Linus Torvalds refuses hard style and takes time out

    On Sunday, the Linux kernel project leader made a statement that will have long-term implications for the entire open source community. As usual, he did not address through social networks and make loud statements for the press. In a letter containing comments on version 4.19-rc4, he apologized for all those incidents when, due to the harsh tone in the correspondence, he could hurt the feelings of his younger colleagues in the workshop. He also spoke about his decision to temporarily move away from project management in order to revise his toolkit and style and then come back into service after working on the bugs.

    Linus and Greg

    It was a long time in the community and around it that the aggressive tone and various epithets that were regularly delivered to hapless recipients, repel talented but not too thick-skinned developers from the project, cause damage to the whole project.

    I have already talked about how the Linux kernel is being developed and how the style of business correspondence between Linus Torvalds and Greg Kroa-Hartman differs . Let me remind you briefly what is at stake. In the development of the Linux kernel, email is of paramount importance , and not of secondary importance after GitHub. All development is carried out through the mechanism of correspondence of developers in the mailing lists, patches along with explanations are sent in the body of the letter, then according to the results of critical comments the patches are brought to mind or completely deferred.

    The second link is a story about a study where, based on the LKLM correspondence, a method was developed to determine the authorship of the message text, with a high degree of accuracy that determines authorship by Linus Torvalds, or Greg Kroa-Hartman.

    Therefore, let me not dwell on how Linus can directly and straightforwardly tell ordinary and senior developers, representatives of large corporations and even lawyers that they are wrong. There are many examples of this, but to be honest, I have not been able to meet unwarranted and self-motivated behavior in all such cases.

    Instead, let's find out what immediately preceded such a decision and what it might lead to in the future.


    Actually, the reason for such a significant step is not so significant and cannot be compared with the debates that, for example, were conducted around the expediency of using BitKeeper.

    Each year, top management of the kernel takes part in an event known as the Linux Maintainer Summit . This year, probably the advocates of strict business ethics were goingat the Central Committee Plenumput on the look of his leader his tough manner of communication and demand change. Linus honestly tried to wriggle out of this event, “accidentally” planning a vacation in Scotland for this time.

    This did not bother the organizers of the event and they decided to move the summit from Vancouver to Edinburgh. In the process of this confusion with the coordination of the time and place of the summit, the participation of Linus in it, there were many letters. According to the culprit of this celebration, he realized that he had misinterpreted the meaning of some messages and began to reflect on the motives of his uncompromising and harsh business style.

    This led him to revise his views on the existing order of things and prompted him to convey his apologies to his colleagues. According to Linus, he regrets that over the past years he could offend some, and possibly thereby repel from participation in the development of the kernel.

    Time off for release

    The second important point is the decision of Linus to take a little time out in order to learn how to work in a new way. The message in no way looks pathetic, farewell, or even apologetic. Rather, on the contrary, with the sense of humor inherent to the author, he writes that perhaps he will need a mail client filter that will block the sending of letters with obscene language.

    Linus writes that he is not tired and does not leave, but simply takes a short break and plans to return to work on Linux 4.20. At this time, Greg Kroa-Hartman remains for the senior , which is quite reasonable, given that he is the maintainer of a stable core branch and quite successfully copes with this difficult job, while maintaining clean white gloves.

    Perhaps he succeeds precisely because of the uncompromising position of Linus, who is guaranteed to throw overboard any security patch that breaks the user-space API, even a little .

    Quo bono

    What does all this mean, how will the development of the Linux kernel change after the “updated” polite Linus returns to work with a new development toolkit and a more balanced project management style?

    Well, first there will be a new Code of Conduct , which has already been accepted into the main branch and is based on the Covenants of the Associate . Invalid statements should be considered as follows.

    • Containing expressions or images of a sexual nature, unwanted courtship and intimate attention signs.
    • Trolling, demagoguery, political attacks and personal attacks.
    • Personal and public space harassment.
    • Putting personal information into public access.
    • Other undesirable actions.

    The formal mechanism for resolving ethical conflicts has been defined.

    Next, we enter the field of speculation and speculation. At first glance, everyone will win. Is it bad that subtle souls like Matthew Garrett, even Lennart Pottering will not feel like outcasts, will send their patches without fear of mocking comments of a straightforward leader?

    I am going to take a pause, they will help me to better understand the emotions of people and respond adequately to them .

    On the other hand, after reading comments on the anarchic SlashDot and Reddit, some concerns arise. Will these changes lead to the degeneration of the project into a dull politically correct quagmire, where demagogues with a law degree will fill up, and there will be no one to wrap a security patch from a large corporation?

    Interestingly, what do Habr’s readers who have supported Linus’s tough leadership style in the previous article think about this?

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