There is a lot of reference to BIP 16, 17 and the likes. What does BIP actually stand for? I'm unsure if this is a programming reference or a Bitcoin specific reference; either way I'm stumped.
BIP = Bitcoin Improvement Proposal. The suggestion to use the concept of BIPs is BIP 1.
Yes, BIPs are both a Bitcoin specific and a general programming reference as they were designed after the Python Enhancement Proposal (PEP)
throughout any open source project you are likely to see PEPs and PIPs, HIPs, and even Ethereum Request for Comments (ERC) that all essentially play the same role of helping a distributed group of people work in an organized fashion.