"Not every woman is offended by this name, but enough people are..."
April 24, 2021 10:27 PM   Subscribe

After being called out for having problematic names for many years, and a change.org petition, Gearslutz -- named "to poke fun at some people’s pro audio shopping habits" -- changed its name to Gearspace at the beginning of April. Followed 3 weeks later by modular synth forum Muffwiggler -- named by its late founder as a combination of the names of two Electro-Harmonix guitar pedals, the "Big Muff Pi" and "The Wiggler" -- changing its name to Modwiggler.
posted by Catblack (43 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
In related news, the Coq theorem-proving system is also considering a name change.
posted by teraflop at 10:47 PM on April 24 [7 favorites]

I'm happy about both changes, but the old name did not stop me from using a super helpful, informative and friendly forum, Modwiggler in particular (though I have signed on to Gearspace lately and really like the catalog of hardaware you can add to your profile). Times change, glad these resources get that...
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 11:15 PM on April 24 [4 favorites]

Yeah I have bad gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) and I never want to buy any SWOLLEN PICKLE pedals because the name is so fucking annoyingly stupidly amateur

I like EHX gear. Frankly don’t venture too much into fuzz but a lot of fuzz pedals are peltish named
posted by glaucon at 11:16 PM on April 24 [3 favorites]

These are two forums I regulary visit and I think the change is fine.

Mod Wiggler is indeed a very cool forum with lots of helpful people and the occasional troll. Gearspace is for me the opposite, enough helpful and knowledgable people to come back to it but seemingly filled with trolls and lacklustre moderation. Also, this blog from the co-founder isn't really helping in getting more positive about the site.
posted by Kosmob0t at 2:25 AM on April 25 [6 favorites]

It often amuses me that commentators refer to the Big Muff π as just the Big Muff or the Muff (because that quite reasonably describes what it does to the sound of the guitar) so they can avoid the fact that the name is a puerile stoner genitals-gag from the late 60s. Josh Scott, even, in his recent musical episode about classic pedals, totally failed to refer to it, and I assumed he'd be looking for areas of risibility.

(No, really: Pedals, the Musical.)
posted by Grangousier at 3:07 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]

I feel like I understand none of these nouns but yay?
posted by lock robster at 3:25 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]

Metafilter: I feel like I understand none of these nouns but yay?
posted by Grangousier at 3:51 AM on April 25 [21 favorites]

I'm surprised that they're talking about renaming Coq; it's named after its creator and the French spelling should have made it clear that it's not a smutty joke. It's kind of disappointing that nonetheless, etc.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:58 AM on April 25 [7 favorites]

yeah but like every dude in CS grad school in the 2000s made the same tiresome jokes about it, same as with the old acronym for NeurIPS. nobody cared about the creator's name or what the letters stood for.
posted by Chef Flamboyardee at 5:02 AM on April 25 [11 favorites]

Oh, I'm sure they have good reason, it's just frustrating because these "humorists" ruin everything.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:22 AM on April 25 [1 favorite]

What are they "ruining"? A website/software project/conference's name is not some platonic virtue.
posted by phooky at 5:30 AM on April 25 [19 favorites]

Love it. Glad to hear that the changes that I first heard in the craft beer world are extending to music gear. Boyzone, begone!
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:43 AM on April 25 [8 favorites]

Also? I'm not offended by most mild sexisms, because we swim in them every day. But it's nice when someone acknowledges that we don't have to keep using infantile sexist jokes for banal everyday items.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:49 AM on April 25 [46 favorites]

Oh, I'm sure they have good reason, it's just frustrating because these "humorists" ruin everything.

Both "trump" and "twilight" have been forcibly removed from my vocabulary due to the associations generally swamping the original words. Language is capricious.

I'm a bit surprised Gearspace didn't choose something a bit looser sounding - for all the knowledge there, it never seemed to be a bastion of professionalism. Gearheads, perhaps?
posted by solarion at 6:18 AM on April 25 [3 favorites]

ModWiggler has been an extremely useful resource but had a bit of a toxic bro stench at times. I know several people who have stopped participating entirely, or minimized participation, because it's been just too uncomfortable and/or frustrating.

Along with the new name, there are some new standards of behavior that moderators must follow, which has been sorely needed. So I'm very glad they are addressing these things.
posted by Foosnark at 6:19 AM on April 25 [5 favorites]

Josh Scott, even, in his recent musical episode about classic pedals, totally failed to refer to it, and I assumed he'd be looking for areas of risibility.

Josh Scott of JHS? He's talked about being a member of a particularly heinous church, so I wouldn't have guessed he'd be that on board with the move to clean up this kind of sexism...
posted by Dysk at 6:30 AM on April 25

JHS had made numerous statements (like this) to clarify what his involvement was with that church.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:33 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]

Not to derail everything with a Josh Scott/JHS pedals thing, but he basically social-media-&-music-forum-leveraged his way from a guy in a basement to a pretty major player in the guitar pedal market, and his involvement with that church is not the first controversy he's been involved with, so I'm not surprised that he would know the PR value of keeping his mouth shut on things like renaming GearSpace & the EHX Muff.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:46 AM on April 25

The Josh Scott "drama" that some people are so worked up about reminds me of what my father said about academia: "the fights are so bitter because the stakes are so low". Josh makes pedals, and yet you'd think he ran the Westboro Baptist Church given how spun up folks get.
posted by hilberseimer at 8:08 AM on April 25 [2 favorites]

Glad to see he's no longer involved - it's a good five+ years since I was last shopping for pedals and looked into it.
posted by Dysk at 8:20 AM on April 25

In fact, looking into it in detail again, it really looks like Josh Scott has done a lot to distance himself from anything problematic in the last several years, and has instead taken righteous stances on things even when it would potentially hurt his business, so I fully retract my statement.

Sorry Josh Scott of JHS!
posted by Dysk at 8:30 AM on April 25 [6 favorites]

Started to feel like the Josh fight was bleeding over from the previous thread!
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:52 AM on April 25 [15 favorites]

yeah but like every dude in CS grad school in the 2000s made the same tiresome jokes about it

I wish the people at MongoDB reconsidered, even if it's short for "humongous".
posted by sukeban at 9:52 AM on April 25

In a surprise twist in response to the change.org petition, musician Meg Lee Chin has gone public with her account of Gearslutz's founding, and how she was locked out of the profit sharing for the website.
posted by Catblack at 10:56 AM on April 25 [6 favorites]

Re: the -slutz part, there is apparently a sandwich franchise called eggslut, and every time I hear it I'm like, really? You are sticking with that? Beyond the misogynistic implications it just makes their product sound gross.
posted by anhedonic at 11:01 AM on April 25 [11 favorites]

Semi-pro guitarist here.... I’ve never seen any online pedal or guitar forum that didn’t have a toxic bro stench.

You’d almost think being really into your gear made you good.
posted by spitbull at 11:02 AM on April 25 [6 favorites]

This is a great change, belated as it is. The name has actually kept me for many years from being interested in participating in (now) modwiggler as a forum, and whenever I have looked at discussions of the name on the forum, those have been not encouraging either. I have occasionally looked up stuff there, because it can have very helpful info, but there are other good forums.

I have to wonder if one factor in this finally happening (at least for the synthesizer world) might be traffic loss due to a lot of this sort of discussion going to discord, and resulting pressure to be more welcoming. Or at least, it's my impression that this shift is happening from where I see activity these days, I don't know real numbers.
posted by advil at 11:27 AM on April 25

I am a medium-length user of MW and I'm glad for the name change. It was always embarrassing to talk to people about my modular synth hobby and to have to name the forum where I was getting most of my information.

That said, the post announcing the name change was vague and gave no reason for it. I do not read it as MW attempting to do better, at all. I suspect possibly an ownership dispute or some other form of threatened litigation, but it's hard to say.

MW has other culture problems, too. Many user avatars of bikini-clad women, sexist language, etc. There is a long-standing thread in the buy/sell/trade category that is devoted to sharing sexualized pictures of Miley Cyrus. It's a familiar intersection of nerd & bro & libertarian cultures.

The moderation fully sides with the culture of sexism on typical "free speech", "if you don't like it you don't need to be here" grounds. The mods are actively sustaining that part of the culture. I don't expect it to change, and the linked post above states the forthcoming conduct guidelines are "just putting down existing expectations into writing" which doesn't give me much hope.

It's a fantastic resource - I was just on it for an hour this morning as I was troubleshooting a synth module I had built myself - but the signal to noise ratio is low, and the culture makes it hard to recommend.

I spend most of my time now at "Lines" (https://llllllll.co/), the forum for monome devices (previously). I have to say that Lines is probably the best-moderated and most thoughtful online community that I've ever participated in. Conversations are wide-ranging, people are respectful and considerate, and moderation is active but not overly heavy-handed. If you are interested in synthesis (hardware or software) it's a great place to spend time.
posted by Barking Frog at 12:37 PM on April 25 [5 favorites]

I'm super happy about both of these changes - I've chosen in the past to not recommend GS because of the name - while it doesn't necessarily reflect a meaningful change on the attitudes on the site, the name is a super important flag, and for me a deal-breaker in terms of ever referencing/linking/recommending information on a site.

Hackaday is another site with a lot of problematic attitudes, but because the name is more neutral I do occasionally reference it (often with caveats. . . )
posted by whoopcannon at 1:14 PM on April 25

Yeah, Lines is great! I recommend it for anyone who is sick of the overwhelming bro-culture (broture?) at Gearspace and Modwiggler. Unfortunately, it sucks that the two biggest synth sites on the internet are so toxic.

MW in particular is truly awful -- the mod team is horrendously toxic (see eg how poorly they responded yesterday to the observation that their new logo is WAY too similar to Nazi logos... how shocking that a bunch of asshole bigots would pull a stunt like that) and the users are just as bad. Unfortunately, since I'm into modular synths, it's hard to avoid that site so for now I'll put on knee-high boots and wade through the transphobia, homophobia, and misogyny (god I wish they would autoban everyone who talks about "the wife"). I highly doubt the name change is actually going to create a culture shift there though. The shittiness is too baked into the site.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 2:00 PM on April 25

What's the objection to the name "MongoDB"?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 2:26 PM on April 25

The section under Etymology 3 (wiktionary) should answer that. Not repeating it here.
posted by Dysk at 2:50 PM on April 25 [2 favorites]

And here for similar in a bunch of other European languages. It's not a good word to use in project names, to put it lightly.
posted by Dysk at 2:52 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]

Both "trump" and "twilight" have been forcibly removed from my vocabulary due to the associations generally swamping the original words.

I haven't played Bridge for ages but am not sure how I'll feel about having to constantly say trump when I play again.

The section under Etymology 3 (wiktionary) should answer that

But that's one syllable of the word and the full word has multiple definitions which have nothing to do with that.
posted by Candleman at 2:59 PM on April 25

That doesn't make any difference when you've got someone determined to be a jerk.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:33 PM on April 25

But that's one syllable of the word and the full word has multiple definitions which have nothing to do with that.

Living in Britain, let me just leave it at "mongoDB" being something I will never use, or say in polite company. And look at my second link - the two syllable version is how it's used in a whole bunch of other European languages, with the same offensive meaning and etymology.

"Bitch" has multiple definitions as well, including some purely technical and inoffensive. Still wouldn't call your project bitchoDB.
posted by Dysk at 8:05 PM on April 25 [6 favorites]

Also, the first half of your comment is an argument against the second half. Trump has multiple meanings! Why would it be a problem in a bridge game where it isn't even referring to the former US president?

Because the offensive uses of the word trump displace the others in our initial reactions.
posted by Dysk at 8:10 PM on April 25 [1 favorite]

I was in the position of shopping for a mic for someone who wanted it to bring out a bit of sparkle in their voice. Browsing forums like gearspace was an exercise in frustration. The users on there seemed to consider anything that didn't lend a warm tone to their voice annoying, and every once in a while would talk about using a certain piece of gear with "chick singers" (I take it that's a term for female vocalist). I learned to translate which of their complaints meant that a mic would merit a closer look.

I'm glad they changed the name, at least. And she loves her Craigslist TLM-102.
posted by tigrrrlily at 6:44 AM on April 26 [1 favorite]

Wait, a microphone forum dissed a Neumann mic? Lol wut? The TLM-102 is a fabulous vocal mic for sure, and I wouldn’t trust any forum poster that said otherwise, ever again.

Working musicians all know the type. They’re always bro-ish insecure guys, and they come up to you on break and won’t leave you alone until you’ve shown them your entire rig and then listened patiently while they tell you theirs is much better (more expensive, naturally means better) and inventory all their equipment and tell you how many famous people they have played with.

Except they’re not getting paid to play guitar on a Saturday night and you are. And they know it, deep down.
posted by spitbull at 8:21 AM on April 26 [7 favorites]

Spitbull, my voice won't do what I want it to anymore, but it was nice to be able to help the future mrs tigrrrlily find hers. Unfortunately, as a complete newbie to pro stuff (though with a good head for tech and a decent bullshit filter) I had only the loudest voices in the forums to go on, and it was obvious that even if they did make a living in the audio field, they judged mics by how they made their own voices sound. The Baby Neumann just didn't make them sound like the bad ass masculine male men that they wanted to sound like, so yes, it was cited for its flaws more than anything else.
posted by tigrrrlily at 9:21 AM on April 26 [1 favorite]

What's the objection to the name "MongoDB"?

This scene from There's Something About Mary is a better explainer than a dictionary entry.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:40 AM on April 27

The late Mr Nerd used to fix synths. I remember hearing about the oddly named forums when they first started. Now I can't help but wonder if people were trying to outdo Bob Moog naming his pedal series the Moogerfoger.

Years ago, Mr Nerd stumbled upon a scene in a porn compilation tape that was done in front of a Moog Modular. Most likely Walter Sears' studio. We'd play the beginning for peopl, and more than one person remarked that they were looking at the gear more than the girl, LOL.
BTW, Bob Moog heard about the tape and had a great laugh.
posted by luckynerd at 6:43 PM on April 30

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