Linux Kernel adopts code of conduct
September 16, 2018 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Linus Torvalds:
"This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry."
The Linux Kernel has adopted a formal code of conduct.
posted by jenkinsEar (151 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
It’s quite the thing. Hope this diffuses out to the larger community, especially the corners that seem to delight in not getting this kind of thing.
posted by Artw at 3:53 PM on September 16, 2018 [21 favorites]


The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely.

I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately.
Good for him.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 3:59 PM on September 16, 2018 [35 favorites]


Pretty amazing to see Torvalds own up to all this, to be honest. Reading the whole post it seems pretty clear he did some honest self-reflection and came to some hard conclusions. Didn't expect to see it in my lifetime.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:01 PM on September 16, 2018 [37 favorites]


About bloody time!
posted by monotreme at 4:04 PM on September 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Quoting Linus:

The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat
painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my
behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal
behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development
entirely.
I'll be interested in watching this unfold. On one hand, people don't change overnight, and habits like these take time to unlearn. (Especially when those habits have been reinforced by fans who've cheered him on.) But nothing can change until there's an acknowledgement that the problem is real and needs to be fixed, and it sounds like that acknowledgement has finally come, so this definitely sounds like a positive step.
posted by chronostachyon at 4:05 PM on September 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


This is a big deal, and I hope it actually sticks. Linus is high on my list of personal heroes from my late teens / early '20s who later I had to pretty much give up on / disown when the scales fell from my eyes and it became clear how bad he is with people (women especially).

He basically became my anti-example for how to be a good technical lead -- super smart, but awful at the very important social parts of software development.
posted by tocts at 4:10 PM on September 16, 2018 [21 favorites]


This is a good thing! But "some of it might be "just" tooling. Maybe I can get an email
filter in place
" is not.

I know why it happens, but by god the world would be a better place if more techbros understood that there is a whole domain of problems where "I'll code a tool for that" is an actively bad answer.
posted by bonaldi at 4:16 PM on September 16, 2018 [25 favorites]


I sort of feel like I should be sending ice skates to Hell. I am glad this finally seems to be happening, but I wasn't expecting it in Torvalds' lifetime.
posted by bagel at 4:17 PM on September 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I mean.

I don't believe that Torvald has been "misunderstanding" people for all of these years. He has said in the past that he doesn't care, and I believe that has been the truth. It is a good thing if he is starting to care that people don't want to work with him because he's an asshole, but to pretend that he needs "lessons on how to understand emotions" is quite rich.
posted by muddgirl at 4:24 PM on September 16, 2018 [19 favorites]


I am pleasantly stunned. I really thought this was going to be an Onion link for a moment. Just last week my partner and I were discussing Linus and his inability to change his behavior as a huge missed opportunity in tech culture.

Yes, it took long enough, but good on him.
posted by phooky at 4:29 PM on September 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


As someone who depends on Linux for many things, I was momentarily worried. Only until I took the time to read it. Seems like a good code of conduct.
posted by sfenders at 4:33 PM on September 16, 2018 [2 favorites]




Well, that's nice, but it's too late. There's a core of tech workers that think it's ok to be emotionally illiterate, because that's what tech people are like, when Linus is showing here is that it's a learned behaviour. I refuse to coddle him and give him brownie points for acting like an adult.
posted by The River Ivel at 5:09 PM on September 16, 2018 [34 favorites]


Linus! Well done!
posted by mwhybark at 5:13 PM on September 16, 2018


The big question around codes of conduct are 'how are they enforced', and it's genuinely up in the air here. It looks like it goes to a Technical Advisory Board, which is a red flag. If the TAB isn't also patched, it'll be working against the old spec and the defects in the process will continue.

Alternatively, you'd put the TAB into a wrapper class where most of the new functionality you require is provided by a group external to the Linux development community that's known for handling sexual harassment complaints well. There's even firms that specialise in investigating sexual harassment complaints that are victim-focused.

(I wanted to extend this metaphor so much further but it made what's quite a serious point way too obscure and in-jokey)
posted by Merus at 5:17 PM on September 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


I wonder what got him to finally believe what people had been saying about his behavior for all these years?
posted by edheil at 5:28 PM on September 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


Follow-through is key, yeah. The enforcement process is where you find out how much policy changes and CoCs really matter; this is only a step in the right direction but it's definitely an important one and a surprisingly strong opener. Honestly, I was expecting something more like the (terrible) Debian CoC; I was pleasantly surprised by the text of this patch, particularly given where it came from.

We've learned a lot about the critical importance of personal, physical and emotional safety in working environments in the last few years, and the definitions we use for "open" haven't really kept up with the day to day realities of life in those trenches; the more projects we see taking these cultural and leadership cues the better off we're going to be.
posted by mhoye at 5:37 PM on September 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


Wow. I literally never thought I'd see the day. Hopefully it results in some real changes.
posted by jcreigh at 5:45 PM on September 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


This is a very big deal because many contrarian types have pointed at the behaviors of Linux and said "But Linus does X..." when talking about healthy developer collaboration.
posted by nickggully at 5:50 PM on September 16, 2018 [15 favorites]


Oh good, I was wondering about this right after reading A Case Study in Not Being A Jerk in Open Source after Linus's last instance of being a jerk.
posted by jessamyn at 6:01 PM on September 16, 2018 [17 favorites]


I found it interesting that he identified his behavior as "unprofessional." In my HOPE talk this year I made a nod to the fact that that hacker conference, like most hacker conferences as well as open source, is often run "for fun" by people outside of their jobs. Many of us have grown up at these conferences, and they're now professional for us, where they were "fun" before. Which makes for really different behavior, goals, and codes of conduct.

What does Linus mean when he says "professional," I wonder? Did he not think of open source as "professional" or job-related before?

I also would love to hear from the people who provided the tipping point that finally got him to rethink his behavior.
posted by gusandrews at 6:25 PM on September 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


There's a core of tech workers that think it's ok to be emotionally illiterate, because that's what tech people are like, when Linus is showing here is that it's a learned behaviour. I refuse to coddle him and give him brownie points for acting like an adult.

But that's how you reinforce positive behavior.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:42 PM on September 16, 2018 [49 favorites]


There's a core of tech workers that think it's ok to be emotionally illiterate, because that's what tech people are like, when Linus is showing here is that it's a learned behaviour. I refuse to coddle him and give him brownie points for acting like an adult.

But that's how you reinforce positive behavior.

I think Linus should ultimately get cookies because psychology, but it's not up to people without the energy to do so to give them. As a white male who's happy this change of heart has happened and hopes it gives brogrammers one less justification for their douchitude, 🍪.
posted by Jpfed at 6:47 PM on September 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


is that scuffling I hear esr trying to purge his perhaps one line of remaining kernel code so he can object to the CoC?
posted by scruss at 7:01 PM on September 16, 2018 [15 favorites]


What does Linus mean when he says "professional," I wonder? Did he not think of open source as "professional" or job-related before?

This issue of behavior specifically at tech conferences is something that's alarmed me for a while. I'm not primarily a tech/open source guy, I'm a scientist. And while academic science conferences are far from perfect, particularly when it comes to representativeness, I have never, ever seen the kinds of nasty, childish, amateurish, flat-out offensive stuff that I hear goes down at tech / open source conferences. These people are adults, they aren't shooting the shit in someone's basement, they are there, surely as professionals (open source or not) - why do they feel they have the right to behave like shitty brats?
posted by Jimbob at 7:01 PM on September 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


I wish him all the best, but the proof will be in the pudding. He's done a tremendous amount of damage with his behavior: let's see if he actually works to repair that damage.
posted by introp at 7:11 PM on September 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


This is interesting, but I'm ignorant of the background. Any recommended links on the history of assholery?
posted by medusa at 7:33 PM on September 16, 2018


Well, there's a whole subreddit for it.
posted by Jpfed at 7:38 PM on September 16, 2018 [7 favorites]


But that's how you reinforce positive behavior.

This is in no way positive behavior. Actual positive behavior would be a true change in behavior going forward, not meaningless words by a dude who's been an incorrigible asshole for a very long time. Personally, I don't believe for one second that he'll change, and in any event he's been a terrible person for too long to earn forgiveness.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 7:41 PM on September 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Code of Conduct: Let's revamp it.
The Code of Conflict


Ha.
posted by rtha at 7:42 PM on September 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


10 seconds on that subreddit and I found a user who legitimately believes that activists are trying to trick Torvald and other high-level developers into a false sexual harassment allegation. So take that with a grain of salt.
posted by muddgirl at 8:03 PM on September 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


That was a moderately positive or hopeful read, I thought. Torvalds acknowledged that he had been causing harm, named some specific harms (although, I'm not familiar with the situation, but I'm guessing this step is incomplete), acknowledged that he had a role that carried with it certain leadership responsibilities, and acknowledged that he had to change his behavior. That last part in particular seemed like he is on the right track, in my read - it didn't sound empty or hollow like so many recent high profile "apologies" from harrassing or abusive dudes. The follow through is critically important, of course, as other folks have mentioned.
posted by eviemath at 8:24 PM on September 16, 2018 [10 favorites]


1) Don't just like - I see we've already broached it - visit reddit and read the comments. Honestly, most are actually pretty good, but the few assholes in /r/programming ruin it. Bots bots, fuck everything. But seriously, I'm happy he's at least willing to listen.

2) Python's recent abdication of BDFL, Guido van Rossum, and the new statement regarding the terms "Master"/"Slave" w/r/t relationships of certain tech (in particular "master/slave" drives).... In the old days, I was what I believe to be on the wrong side of this issue, and at some point I switched, it's not an easy thing to admit you're wrong so, I guess, because of this, I see hope for Linus, and only can hope the arc of history reaches toward justice or whatever they say.
posted by symbioid at 8:42 PM on September 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


Of the Big Name Arseholes in F/OSS (go RTFM and compile yr own damn list) I'm not surprised it's Linus who came around first, although that might be because his reputation for arseholitude reached me last and was generally portrayed as less of a deviation from the normal levels of arsewranglery in the hobby (field? endeavour?) so I always assumed he was the least worst offender. I could be wrong.

CoC is the real story, but the Linus thing is still a big deal, especially in how it informs the adoption of a CoC for Linux kernel development and implicitly validates the need for similar on projects larger than two coders and a whippet.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:45 PM on September 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


For clarity, I'm envisioning the whippet in that example as being a non-contributor by dint of being a dog. Since it's all a bit abstract, if in fact said whippet were a part of the project in any capacity (i.e. code, documentation, hosting, community engagement, whatever) then a CoC would absolutely be useful.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 8:54 PM on September 16, 2018 [3 favorites]


Mark me down as another person who is (a) surprised by this, (b) pleased by this, and (c) waiting to see how it plays out in practice. A decent Code of Conduct is a good start.

> I wonder what got him to finally believe what people had been saying about his behavior for all these years?

His email includes this sentence: "This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of
not understanding emotions." It would be very interesting to know what that looked like.
posted by nnethercote at 9:19 PM on September 16, 2018 [15 favorites]


I have never, ever seen the kinds of nasty, childish, amateurish, flat-out offensive stuff that I hear goes down at tech / open source conferences.

FWIW, neither have I. I've even run a few OSS tech events and the worst anonymous feedback I've received was someone complaining that another attendee was too participatory at presentations in ways we explicitly encourage: interactive, asking questions, etc. I think I can live with that level of unruliness. It's an amateur spirit we aim to kindle.

From what I can tell, the worst offenders are the conferences that border on fandom. The participatory nature of open source encourages these locally organized events run by amateurs with zero endorsement or oversight. The worst I can recall seeing documented happened at a SF / tech crossover conference Penguicon. IDK what's in the water at SF cons, but we need science to isolate it and ensure its removal from our drinking supply. There's likely a lot I don't know about or see simply because I'm a dude and abusers strive to hide their behaviors, and mathematically, it's easy to hide in a sea of dudes.

RE: Torvalds: his behavior wasn't what I'd call offensive, so much as boldly aggressive. Which is also toxic, but in a different way. It's definitely counterproductive, and drives away a lot of kernel hacker newbies away, and does so with disparate impact. I suspect part of the appeal and rush to defend or even cite his behavior is how much mediocre code and designs get pushed through people's day jobs without effective peer review. The pressure to ship can be immense, and an engineer who holds up PRs due to quality can become a target for managing out of the org, and the Torvalds code review culture is clearly an opposite to 'don't rock the boat' engineering cultures. Doesn't make Torvald's words okay, and his behavior serves as a signal to lurkers to engage in even worse behavior privately with the recipients.

I think it's a good thing Torvalds is coming around on this. There's ways to hold the quality line without typing out so many obscenities or permanently burning relationships with promising new coders. I don't know how we measure progress, but perhaps in a few years we'll at least have positive examples to cite.
posted by pwnguin at 9:24 PM on September 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


"What makes you think my behavior went over the line?"
"Linus, Theo de Raadt is defending you on random mailing lists."
"Oshit, oshit, oshit... I never intended... oshit..."
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:50 PM on September 16, 2018 [25 favorites]


It's a low bar and I readily acknowledge that, but I'm so tired of unselfaware assholes continuing to be unselfaware assholes indefinitely that seeing someone stop and seem to start to recognize that being an asshole isn't maybe such hot shit after all is a little heartening. Execution is what'll matter—both for Torvalds personally and for the CoC at large—but it's at least a step in the right direction, which beats standing rooted still with arms crossed, glowering.
posted by cortex at 10:01 PM on September 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


> This is in no way positive behavior. Actual positive behavior would be a true change in behavior going forward....

You're right that the real test is whether he can follow through, but the words are a start and are to be acknowledged. It takes courage to admit you're wrong like that, especially in the climate we're in these days.
posted by technodelic at 10:33 PM on September 16, 2018 [11 favorites]


Trying to remember where I saw this stated first, but the best apology is changed behavior.

Hooray for owning your own assholedom, but I also worry about there being a forthcoming incident that was so bad it prompted all of this.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:09 PM on September 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


What makes me particularly pleased about this is that Linus is such a high-profile (arguably THE highest-profile) example of tolerated toxic behavior from a project lead in OSS communities. If he's able to turn it around, all the legions of lower level toxic buffoons who have used his bad conduct to justify their own bullshit have much less of an excuse for doing it from now on.

With the CoC in place, anybody, no matter how junior their status, or how low their level of contribution to the kernel, now has a clear process and proper leverage for calling him out for any future infractions. It would be very hard for him to NOT maintain his best behavior going forward, because clearly there are high-level forces within the kernel community with an interest in enforcing the CoC for this to happen in the first place.
posted by jklaiho at 12:11 AM on September 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


"I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person and that probably doesn't come as a big surprise to anybody."

It is quite likely that Linus is somewhat on the autistic spectrum and never had the counselling in earlier life that might have helped him be a more empathic person. It is also quite likely that the Linux project attracted like minded souls, highly talented males on the spectrum with limited social skills. "Lord of the Flies" showed us how that tends to go. Linus is getting older, self awareness kicks in eventually. But I too wonder whether this is more of a preemptive move to deflect bad news rather than a road to Damascus moment.

That said, there is assholery exhibited by some commenters piling on here, just as much as by some in the Linux developer community.
posted by epo at 1:58 AM on September 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


This is a staggeringly low bar, but he actually acknowledges that he did something wrong, and says the words "I'm truly sorry," and honestly, that's more than almost anyone else accused of anything has given us this year. I genuinely appreciate the fact that he doesn't say "if I was offensive to people" or "if people felt attacked". I'm kinda angry that apologetic, low-key denial is what I expect, and I'm certainly not arguing that he's owning up to everything he should be, but he publicly admitted wrongdoing and said without reservation that he's sorry. I'm ok giving him a cookie for it, and I hope that it leads to lasting change.
posted by mishafletch at 3:08 AM on September 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


It is a very low bar, it's true, and yet the Linux community has consistently resisted stepping (crawling?) over it for multiple decades. We can only hope that Linus actually follows through on this, and does the hard work at least partially in public. If he comes back in a week and says 'ok, I am good at humaning now and here is why: [15-point mainsplained list]' then the rest of "hacker culture" will do the same.
posted by Fraxas at 3:20 AM on September 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


It is quite likely that Linus is somewhat on the autistic spectrum and never had the counselling in earlier life that might have helped him be a more empathic person.

I realise that this is echoing language of his statement, but can we not do the "autistic people lack empathy" thing?
posted by hoyland at 3:43 AM on September 17, 2018 [20 favorites]


There's a core of tech workers that think it's ok to be emotionally illiterate, because that's what tech people are like, when Linus is showing here is that it's a learned behaviour. I refuse to coddle him and give him brownie points for acting like an adult.

The Brownies and Girl Guides are actually pretty good examples of how to try and create decent people.
posted by srboisvert at 3:47 AM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sounds like his "I don't care" bag got full, heavy, and didn't stretch to accommodate some sharp phases he kept tossing into it. As he kept walking, it started bumping his calves and shins, cutting them along the way. A bag you can't put down or drop. You carry it lifelong. It slows your daily walks and makes them miserable. You have to unpack it.
posted by filtergik at 3:54 AM on September 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


Wait, are you saying I won't get to swap my brownie points for an actual chocolate & walnut brownie at some future date?
posted by biffa at 3:54 AM on September 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


I refuse to coddle him and give him brownie points for acting like an adult.

I understand this viewpoint, but seriously: shitting on people when they try and do better is one of the worst things you can possibly do, both for them as individuals and for the wider community as a whole. Please don’t.
posted by pharm at 3:58 AM on September 17, 2018 [28 favorites]


I refuse to coddle him and give him brownie points for acting like an adult.

shitting on people when they try and do better is one of the worst things you can possibly do


IMO there's a whole lot of daylight between, on the one hand, not rewarding someone for displaying the baseline minimum of human decency, and "shitting on" them on the other. I just don't think it's helpful to conflate these two positions.

I'm with the folks who argue that the best way of demonstrating sincere contrition is actually enacting a(n unheralded) change in behavior over something beyond the short term.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:23 AM on September 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


For someone to change their behaviour significantly, they have to be motivated to do so. And that motivation has to be stronger than the inertia of not changing and the personal investment they've made in defending themself from change.

Linus has a decades-long career of not only being an asshole, but of defining himself in part as justified in his asshole behaviour.

Which is to say, as my head spins in wonderment, that the motivations that have been applied to him to make this statement must be truly enormous. (And they better have some significant lasting power or this is just going to collapse on itself.)

I rate myself cautiously optimistic. He can have a cookie if, in a year, the overall tenor of Linux system development has markedly changed to be vastly more welcoming and inclusive.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:40 AM on September 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I predict a MAGAlinux fork in reaction to Linus "selling out to the SJWs and political correctness"
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on September 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


I'm with the folks who argue that the best way of demonstrating sincere contrition is actually enacting a(n unheralded) change in behavior over something beyond the short term.

And that is great advice when you are dealing with people face to face.

Linus' primary method of communication is the kernel mailing list(s)... By announcing this flaw, owning it - he is also encouraging people to call him on his bullshit if it happens again in the future - because they can point back to this message, this day and say: "hey, you said your were going to change your behaviour, yet here we are again... what gives?"
posted by jkaczor at 5:45 AM on September 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Slashdot did much to create the cult of Linus, and it's interesting to read the battle going on in the discussion there. It's everything from "ESR predicted in 2015 that SJWs are trying to frame Linux" to "I'm glad Linus is making this change, finally."

I liked this comment from a former subsystem maintainer:
This is exactly it. I've been a subsystem maintainer. It's not really a fun place to be. I have to admit sometimes I was deliberately a jerk to be heard.

There are times where being blunt and even, to an extent, personal can be justified. It certainly often makes what you want to have happen now, happen. But you end up paying the penalty for it later-- when people are worried about embarrassment and don't mention their concerns; when you hear the same attitude in kind; when you lose valued contributors. So IMO better save that "ammo" for the true existential concerns and not make it business as usual for everyone's sake.

It's draining to be on the receiving end of the abrasive behavior, but I came to learn it's draining just to have to exhibit it yourself.
I wonder if Linus came to a similar realization. It's tiring to be an asshole. It doesn't make you happy.
posted by clawsoon at 5:52 AM on September 17, 2018 [16 favorites]


Linus could have continued being an asshole and the kernel community would have limped along treating him as a really big missing stair. He's had a massive amount of impact and he could have taken that as a sign that his behaviour is naturally not a problem. Obviously a public statement like this is a little performative, but it's also an acknowldgement and a public commitment to doing better with a suggestion of (ok, tech-bro-ey) concrete actions to improve.

Cookies aren't in short supply, and all cookie exchanges are voluntary (thanks, GDPR), so I'm glad to see one of the elders of tech take inclusion and community seriously in a public way.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 6:00 AM on September 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I wonder if they're still going to move the upcoming developer conference from Vancouver to Edinburgh to accommodate Linus' vacation planning mistake.
posted by clawsoon at 6:06 AM on September 17, 2018


Heh. The way I read that, he desperately wanted a few days off ("oops, sorry guys, double-booked") and they followed him to another continent. Poor guy. No wonder he's suddenly all about codes of conduct - he's being stalked across the globe by his own minions.
posted by Leon at 6:12 AM on September 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


I understand this viewpoint, but seriously: shitting on people when they try and do better is one of the worst things you can possibly do, both for them as individuals and for the wider community as a whole. Please don’t.

No, someone choosing not to reward guys who act like this until they actually back up their words with deeds is not "one of the worst things you can possibly do." To the contrary, as it's precisely the kind of line in the sand that we should be drawing before handing out congratulations to people like him. This is an excellent illustration of the bad-faith arguments that let assholes and bigots feel entitled to hosannas merely for announcing that they're thinking of maybe meeting the absolute minimum requirements of being decent people.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:12 AM on September 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


A lot of this conversation is predicated on the assumption that an asshole like Linus Torvalds is replaceable - there's no-one like David O. Russell, but there are a lot of moviemakers kind of like him and a lot of people who could have made movies who didn't because of the toxic culture he helped support. Even when someone isn't easily replaceable, the loss of morale that comes from dealing with such an obvious missing stair usually doesn't make up for the advantages.

The thing is, Linus is less like an asshole director and more like an asshole movie executive. He has power. He's not part of the system - the system was built around him and for him. If he's publicly acknowledging that this system doesn't work, and he takes it as seriously as he's implying by drawing analogies between it and the time he took off to build git, that will have knock-on effects larger than Linus' communication styles.

I don't much care about giving Linus cookies, lord knows this has been overdue - but we have already seen some efforts at not just repentance, but atonement and structural change. His statement alone isn't worth much, but updating the CoC to something actually reasonable, with his statement as justification, is a step in dismantling that injustice, and that's worth acknowledging. We can be disappointed when more steps turn out to not be forthcoming; we can be furious when there are steps backwards from what is still a pretty crummy position. We can advocate for many more steps forward, more confident that there's an audience for it.

There's also something in the back of my mind about how effective love-bombing is in redpilling someone and I frankly don't understand why the side who's big on inclusivity isn't trying to steal the technique
posted by Merus at 7:10 AM on September 17, 2018 [18 favorites]


If there's one thing to learn from the FLOSS community, it's that gatekeeping is not a great way to maintain your group.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 7:16 AM on September 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


FTFA:
The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat
painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my
behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal
behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development
entirely.
See, Theo? It can be done!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:25 AM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


There's also something in the back of my mind about how effective love-bombing is in redpilling someone and I frankly don't understand why the side who's big on inclusivity isn't trying to steal the technique

Because it's only effective in that context by virtue of being step three after isolating people from their support networks and grinding down their senses of self and self-worth. It's not the love-bombing per se.
posted by mhoye at 7:35 AM on September 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Pretty amazing to see Torvalds own up to all this, to be honest. Reading the whole post it seems pretty clear he did some honest self-reflection and came to some hard conclusions. Didn't expect to see it in my lifetime.

This was very much my reaction as well. Linus has been behaving in the same way and getting rewarded for it for decades. Not only that, he had quite the crowd of sycophants not merely defending him but applauding him every step of the way.

So, yeah, colour me surprised and hopeful.

(Oh, no, is expressing positive surprise too close handing out brownie points or cookies? Must I now receive a brand that reads PROBLEMATIC?)
posted by tobascodagama at 8:15 AM on September 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


My head spins in wonderment, that the motivations that have been applied to him to make this statement must be truly enormous.

QFT. The thing about giving credit to Linus, is that so much of it belongs to those who stood up to him. My social media includes a number of people who have worked on the kernel. All have been hurt by Linus' postings, to varying degrees. Two of the developers made this same point (I had overlooked the hint in the email).

And let's not forget the various people in his community who publicly argued this was a problem over the years. Note that even if you weren't on social media where you can be harassed by Linux fanboys, being a developer means having an exposed email address.

In the spirit of credit, here's a piece of public context from this past month: Alexander Popov at the 2018 Linux Security Summit baring his soul to describe "STACKLEAK and its tortuous path toward the mainline".

That interaction left Popov "emotionally dead for several weeks". His wife suggested that he go back to the replies and try to extract the technical complaints from them. -- LWN.net.

LWN generally serve as a faithful summarizer of Linux development. They skip social stuff or minimize it with a dry aside - I would not say they cover it gratuitously. (I'd be (pleasantly) surprised if the LWN editor has been trying to get Linus to change).

I am not so high-minded, and I will point to this exchange as what I feel is a recent low water mark. Seriously, I know this looks like the very least of the unsuitable language. But the "just kidding" non-pology reply said a lot to me. Perhaps some more influential people had a similar reaction to this latest episode. (If that's not it, I can only assume there was *another* recent issue of comparable destructiveness).

And they better have some significant lasting power or this is just going to collapse on itself.

Right. It's entirely unsurprising that Linus can write a genuinely apologetic sentence if he wants to. That would be setting the bar on the floor. I don't think we should be centering the state of Linus' soul here. And I don't see any point worrying about his reaction if some people he doesn't know are not (so far) eager to forgive him.

Admitting that his attacks were unnecessary and damaging was useful. Just having Linus as a prominent example has made it so much harder to raise the bar in other FOSS communities.

The new code of conduct is positive. But see also concerns about enforcement, by the existing TAB. Social media reminds us one of the TAB members is a prominent subsystem maintainer... who decided to argue (paraphrase:) that only a small percentage of rape really counts as what people think of as rape on the public mailing list of a Linux conference in 2012.
posted by sourcejedi at 8:44 AM on September 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


In the Slashdot discussion, there's a significant minority who believe that you can't get high quality and friendly collaboration at the same time. I feel... kinda sad for them, because what experiences must you have had to lead you to that worldview? It sounds like an angry and depressing place to be in, to believe that abuse is not just an inevitable thing but a necessary thing.
posted by clawsoon at 8:53 AM on September 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


A lot of this conversation is predicated on the assumption that an asshole like Linus Torvalds is replaceable

...

The thing is, Linus is less like an asshole director and more like an asshole movie executive. He has power.


I get what you're saying, but the point you seem to be missing is that while yes, Linus is in a particularly powerful position to do something about this, he's only in that position because his awful behavior has been ignored and enabled by the community for decades.

The tech community (particularly F/OSS) has a love affair with the idea of the irreplaceable asshole, and that has done untold damage to people, to careers, and to the community. Yes, Linus finally (maybe) doing something about it is better than nothing, but we shouldn't be waiting for him or anyone else to see the light. They are all replaceable, whether they're first time submitters, subsystem maintainers, or, yes, even founders.

Toss them out on their asses. They can come back when they can behave and treat the community with respect.
posted by tocts at 8:54 AM on September 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


My head spins in wonderment, that the motivations that have been applied to him to make this statement must be truly enormous.

From /u/onnar (I don't know whether they are actually in a position to know),
I won't share names, but a few days ago he was confronted about his behavior in a conference call in a very loud and public manner, and by someone he respects deeply. That finally made him go introspective.
posted by Jpfed at 8:58 AM on September 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


[Two] developers made this same point (I had overlooked the hint in the email).

Ah, sorry. One of those developers was pointing out there could be a different external motivation than what Linus wrote in his email. As a general point it's probably better not to assume you know the exact motivation; what matters are the results.
posted by sourcejedi at 9:07 AM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


https://twitter.com/vaurorapub/status/1041688067122225152

"If you want to know how terrified Linux kernel contributors are, in the 18 hours following the announcement that the project leader is stepping down indefinitely only 7 6 people replied publicly on the LKML."

"also note that none of the ones who replied to the part of the mail about stepping down, not the release announcement, are any of the top maintainers." -- @danvet

"Word to the wise: when a powerful man suddenly publishes a statement about how he had seen the error of his ways and is stepping down from responsibilities for no apparent reason, you might not have the whole story."
posted by sourcejedi at 9:20 AM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I forget how much I don't miss Twitter vagueposting at all.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:23 AM on September 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


If code is bad on its merits, it deserves to be critiqued on its merits (or simply rejected on its merits), without flaming the person who created that code. Or perhaps, adopt the practice of the formula rejection slip.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:35 AM on September 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I get what you're saying, but the point you seem to be missing is that while yes, Linus is in a particularly powerful position to do something about this, he's only in that position because his awful behavior has been ignored and enabled by the community for decades.

My point is a little more subtle than you're suggesting, but I don't think our positions are too different. He's been enabled by a community who, in large part, believes in the value of superstar assholes. So what happens when one of the biggest superstar assholes no longer believes in the value of superstar assholes? You turf people out to change the culture of what's left (and notably not to punish said assholes - retributive justice isn't restorative justice). But if that change is about to happen anyway, will it be better than the clean break because it's voluntary, or worse because it's easier to go back on? I'm willing to see where this goes. I've seen much worse first steps. (Still enjoying the clusterfuck Riot Games are in - they are getting rightly hammered for their shitty workplace culture and haven't done a single thing to visibly fix it other than a PR announcement.)
posted by Merus at 9:37 AM on September 17, 2018


Since I haven't seen her mentioned, Coraline Ada Ehmke is the originator of the Contributor Covenant and has been doing much of the hard work of making a Code of Conduct that can be used by OSS projects. This is the Code of Conduct that's now included in Linux. She has done so much emotional labor to get this out there and keep it going despite complaints from people who have learned (from people like Linus) that they can be assholes if they are "smart" enough.

I'm just very thankful for her today and want everyone to know about her.
posted by Is It Over Yet? at 9:53 AM on September 17, 2018 [37 favorites]


Thanks for the reminder about Coraline. She does such good work and it's been a difficult year or two for her after her ups and downs at GitHub (and I had some of the same). I sent her a supportive note.
posted by jessamyn at 10:03 AM on September 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


jessamyn: Thanks for the reminder about Coraline. She does such good work and it's been a difficult year or two for her after her ups and downs at GitHub (and I had some of the same). I sent her a supportive note.

She probably needs it, given the Coraline Ada conspiracy theory wharggarbbl going on in parts of the Slashdot thread. I'm sure that her inboxes and social media feeds aren't very friendly right now. There are apparently people who believe that she's part of a totalitarian re-education camp effort to brainwash Linus.
posted by clawsoon at 11:33 AM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


shitting on people when they try and do better is one of the worst things you can possibly do, both for them as individuals and for the wider community as a whole.

You mean like Linus has been doing for 30+ years?

I am so tired of coddling abusers because their feelings might get hurt. I am honestly surprised to see it so prevalent on Metafilter.
posted by iamnotangry at 11:53 AM on September 17, 2018 [6 favorites]


Is expressing relief that an abuser might finally be pulling his head out of his ass the same as coddling?
posted by tobascodagama at 12:02 PM on September 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


(Oh, no, is expressing positive surprise too close handing out brownie points or cookies? Must I now receive a brand that reads PROBLEMATIC?)

C'mon, man. You're better than this.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:08 PM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


"Word to the wise: when a powerful man suddenly publishes a statement about how he had seen the error of his ways and is stepping down from responsibilities for no apparent reason, you might not have the whole story."

I want to be optimistic about what this means for OSS culture, and it's nice to think that someone could have a (relatively) spontaneous change of heart, even someone whose bad behavior is as entrenched in culture and habit as Linus'... but in my experience, that's not really a thing that happens. Abusers generally don't change their tune without the threat of serious, career-ruining consequences. So I'll just be over here with the hopeless cynics waiting for the other shoe to drop.
posted by Basil Stag Hare at 12:11 PM on September 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


For what it's worth, I did a diff between the contributor convenant code of conduct and what was checked into the kernel tree. The only differences are:

- minor formatting (word wrapping, and using +++ and === under headers, to fit whatever documentation system the kernel's using these days)
- Replacing the word "project maintainers" by "maintainers". Makes sense--the latter term has a well-understood meaning in the kernel developer community.
- In the original, the final "enforcement" section leaves placeholders "project team" and "insert email address" as the place to send complaints, and the TAB was dropped into those placeholders.

"I'd be (pleasantly) surprised if the LWN editor has been trying to get Linus to change"

I wouldn't be surprised. Note he also provided one of the "Signed-off-by" lines on the commit adding the code of conduct
posted by bfields at 12:28 PM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's not coddling someone (nor is it excusing their past actions) to acknowledge an apology positively & to hold out hope that it means better behaviour in the future.

Well, unless you're a bitter misanthrope maybe?
posted by pharm at 12:37 PM on September 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


Never heard anything bad about or from the dude before but evidently it's there so it's good he's acknowledged it. The way he phrased it though makes it sound like he is an alien, and must dissect some of the humans to better understand how they go about having "feelings."
posted by GoblinHoney at 12:43 PM on September 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Y'all computer peoples' a fighty bunch, ain't ye?
posted by petebest at 2:42 PM on September 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


"I'd be (pleasantly) surprised if the LWN editor [Jon Corbet] has been trying to get Linus to change." I wouldn't be surprised. Note he also provided one of the "Signed-off-by" lines on the commit adding the code of conduct.

(Which makes sense as Corbet is also the maintainer for Documentation/ :-).

I hadn't thought properly about Corbet dealing with Torvalds outside of publishing LWN. I must apologize for casting some aspersions there. In any case, I'm glad we have LWN's report of Popov's presentation. I rely on LWN as an amazing resource.
posted by sourcejedi at 3:16 PM on September 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Y'all computer peoples' a fighty bunch, ain't ye?

YOU TAKE THAT BACK
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:22 PM on September 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


Linus should (a) apologize and admit his mistakes, and (b) improve his behaviour going forward. In this thread I see a lot of people saying that he's only done (a) and that is worthless and/or he doesn't deserve any credit. I disagree.

As others have noted, it's a huge WTF moment for all those who are cheerleaders for bad behaviour. And he hasn't had a chance to do (b) yet. Maybe he won't, and that would be a disappointment. But I try to be optimistic. What's happened so far is a good thing. I hope there are more good things to come.
posted by nnethercote at 4:22 PM on September 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


In creative/ scientific fields it's easy to get sucked into the idea that if your ideas are good you'll be confident in them. Which begets a culture of people competing to see who can appear most confident so their ideas appear the best. Which begets a culture of putting others down to reap financial or status rewards associated with good work due solely to your place in the pecking order. Which is obviously wrong and we should all strive to be better people.

given the Coraline Ada conspiracy theory wharggarbbl going on in parts of the Slashdot thread. I'm sure that her inboxes and social media feeds aren't very friendly right now

Having said that, even knowing what I stated above if I were Coraline Ada and getting a bunch of dumb messages from assholes I'd have a hard time not being a bigger asshole back to them. So a code of conduct is a good logical solution, if it's enforced, because it sets ground rules and resolves my problem of being messaged by assholes without me having to personally nuke them one by one. I think that Linus explicitly stating this code of conduct is one he plans to adopt in his apology is a good sign he means it. Hopefully.

We shall see I guess.
posted by fshgrl at 5:28 PM on September 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the sad path for this is that Linus apologizes, takes a fun vacation, comes back, and behaves exactly as he has in the past. What that would teach people is that, if you're famous enough to have any scrutiny, all you need to do is comfortably stay out of the limelight long enough for it to blow over. By implication, if you're not famous you probably don't need to sweat it.

But unlike some orange-tinted people in this world, Linus's core merit isn't based on how much people love him being an asshole. He has respect based on technical chops and (whether you think it's because of, or despite his behavior) successfully being at the helm of the flagship open source project. There's a real chance for him to be a role model here, and there's a real level of accountability in which we can cite what he's said and counter his authority if he reverts to his old ways.

Forgiveness is its own thing, and for someone with his impact, no one should forgive him just because he apologized. And even if he sticks to it and becomes the best advocate for tolerance and reason in the world, no one is obligated to forgive him.

But even if you don't forgive, I agree with above posters that this is a message that shuts down a lot of lazy arguments for bad behavior. Linus can have a cookie for that, in my opinion.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:04 PM on September 17, 2018 [7 favorites]


In the Slashdot discussion, there's a significant minority who believe that you can't get high quality and friendly collaboration at the same time.

Many people have never had the experience of a friendly disagreement. To them being told they are incorrect, no matter the tone or phrasing, is a personal attack with all the emotional baggage that entails. They envision the alternative as a process where no patch can be rejected because any objection is automatically an attack on the submitter.

(Sometimes there's an underlying medical issue, but I suspect most of the time people who see the world that way are just assholes, or maybe it's just that the assholes are the ones doing bot-assisted brigading, who really knows these days)
posted by wierdo at 10:13 PM on September 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


People confuse being nice with not speaking their mind. Or they confuse disagreement with dislike; discussion with competition. It's a lack of trust in other people that's at the root of it; either their intellect or their intentions. And then they aren't socially aware enough to see the pattern and fix it or step outside it.

And it IS much easier to get stuff done in small groups. 2-4 is ideal. You can chit chat a bit and be friendly then you have enough trust and privacy to work quickly through many ideas one after the other with minimal prep or weight given to any of them and consensus is easy to achieve. The product is a joint product, you are not fighting for credit. Working open source must be a bit of a nightmare in that way because the larger group will inevitably break down into those small working group sized cliques. And they'll start talking about each other and jockeying a bit. Without ground rules and a strong and fair hand at the wheel the busy people will quit because it's a waste of time and you'll spend more time arguing than doing.

I hate being assigned to these kinds of big projects
posted by fshgrl at 10:28 PM on September 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


I should note that I'm not condoning their behavior. Even if they do really feel attacked, they are perfectly capable of composing a polite reply rather than launching into invective and denigrating others or even not replying at all or asking for a third party's assistance in advocating their position in a reasonable way on their behalf.

It's not as if there is any shortage of information and discussion on the Internet about how not to be a shitheel if one truly doesn't get it, so there is zero excuse for persistent poor behavior no matter what the underlying reason for it.
posted by wierdo at 11:20 PM on September 17, 2018


This is huge but not for the reasons many are mentioning here (even mentioning Linus alongside allusions to rapists and abusers).

Linus isn't their boss, he's their leader because they choose to follow him. This is huge because it means that participation in the community doesn't have the artificial requirement of 'must be able to gloss over Linus telling you that you're brain damaged'. The people he's mostly been directing his tirades at are people who have come up through the community and are participating directly with him at the highest level; people the community has grown, mentored, and invested in. If they run into the Linus wall and can't get through it, they'll wash straight out and all of that value is lost.

This is huge because it means that Linux, under Linus' leadership, is losing an obstacle to growth and sustainability, and gaining more longevity.

It has nothing to do with cookies or brownie points or public figures apologizing. It's not about that and it's not about you. My computer doesn't run cookies, brownie points, or apologies: It runs Linux, and Linus owning up to his behavior and expressing willingness to change means that Linux will be better and longer lasting.
posted by yonega at 12:01 AM on September 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


The work to get the Contributor Covenant widespread adoption isn't "emotional labour", it's just labour. PR work, lobbying, gladhanding, marketing, it's just as much valid OSS work as writing documentation or designing sprites. (And this is coming from someone on the "mostly unnecessary cruft" side of the fence).
posted by Leon at 1:24 AM on September 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


In the Slashdot discussion, there's a significant minority who believe that you can't get high quality and friendly collaboration at the same time. I feel... kinda sad for them, because what experiences must you have had to lead you to that worldview?

For some the answer is, they've worked at bog-standard shitty development shops. For others the answer is, they're the assholes who make working at many development shops awful.

By far the number one predictor of productive, effective dev organizations I've worked for has been having the psychological safety to be wrong. This applies all the way up the chain, from the most junior developer all the way to the CTO.

Organizations where it's OK to suggest something and have someone point out a flaw without it being a referendum on your worth as a human being are innovative, high-performing, and effective. Organizations full of assholes like Linus who are ready to make any slight mistake into an excuse to call you subhuman are not. In fact, they tend to lose out on a shitload of innovation, because the cost of being wrong, even in a trivial way, is so high that people simply stop trying to do anything other than bullet-proof their code changes to avoid being yelled at (vs. actually thinking about how to make things better).

I talk a lot here about dev culture and my disdain for a bunch of its bullshit, and Linus behavior is up there in terms of shit we should not tolerate. Any company that lets people, no matter how senior, treat you this way, does not deserve you. I would not hire Linus. I have in fact not hired otherwise smart and talented people who gave me the strong impression in interviews that they subscribed to his bullshit "no filter" (a.k.a. no tact, no consideration for other humans) approach to collaboration. Nobody should have to put up with that shit, and people who think they should be allowed to act that way will never get a job in a company if I can help it.
posted by tocts at 5:25 AM on September 18, 2018 [10 favorites]


It's not even "no filter" because invective takes time and energy to write, and time and energy to deal with the consequences.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 5:40 AM on September 18, 2018 [3 favorites]


Interesting... maybe his kids had a talk with him about his bullshit as well - because, one of them appears to be a signatory on the "Port-Meritocracy Manifesto"...
posted by jkaczor at 10:44 AM on September 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Many people have never had the experience of a friendly disagreement. (and related notes)

I'm working on a series of plays for tech conferences that demonstrate what healthy code review, technical disagreements, etc. look like. "Code Review, Forwards and Back" (which playacts a few bad ways things can go, and one good way) premiered at PyGotham last year and will appear again at RubyConf in Los Angeles in November. I'm working on a scripted disagreement about release management processes to submit to LibrePlanet for next year, where the colleagues are rigorous with the technical questions but conversationally generous with each other. Because yeah, if you haven't ever seen it, how do you know what it might look like?
posted by brainwane at 10:45 AM on September 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


I'm working on a series of plays for tech conferences that demonstrate what healthy code review, technical disagreements, etc.

If you can - post this to MeFi projects when you have something... please...

One of the highlights of my career was the time I was a quality assurance lead for a huge project, over 100 programmers, millions of lines of code that had to be reviewed... And many, many junior hires - straight out of school. Initially there was some political stuggles with certain management level representatives who wanted to use "bad" code reviews to cull staff they didn't like - I smacked that down hard (threatened to walk away and leave them high and dry) - because the goal was not to make people terrified of the review process.

The goal was to increase the product quality - and skill-up the staff quickly. A code review is a great opportunity for mentoring and skills transfer - it is not a battle of who is smarter...

The only horrible thing about the whole quality initiative was the 1.7 million lines of Visual Basic 6 code that I had to personally review... (shudders... ugh... VB... a language I once loved...)
posted by jkaczor at 10:51 AM on September 18, 2018 [4 favorites]


jkaczor, here's the first play in the series on MeFi Projects!
posted by brainwane at 11:02 AM on September 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


One thing I don't get about the sentiment that "you have to be harsh to keep high quality" (which I've read in a variety of places reacting to this news) is this: you can be unyielding and exacting in your reviews of code or technical concepts without letting that turn into personal attacks.

It's clear from reading some of the threads linked in various discussions that Linus frequently bounces between technical and personal criticisms, despite the fact that only the first of those is called for when reviewing technical things. Just as one example: a byte-by-byte copy is (usually) a pretty dumb, performance-negative thing to do. You can state that an application or command that does it is bad without calling for the author to be "retroactively aborted", which is exactly what he did.

I don't know if him stepping back for a while will end up helping him and helping to make him a more effective project leader. But I'm optimistic that it either will, or will convince him that he should cede leadership to someone who can run the project without generating ad-hominem flames all the time.
posted by -1 at 11:20 AM on September 18, 2018 [9 favorites]


One thing I don't get about the sentiment that "you have to be harsh to keep high quality" (which I've read in a variety of places reacting to this news) is this: you can be unyielding and exacting in your reviews of code or technical concepts without letting that turn into personal attacks.

Absolutely! But that would not gratify your self-image of "everyone but me is an idiot".
posted by thelonius at 11:57 AM on September 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Linux's Creator Is Sorry. But Will He Change? (Klint Finley for Wired, Sept. 17, 2018)
Torvalds scheduled a vacation to Scotland that conflicted with a planned Linux developer summit in Vancouver, British Columbia, in November. The summit organizers announced earlier this month that the summit will relocate to Edinburgh, Scotland, rather than proceed without Torvalds. The decision rubbed many the wrong way.

Torvalds wrote that the incident led members of the Linux community to confront him about his "lifetime of not understanding emotions." It’s hardly the first time. In 2013, former Linux kernel developer Sage Sharp, then using a different name, openly criticized Torvalds' communication style and called for a code of conduct for the project. "Linus, you're one of the worst offenders when it comes to verbally abusing people and publicly tearing their emotions apart," Sharp wrote at the time.

Sharp later told WIRED about receiving thanks from developers on other open source projects, who said Torvalds' behavior influenced the way people behaved in those other projects. Sharp also shared some of the intense hate mail they received after speaking up.

Torvalds agreed to talk things out with Sharp, but it didn't amount to much. He panned the idea of a code of conduct in an email interview with WIRED, saying "venting of frustrations and anger is actually necessary, and trying to come up with some 'code of conduct' that says that people should be 'respectful' and 'polite' is just so much crap and bullshit." He doubled down on his position at a conference in New Zealand in 2015, where, according to Ars Technica, he said that diversity is "not really important."

That's why Torvalds' apology comes as a surprise—and why some people remain skeptical.
...
The Linux Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.

Sharp couldn't be reached for comment but wrote on Twitter that the real test is whether the Linux kernel community changes.
Celebrate the statement, this push, and all who made it happen, but hold leadership and the community members accountable.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:32 PM on September 18, 2018 [6 favorites]


But that would not gratify your self-image of "everyone but me is an idiot".

The best thing I ever internalized was: "there is always someone smarter in the room than you are"... (... And always be willing to learn - and to freely teach/mentor/coach... and hold the door for people (everyone)... and... but maybe that's just my rampant Canadianisms...)

I did this long before I started working for Microsoft - and interestingly enough - during the initial "boot camp" this was formally taught to new employees...

Everyone has different skills, backgrounds and experience - and one of the other things I strongly believe - is that most "tech work" is not "computer/data science"...

It is a trade and can be easily taught to those that want to learn. Most corporate programming is churning out CRUD applications...

Of course - it still does take some really smart (and driven) people to do the really hard things (...like... design, improve and maintain a complex operating system - or database technology, or...)... But, you are doing yourself no favours if you are a jerk about it...
posted by jkaczor at 1:36 PM on September 18, 2018 [5 favorites]


> you can be unyielding and exacting in your reviews of code or technical concepts without letting that turn into personal attacks.

"Critique the code, not the author."
posted by nnethercote at 3:26 PM on September 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be surprised. Note he also provided one of the "Signed-off-by" lines on the commit adding the code of conduct.

Corbet has written up an article now. It is not a good article. Corbet runs the paper of record for the Linux kernel, and he is continuing to act as one of the enablers.
Attentive readers will note that my name appears as one of the signoffs on the patch adding the new code of conduct. They might wonder why I chose to do so despite my beliefs that (1) the situation is not as bad as many like to portray it, and (2) things are getting better anyway.
posted by sourcejedi at 1:57 PM on September 19, 2018 [3 favorites]


Ah, the prompt for all this emerges! New Yorker, After Years of Abusive E-mails, the Creator of Linux Steps Aside

Torvalds’s decision to step aside came after The New Yorker asked him a series of questions about his conduct for a story on complaints about his abusive behavior discouraging women from working as Linux-kernel programmers.
posted by CrystalDave at 5:15 PM on September 19, 2018 [9 favorites]


Last line of the article: Complaints will be heard by the foundation’s technical-advisory board, which has ten members, all men.

jesus wept.
posted by jessamyn at 6:32 PM on September 19, 2018 [10 favorites]


Otter Tech has a good analysis of what happened, possibly why, and what they think about it.

Section names include "The Linux Foundation preps for bad PR" and "Should we trust them?"
It’s interesting to note that the Linux kernel community’s change from the “Code of Conflict” to a standard Code of Conduct was only signed off by 6 out of 10 members of the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board.

[...]

Because of the way the voting for the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board works, it screws towards a particular demographic. Someone has to be financially well off enough to go to the conference, which skews towards people being paid to work on the Linux kernel. The voting is held at an after party, which might be hard to attend [...]

[...]

It’s also important to note that four of the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board members did not sign off on the new Code of Conduct. One of them is Ted Tso [...]
posted by introp at 9:02 AM on September 20, 2018 [5 favorites]


I have no faith that the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board will respond to a Code of Conduct violation promptly or with a well-thought out response. We should call on them to release anonymized Code of Conduct transparency reports.

(Otter Tech is run by Sage Sharp, an ex- kernel contributor who has been mentioned up-thread).
posted by sourcejedi at 9:12 AM on September 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Sage is spot on here. With the added details of the story in The New Yorker, it's crystal clear that even if Linus is having an honest-to-god moment of self-reflection, it has only come about because the Linux Foundation Technical Advisory Board got wind of a massive PR problem incoming and someone stepped up and made him finally confront himself. That's the charitable read. The less charitable read is that until evidence points otherwise, we should assume he is not in fact being self-reflective, and has no plans to change, but is simply stepping away to weather the storm till this all blows over and he can come back, Louis CK style.

I know it's a big ask, and I know it wouldn't solve all problems, but good lord does it feel like the big players in the industry need to step in and fork this shit. Linux is too important to too many careers and too many platforms to be under the control of people who are so out of touch, and who are going to continue to gatekeep women, minorities, and people who refuse to accept abuse as being normal and acceptable out of it.
posted by tocts at 9:55 AM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well, there is FreeBSD, maybe not ideal for all use cases but possibly worth consideration. I don't have any information on how that actually works within the developer community.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:09 AM on September 20, 2018


Ironically, my memory of the story around why Linux won out over FreeBSD was that Linux was more open and welcoming.
posted by clawsoon at 10:17 AM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


I made the mistake of reading the replies to the author of the article on Twitter. Why did I do that? Some day I will learn.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:29 AM on September 20, 2018


Yeah, the timeline that Otter Tech lays out is pretty suggestive:
  • Saturday - A new CoC is uploaded.
  • Sunday - Linus announces he's stepping down.
  • Wednesday - New Yorker article comes out.
posted by mhum at 11:24 AM on September 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


tocts: That's something I'd very much like to see.
posted by Leon at 12:54 PM on September 20, 2018


FreeBSD has a pretty detailed code of conduct these days, but it only got put in place after the events summarized here.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:45 PM on September 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


And ironically Randi Lee Harper, the victim in the FreeBSD situation, is the woman who built block lists that lumped in abusive assholes and transgender activists, which is why people keep accusing Wil Wheaton of being a transphobe.

Which is why these days I push back on forcing out the "abusers" - no-one has clean hands.
posted by Merus at 6:06 PM on September 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you're curious about (or even suspicious of) Linus's motivations, you're not the only one:

Code, conflict, and conduct by Jonathan Corbet: "As for what brought this moment about, we may never know for sure. He talks about being confronted by members of the community, but people have been telling him for years that some things should change. If somebody did get through to him this time, they did it privately."

A post on Ksummit-discuss by Daniel Vetter: "As much as I welcome this as a first step on a fairly long path, it does feel rushed since it seems to have happened in just ~10 days. From chatting with people, I think this left a lot wondering about what's really going on, with interesting conspiracy theories running rampant. Personally I have serious worries that to rapid change will overwhelm the community's ability to process it, with ugly unintended consequences.

Valerie Aurora has an idea:

Something is rotten in the Linux Foundation by Valerie Aurora: But you know who probably does know the explanation? Senior former Linux Foundation employees, and with the recent high turnover rate at the foundation there are quite a few.

Here’s what I suggest: Linux Foundation sponsors should demand that the Linux Foundation release all former employees from their non-disparagement agreements, then interview them one-on-one, without anyone currently working at the foundation present. At a minimum, the sponsors should insist on seeing a complete list of ex-employee NDAs and all funds paid to them during and after their tenure. If current Linux Foundation management balks at doing even that, well, won’t that be interesting?

posted by the list of suspects is just you at 8:08 AM on September 21, 2018 [4 favorites]


Remain calm, people of the Internet (profanity carefully avoided). Linus is not "stepping down". To quote the relevant part of his lkml message, and I've not seen any other announcement in support of the idea he's resigning his post: "I'm not feeling like I don't want to continue maintaining Linux. Quite the reverse. I very much *do* want to continue to do this project that I've been working on for almost three decades. ... I need to take a break to get help on how to behave differently and fix some issues in my tooling and workflow." Perhaps somebody missed the double negative in that first sentence and the rumour spread from there.

There is some risk in suddenly having a new code of conduct, and Linus being temporarily absent from his usual position at the same time. Give it some time, those of you who are impatient for everything to change. Speculation about what conspiracies are afoot can wait until there's some concrete evidence for any of them.
posted by sfenders at 9:17 AM on September 21, 2018


Maybe slow down a bit :-). You're the first commenter here to interpret it that way. ¶3, "On Sunday, the benevolent dictator announced that he would be stepping down →temporarily←".

People are talking about what needs to be filled in after hurriedly copy+pasting a CoC. They're not saying that can be done by fiat in another couple of days. But there needs to be real progress in the October kernel summit. We can't wait-and-see for the next one to come round. Linus dedicating some time for questioning his assumptions seems important here.

"The conspiracy theorists" were right the first time. With a theory that came from being familiar, and involved, with the history of this. I doubt Valerie Aurora has the facts wrong. Seems to me like a great time to look at Linus' employer, the Linux Foundation. If asking for improvement has had any effect on the problem, it has been agonizingly slow. I don't know exactly what Aurora hopes to achieve, in particular by scrutinizing any NDAs. I'm shutting up and listening.
posted by sourcejedi at 1:26 PM on September 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


well, this is fucked up. Screw you, Linus. I retract my positive feedback above.
posted by mwhybark at 5:17 PM on September 21, 2018


There is some risk in suddenly having a new code of conduct, and Linus being temporarily absent from his usual position at the same time.
I suppose so? But it's worth noting that (at least in the LKML messages I've read) most of the other contributors seldom write things that would run afoul of the new Code of Conduct. Linus frequently did.

I think him stepping back while it's being rolled out is a good thing, as it will let the Code get established with far less chance of drama right out of the gate. It's probably also a good thing for the project as a whole on a larger scale, as it shows that 1) Linus != Linux 2) the community is capable of overcoming or working around problematic people, no matter how technically-accomplished they are. Both of those are tremendously important if we want Linux to survive as a sustainable and inclusive project. FOSS projects that never manage to be "bigger than their founder" go down one of two roads: they whither and die, or they cultivate a cult of personality around said author. Neither is good.
posted by -1 at 12:39 PM on September 22, 2018 [4 favorites]


Oh, I'm sure it's a good thing overall. I know the people involved are capable, even though I'm no longer among them in any capacity. I should have more faith. Linux will be fine.
posted by sfenders at 12:49 PM on September 22, 2018


Patience, huh? I never touch the stuff. People talk about inclusivity like it's a new technology they have to invent when really we'd like the same respect that most white men rightfully take for granted.
posted by the list of suspects is just you at 4:19 PM on September 22, 2018 [5 favorites]


I should have more faith. Linux will be fine.

I gotta be honest, dropping comments here with concern focused on the threat to the survival of an industry-standard piece of software that's maintained by huge numbers of people (many with grants from major industry players) because it may lose a figurehead who actively drives people away from working on it seems ... I mean, charitably? Misplaced.

The thing worrying me isn't that Linus might leave; the thing worrying me is that he might not.
posted by tocts at 7:36 PM on September 22, 2018 [10 favorites]


This is where I note Dennis Ritchie has had no hand in the 2018 revision of the C programming language, arguably the most important FOSS product. He passed away in 2011. His works will long live after him, and he was a pretty OK guy to collaborate with by most accounts.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:49 AM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


the list of suspects is just you: when really we'd like the same respect that most white men rightfully take for granted.

Even us white men have to put up with the assholery of more powerful white men. Less assholery all around helps 99% of us.
posted by clawsoon at 5:34 AM on September 23, 2018 [1 favorite]


Q: why did the libertarian techie add a non-disparagement clause to the company's employment contract?
A: i'm afraid i can't tell you because it would violate my non-disparagement clause
posted by the list of suspects is just you at 3:41 PM on September 23, 2018 [3 favorites]


Linux developers threaten to pull “kill switch”

Hmmm. Demanding that contributors outright assign their copyright on their work to someone else to participate in an open source project has been unpopular -- Canonical tried it with Ubuntu and abandoned it after a couple of years.

And it's apparently legit for contributors to revoke the GPL licensure that they'd previously granted for their code. Which would mean no one could redistribute it. And a bunch of people cranky about the Code of Conduct are threatening to do so. Which would, um, kinda break the Internet and the modern world.
posted by Zed at 3:23 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]


Of course ESR is hailing this latest manbaby threat. He has been running around for years spouting conspiracy theories about women attempting to "trap" OSS devs (assumed to all be men) in false rape allegations at conventions.
posted by tocts at 3:46 PM on September 24, 2018 [4 favorites]


Linux developers threaten to pull “kill switch”

I hope that most actual kernel contributors are more mature than the conspiracy theorists in that comments thread. I sincerely hope so.
posted by clawsoon at 4:36 PM on September 24, 2018 [1 favorite]




I shared the New Yorker piece on my FB feed (note to self: mistake) and immediately drew profoundly irritating commentary by persons of nonspecified-here-but-predictable-gender-ethnicity-and-profession misdirecting (paraphrase, what about Steve Jobs), sealioning, and (yes really) giving advice to women tech vets that included, in paraphrase, growing a thick skin or learning to enjoy the abusive discourse. Other helpful assertions included statements that the New Yorker article on its own was insufficient basis for Linus' remarks and the development of the COC.
posted by mwhybark at 8:16 PM on September 24, 2018


I decided to go to the LKML archives to see how the "kill switch" proposal is being received.

There's a typically abrasive This is legally nonsense.... please shut up, followed by a short legal debate and a sarcastic reminder that telling someone to shut up is violating the code of conduct. The overall tone of the response, though, seems to have been along the lines of this message from Ted Ts'o:
People can decide who they want to respond to, but I'm going to gently suggest that before people think about responding to a particular e-mail, that they do a quick check using "git log --author=xyzzy@example.com" then decide how much someone appears to be a member of the community before deciding how and whether their thoughts are relevant.
Translation: This is a random nobody; please don't feed the trolls.

And people have mostly avoided feeding this particular troll, who appears to have had nothing to do with Linux before late July or so. The "kill switch" proposer has also argued - without any responses that I've found so far - that men marrying young girls is okay and women only exist to please men and bear children.

So the proposal seems to have come from nowhere and seems to be going nowhere, except perhaps in ESR's fevered imagination.

(You might note that Ted Ts'o is mentioned in the "kill switch" article as surely the first to have his head chopped off by the coming SJW mob. He doesn't seem too concerned.)

The Code of Conduct itself is facing opposition from some actual developers. One is afraid that they'll be cast into an SJW lake of fire if they make a social misstep; another says that this is a move by corporations and intelligence services to gain power. Members of the Technical Advisory Board - charged with enforcing the Code of Conduct - are saying, relax, we don't want to punish anybody, we just want to mediate and de-escalate and treat each other well and assume good intentions. They remind everyone that the body enforcing the Code of Conduct does not get to control whether patches get accepted anyway.

I suspect that a minor change in tone is all the new Code of Conduct will accomplish, since that's all that the people who matter want it to accomplish. Dreams of a much more diverse Linux contributor base and dreams of Freedom Fork which throws off SJW oppression seem equally fanciful.
posted by clawsoon at 3:42 AM on September 25, 2018 [8 favorites]


The broken "late July or so" link should be this. You'll notice that the "kill switch" troll has been added to the LKML kill file multiple times, but keeps coming back with new email addresses from the same domain (nisus@redchan..., observerofaffairs@redchan..., unconditionedwitness@redchan..., gratuitouslicensesarerevocable@redchan..., etc.)
posted by clawsoon at 3:57 AM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Thanks for doing the hard work, clawsoon.
posted by Zed at 8:11 AM on September 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


I went looking for "redchan", and from what I can tell it was the name used in a Law and Order SVU episode as a stand-in for 4chan/8chan. That may or may not be why the "kill switch" proposer is using it as their domain name.
posted by clawsoon at 12:35 PM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Ha! The one where Ice-T shoots Logan Paul?
posted by Artw at 12:56 PM on September 25, 2018


Heh:

@nyquildotorg
I love that someone emailed Richard Stallman to ask what he thought of the controversy around the Linux Code of Conduct.

I wish I could have been there when he fired up his telnet client and pointed it to port 110 on his pop3 server and read that message.

posted by Artw at 1:55 PM on September 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


And it's apparently legit for contributors to revoke the GPL licensure that they'd previously granted for their code. Which would mean no one could redistribute it.

Does anybody know of any lawyers actually giving a current take on this? Because it seems, just on the surface, contrary to usual legal principles to be able to go back and say "you can't have this anymore" after you say someone can have it, without that being part of the original deal. And with the GPL specifically, if you've released something under a license that specifically says it automatically grants further licenses as necessary, nobody needs to get their license from you, so it would seem like you probably can't stop that process once it's out there. But there could be something to this I'm not getting, I just don't see where it is.
posted by Sequence at 5:50 PM on September 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Modulo the fact that it seems like edgelord nuttery to begin with, I'd be interested too, because it's utterly unclear me what kind of retraction of a current license would work.

Maybe the fantasy is that the entire cohort of kernel hackers joins together arm-in-arm and refuses to provide any future GPL-licensed updates or modifications to the kernel, leaving it to wither in stasis? Go Galt on it and prove that nobody can do Linux without the singular skills of angry dudes who believe in unchecked free speech and hey hey where are you going don't walk away from me when I'm explaining my indispensibility—
posted by cortex at 6:07 PM on September 25, 2018 [4 favorites]


I guess no one has actually tried, so there's no case law & since the GPL is a giant hack on existing copyright law (a neat hack, but a hack nevertheless) no one knows what the outcome would be in a trial.

If someone /did/ try and rescind their copyright licences in this fashion, then anyone using their GPLd code would probably make an argument on grounds of estoppel but whether that would fly in court? Who knows...

Given that you can only invoke the right in the U.S. 35 years after publication during a relatively short window I don't think it's really going to be a problem. Ultimately code can always be rewritten if that's what it takes & the revision history that the kernel has allows the code someone has contributed to be precisely identified.
posted by pharm at 1:58 AM on September 26, 2018


I guess that it's predictable that ESR would want to make sure that everyone remembers that he's still more of an asshole than Linus.
posted by octothorpe at 6:43 AM on September 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Related: In 2008 a GPL’d project tried to revoke their license. (In 2008) Groklaw posted why this wasn’t going to work.

Hat tip to /r/linux
posted by Monochrome at 1:25 PM on September 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


GPLv2 Irrevocability (via)
posted by Bangaioh at 4:03 PM on September 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


Huh. Linus in recent email discussion with BBC about why he changed and the large parts he still hasn't though he promised to "fake it until I make it" as part of the work he has to do.
posted by aleph at 10:34 AM on September 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


This is starting to sound a bit like the setup for a bad Hollywood comedy. Socially inept techbro gets professional help to be a decent human being.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 5:47 AM on September 28, 2018


In some ways that BBC article made me feel like there is indeed a chance Linus will reform his behavior. Probably because he talked about it realistically and wasn't claiming to have had some epiphany that will instantly change his behavior for all of future time. Still, only time will tell, given that all the words in the world don't mean anything if there isn't accompanying change.
posted by wierdo at 11:15 AM on September 29, 2018 [2 favorites]


That's a really interesting BBC interview, aleph - thanks for linking to it.
I may have my reservations about excessive political correctness, but honestly, I absolutely do not want to be seen as being in the same camp as the low-life scum on the internet that think it's OK to be a white nationalist Nazi, and have some truly nasty misogynistic, homophobic or transphobic behaviour. And those people were complaining about too much political correctness too, and in the process just making my public stance look bad. ...I don't want to be associated with a lot of the people who complain about excessive political correctness.
So he noticed - finally - that "political correctness is bad" has been taken to its horrific logical extreme.
posted by clawsoon at 5:29 AM on September 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


More details in another Slashdot discussion. Richard Stallman, who developed the GPL license used by Linux, says that the license doesn't allow for the proposed "kill switch". In the discussion, Bruce Perens says that:
The fellow spreading this story that you can "rescind" code is more commonly known as MikeeUSA, a misogynist and general nutcase. In one email, he complains that because of people like me, the law doesn't allow him to marry very young girls. I mean single-digit young. He claims to be an attorney but nothing he has written makes me think he is. He was joined in this by some folks known from gamergate. They aren't legitimate kernel developers.

This is just obnoxious gamergate folks grabbing at publicity where they can get it.
posted by clawsoon at 3:37 PM on September 30, 2018 [3 favorites]


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