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Kernel Dev Tells Linus Torvalds To Stop Using Abusive Language 1501

darthcamaro writes "The Linux Kernel Development Mailing List can be a hostile place for anyone. Now Intel developer Sarah Sharp is taking a stand and she wants the LKML to become a more civil place. Quoting her first message: 'Seriously, guys? Is this what we need in order to get improve -stable? Linus Torvalds is advocating for physical intimidation and violence. Ingo Molnar and Linus are advocating for verbal abuse. ... Violence, whether it be physical intimidation, verbal threats or verbal abuse is not acceptable. Keep it professional on the mailing lists.'" The entire thread is worth a read, but Linus isn't buying it: "Because if you want me to 'act professional', I can tell you that I'm not interested. I'm sitting in my home office wearing a bathrobe. The same way I'm not going to start wearing ties, I'm *also* not going to buy into the fake politeness, the lying, the office politics and backstabbing, the passive aggressiveness, and the buzzwords. Because THAT is what 'acting professionally' results in: people resort to all kinds of really nasty things because they are forced to act out their normal urges in unnatural ways.' He also offered cookies in exchange for joining the dark side. An earlier reply by Linus further explains why he thinks it is OK to be mean: most of the time, he's only yelling at people who should know better (cultivating a crew of lead developers bound to him by Stockholm Syndrome?).
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Kernel Dev Tells Linus Torvalds To Stop Using Abusive Language

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  • linus is frank (Score:5, Interesting)

    by n Rahimi ( 2983451 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:17PM (#44290709)
    i love this guy (linus). he is kinda zen master ,he says what he think, without any fear
  • gotta be honest (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:20PM (#44290751) Journal
    I once read a study of string quartets and communication methods. Some quartets were nice to each other and polite and tried not to hurt each other's feelings. Others insulted each other and said just what they thought.

    The quartets that were willing to insult each other, and even sometimes get into fights, ended up playing music much more as a team, whereas the 'polite' quartets played poorer music, because instead of resolving disputes, they ended up each playing their own way.

    Linus doesn't insult people, he insults what they do, when they do stupid things. Don't break the build/submit poorly written patches/etc and there isn't a problem. It is not personal at all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:24PM (#44290795)

    Anyone who has worked with her in her capacity as the USB3 driver majordomo knows what a PITA she can be.

    I don't think she is in any position to offer advice on professional behavior.

  • Not acceptable? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:30PM (#44290873)

    Violence, whether it be physical intimidation, verbal threats or verbal abuse is not acceptable. Keep it professional on the mailing lists.

    Not acceptable? By who's standards?

    It's seems acceptable by the law in most countries that matter for the development of the linux kernel.

    It seems acceptable by the main dude (Linus)

    It seems acceptable by the developers, as they could have forked and started their own project with a more acceptable mailing list policy.

    Who is it not acceptable to? and why can't those people make their own fork or simply not participate in the mailing list? (besides Sarah Sharp) If we were losing lots of talented developers because they just couldn't bear the mailing list, that would be a different story.

    There is no absolute morality of the way things should be. There is what works. If you have a way to make something work better, no one is stopping you.

  • by redmid17 ( 1217076 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:30PM (#44290883)
    I thought his rant on OpenSuse and needing root access for connecting a new printer or wireless network was pretty funny.
  • by crmanriq ( 63162 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:32PM (#44290903)

    Is it really a chance to grab power? If she can assert her will in this, does she become "a voice to be reckoned with"?

    I saw a really mediocre movie once where it was asserted that when guys have an argument, they get it right out in the open, do a lot of chest beating, and then get to working together. Women on the other hand will play everything behind the scenes - cloaking it all in an air of civility while they sharpen their knives.

    Since I saw that movie (ashamed to say I saw it, but if you happen to remember the reference go ahead and out yourself), I've notice that it's actually a very true statement.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:35PM (#44290935)

    This is a major reason I stopped trying to become a better developer or learn unix/linux better.

    Most of the community is made up of people who's egos revolve around feeling intelligent. Ask a reasonable question? You'll be terribly mocked or told to RTFM.

    I consider myself a smart guy and could have made my way through it, but the smugness of all the bitter anti-social geeks really turned me off.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:38PM (#44290979)

    Torvalds was always like that and whining won't change him.

    Maybe it's time to eject him from the LKML and give the reigns to someone else ?

  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:43PM (#44291027)

    Does he use "violence, whether it be physical intimidation, verbal threats or verbal abuse" to get his wife and kids to do something?

    I'm guessing he does not.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:48PM (#44291081)

    Being blunt has gotten me a lot further than being polite ever did.

    There was this one customer/client/coworker (yeah, fucked-up business relationship), who just did not get what was going on. I tried being polite. I tried using all his lingo, "actioning" this and whatnot. I tried. It got me nowhere.

    One phone call where I straight-up said "that problem was *your* fuckup, and I am tired of cleaning up your mess then getting blamed by you for it because you weren't even aware of the problem until I took care of it", and that got me further than months of politeness.

    Hell, we still seem to get along. I think we've been communicating even better now that I've stopped "artificially limiting" my communications. I actually just made a note to myself to yell at him to check his code before he checks it in - there was a SQL file with an *obvious* syntax error, one that our standard IDE (which he uses) highlights...

  • by blankinthefill ( 665181 ) <> on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:50PM (#44291123) Journal
    I think you, like most of the replies, have missed my point. I don't want to do Linux Kernel development now. Perhaps not ever. However, the Linux Kernel is one of the biggest OSS projects out there, and they are very visible to the public eye, especially those people who are interested in OSS but don't have any connections with the community or any projects going on. I'm saying that this kind of abrasiveness can be highly detrimental to peoples desire to get involved in OSS, which is a terrible shame. I understand that sometimes you NEED abrasiveness, or you need to get things done quickly. But you can get that kind of performance out of people without verbal abuse, or the threat of physical abuse. Yet these actions are the kind of things that I read a lot about when I read about big OSS projects that come up quite often. Perhaps this is just an artifact of the way news about things gets reported... when things go well, we hear nothing. But the point I was trying to make is that these projects are role models for the OSS movement. And yeah, as one reply put it, no one owes me anything. But I think you have to look what kind of harm you may be doing to the community as well. Sure, you get some great developers that are willing to put up with the bullshit... but how many potentially great developers have you driven off because they don't want to deal with it? (Also, as an aside, I enjoy the fact that I got troll mods for honestly stating the effect that reports of abusive behavior has on my desire to join the OSS with open arms and willing heart.)
  • by goruka ( 1721094 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @08:55PM (#44291155)
    I fully support Linus on this, years of project management helps you realize many things. This is one.
    Being verbally abusive like this basically helps you to tell more objectively how much people does actually care about something, and it works very well with people who just likes to argue for the sake of being right.
    You are serving them on a plate the perfect excuse to walk away with the moral high ground. If they take it by becoming offended or complain, you immediately can tell how much did they care to begin with.
    When they answer back and keep on topic, they definitely might have a point.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @09:06PM (#44291271) Homepage Journal
    And there was never any verbal abuse. We were all good and we all trusted one another to know our parts of the code. Pretty much the only time I ever saw a voice raised was when one of our guys got pretty well fucked over by a developer who was assigned part-time to the team. He'd worked a few months on a piece of code and claimed it was finished, and we'd just discovered that it wasn't really even actually started.

    I've worked projects since then where I'd wished I could verbally abuse co-workers. There's a general theme there. All those people who I wanted to abuse sucked. I think the moral of this story is, if you don't want to be verbally abused, try sucking less. :-P

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @09:27PM (#44291497)

    ... is fucking complicated. Especially if you have a good idea of what principles need to be followed as how to make decisions on what stays and what goes in terms of quality or goal of the overall project.

    There's lots of people out there who THINK they have skill but are garbage since most people suffer from the Dunning Krueger effect in a similar way that most people believe they are 'above average'. []

    "The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes."

    The problem is as you advance in skill you have limited time and options in order to convey the vast warehouse of knowledge in your brain as whether to something stays or goes on any given project. Any project has a tendency to become a big mess or fall apart over time since. How many OSS projects are started only to be abandoned? Lots.

    Someone has to make the big decisions and when you have seen and worked on so many projects you develop techniques to quickly shut down bad ideas and often time that means being direct and even rude to the clueless because you simply don't have the time, energy, means to communicate to the other party on what's and why's.

  • by Urza9814 ( 883915 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @09:38PM (#44291607)

    I've always thought that political correctness is just another excuse for the educated elites to look down on everyone else.

    Offensiveness doesn't come from words, it comes from the thoughts and actions behind those words. We've gone from nigger to negro to black to african-american back to black...and guess what? Racism hasn't gone away. All you do is replace one word with another word that has the exact same meaning. That's not progress; that's just confusion and wasted effort. Racists will still be racists no matter what words they're using to express it.

    Which is essentially the same argument Linus is using -- assholes will be assholes no matter how you dress them up; why waste time and energy trying to sweep that under the rug?

  • by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @09:53PM (#44291745)

    To be fair, anyone willing to take advice from a geek, who lives in his basement in a bathrobe, probably deserves the end result.

    Linus "lives in his basement" now, too? Does he also have a neckbeard, Cheetos stains, and empty cans of Mountain Dew littering his room? Just because he said he was currently wearing a bathrobe doesn't turn the guy into some stereotypical geek loser. He's a better programmer than most of us will ever be, I think he's earned plenty of respect and doesn't need to be called out because he works from home while wearing whatever clothing he wants to wear. That's what you deserve to get flamed for, not for pointing out that Linus has a big ego (which he does) or doesn't want to live a corporate life (which he doesn't).

  • by dnavid ( 2842431 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @10:31PM (#44292071)

    Maybe it's time to eject him from the LKML and give the reigns to someone else ?

    Go for it. In fact, everyone who thinks Linus' behavior is "unacceptable" should look up the definition of that word, stop accepting it, and fork the kernel.

    The best way to demonstrate that there exists a better way is proof by example. Alternatively, perhaps some reflection should be put into the fact that Linus did not win the role of lead kernel developer in a lottery, and the fact that he was its first developer also granted him no special claim to control the project for about twenty years. Linus doesn't just sit at home reading mailing lists while finding people to curse at. He's worked extremely hard not just in terms of writing code, but more specifically in wrangling developers. Until someone has had to do this, on a grand scale, over long time periods, with no external authority structure to back them up, that someone has no idea what they are talking about when they decide they or anyone else can do better.

    Linus saves his harshest criticism for other major maintainers, not individual developers. It amazes me that so few people misunderstand why it goes largely unchallenged. Its not because, as some have implied, that Linus has somehow weeded out non-sycophants. Its actually that large maintainers don't need an explanation for Linus' management style because they see the same problems themselves on a much smaller scale. They may not react in the same way, they may even disagree, but the vast majority of them *understand*. That understanding comes from walking a mile in maintainer shoes, and then realizing what the job of maintainer of maintainers is like.

    If even half of them disapproved of Linus' management of the kernel, a fork would have happened a long time ago.

  • Calling him names in a retort about verbal abuse ... +1 for irony.
  • Re:Victim Card (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday July 15, 2013 @11:03PM (#44292301)

    Telling me "you made a stupid fucking mistake" isn't any worse than "Please don't take this too harshly and please don't think I am picking on you. I like you and you are a swell fellow and all. However, I feel it is necessary that I impress upon you that this isn't really a bug and having this trivial and non-broken thing filed as a bug has consumed a little bit of our time that we would rather not be wasting on things like this. Also, here is a pat on the back and an atta-boy so you don't feel I am being mean to you, okay?".

    Wow, I had no idea that there were only two possible responses for telling someone they made a mistake.

    The problem with your apparent ability to tough it out and have prople swearing at you for perhaps something simple is that you misunderstand manners, and the proper role of profanity. Swearing at someone? Not ever in a meeting. Anyone I have ever had to use strong words with gets it in private. Even then, it's usually no worse than a "fuck up again and you'll be looking for a new job". But in a group, directing that to a specific person can be counter productive, as my job is to make sure the job gets done, not to impress everyone with my ability to talk like some redneck down at the local gas station. Maybe a "What the fuck are we doing? But never directed at anyone.

    I sure as hell wouldn't participate in anything that involved Linus and other well-known and super-smart guys, because I know I'm not at their level and I would just constantly be on the receiving end of "how fucking stupid can you be?!". But you know what? Maybe that's okay.

    Oh heavens no. Some people think that good manners are a sign of weakness. On the countrary, bad manners are a sure sign of weakness, an inability to speak cogently, and a supreme waste of time. So what if I'm an asshole? Pointing it out accomplishes nothing. We have a job to do, we are supposed to do it well, and if we're calling each other assholes, then we're not doing anything productive.

  • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @12:14AM (#44292767)

    She's playing a "my feelings are hurt" routine with a possibly implied "you better watch out because I'm a woman". Glancing at her google+, it looks like she is probably a feminist..and that's what these people do: they're always looking to push their politics and pc codes of conduct onto everyone else involved in the things they are. This is usually done by playing the victim role and hoping white knights in the group will save this 'damsel' in 'distress,' by doing her dirty work for her. She says on google+ that she'll "happily stand alone", and then suggests you're welcome to join her. Later in the thread, she says

    I've been through verbal abuse before. I won't take that shit from you,or any of the other Linux kernel developers. Tell me, politely, what I have done wrong, and I will fix it. You don't need to SHOUT, call me names, or tell me to SHUT THE FUCK UP! I'm not the only one that won't take verbal abuse. Stop abusing your developers.

    Seems like linus is smart enough to see this for what it is. People like this just want attention and notoriety, usually because they have none in the relevant subjects the forum was created for in the first place. Snarky comments like "scared to talk to a girl kernel
    developer" make this quite clear (read the thread). Apparently, it's ok for her to resort to ad hominem while she complains about Linus' behavior. Typical feminist hamster mentality..

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @03:49AM (#44293743) Journal
    Someone recently cc'd him on a post on the LLVM mailing list, and he decided to chime in with a long rant where he was both rude and technically incorrect. It made me very glad that I don't use Linux, and just that little bit less likely to respond to bug reports that only affect people who do. Meanwhile, I recently got a bug report from one of the OpenBSD developers (a community with a reputation for being somewhat... acerbic). It was detailed, polite, and proposed two possible fixes. It was followed up by testing of the fix that I proposed. I don't use OpenBSD either, but I'm a lot more likely to fix bugs for people who do because this report was characteristic of my interactions with their developers.
  • by mlwmohawk ( 801821 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @06:58AM (#44294629)

    I posted on Sarah Sharps' blog. I didn't use profanity, I even quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." I disagreed with her and stated that the most vile and ruinous censorship starts with a call for civility and that these are almost always from dubious motivations.

    So, low and behold, it was moderated out of existence. It seems to me that Sarah has no interest in alternate viewpoints. It is her blog and she has the right to delete comments, but it is quite telling that she will silence a voice which does not agree with her while she is saying she wants to protect people's voices. Her calls for "civility" can be seen as nothing less than a call for censorship. We all must resist this sort of behavior because it is a direct attempt to diminish free speech and impose one person's morality on a larger group.

  • by mjr167 ( 2477430 ) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @08:39AM (#44295311)

    You can call code bad while still being respectful to the person who wrote it.

    Would you rather me say "Your solution doesn't work and this is why" or "You're a fucking moron and your code is crap." One of those comments is what we like to call "constructive" and the other is "hostile". One of them encourages the other person to do better and tells them what they did wrong. The other just tries to make them feel bad.

    We have decided that in polite society we should be respectful to others. It's not about "kissing ass", it's about recognizing that people don't like to be bullied. People like people who are nice. It is also about recognizing that by treating people poorly you do not motivate them to do better, you motivate them to leave. Corporate America is not "professional" because we are sissies. We are "professional" because it easier to encourage dialog when people are not afraid.

    Torvalds believes that he doesn't have to play by the rules because he is some Linux god and the rest of us can suck it. This is only true as long as the rest of us let him. People continue to be assholes and harass others as long as we sit here silent and take it.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.