back to article Top AI conference NIPS won't change its name amid growing protest over 'bad taste' acronym

Like something out of HBO's TV satire Silicon Valley, Neural Information Processing Systems is one of the world's top AI conferences. Yes, N. I. P. S. NIPS. And a decision to keep calling it that has somewhat split the machine-learning community. NIPS is one of the must-attend AI events of the year for those working or …

  1. thames

    And here was I after reading the title thinking it would have been the Japanese who were complaining about it.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Alas, as a Scotsman I was hoping it would be about a measure of whisky.

      An unusually large measure for spirits =>

      1. Cowboy Bob

        "Alas, as a Scotsman I was hoping it would be about a measure of whisky."

        One of my favourite local(ish) watering holes is called The Nip And Growler. And yes, it's run by two women.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I had an idea for a dating / hookup website for ladies who enjoy love of the sapphic kind. Something akin to Tinder or Grindr. I was going to call it Growlr, but the .com domain name is taken and the owner wants a six figure sum for it :-(

      2. The Nazz


        Mental As Anything that is :

        Not what it appeared to be when i first came across it.

        As always, a song for everything.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > An unusually large measure for spirits =>

        For offering to guests maybe, for private consumption however...

    2. Korev Silver badge

      I was about to make exactly the same point.

  2. frank ly


    Does anyone remember travelleing wave amplifier tubes? They are called 'travelling wave tube amplifiers' now. I remember noticing the change in the literature and brochures many years ago.

    The name of a conference doesn't make the attendees behave in a childish or sexist manner; that behavior is already present in them and will find an outlet or expression somehow, someway, anyway.

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: TWTAs

      New usage for old abbreviations also emerge, anyone else remember how Subscriber Trunk Dialling became the same as Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)?

      Given advanced sensitivity on one side and a moronic lack of sensitivity on the other perhaps a sensible code of conduct is the right and only way to handle the issue. It also has the great advantage of being rather more pervasive across society.

      If a form of behaviour is wrong, it is wrong everywhere. In this case I submit it is the behaviour and the propensity to misbehave that is wrong and not just whatever the name of the conference, group or whatever happens to be

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: TWTAs

        On the contrary, I think less of anyone who needs the name to be changed because "NIPS" upsets them. These people are over-sensitive ideologues just looking to be offended. They lose the respect I would give them by default through their behaviour. Ditto for those Californian politicians who have tried to get the terms "master" and "slave" removed frim computer terminology and feminist campaigner Adria Richards getting two developers fired because she overheard them making a joke about 'dongles'.

        Some people you don't kowtow to. You tell them to grow up and stop trying to invent sexism and racism where there isn't any. Give them power and they'll just move on to policing the next piece of language. Fuck 'em.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TWTAs

      in an article about how something affects women, why are you turning this around into how it affects men?

      1. Bernard M. Orwell

        Re: TWTAs

        "why are you turning this around into how it affects men?"

        Because the desired outcome postulated by the complainant is a behavioral change in men, requiring them to think and respond differently to how they have previously. Therefore, this affects men. Therefore the men on this forum are talking about how it makes them feel and how they respond to it.

        Or would you rather we all just shut up and do as we're told without debate or discussion? Perhaps we should check our privilege and stay silent?

        Well, I have news for you.....

  3. Dacarlo

    I was expecting...

    ...nips and corrections at the bottom of the article.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Sexist ?

    Men have #NIPSTOO...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sexist ?

      That doesn't matter to those who are taking offence. Often on other people's behalf, whether those others like it or not.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sexist ?

      > "Men have #NIPSTOO..."

      Stunted ones, yes. Altho some of us don't look very stunted at all, oy...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: GIMP

      Some people of all sexes evidently enjoy pvc costumes. My issue with The GIMP is that it doesn't contain the word paint, photo, picture or image in its abbreviated form - an admittedly small hurdle for a novice user, but small hurdles do add up for someone who is learning.

      I don't know why some advocates of GNU/Linux are loath to make the system easier for would-be users.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GIMP

        Because people work on it for fun and when an outsider who has contributed nothing to the project starts telling you what you can and cannot do it stops being fun. And this is true even you were already doing it anyway.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: GIMP

        > "I don't know why some advocates of GNU/Linux are loath to make the system easier for would-be users."

        You mean change the name "GIMP" to something that instantly brands the app as a graphics tool? Well okay, but it's not a system change, IMHO.

        Lessee, what catchy hook to rename "The Gimp" to, hrmmmm...

        "RasterBlaster"? No...

        "MyPrettyVectors"? Too precious.

        "Paint-N-Stuff"? Not serious enough.

        "Imaginarium"? Hasn't that been done already?

        I give up. Only a simp messes with The Gimp!

      3. DownUndaRob

        Re: GIMP

        So change the name of GIMP to something that includes Image in its name???


        The Gnu Image Manipulation Program.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: GIMP

          Dave's complaint was that "GIMP" (short form) doesn't brand the app properly by itself. It's a good point, but IMO the GIMP name isn't that bad, and it certainly sets the app apart from the other graphics apps.

      4. Bernard M. Orwell

        Re: GIMP

        "My issue with The GIMP is that it doesn't contain the word paint, photo, picture or image"

        I'm not sure that GIMP-PIC is any better....

  6. 45RPM Silver badge

    Well either someone boobed or people are getting breastacularly upset about… well, the wrong thing. The Japanese might have cause to be upset but (hang on, as a bloke, let me check on this crowded train*) yes, I have nips too. We all do. And, dare I say it, we have noses too. And belly buttons. So if it’s considered inappropriate because it’s a body part then we, as a society, have got our priorities desperately wrong.

    *and now I’m being arrested for indecent exposure. Jesus! People are so oversensitive!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      great job missing the point.

      1. 45RPM Silver badge


        I’m glad you liked it. But if I’d got my point out then I really would have been in trouble. Woohoo! As it is, I think I only just missed out on a few nights in the clink. Close shave there.

  7. Starace

    Says more about the 'offended' than anyone else

    If your mind strongly pushes you to an interpretation that gets you that upset it says more about the way you think than anything else.

    If you frequently see language as racist or sexist then maybe it's you that's, well...

    I also note a certain lack of inclusiveness and diversity among the complainers and their pet issues.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Says more about the 'offended' than anyone else

      When someone is 'offended' by the mere existence of any alternative thought process, belief, way of life etc. there's precious little that can be done without reducing to their level of 'diversity intolerance' or feeding the next 'request' by acquiescence.

      To complain about the acronym NIPS is nitpicking to excess about a schoolboy sniggery (ooo they said nips!) level of problem in a world where self identification as anything other than straight male or female is frequently life threatening.

    2. Bernard M. Orwell

      Re: Says more about the 'offended' than anyone else

      Indeed. I am constantly surprised by how such strong, confident, intelligent, successful, superior and independent people get offended by mere words, whereas those they denigrate do not.

  8. WonkoTheSane

    Others have dodged that bullet...

    The Northern Ireland Police Service changed it's name to Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) instead.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Others have dodged that bullet...

      ... and not the Police (Northern Ireland) Service

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Others have dodged that bullet...

        Support your local PNIS

    2. mrbeardy

      Re: Others have dodged that bullet...

      I hate to break it to you, but the RUC name change went straight to PSNI. However, the Northern Ireland Prison Service has been around since 1995

      1. WhereAmI?

        Re: Others have dodged that bullet...

        We've got NIPSA over here too! Does that count?

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    An acronyvm is an acronym

    If you don't like NIPS representing Neural Information Processing Systems, then you need to require a change to the title "Neural Information Processing Systems", because NIPS is the proper acronym for it. Just like Apollo 13 - it was the 13th flight whether you like it or not.

    Take your mind out of the gutter and start being as adult as your age. Okay, stupid remark to a bunch of IT blokes, I know, but still : grow up.

    That being said, the board could have sidestepped the entire issue by simply asking what attendees would like for a new acronym. Don't like NIPS ? Suggest a new one and put your money where your mouth is. It's easy to complain about something when you don't have to find a solution.

    1. Rol

      Re: An acronyvm is an acronym

      "Suggest a new one and put your money where your mouth is."

      Total Immersion Transistor Technology Executing Rational Yet Exclusive Non Optimised Thinking

      1. WhereAmI?

        Re: An acronyvm is an acronym

        Upvote for the Doddy reference.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is dumb.

  11. LenG

    You have to work really hard to get excited by something this trivial. Seems to me some people spend a lot of time and energy looking for something to get upset about.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Complaining about NIPS but happy with CoC?

    Something of a double standard here.

  13. big_D Silver badge


    Is a bit racist, but it took me a couple of minutes to remember what you were referring to, because I haven't heard anyone referring to Japanese as Nips since I was a kid...

    But this is a problem that keeps cropping up, a word or abbeviation is used and then it is suddenly used as slang for something else and the original meaning is wrong.

    When I left the UK in early noughties, this wasn't a term I'd ever heard in relationship to nipples, which I assume is where the problem lies. Therefore the conference was using the abbreviation for 2 decades before it became common slang.

  14. JimC

    Must be kinda hard to find

    an acronym that someone somewhere speaking some language or another will not be able to object to, unless you go for something totally unpronounceable, which rather defeats the object of having an acronym.

  15. DropBear

    The Professional Offendee Squad can go pound sand. This is already more attention than they deserve, which is zero. People making it their business to try telling others what they should and shouldn't do absolutely must be stripped of any power, ever, over anyone else.

  16. thosrtanner

    I presume this must mean that half the delegates read The Register avidly, because where I come from nips are things that are given to you by creatures with teeth. Or a small amount of spirits.

    Only here have I regularly seen it used to refer to body parts below the neck.

  17. Rol

    It was a fair vote!

    "So, that's eighteen votes for a chicken supper and one vote for a vegetarian meal. I declare, by means of a fair and democratic vote, that chicken has won again. Thank you to all you foxes for your contribution in this process, and I wish the representative from the coup, who made this a credible and inclusive meeting, a safe journey home."

    1. h4rm0ny

      Re: It was a fair vote!

      I call Crap Analogy time. Big difference between being eaten and not thinking a simple acronym is denigrating you. If it spelled out the N-word or something, sure - because that's extreme and looks contrived. But this is not.

      Other way your analogy is bad is that the chicken in this case (political feminists) is pretending to speak for women as a whole. But most women are far smarter than to be offended by this. All chickens don't want to be eaten. Most women do not identify as feminists. Not in the modern sense.

    2. dajames

      Re: It was a fair vote!

      ... I wish the representative from the coup ... a safe journey home.

      I know this was supposed to be humour, but it falls flat.

      The thing that chickens may be housed in is a coop, not a coup ... a coup is a "blow", which might be what the foxes have achieved by winning the vote. The misspelling ruins the point.

      Add to that the fact that chickens are far from vegetarian -- they eat grubs and worms ... as will foxes, if it's all they can get -- and the point is almost entirely lost.

      Shame, because otherwise I quite enjoyed the comment.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NIPS ...thinks a bit for a new group name, would any of the complainee delegates support Advanced Neural Algorithmic Logistics Symposium?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rhyming slang

    Raspberry - Raspberry ripple - nipple

    We must change the name of a certain ARM-based computer now!

  20. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge


    I'm starting a Campaign for Using New Terms.

  21. Wellyboot Silver badge


    Hope it wasn't to chilly at the meeting after this exchange.

    Mine's the one on the left coatpeg.

  22. Some Twat

    Objections by those who contribute nothing, as ever

    As ever, the Social Justice left (aka the creature wearing the left's skin, for unlike the actual left they utterly despise the working classes) are jumping on a cause and lecturing people - the thing is that in every fucking case it's people who contribute fuck all, who aren't interested at all in the thing they're trying to change, who just get on Twitter, see a fucking hashtag controversy and try to fuck shit up. Fuck em.

    1. joeW

      Re: Objections by those who contribute nothing, as ever

      "Anima Anandkumar, director of research at Nvidia and a professor at the computer and mathematical sciences department at the California Institute of Technology, began circulating the #ProtestNIPS hashtag on Twitter"

      Yeah, definitely sounds like a disinterested commie to me. Just as well your contributions to the machine learning field dwarf hers, or you'd look a bit silly right now.

  23. colinb

    To be fair

    NIPS rolls off the tongue a lot better than mcubed

  24. John 104


    So..., they wanted the survey to include people who didn't go to the conference because they didn't like the title (which I also thought was referring to slang for Japanese, post WWII). How exactly were they supposed to get these people to take the survey if they didn't know who they were? What an idiotic statement.

    WiMLDS Workshop. This workshop is non-inclusive to men. How dare they be so sexist and divisive? Did they ask any men if they wanted to be part of this workshop? Perhaps if the men had known about the survey that the didn't take, they would have gotten surprising results?

  25. Craig McGill 1

    Has anyone ever complained to The Reg...

    About TITSUP? Just wondering...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And they are combating this using their CoC? Really?

  27. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    How long has the conference been running?

    Since the 1980s and the PC brigade have only just noticed? If they're that bothered they just shouldn't go.

    The NIPS acronym is distasteful, unprofessional, or inappropriate,

    It is none of the above but a suitable abbreviation for the extremely wordy title Neural Imaging Processing Systems. Still maybe it could renamed to something like Boring Bastards Bore Each Other and Everyone Else.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: How long has the conference been running?

      In answer to myself: would Conference Without an Interesting Name appease the snowflakes? Surely CWIM doesn't offend anyone?

      * Mine's the one with a copy of The Devil's Dictionary in the pocket.

  28. Maty

    If we are going to change every word that someone can possibly get offended by, we are going to have a very small vocabulary remaining.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Would you like to borrow a copy of the Newspeak Dictionary?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unless my maths is dodgy...

    23000 asked, 2270 responded, and 674 wanted a change. The rest couldn't be, or weren't bothered. That is 2.9% of those who are attending who are complaing and only 1.2% feel strongly about it.

    Why is this even a thing?

  30. spold Silver badge

    Obviously the name needs tweaking

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The current set of all possible two, three, and four letter acronyms (TTFA) is already ridiculously overloaded.

    If the perpetually in need of being offended PC crowd is allowed to there will be only a few thousand of these left, at which point they will be so badly overloaded that they will be totally useless.

    These people can find offense anywhere, and inoffensive today is not guarantee against being a retroactive crime against society tomorrow.

    As an example, consider whether the outrage against 'NIPS' constitutes a racist slur on the Native Images Print Studio, and the art of the North American Aboriginal Peoples, or the people of Pakistan, or Nepal, or an insult to the Northern Indian Public Service... or professional secretaries, which would be sexist in another way.

    NIPS as an acronym:

    Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems

    NASA Interactive Planning System

    National Immunisation Program Schedule

    National Immunization Provider Record Check Study

    National Implementation Plans

    National Indicative Programmes

    National Information Points

    National Information Processing System

    National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development

    National Institute for Physiological Sciences

    National Institute for Policy Studies

    National Institute of Pakistan Studies

    National Institute of Physical Sciences

    National Institute of Physiological Science

    National Institute of Policy Studies

    National Institute of Population Studies

    National Institute of Professional Secretaries

    National Institutetute for Physiological Sciences

    National Institutions for Persons Requiring Care and Control

    National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center

    National Intelligence Priorities

    National Intelligence Processing System

    National Internet-Based Partner Services

    National Internet-Based Partner Services (support group)

    Native Images Print Studio

    Naval Intelligence Processing Center Upgrade Program

    Naval Intelligence Processing Systems

    Naval Intelligence Production System

    Navy Information Policy Summary

    Nelson Investment Planning Services

    Neonatal Index of Parent Satisfaction

    Neonatal Infant Pain Scale

    Nepal Institute for Policy Studies

    Nestin-Positive Islet-Derived Progenitor Cells

    Net Income per Share

    Net Internet Press Services

    Network Based Intrusion Prevention System

    Network I/Os Per Second

    Network Information Processing Systems

    Network Intrusion Prevention System

    Network Intrusion Protection System

    Neural Info Processing Systems

    Neural Information Processing Systems

    News in Physiological Sciences

    Nigeria International Poultry Summit

    NMCS Information Processing System

    Nocturnal Investigation of Paranormal Situations

    Non Impact Printers

    Non Imprinted Polymers

    NON Institutional Provider Services

    Non Invasive Prenatal Screening

    Non Invasive Programmed Stimulation

    Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (US DoD)

    Non-solvent Induced Phase Separation

    Northern Illinois Parrot Society

    Northern Iloilo Polytechnic State

    Northern Indiana Public Service

    Northern Indiana Public Service Company

    Northern Insulation and Pipeline Stockists

    Northern Ireland Paranormal Research Association (UK)

    Northern Ireland Paranormal Society

    Northern Ireland Pike Society

    NTCS-A Information Processing Services

    Numerically Integrated Profiling System

    Nutrition In Patient care Survey

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have the conference in Australia....

    .... at least in Australia - the NIPS are getting bigger.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can I be the first to say.... pictures, or it never happened!

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Once upon a time...

    Somebody named a computer server with a clever name that could be presented as a 4-letter acronym beginning with "I". A couple of years later, a horrifically-terrible terrorist organization became known by that same 4-letter acronym. You can't win.

  35. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. Neoc

    Streisand effect

    <sigh> So instead of quietly getting the organisers to squash the improper usage of the name (which, based on this report, is done by a minority) those who find it offensive point out the connection between the name and buddles (local term).

    The more you raise the fact that something is "racist" or "sexist", the more it gets re-inforced into the public psyche. I can only dream of being able to stop anyone pointing out the negative connotation of certain words ("gay", anyone?) for - say - a generation, and hopefully the next generation will never understand why this was ever a problem.

    Awaiting downvotes in 3... 2... 1...

  37. Mark Solaris

    I hear it's sponsored by Wang as well.

    Will the A/C in the conference hall be blasting out the chilled air?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All this talk of NIPS has made me feel like a Walk And Nice Kebab

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    We have a friend whose dog often nips people.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    these events often have a hugely skewed ratio of men vs women - representative of the industry. I know my female colleagues feel uncomfortable when they attend because they feel men are ogling them (they are, i've seen numerous times). and when the drinks are served up, well you can imagine what happens next.

    i think the more we can do to make these events welcoming and accepting of everyone the better. changing a name seems like an easy win, i'm not sure why anyone would be against it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      changing a name seems like an easy win

      And like all lazy wins, it ends up making things worse.

      NIPS is in a month's time and everybody is going to be talking about breasts this year thanks to these people.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Nice straw man you're building there.

          This topic will be discussed everywhere at this year's conference and it will make everybody nervous because it's about breasts. If they change the name then the reason will be discussed widely for years and will make everybody nervous for the same reason.

          If the campaigners were as interested in trolling as you clearly are then I call this a win for them.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    *Randomly thinking to myself*... I wonder how many people would attend if the name had been DICKS?

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New name

    It should be put on by the Cubic Units Networking Team.

  43. Bernard M. Orwell

    " changing a name seems like an easy win,"

    Yep, I can't see why the ogling, drinking and "other activities" you hint at would continue after a stern name change.

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