1. 12

Relevant part:

Because if you want me to “act professional”, I can tell you that I’m not interested. I’m sitting in my home office wearign 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.


  2. 13

    I can see what he’s getting at, but if you come away thinking that by “acting natural” you will somehow alleviate yourself of lying, office politics and backstabbing, you will probably be disappointed.

    1. 2

      Unfortunately, the phrases “acting naturally/being yourself” have at least two meanings that are very different:

      1. Act in whatever way you happen to feel like.
      2. Act in the way that most enhances the excellences of your nature.

      Meaning 1 may feel good in the moment, but is destructive in the long run. Meaning 2 requires a lot of self-discipline, but is by far the more rewarding path.

      Note also that there isn’t any essential conflict between meaning 2 and “acting professional.” One can be harshly critical and perfectly professional at the same time.

    2. 15

      Ugh. Linus being a dick and people upvoting it. In the meantime, Sarah Sharp has had enough of this bullshit and she already quit Linux. And she’s not the only one to quit Linux because she’s sick of the atmosphere that Linus fosters. Matt Mackall of Mercurial and Matthew Garret of Gnome come to mind as others who no longer want to work with Linus.

      Being professional does not mean lying. Or if being nice to others involves lying, then by all means do it! Be nice and lie! Others don’t want to hear about your sexually-laden aggression (which Linus does express in the ways of how this or that should be fucked) and if you think you need to lie in order to not be aggressive, then you should “lie”! That’s the basis of society: not running around acting out our urges just because that’s the “natural” thing.

      1. 2

        It might be hard to understand, or learn about, how deeply honesty runs in Finnish culture. Not just delivering what’s promised, paying debts on time and not telling lies, but also a kind of near-despisal for overtly polite (ie. fake) customer service and such.

        We (if I speak for any Finns) know how to be polite, when it makes sense, but Linus' online project - developed without much other interaction than email - would not go anywhere if he softened every this’ll never fly to the point where the committer can’t really tell if the code could be accepted some other day or if it’s completely wrong. Or if Linus spent tech time on mediating peoples' feelings.

        It’s not often talked about whether or not people are too politically correct, or sensitive to words (“Sticks and stones may break my bones (but words will never hurt me)” seems a long-forgotten saying), when they can’t relate to a “fail-fast” style of communication, or even see the advantages of it.

        That’s the basis of society: not running around acting out our urges just because that’s the “natural” thing.

        I think Linus' point is that people are people and they will do what their disposition leads them to do no matter what, so putting up social firewalls that only redirect the office politics out of sight does not fix the issue. Kinda what what happens when you try to fix free speech with censorship. You can’t prevent human action.

        Every downvote will go toward proving Finnish and Californian cultures are hard to fit together.

        1. 1

          Every downvote will go toward proving Finnish and Californian cultures are hard to fit together.

          Don’t chalk it up to cultural differences. Nobody in any culture likes being rudely told how bad their work is. I refuse to believe that every Finn is some asshole running around rudely telling everyone how much of an idiot they are. I also refuse to be called a Californian just because I disagree with you. My wish for polite society did not originate in California. So, have a moral downvote.

          Also, Linus being a Swedish Finn makes him culturally distant from most other Finns.

          I have heard this “our country’s culture is more honest” argument from nearly every culture as a defense for being rude. I have heard it from Russians, from French, from Britons, from Mexicans, from USAmericans. If you go back a couple of hundred years ago, “honest” barbaric practices like duels and bloodsports were part of most cultures. We can always do better, in any culture.

          1. -1

            Nobody in any culture likes being rudely told how bad their work is.

            They don’t, but I still say the argument stands that there are valid uses for harsh words, especially in a slow medium like email where tons of time can get wasted going back and forth. Whether or not kids are educated to “take it” is a cultural thing.

            I refuse to believe that every Finn is some asshole running around rudely telling everyone how much of an idiot they are.

            We’re pretty polite, most of the time. We seldom say how things are to our bosses at work. This doesn’t mean we don’t say things how they are elsewhere. Linus has the advantaged position of running a big operation, so he doesn’t have anyone above him he needs to be humble to. I do like the fact he doesn’t hold grudges, that’d make him a real dick.

            I also refuse to be called a Californian just because I disagree with you.

            Don’t take it personally :) California is known as the most politically correct state around so the term shouldn’t be too far off the mark, though I’d imagine this to be mostly true throughout the American coastlines. Saying American culture would be wrong either way because it’s not a monoculture. I just needed some reference words that would make the point obvious.

            Also, Linus being a Swedish Finn makes him culturally distant from most other Finns.

            I’m one of those as well, so I can say from experience that that’s not a major thing that sets anyone apart from each other here. Finland is a large country with few inhabitants, revolving around a handful of old tribes, so you can take someone off the coast and someone up northeast and they have practically nothing in common, except some values, even if they relate to being Finnish Finns.

            I draw the line for duels and bloodsports at the “Sticks and stones” saying, as well as saying that context matters. There will always be violence, verbal and physical, as long as there are people around. Prisons are usually considered violent places[citation needed?]; a lot of the duels and bloodsports have been replaced by incarceration, so maybe violence hasn’t even decreased that much.

            Cutting to the chase on a mailing list is still not the same as verbal abuse, and certainly cannot be compared to physical violence. People would do well if they prepared their kids to hear some rough stuff during their lives instead of sheltering them and growing them up to be overtly sensitive and demanding.

            There’s probably not an awful lot to add to this anymore, at least by me. I just find it weird how few people even consider this from Linus' side, apart from certain devs who publicly took his side, quoted in that one article, that got downvoted off the list here.

          2. 1

            To me Torvalds seems extremely Californian, far more than Finnish, at least based on my encounters with the two. Granted, I haven’t spent any time working actually in Finland or in Finnish, so I can’t judge how things are there, but then Torvalds isn’t in Finland or mainly working in Finnish either. I’ve worked with a lot of Finns in a professional setting (I was a professor in Denmark for ~4 ½ years), and never encountered Torvalds-style flaming. My personal experiences were that Finns were direct but not flamey. Nobody wrote emails calling me a “fucking asshole” if they disagreed with something or suggesting that maybe I ought to consider suicide as a career path. They just said more plain things like, “this is a bad idea” or “if we go in this direction I won’t be joining”.

            California, especially small-company / startup / mailing-list / usenet culture, has a very anti-professionalism view where it’s positively encouraged to treat the office like a playground, with trash-talking, swearing, cargo shorts, and macho posturing, to make it clear that this isn’t a stuffy IBM-style workplace where people wear ties and write businesslike emails. His emails to me fit very well into that culture, basically a classic American-style flame, similar style to how ESR writes angry emails.

            1. 1

              I was supposed to pipe down on the subject, but a long time ago my employer’s business was bought by another company with a very flamey founder. To his misfortune he was not particularly competent, seldom jovial, and he seemed to hold grudges. I left the company before said founder was smart enough to grab his cash and head out, but here’s the thing: Everyone was happy he left. Would people honestly be happier if Linus left?

              We have some actual dicks here, as well as some people who would never be direct. Linus seems to do a good balancing act.

              But why is it California has the reputation of being politically correct? Is it the mainstream situation in the state, while what people on Lobsters consider “Californian” is the California that most certainly is not (and never will be!) IBM? And how large is that population in the state?

              I mean, someone could say that Finns are not conservative, but they’d be wrong due to not having figured out how subtle Finnish conservatism is (or not accounting for culture and reading that as American conservatism) or having met a minority opinion through selection bias, or any other reason they’d be wrong for the vast majority, so is that “ESR-style California” a similar situation?

            2. 0

              The internet isn’t Californian and I know some finns and they aren’t assholes when they disagree, so I know you’re lying.

          3. 4

            I’m deeply suspicious of this kind of argument: one that defends being a jerk, or insensitive, or aggressive, by trying to claim the mantle of being anti-establishment, i.e. rejecting “professionalism” as some sort of shallow conceit for “squares.” I haven’t a clue what went on between these two people (and I don’t care that it is Torvalds either – not impressed), I’m just talking about the idea, the ideology: this notion that being “real” or “authentic” or “genuine” requires ignoring the kind of self-reflexive controls and limits that we put on each other in order to get a long long enough to get something done, to manage to work together. I get that false people are dangerous, but so are people that use being “authentic” as an excuse for being abusive or insensitive.

            This also bleeds into the domain of those who critique “political correctness” as some sort of outlandish restraint on their freedom. Political correctness is a positive social quality, to my mind, and it doesn’t just mean not saying things you might otherwise say; it means learning how to say them in a way that makes it possible for people with very different sensitivities (draw from different political and historical experiences) to begin to work together. Torvald, by contrast, seems to think that there are these “natural” affinities between people, and by implication that one can act “naturally” (i.e. his “explosive emails”) without fear of causing pain or damage, or breaking down communication.

            All in all, this is a pretty shallow – and I would say just flat wrong – conception of human psychology. In fact, Torvalds repeated use of the word “natural” is pretty revealing. I suspect it’s wrapped up with a rather explicit rejection of the findings of modern psychology, which largely rejected naturalistic models of the human “character” turning instead to a model of the structured relational model of the human personality, that is built up over time, and is deeply affected by human relationships and communication.

            1. 3

              “Acting professionally” doesn’t have to mean playing the sorts of political games that Linus professes to dislike in that email. It can mean acting like an adult, one that takes other people’s essential dignity into account when interacting with them.

              Or, it can mean being a cowardly douchebag over email, where there’s no chance of getting a well-deserved punch in the snoot.

              1. 1

                Or you could get therapy I suppose.