified the perception of race to be “unknown.”

Although the Waterloo researchers did not shy away from the idea of a racism on GitHub for a specific reason, they discovered that most developers who submit ideas to GitHub and that most of those responding to their contributions are identified by names that, according to the research were white. Additionally, they discovered that the developers viewed by GitHub users as Black, Hispanic and Asian-Pacific Islanders are more likely to receive pull requests if the people who reply to them are members of the same ethnic or racial group.

To counteract this bias, researchers suggest that GitHub use an unblinded or double-blind system similar to how research is evaluated in the academic world. Another suggestion is to have multiple individuals consider a particular researcher’s contribution to avoid impeding one individual’s biases.

The issue of how race perceptions affect people’s online interactions aren’t exclusive to GitHub. In the year 2000, Airbnb launched a research project named Project Lighthouse The study also sought to understand the ways in which racial discrimination is manifested in the social media platform and the role that the names of people influence others’ opinions.

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