We all know and love Linus Torvalds. He not only created Linux, but he has also remained the operating systems’ developer-in-chief since its creation. Along the way, he’s also gathered something of a reputation: Linus does not suffer fools gladly.
Case in point: About a year ago, Linus informed the software development community that if they submitted pull requests to the Linux kernel via GitHub’s pull request feature, he would ignore those pulls. Linus feels that GitHub does not properly implement pulls. Even worse, he had simply been ignoring everyone’s merge requests on GitHub for quite some time, and it was basically a surprise to everyone that he’d been enacting this policy. As such, many, many developers with proposed changes to the Linux kernel had been long ignored without any real explanation.
More recently (yesterday, as a matter of fact), kernel contributor Sarah Sharp called Linus’ sometimes-caustic manners to task on the Linux Kernel Mailing list.
It all started when Linus called Greg Kroah-Hartman a doormat. “Greg, the reason you get a lot of stable patches seems to be that you make it easy to act as a door-mat. Clearly at least some people say, ‘I know this patch isn’t important enough to send to Linus, but I know Greg will silently accept it after the fact, so I’ll just wait and mark it for stable. You may need to learn to shout at people,’ ” wrote Linus.
This touched off a bit of a discussion about just how mean Linus can be. He’s renown for letting people know when their patch submissions are sub-standard, and for doing so in a way that doesn’t exactly take into consideration the feelings of those he’s speaking with.
Linus’ response to the request for him to be a bit more civil? The tl;dr version is, “Y’all are talking about feelings, I want to talk about code.” The actual response is a bit more longwinded. From Linus:
So as far as I’m concerned, the discussion is about “how to work together DESPITE people being different.” Not about trying to make everybody please each other. Because I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll continue cursing. To me, the discussion would be about how to work together despite these kinds of cultural differences, not about “How do we make everybody nice and sing songs sound the campfire.”
Do you think you might be interested in that kind of discussion instead of the “You are abusing me” kind of discussion?
Because if you want me to “act professional,” I can tell you that I’m not interested. I’m sitting in my home office wearing a bathrobe. The same way I’m not going to start wearing ties, I’m also not going to buy into the fake politeness, the lying, the office politics and backstabbing, the passive aggressiveness, and the buzzwords. Because THAT is what “acting professionally” results in: People resort to all kinds of really nasty things because they are forced to act out their normal urges in unnatural ways.
And the consensus online, following Linus’ post, has been pretty heavily in favor of Linus. He does have a bit of a point after all: The Linux kernel is about quality and engineering, not about resumes, corporate interests and people’s feelings.
If it were any other developer stating these things, they might be further taken to task, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone else in the world capable of doing Linus’ job of gatekeeper for the Linux kernel. Because he’s irreplaceable, it’s probably better to just let him be.