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    I agree that Linus is sometimes overly rude and unnecessarily personal. On the other hand, one immediately knows how strongly Linus feels about what issues. This has value and is probably why many people are ready to defend this tone. But maybe there is a middle ground.

    So while I like Gary’s proposed version in general, I think it was toned down too much and could use more assertiveness/confidence. Small example:

    Original:

    I’m not talking about the changes themselves - I can live with them. But the rationale is pure and utter garbage, and dangerously so.

    Gary’s version:

    These changes look OK, but I’m not sure about the rationale.

    My attempt:

    I can accept the changes itself, but I absolutely disagree with the rationale.

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      I like your version better as well. (I wrote the post.)

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      Usually, if you read up on the pre-story, the people beeing scolded have likely repeatedly and diliberatly ignored some rather clear and obvious guidelines for linux kernel development. I mean, what are you going to do if someone will insist on not understanding gentle nudging in the right direction? At one point you gotta escalate, …

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        what are you going to do if someone will insist on not understanding gentle nudging in the right direction

        Just not merge the patch?

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          That is a quite passive aggressive. I prefer hearing someones opinion, rather than getting the silient treatment.

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        As with most of Gary Bernhardt’s writing, I loved this piece. I read it several times over, as I find his writing often deeply interesting. To me, this is a great case study in judgement through attempting to apply Americanized principles to speech between two non-Americans (a Pole and a Finn) communicating in a second language.

        There are several facets at play here as I see it:

        1. There’s a generational difference between older hackers and newer ones. For older hackers, the code is all that matters, niceties be damned. Newer hackers care about politeness and being treated well. Some of this is a product of money coming in since the 90s, and people who never would’ve been hackers in the past are hackers now.

        2. Linux is Linus’ own project. He’s not going to change. He’s not going to go away. If you don’t like the way he behaves, fork it. Run your own Linux fork the way you want, and you’ll see whether or not the niceties matters. Con Kolivas did this for years.

        3. There are definitely cultural issues at play. While Linus has a lot of exposure to American culture, he’s Finnish. Finnish people are not like Americans. I find the American obsession with not upsetting people often infuriatingly two-faced, and I’m British. I have various friends in other countries who find the much more minor but still present British obsession with not upsetting people two-faced, and they’re right.

        Go to Poland, fuck up and people will tell you. Go to Germany, do something wrong and people will correct you. Go to Finland, do something stupid getting in the way of a person’s job and probably they’ll swear at you in Finnish. I’m not saying this is right, or wrong, it’s just the rest of the world works differently to you, and while you can scream at the sea about perceived injustices, the sea will not change it’s tides for you.

        Yes Linus is being a jerk, but it’s not like this is an unknown quantity. Linus doesn’t owe you kindness. You don’t owe Linus respect either. If his behaviour is that important to you, don’t use Linux.

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          Finnish people are not like Americans. I find the American obsession with not upsetting people often infuriatingly two-faced […]

          • I think this is a false comparison of some sort. Americans worrying doesn’t say anything useful about Finns.
          • I emphatically disagree that Linus is representative of the social culture around me in Finland.
          • Nonviolent, clear communication is not the same thing as avoiding difficult subjects. It’s the opposite!
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            I think this is a false comparison of some sort. Americans worrying doesn’t say anything useful about Finns.

            In my experience of dealing with Finns, they don’t sugar coat things. When something is needed to be said, the Finns I’ve interacted with are extremely direct and to the point, compared to some other cultures. Would you say that’s fair?

            I emphatically disagree that Linus is representative of the social culture around me in Finland.

            I didn’t say that he’s representative of Finnish culture. He’s a product of it. He wasn’t raised American. He didn’t grow up immersed in American culture and values. It would be unrealistic to expect him to hold or conform to American values.

            Nonviolent, clear communication is not the same thing as avoiding difficult subjects. It’s the opposite!

            Definitely! Out of interest, what are your thoughts on this in terms of applicability to his communication style? I’m fairly certain there’s a general asshole element to his style, but I wonder how much (if any) is influenced by this.

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              He didn’t grow up immersed in American culture and values. It would be unrealistic to expect him to hold or conform to American values.

              As an Italian, I can say that after the WWII, US did a great job to spread their culture in Europe.
              Initially to counter the “Bolsheviks” influx, later as a carrier for their products.

              They have been largely successful.
              Indeed, I love Joplin just like I love Vivaldi, Mozart and Beethoven! :-)
              But we have thousands years of variegate history, so we are not going to completely conform anyway. After all, we are proud of our deep differences, as they enrich us.

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                At the risk of getting into semantics, Finland was much more neutral post WWII than other European nations due to realpolitik.

                Also, there is something to say for Italian insults, by far some of the finest and most perverse, blasphemous poetry I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. It’s the sort of level of filth that takes thousands of years to age well :)

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                  Actually the Invettiva is a literary gender on its own, that date back to ancient Greek.

                  In Italian, there are several passages of Dante’s Divina Commedia that belong to the genre and are spectacular examples of the art you describe.

                  But since we are talking about jerk, I will quote Marziale, from memory: 2000 years later we still memorize his lines at school

                  Os et labras tibi lingit, Menneia, catellus.
                  Non miror, merdas si libet esse cani.

                  Nothing Linus can say will ever compete! ;-)

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                    Os et labras tibi lingit, Menneia, catellus. Non miror, merdas si libet esse cani.

                    Google translates this as

                    Your mouth and lip licking, Menneas, catelle. I am not surprised, merda, if you like to be for the dog.

                    Which I assume is horribly wrong. Is it possible to translate for us non-worldly folks who only know English? :-)

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                      The translation from Latin is roughly

                      The little dog licks your mouth and lips.
                      Not a surprise: dogs like to eat shits.

                      It’s one of Martial’s Epygrams.
                      Not even one of the worse!

                      It’s worth noticing how nothing else remains of Menneia. And the same can be said of several people targeted by his insults.

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                        Hah, that’s great. Thank you!

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            speech between two non-Americans (a Pole and a Finn) communicating in a second language.

            How is that relevant? On my current team, we have developers from Argentina, Bosnia, Brazil, China, India, Korea, and Poland, as well as several Americans (myself included). Yet as far as I can recall from the year that I’ve been on this team so far, all of our written communication has been civil. And even in spoken communication, as far as I can recall, nobody uses profanity to berate one another. To be fair, this is in a US-based corporate environment. Still, I don’t believe English being a second language is a reason to not be civil in written communication.

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              You’re comparing Linux, a Finnish-invented, international, volunteer-based non-corporate project to a US-based corporate environment, and judging Linus’ communications against your perception of a US-based corporate environment. You’re doing the same thing as the author, projecting your own values onto something that doesn’t share those values.

              Additionally, by putting the words I’ve said, and following that up with a reference to a US-based corporate environment, you’ve judged the words of a non-American who wasn’t speaking to you by your own US-based corporate standards.

              I hope that helps you understand my point more clearly. My point isn’t that Linus does or doesn’t act an asshole (he does), but that expecting non-Americans to adhere to American values, standards or norms is unrealistic at best, and cultural colonialism at worst.

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              For older hackers, the code is all that matters, niceties be damned. [..]
              Some of this is a product of money coming in since the 90s, and people who never would’ve been hackers in the past are hackers now.

              No, people who would’ve never been hackers in the past, are not hackers now either.
              And hackers have always cared about more than code. Hacking has always been a political act.

              Linus is not a jerk, his behaviour is pretty deliberate. He does not want to conform.
              He is not much different from Dijkstra, Stallman or Assange.

              Today, cool kids who do not understand what hacking is, insult hackers while calling themselves hackers.

              Guess what? Hackers do care about your polite corporate image as much as they do care about dress code.

              There are definitely cultural issues at play.

              Not an issue. It’s a feature! Hackers around the world are different.

              And we are proud of the differences, because they help us to break mainstream groupthink.

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                Hacking has always been a political act.

                This is a really interesting idea! I’m seeing this kind of idea more and more these days and I haven’t been able to work out what it means. I guess you don’t mean something as specific as “Hacking has always been in favour of a particular political ideology” nor something as general as “Hacking has always had an effect on reality”. So could you say something more precise about what you mean by that?

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                  This is a good question that is worth of a deep answer. I’ll rush a fast one here, but I might write something more in the near future.

                  All hacks are political, but some are more evidently so. An example is Stallman’s GNU GPL. Actually the whole GNU project is very political. Almost as political as BSDs. Another evidently political hack was done by Cambridge Analytica with Facebook’s user data.

                  The core value of hackers activity is curiosity: hackers want to learn. We value freedom and sharing as a mean to get more knowledge for the humanity.

                  As such, hacking is always political: its goal is always to affect (theoretically, to improve) the community in one way or another.

                  Challenging laws or authorities is something that follows naturally from such value, but it’s not done to get power or profit, just to learn (and show) something new. This shows how misleading is who distinguish hats’ colours: if you are an hacker you won’t have problems to violate stupid laws to learn and/or share some knowledge, be it a secret military cablage, how to break a DRM system or how to modify a game console: it’s not the economical benefit you are looking for, but the knowledge. The very simple fact that some knowledge is restricted, forbidden or simply unexplored, is a strong incentive for an hacker to try to gain it, using her knowledge and creativity.

                  But even the most apparently innocent hack is political!
                  See Rust, Go, Haskell or Oberon: each with its own vision of how and who should program and of what one should expect from a software.
                  See HTTP browsers: very political tools that let strangers from a different state run code (soon assembly-like) on your pc (ironically with your consent!).
                  See Windows, Debian GNU/Linux or OpenBSD: each powerful operating systems which their own values and strong political vision (yes, even OpenBSD).
                  See ESR appropriation of the jergon file (not much curiosity here actually, just a pursuit for power)!

                  Curiosity is not the only value of an hacker, but all hackers share such value.

                  Now, this is also a value each hacker express in a different way: I want everyone to become an hacker, because I think this would benefit the whole humanity. Others don’t want to talk about the political responsibility of hacking because they align with the regime they live in (be it Silicon Valley, Raqqa, Moscow or whatever), and politically aware hackers might subvert it.

                  But even if you don’t want to acknowledge such responsibility, if you hack, you are politically active, for better or worse.

                  That’s also the main difference between free software and open source software, for example: free software fully acknowledge such ethical (and thus political) responsibility, open source negate it.

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                    Hacking has always been a political act.

                    So if I understand you correctly you are saying something much closer to “Hacking has always attempted to change the world” than “Hacking has always been in support of a political party”.

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                      Politics is to political parties, what economy is to bankers.

                      If you read “Hacking has always been a political act” as something related to political parties, you should really delve deeper in the history of politics from ancient Athens onwards.

                      “Hacking has always attempted to change the world”

                      No.
                      This is a neutral statement that could be the perfect motto/tagline for a startup or a war.

                      Hacking and politics are not neutral. They are both strongly oriented.

                      Politics is oriented to benefit the polis.
                      Indeed, lobbying for particular interests is not politics at all.

                      Hacking is not neutral either.
                      Hacking is rooted in the international scientific research that was born (at least) in Middle Age.

                      Hackers solve human problems. For all humans. Through our Curiosity.

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                        IMO, you’re defining “Hacking is political” to the point of uselessness. Basically, nothing is apolitical in your world. Walking down the street is a political statement on the freedom to walk. Maybe that’s useful in a warzone but in the country I live in it’s a basic right to the point of being part of the environment. I don’t see this really being a meaningful or valuable way to talk about things. I think, instead, it’s probably more useful for people to say “I want to be political and the way I will accomplish this is through hacking”.

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                          Basically, nothing is apolitical in your world.

                          Read more carefully.
                          Every human action can serve the polis, but several human actions are not political.

                          Hacking, instead, is political in its very essence. Just like Science. And Math.

                          Maybe it’s the nature of knowledge: an evolutive advantage for the humanity as a whole.
                          Or maybe it is just an intuitive optimization that serves hackers’ curiosity: the more I share my discoveries, the more brains can build upon them, the more interesting things I can learn from others, the more problem solved, the more time for more challenging problems…

                          For sure, everyone can negate or refuse the political responsibility that comes from hacking, but such behaviour is political anyway, even if short-sight.

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                            I just don’t see it. I think you’re claiming real estate on terminology in order to own a perspective. In my opinion, intent is usually the dominating factor, for example murder vs manslaughter (hey, I’m watching crime drama right now). Or a hate crime vs just beating someone up.

                            You say:

                            As such, hacking is always political: its goal is always to affect (theoretically, to improve) the community in one way or another.

                            But I know plenty of people who do what would generally be described as hacking with no such intent. It may be a consequence that the community is affected but often times it’s pretty unlikely and definitely not what they were trying to do.

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                              Saying that “intent is usually the dominating factor” is a political act. :-)

                              It’s like talking about FLOSS or FOSS, like if free software and open source were the same thing. It’s not just false, it does not work.

                              Indeed it creates a whole serie of misunderstanding and contraddictions that are easily dismissed if you simply recognise the difference between the two world.

                              Now, I agree that Hacking and Engineering overlap.
                              But they differ more than Murders and Manslaughters.

                              Because hackers use engineering.

                              And despite the fact that people abuse all technical terms, we still need proper terms and definitions.
                              So despite the fact that everyone apparently want to leverage terms like “hacking” and “freedom” in their own marketing, we still need to distinguish hackers from engineers and free software from open source.

                              And honestly I think it’s easy to take them apart, in both cases.

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                          Could you help me understand better then your usage of the word “politics” because I don’t think it’s one that I am familiar with.

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                            Good question! You caught me completely off-guard!
                            Which is crazy, given my faculty at University was called “Political Science”!

                            I use the term “Politics” according to the original meaning.

                            Politics is the human activity that creates, manages and preserves the polis.

                            Polis was the word ancient Greeks used for the “city”, but by extension we use it for any “community”. In our global, interconnected world, the polis is the whole mankind.

                            So Politics is the set of activities people do to participate to our collective life.

                            One of my professors used to define it as “the art of living together”.
                            Another one, roughly as “the science of managing power for/over a community”.

                            Anyway, the value of a political act depends on how it make the community stronger or weaker. Thus politics is rarely neutral. And so is hacking.

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                              Thanks a lot. That does make things clearer. However I am still confused why under the definition of “Politics is the human activity that creates, manages and preserves the polis.” I admit that I don’t understand what ‘Saying that “intent is usually the dominating factor” is a political act’ but at least I now have a framework in which to think about it more.

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                  That’s very good explanation. I might add:

                  • The author has the luxury of not having to worry about people dying because they didn’t get the message.
                  • The author has the luxury of only caring about the message being understood by his own cultural sub-group.

                  Linus has none of these luxuries. He cannot err on the side of being too subtle.

                  This blog post is just another instance of an American that believes that the rest of the world has to revolve around his cultural norms.

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                    I think the author did a pretty good job of editing the message in such a way that it was more clear, more direct, and equally forceful, while ensuring that all of that force was directed in a way relevant to the topic at hand.

                    (Linus has strong & interesting ideas about standardization & particular features. I would love to read an essay about them. The response to a tangentially-related PR is not a convenient place to put those positions: they distract from the topic of the PR, and also make it difficult to find those positions for people who are more interested in them than in the topic of the PR.)

                    The resulting message contains all of the on-topic information, without extraneous crap. It uses strong language and emphasis, but limits it to Linus’s complaints about the actually-submitted code – in other words, the material that should be emphasized. It removes repetition.

                    There is nothing subtle about the resulting message. Unlike the original message, it’s very hard to misread as an unrelated tangent about standardization practices that doesn’t address the reasons for rejecting the PR at all.

                    The core policy being implemented here is not “be nice in order to avoid hurting feelings”, but “remove irrelevant rants in order to focus anger effectively”. This is something I can get behind.

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                    I find the American obsession with not upsetting people often infuriatingly two-faced, and I’m British.

                    […]

                    Go to Poland, fuck up and people will tell you. Go to Germany, do something wrong and people will correct you. Go to Finland, do something stupid getting in the way of a person’s job and probably they’ll swear at you in Finnish.

                    Just wanted to point out that America is a huge country and its population is not homogenous. For example, you could have replaced Poland, Germany, and Finland with “Boston” and still have been correct (though, they’d just swear at you in English 🙂).

                    I think because most American tech comes out of San Francisco/Silicon Valley that it skews what is presented as “Americanized principals” to the international tech community.

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                      Just wanted to point out that America is a huge country and its population is not homogenous.

                      Down here in the South, they have an interesting mix of trying to look/sound more civil or being blunt in a way that lets someone know they don’t like them or think they’re stupid. Varies by group, town, and context. There’s plenty of trash talking depending on that. Linus’s style would fit in pretty well with some of them.

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                      If his behaviour is that important to you, don’t use Linux.

                      Rather don’t develop the kernel. One can use Linux without having ever heard the nettle Torvalds (the majority I guess)

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                      so probably don’t put this on text-to-speech unless you want people around you to hear profanity.

                      This seems like an odd thing to specifically call out. I think it’s a safe bet that people who use screen readers in a shared office environment use headphones, unless they specifically want a coworker to hear something. That’s certainly what I do.

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                        Meanwhile, a friend of mine just got a response on a PR. Written in nice polite professional prose: “Sure, we can merge that, thanks for this improvement, but would you first please …” and that’s where it spun off into senselessness. It was all politely written, no swearing, but made no sense.

                        Linus will swear. And read the code. And understand both the code and what you tried to do, and have a decent idea of what’s achievable.

                        It seems to me that some people really mind the swearing, and do not realise that everyone has faults. Complaining about swearing isn’t a step towards faultless people, it’s effectively pushing us towards other faults, the ones that get no complaints.

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                          Why is there a dichotomy? Why would reducing rudeness be “pushing us towards other faults”?

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                            Removing or reducing one fault doesn’t necessarily imply the rise of another. Someone can both say nonsense and be a jerk at the same time, but I’d rather they just say nonsense.

                            I’ve certainly responded to PRs with nonsense occasionally. It happens, because I didn’t read closely enough or just missed something. But I at least try not to be jerk.

                            Should people be jerks? I’d rather not. At least try not to.

                            Should people say nonsense? Again, I’d rather not.

                            The world doesn’t have to be seen as black or white. People can ask others to not be a jerk without simultaneously endorsing the rise of nonsense.

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                              It seems to me that some people really mind the swearing

                              I’m from New England. I swear a lot.

                              That said, Torvald’s candor is unacceptable. There’s no reason to devolve into namecalling (“moron”, “brain damaged”) that’s clear intent is to hurt feelings.

                              So no, I don’t mind the word “fuck.” However, I really fucking mind it when people insult other’s intelligence with the intentionality of hurting their feelings. Who would want to work on a project like that? I know that I wouldn’t.

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                                Pretty sure being crude and being nonsensical both garner complaints, for example, you’re complaining about your friend’s nonsensical PR response, and the author here is complaining about Linus’s crude and belittling language.

                                While understanding the issues is much appreciated, so is not being a jerk. Technical skills have brought us this far, but soft skills will help bring us to a future where more and more people are willing to get involved with open-source (and other) projects.

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                                  I don’t think the article is about swearing. It’s about verbal abuse and how to convey the same information without attacking the recipient.

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                                    You hit the nail on the head. I feel like we’re moving rapidly towards a culture of, “Let’s all celebrate diversity and embrace inclusion, except for those who we disagree with who are just going to have to change their barbaric ways.”

                                    For every person who is offended by swear words (I mean, words of all things) there’s someone else who reads a phrase like, “this is pure and utter bullshit,” who thinks, man, this person is really passionate about what they’re talking about, maybe they have something interesting to say.

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                                    This blog post: a case study in being a jerk to someone who is being a jerk, only since Linus is a “jerk” you get off scott-free. Unsurprisingly, this is written by someone who has never contributed to the Linux kernel and who was uninvolved in the discussion he’s picking apart.

                                    The revised email at the end does lose information. Contrary to what hipsters write blog posts complaining about, 99% of Linus’s emails are cordial. The information that’s lost is the conveyance that this is more important to Linus than most subjects.

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                                      This comment: a case study in being a jerk to someone who is being a jerk to a jerk.

                                      In all seriousness, I don’t believe that Gary Bernhardt is being a jerk at all. There’s a line between being critical of a piece of work and calling someone brain damaged, and hopefully, we all can see the difference.

                                      Aside: I love when people use the word “hipster” to invalidate other viewpoints. Apparently, there are two modes of being: Being Right and Being A Hipster.

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                                        To the unserious comment, I don’t think I was being a jerk. I called him a jerk, which I guess you could argue is a jerk move under any circumstances, but if I’m being a jerk then so is Gary.

                                        To the serious comment, I just want to note that “brain damaged” is a meme among old school hackers which isn’t as strong of a word as you think.

                                        To the aside, I don’t use hipster as an insult or to imply wrongness, but I do use it to invalidate his point. Gary is a Ruby developer. Linus is a kernel developer. The worlds are far removed from each other.

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                                          I’ve put tens of thousands of lines of C into production, including multiple Linux kernel drivers. In one case, those kernel drivers were critical-path code on a device used in strain testing the wings of an airplane that you might’ve flown in by now.

                                          I’m not a stranger to the kernel; I just left that world. Behavior like Linus’ in that email was part of the reason, though far from the only reason.

                                          With all of that said: having written a bunch of systems software shouldn’t be a prerequisite for suggesting that we avoid attacking people personally when they make programming mistakes, or what we suspect are programming mistakes.

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                                            Exactly. I’ve also met many people that do high-performance, embedded, and/or safety-critical code in C that are more polite in these situations. Linus’ attitude is a separate issue from what’s necessary to evaluate and constructively criticize code.

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                                            “brain damaged” is a meme among old school hackers which isn’t as strong of a word as you think.

                                            Yikes. That “meme” is a whole other thing I don’t even care to unpack right now.

                                            I don’t use hipster as an insult or to imply wrongness, but I do use it to invalidate his point. Gary is a Ruby developer. Linus is a kernel developer. The worlds are far removed from each other.

                                            Gotcha. Kernal developer == real old-school hacker. Ruby developer == script kiddie hipster. Are we really still having this argument in 2018?

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                                              Yikes. That “meme” is a whole other thing I don’t even care to unpack right now.

                                              “Brain damaged” is a term from back in the Multics days, Linus didn’t make that one up for the occasion. If you’re unfamiliar with the “jargon file” aka hacker dictionary, you can see the history of this particular term here: http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/B/brain-damaged.html

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                                                Yikes. That “meme” is a whole other thing I don’t even care to unpack right now.

                                                Listen, cultures are different and culture shock is a thing. I’m in a thread full of foreigners shocked that customs are different elsewhere. You better just take my word for it on “brain damaged” because you clearly aren’t a member of this culture and don’t know what you’re talking about.

                                                Gotcha. Kernal developer == real old-school hacker. Ruby developer == script kiddie hipster. Are we really still having this argument in 2018?

                                                How about you quit putting words in my mouth? Do you really need me to explain the world of difference between Ruby development and kernel hacking? In 2018? It’s not a matter of skill. Gary is great at what he does, but it has almost nothing to do with what Linus does. The people who surround Gary and the people who surround Linus are mutually exclusive groups with different cultural norms.

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                                                  You can’t use “it’s our culture” as a panacea; calling someone an idiot, moron etc. is a deliberate attempt to hurt them. I guess if what you’re saying is, “it’s our culture to intentionally hurt the feelings of people who have bad ideas,” well, then we might be at an impasse.

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                                                    The kind of toxic exclusivity and “old school hacker culture” elitism that you’re spouting in this thread is not what I expect to see on Lobsters. It makes me genuinely sad to see somebody saying these things and it also makes me apprehensive of ever being involved in the same project or community as you. Software development today is not what it was 20 –or even 5– years ago. Today it is far more about people than it is about software or technology. You may not like this, but it is the reality.

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                                                      Lobste.rs always had a few vocal people like this in threads. But note that they’re in the minority and generally are not upvoted as much as the people who aren’t elitist, racist, or just generally being a jerk.

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                                                        “old school hacker culture” elitism

                                                        Near 40, I can agree to be called old. But not elitist.
                                                        And I cannot accept to be associated with racist.

                                                        Not all software developers are hackers. Not all hackers are software developers.

                                                        Is stating this “elitism”? Is it “racism”? Is it being “jerk”?
                                                        Or is just using terms properly?

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                                              The information that’s lost is the conveyance that this is more important to Linus than most subjects.

                                              So add “I want to stress that this issue is really important to me” at the end of the revised email.

                                              I think that making an issue out of this particular information being lost is missing the point - that it would be possible to say the same thing as Linus did without being abusive.

                                              Contrary to what hipsters write blog posts complaining about

                                              You’re falling into the same trap that the post discusses. This derision isn’t necessary to make your point, and doesn’t make it any stronger - it just adds an unnecessary insult.

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                                                Contrary to what hipsters write blog posts complaining about, 99% of Linus’s emails are cordial.

                                                That may well be true, but do we need that last 1% in a professional setting?

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                                                  (I am not defending Linus’ behaviour here, please don’t put those words in my mouth.)

                                                  I strongly take issue with American ideas of “professionalism”, and an even more so with the idea that we get to decide whether this project is “a professional setting” or not. What exactly makes this a “professional setting”? What is a “professional setting”? Why do we hold some interactions to higher standards than others?

                                                  I suspect “money changing hands” is the thing that makes this “a professional setting”, and that grinds my gears even further. Why are we supposed to hold ourselves to different standards just because some people are getting paid for doing it?

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                                                    Right, “professionalism” implies that you only need to be nice to somebody when you want them to something for you or want their money. This should actually be about “respect”, whether or not you want a Linux contributor to do something for you or want their money.

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                                                    The Linux kernel is not a professional setting. Besides, I argue that the 1% is useful, even in a professional setting - sometimes strong words are called for. I’ll be That Guy and say that people should grow a thicker skin, especially people who weren’t even the subject of the email and have never been involved in kernel development.

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                                                      If I look at who the contributors to the Linux kernel are, it would certainly appear to be a professional endeavor.

                                                      A large chunk of contributions to the kernel are made by people who are getting paid by the companies they work for to contribute. Sounds like a professional setting to me.

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                                                        Linux development is only “a professional endeavour” (which is a phrase I have strong issues with, see above) because some people decided to build their businesses in Linus’ craft room. We can like or dislike Linus’ behaviour, but we don’t get to ascribe “professionalism” or lack thereof (if there even is such a thing) to Linus’ work or behaviour, or that of any of the contributors.

                                                        Even if “professionalism” is an actual thing (it’s not; it’s just a tool used by people in power to keep others down) it’s between the people doing the paying, and the people getting the pay, and has nothing to do with any of us.

                                                        This idea that people should behave differently when there’s money involved is completely offensive to me.

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                                                          But it’s not. It’s a collaboration between everyone, including professionals and hobbyists. The largest group of kernel contributors are volunteers. On top of that, Linus doesn’t have to answer to anyone.

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                                                            So, having a hobbyist involved means that you can be dickhead? Is that the conclusion that should be drawn from your statements?

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                                                              No. I’m saying that Linus is not a dickhead, Linux is not a professional endeavour, and neither should be held to contrived professional standards.

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                                                                “I’m saying that Linus is not a dickhead”

                                                                His comments are proving otherwise given the main article shows the same information could’ve been conveyed without all the profanity, personal insults, and so on. He must be adding that fluff because he enjoys it or has self-control issues. He’s intentionally or accidentally a dick. I say that as a satirist whose a dick to people that give me headaches in real life. Although it doesn’t take one to know one, being someone whose always countering dicks and assholes with some dickish habits of his own makes what Linus is doing more evident. If no mental illness, there’s little excuse past him not giving a shit.

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                                                                  “doesn’t behave according to my cultural norms” == “mental illness”

                                                                  Seriously?

                                                                  I would really appreciate it if you could stop expecting that your cultural norms have to apply to everyone on the planet.

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                                                                    Im identifying the cultural norm of being an asshole, saying it applies to him at times, and saying the project would benefit if he knocked if off. Im not forcing my norms on anyone.

                                                                    Your comment is more amusing giving someone with Linus’s norns might just reply with profanity and personsl insults. Then, you might be complaining about that. ;)

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                                                                      Then, you might be complaining about that. ;)

                                                                      No, I’d just accept that people from different cultures behave differently.

                                                                      Let’s face it, most people hate getting told they are wrong, regardless of the tone. That’s just how we are as humans.

                                                                      Taking offense about the tone just seems very US-specific, as they are accustomed to receiving some special superpowers in a discussion by uttering “I’m offended”.

                                                                      Some of the best feedback I received in my life wouldn’t be considered acceptable by US standards and I simply don’t care – I just appreciate the fact that someone took his time to spell out the technical problems.

                                                                      Here is a recent example: https://github.com/rust-lang/cargo/pull/5183#issuecomment-381449546

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                                                                        Here is a recent example: https://github.com/rust-lang/cargo/pull/5183#issuecomment-381449546

                                                                        I’m not familiar with Rust, so maybe I’m missing crucial context, but I read this feedback as firm but unproblematic overall. Compared to Linus’ email:

                                                                        • Comment admits that there are multiple points of view, gives case for their take on it.
                                                                        • Focuses on the problems at hand rather than speculating on characteristics of any individuals involved, beyond acknowledging other viewpoints.
                                                                        • Doesn’t include any personal insults.
                                                                        • Doesn’t include any profanity that I noticed, certainly not gratuituous profanity.

                                                                        It could be nicer, sure. But it seemed respectful, in the “you can do what you’re doing but consider these things:” kind of way…? The author event went out of their way to acknowledge being unconstructive.

                                                                        To my reading it seemed closer to Gary’s email than Linus’.

                                                                        To put it another way: if Linus wrote emails like this (only shorter, probably) then I don’t think Gary would have written a blog post about it.

                                                                        (For the record: I’m not American, but I do fall on the gee-it’d-be-great-if-Linus-stopped-abusing-his-colleagues side of this debate.)

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                                                                          I didn’t intend to imply that this was comparable to Linus’ mail, but that people who would be offended by Linus’ writing would also be offended by that comment.

                                                                          It’s a slippery slide where every honest-to-go comment that expresses real feelings starts getting replaced by “this is an interesting idea, but did you consider …” corporate lingo, even if the code is horribly wrong.

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                                                                            I didn’t intend to imply that this was comparable to Linus’ mail, but that people who would be offended by Linus’ writing would also be offended by that comment.

                                                                            I understand this is your point, but I think there is no evidence for this. The people complaining about Linus’ conduct are complaining about specific things, and these things are not present in the comment you linked.

                                                                            Did anyone in the Rust community (generally considered a “nicer” community than kernel development) raise concerns about this comment?

                                                                            There is a difference between “not overtly nice” and “openly abusive”, even accounting for cultural context.

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                                                                          Then you and I arent that different in how we look at stuff. Ive just layered on top of it a push for project owners to do what’s most effective on social side.

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                                                                      I believe it’s intentional. He does not want to be bothered by nurturing the newbs, so he deters them from going to him directly and forces them to do their learning elsewhere.

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                                                                      These numbers suggest it is a professional endeavor:

                                                                      https://thenewstack.io/contributes-linux-kernel/

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                                                                        Those numbers just break down the professionals involved, and don’t consider the volunteers. If you sum the percentages in that article you get around 40%. Even accomodating for smaller companies that didn’t make the top N companies, that’s a pretty big discrepancy.

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                                                                Linus himself is working in a professional capacity. He’s employed by the Linux Foundation to work on Linux. The fact he is employed to work on an open source project that he founded doesn’t make that situation non-professional.

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                                                            If you were in the “I’m afraid that being nicer would hurt Linux” group, do you think that this email is worse? Is there any risk of a reader not understanding that the author disapproves of their reasoning and thinks that it’s dangerous?

                                                            I think this email is “friendlier”, but more in a service worker to customer sense. I think the swearing is definitely not needed, and should be avoided, but things like emphasis and repetition of points shouldn’t have been edited out. Being friendly doesn’t have to exclude having a personal style.

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                                                              The article basically boils down to “be nice to people.” That’s generally good advice and something we should all strive for. I also think Linus’ emails are pretty good examples to use when showing someone how to use a more politically correct tone in a business setting.

                                                              However, the LKML is not a business setting. Linus’ no-bullshit communication style may cause some to abandon the kernel development community but it also encourages many others to join or stay because he makes his opinions and what he cares about refreshingly clear. Leadership requires charisma and passion and Linus has both of those. He doesn’t care what people think of him as a person, he cares about doing good work. I’m not a kernel developer, but I would work for Linus. I don’t even know him personally but when someone is this direct, you know exactly where they stand and what they expect of you, which is more than I can say for most managers I’ve ever had.

                                                              How many of us have gotten an email from someone that was pages long and so shrouded in filler language, qualifications, and weasel words that you couldn’t tell what it was they were actually trying to say? I personally get these all the time, usually from management or marketing types. If the purpose of communication is to transfer knowledge and ideas between people, then obscuring the message to prioritize niceness instead is directly at odds with the goal. I can’t tell you how many emails I have flat-out deleted because I couldn’t be bothered to read between the lines to infer the hidden message.

                                                              Moreover, we are probably missing context here. Linus generally does not break out the cursing and rudeness the very first time he expresses an opinion on something. It’s only after someone else has ignored his technical objections several times that he calls them out on it using very strong language. Some people, for some reason, do not take what you say seriously until you get exceedingly direct about it.

                                                              Finally, there is the maxim, “offense is not given, it is taken.” It is literally impossible to say something that won’t upset some group of people. /Intentionally/ hurting someone’s feeling is being a jerk. Prioritizing the message over the tone, as long as you’re not being deliberately abusive, is not.

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                                                                We won’t do much editing for grammar or meaning;

                                                                […]

                                                                We probably don’t need to talk about “f*cking moron”. The caps in “AND STANDARD” is another way to indicate frustration, like the “honestly” above. […] None of these carry any meaning about the technical problem; they’re just expressions of anger.

                                                                […]

                                                                This is a much better email. It has 43% as many words, but loses none of the meaning.

                                                                Do you see the problem? You are absolutely changing the meaning of the text… except for the technical bits. While the original email expressed anger and frustration at valuing standards over reality, your take makes the technical points alright, but stops there: it conveys none of the feelings the original author had and expressed in his rant.

                                                                You allude to this omission when you say “None of these carry any meaning about the technical problem” and justify it by saying “they’re just expressions of anger.”. The assumption here is that anger and frustration are not valid feelings to express in this context, probably because you regard interactions on the LKML as part of a professional, corporate setting, and in the beginning you say:

                                                                If you insult people in professional interactions, you’ll find yourself increasingly alienated and excluded simply because people don’t like being insulted!

                                                                But that makes me wonder… we’re talking about Linus Torvalds here, who has been doing that exact thing for decades, on public mailing lists, for all the world to see, including a quarrel with a world-renowned professor when he was still a student himself. And while that does earn him some occasional backlash, I think he is hardly alienated or excluded by his collaborators; to the contrary, he fostered a community that made his little project… quite the success, one might say.

                                                                How come? I agree that insulting people in a corporate environment will usually not end well, so the answer must be that LKML was not always a corporate place, and still is not to the degree that Linus and other prominent maintainers are sticking to their ways, in spite of pressure to assimilate into the culture of the corporations that have embraced Linux development. And this, it seems to me, is at the heart of the matter: from occasionally rough but also playful “hacker culture”, where strong feelings are held and things can get emotional, has emerged something that, for various reasons, big tech firms embrace and engage in. But their cultures eschew having soul in the game and impoliteness is not tolerated, so when actors from these two cultures collaborate, sometimes attitudes will clash and sparks will fly.

                                                                Now, I don’t want to convince you that hacker culture is “right” in some way and socially tolerating some anger and insults is a good thing, except for noting, again, that it has some very successful projects to stand for it, otherwise we would not be talking about it. But what really bothers me is the cultural imperialism that I see in posts hating on Linus like yours does. As far as I can tell, you just came across a post with his mail and thought you’d bash on him some for his Bad Character. OK, that is a little unfair, because you made an effort to be constructive in your moralizing, but my point is, you were not involved in this incident, nor, as far as I can tell, any similar ones. Your only reason to engage is to promote your own culture, because it is Right and being angry is Wrong. You’re not content with letting the kernel community work things out on their own, because you know what is Right and Linus is Wrong and has to change. This galls me. At its heart this is the same attitude that led to indigenous cultures being destroyed around the globe. “We’ll show you how it’s done, and we need your land/kernel”.

                                                                Human culture and society is a deeply complex topic, and anything we think we know is probably wrong to some degree. Instead of going on crusades, however politely executed, I think we should be striving for tolerance and collaboration and work the inevitable problems out on the ground as they come. Just don’t shoot arrows across the river, please?

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                                                                  In Torvald’s defense, his original never attacks any actual person, except for the hypothetical programmer who fails to use the flags to defeat strict aliasing. His insults are for the standards, the operation of the compilers, various ideas, etc. He never says that any actual person has negative qualities.