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Gender-free Crib Sources

The Strathspey SCD Database now contains experimental support for gender-free crib sources. (This is mostly based on preliminary work I did during my holiday on the island of Usedom in 2022, which was merged into the main code base in April, 2023.)

Q. What are gender-free crib sources?

A. Gender-free crib sources are crib sources that contain gender-free cribs.

Q. OK, so what are gender-free cribs?

A. For the purposes of this discussion, gender-free cribs are cribs that use “lark” (Lk) in place of ”man” (M) and “robin” (Rb) in place of “lady” or “woman”. This is not the only convention that people use, but we’re interested in a proof of concept here. (We’re still using “couples”; somebody with more experience in lark/robin circles should tell me whether that’s OK or whether there is a different term that people prefer.)

If the gender-free SCD community eventually gets its act together and comes up with a set of terms that works in languages other than English without sounding silly, we’ll be happy to follow suit. In principle, the infrastructure does support multiple styles at the same time but we don’t really want to have an explosion of gender-free crib sources because group X is offended by the terms group Y uses and vice-versa.

Q. How do I get at a gender-free crib source?

A. For the time being, gender-free crib sources are only available to registered users of my.strathspey because you need to change your crib source preference (which is something only registered users get to do). Sign in to the database site, click on your name in the top right corner of the browser window, and select “Profile” from the pop-up menu to access your profile. On the profile page, go to the “Database” tab. In the top box (“Crib order”), drag the “E-cribs (gender-free)” entry from the right-hand column into the left-hand column, positioning it where you want it to be in the order of crib sources. Optionally, move any “gendered” crib sources that you prefer not seeing into the right-hand column. Select “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page.

If you then navigate to the details page for a dance where gender actually makes a difference, crib-wise (General Stuart's Reel, linked here for your convenience, would be a reasonable choice) you should see the gender-free crib appear on the “Cribs/Diagrams” tab together with any other cribs whose crib sources you may have enabled. If “E-cribs (gender-free)” is the highest-priority crib source for a dance, the gender-free crib should also appear on cribs for dance lists, so you can make gender-free PDF-based crib sheets for your functions.

Q. How do gender-free crib sources work in the database?

A. We obviously don’t want to retype thousands of cribs with “M” changed to “Lk” and “L” changed to “Rb”. Instead, the “E-cribs (gender-free)” crib source is marked in the database as “derived from” the “E-cribs” crib source. After that, any crib within “E-cribs” can be translated on the fly to an “E-cribs (gender-free)” crib. Since cribs are only ever accessed via their dances, the whole thing could be accomplished by less than ten lines of code in the “find all cribs for this dance” function, plus a new entry in the dance crib sources table.

Q. Why are there only gender-free E-cribs but not gender-free MiniCribs?

A. The E-cribs are more consistent in their presentation and seem to lend themselves better to automated gender-free-ification on the fly than MiniCribs. We don’t have anything against MiniCribs at all but in our experiments, for whatever reason, the MiniCribs we tried didn’t quite cut the mustard.

We do hope that the E-cribs folks don’t mind that we’re appropriating their cribs for this experiment. Technically there are copyright issues involved but we’re all working towards the greater good after all.

Q. Why is this even a problem?

A. We’re not getting into that discussion here. Suffice it to say that some people feel strongly about this kind of thing, and making life a little better for them without hurting others gives us a warm fuzzy feeling. Everybody likes to have warm fuzzy feelings. You can rest assured that for the foreseeable future, the traditional “gendered” cribs in the database aren’t going anywhere, and whether your feelings will be offended by your having to look at “gender-free” or “gendered” cribs is entirely up to you – after all, you can always configure things such that you aren’t shown any crib sources that you don’t want to see.

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