Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Linus Torvalds: 'I'll never be cuddly but I can be more polite' (bbc.co.uk)
369 points by Flenser on Sept 27, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 441 comments

His feelings about two of the "sides" of this argument are so recognisable. I'm generally in favour of going out of my way e.g. to make minorities feel more welcome to compensate for the natural tendency to make them feel less welcome. However, the nastiness of some of the people in "my camp" pushes me away from it and makes me reluctant to openly support that cause.

In effect, they're really counterproductive, and the only reason Linus is now openly on "their side" (for lack of a term that better describes what I mean), is because the "other side" also was really nasty, pushing him away from them.

It took a while for me to realise what privileges I have had that some others have not. The first step to realising that was being open to that even being possible, and shouting contests do not encourage that.

I'd love it if Linus' approach here would lead to less-heated discussions and actual insights on the subject, but the hate and vitriol I've seen spewed in his direction after his announcement doesn't make me hopeful...

Sufficiently advanced political correctness is indistinguishable from irony.

There is right and wrong way to be inclusive and PC.

You have to minimize the number of principles that everyone must share to be maximally inclusive and then stick to them. Typically the mandatory shared principles include fairness, neutrality in certain issues, and tolerance.

Tolerance means tolerance, not acceptance. The community where people can tolerate each other is much larger than the the community where people like each other and share common ground. Inclusiveness works best when you use relatively neutral language and avoid any discussion that is not related to the forum's purpose or concrete matters that arise.

The wrong way to do it is to think that once you require tolerance and PC language, it allows more free discussion.

There will always be garbage people in "your camp", whatever that camp might be. Hell, for some people in "your camp" you'll be the nasty one.

The big problem with the internet and modern social networks is that they suck at filtering the noise and getting the interesting bits. In the end if we're not careful we only hear those who shout the loudest and most provocative things. A well researched essay on gender studies will have a hard time getting traction, however a single "I drink white male tears" tweet is sure to get a ton of attention from people on either of the fence even though it's effectively void of meaning.

My solution is to spend less time focusing on people and more time focusing on ideas. You'll find that the vast majority of people are vastly less extreme than what twitter and reddit would have you believe.

>You'll find that the vast majority of people are vastly less extreme than what twitter and reddit would have you believe.

Yep. The medium itself makes everybody look about 100 times more radical than they actually are.

Look at it this way: if you're busy working on a small technical detail, your conversation will be around that detail, right? You may be an asshole, and it looks like he's working on that, but you're an asshole trying to make something useful. That is, you have a goal that you can be measured against. "I am not able to fix this problem because I cannot talk to people online without pissing them off" is a problem with delivering tech that you can identify and fix.

Sounds like your filter works for a while, as long as everybody agrees on some larger value structure.

Where all of this falls apart is when there's no larger structure that agreed upon. You see this in startups or academic/political discussions. Sometimes you know something's wrong, and you feel strongly about it -- but you're unable to articulate it in a manner that can be easily consumed. That's almost always going to come out wrong. But it needs to come out.

Contrast this with the rest of the internet, where people are not creating a small detail inside an agreed-upon value structure. There's no evaluation criteria except for bike-shedding. They've got nothing to do but to look at whatever your communication is in the abstract. There's no overall gain that might be weighed against bad phrasing. It's all downside. "I don't think that was a very nice thing to say" This can be both a true and non-productive thing to say in certain circumstances. That reality sucks, because people don't want to hear it -- after all, they don't share your value structure -- add to that plenty of time on their hands and an unlimited ability to look back on anything you've written. The system itself has problems.

> Sometimes you know something's wrong, and you feel strongly about it -- but you're unable to articulate it in a manner that can be easily consumed.

When I think about effective leaders I've known in my career, this is as good of a description of their defining skill as I've heard.

They have the ability to correctly identify an issue and then communicate it in a way that others also recognize it.

Completely agree. They don't flub around trying to figure out and contextualize issues. They're able to both categorize the issue and the disagreement and present in ways that everybody can consume.*

We're not all so lucky, though. Many times I've had to tell teams "This is going to sound right. Please forgive me because I'm concerned about X". You can't replace that kind of give-and-take with wordsmithing.

The second skill I've noticed is to be a storytelling master. Great leaders tell engaging stories that emotionally draw you into their way of seeing things.

*A problem occurs when the leader thinks they know what's going on but they are mistaken. In this case better leadership skills can actually lead to poorer overall results. I've seen good people with mission-critical ideas get "facilitated" out of them by well-meaning, nice, and intelligent people who don't know what the hell they're talking about and are unable to accept that fact. Obligatory link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg

I wish there was a way to get more of those ideas to me, and people in general, and less of the "I drink white male tears".

You have to do your own curation or have some other people do it for you. Find people who seem to say interesting things (and not merely things you agree with) and see what they have to say. Force yourself into reading those boring long essays instead of the snippets posted on social networks. Flee 24h news coverage and prefer more in-depth analysis after the fact.

The ideas don't get to you, you get to them. The rest is just entertainment. That's the whole problem really, the path of least resistance leads you to stupid one liners. A random Trump tweet reaches more people than the entirety of the works of any philosopher or economist.

We used to recognize "flamewars" and "flamebait" a lot more readily online and encourage people to not get sucked in. To separate their opinions from a shouting match that is destined to go nowhere, even when they have a stake in the topic.

Now... we don't. And I fully cast the blame at the feet of those who have found a way to profit from starting and participating in shouting matches online. This includes 95+% of journo-bloggers.

Part of the problem is that there isn't really a cohesive community on something like Twitter. It's just a mass of people. For a group to be able to deal with bad actors, there needs to be something resembling a group boundary which can be policed and defended. Twitter lets anybody waltz into any conversation they want.

I don't think that there are any garbage people. Everybody has some good in them. (This doesn't imply we shouldn't set some boundaries).

Even literal garbage has some good in it. It's just usually not worth the effort of extracting it.

People aren't like resources to be harvested: they are 'ends in themselves', i.e. with their own lives and perspectives. Also, unlike an extractable resource, their goodness is variegated.

I agree, and I think even the "I drink white male tears" people probably have good intentions. I just don't care about hearing them say they drink white male tears.

Perhaps a better wish would be to be able to hear what insights they have that I don't, without it being wrapped in a package that makes me angry.

Even Hitler has killed Hitler after all.

He made pretty okay art and cared about the suffering of animals.

>The big problem with the internet and modern social networks is that they suck at filtering the noise and getting the interesting bits.

I think the issue is that you are measuring value differently than the social networks. What you're calling "noise" is grouped under what they measure as "success." If a million people retweet an epic burn, that's "success" from Twitter's perspective, even if it doesn't add any value to the discourse. In fact, the more it damages discourse the better, because the feedback loop means you're more likely to retweet the next epic burn. More people are inclined to try to post epic burns so they can get those retweets/credibility.

Your 'problem' is their 'opportunity'. On social networks what you call 'noise' they call 'engagement'... it's how they make their money. The more outraged/pissed off you are, the more engaged you are. They probably view the 'interesting bits' more as you would view commercials on TV: a necessary evil. (i.e. with the interesting bits, one gets on, does their business and goes away. With outrage, one tends to stay engaged.)

> for some people in "your camp" you'll be the nasty one.

I'll go one further. "The nasty one" is a role that usually begs to be filled, even in a good cause. Sometimes it's even essential to progress. "Good cop, bad cop" works. I'm more likely to play "bad cop" myself, though at least I'm usually aware of it being a situational role. I've definitely said things that would have violated a CoC if there had been one in those situations, so I do understand the fear of them, but here's why I chose that particular metaphor: even the bad cop is usually working within limits. That dynamic can still exist, and still be effective, even within the limits of a CoC. People can still be demanding, critical, even abrasive ... and they will. They just can't be bigots or harassers and expect to keep getting away with it.

The problem with your metaphor is that "good cop, bad cop" is something you do to someone you're trying to deceive in order to further your own agenda at their expense. It's a way to behave toward an adversary, not someone who you're trying to work with.

> "good cop, bad cop" is something you do to someone you're trying to deceive

That's funny, because the goal is often to get at the truth. Is that an agenda you find objectionable? Do you see something noble in people who are harmed by the truth becoming known? "Bad cop" is not far from "devil's advocate" and the tension either creates is often useful to all involved. Is role-playing the same as deception?

> It's a way to behave toward an adversary

"Adversary" is very situational, and doesn't necessarily imply ill feeling - certainly not to the game theorists or jurists who often use the term. It's pretty common to have someone you generally want to work with be an adversary in a particular context. It's a role, and civil people get over it. In fact, codes of conduct - formal or otherwise - are often the very thing making that possible. They keep the adversarial role "in scene" and prevent it from turning it into permanent antipathy. Again, consider the "adversarial" nature of our justice system, one of the most formal and rules-bound environments most of us will ever see, whose participants are often on quite cordial terms outside the courtroom.

> That's funny, because the goal is often to get at the truth. Is that an agenda you find objectionable?

Yes, I think that's the wrong agenda to have when you're collaborating on software. A pull request shouldn't normally be an interrogation to figure out whether the person who wrote the code is lying.

Is lying the only alternative you can think of in this context? What about "truth" meaning the source of a bug or the best solution, with the alternative being merely ignorance of same? Seems like you're stretching pretty far to make this point.

How does playing bad cop help you find the best solution to a bug? To me it seems like you're stretching here, so how about we just assume we're both operating in good faith?

Who are these people in open-source that have been getting away with bigotry and harassment? No, Linus chewing someone out isn't harassment.

"Good cop, bad cop" relies on an abusive dynamic that's contingent on a heavy imbalance of power and the threat of receiving potentially severe punishment.

That type of behavior has no place in a team setting.

> contingent on a heavy imbalance of power

Only if you forget that it's a metaphor. I suppose there's always someone who will take things super-literally and complain that the literal version doesn't match the current situation exactly, as a way of scoring points.

Well, guess what? I don't actually carry a badge and wear a blue uniform either, and I'm not suggesting that anyone here should. Nonetheless, I've been in many situations where having one person play skeptic/adversary and another play advocate can be productive. Not everyone is good at poking holes in their own idea so they can be fixed, or at defending their own decisions in an unfamiliar environment where others might have more expertise. Sometimes it's more extreme vs. moderate than aligned vs. opposed, but it still works. As I've pointed out in another thread, it's how our (USA) justice system works. It's how a thesis defense works. It's not the right approach for every situation, but it's not invalid either.

Or maybe I'm just playing devil's advocate here, to see how much others follow their own advice to act collaboratively. ;)

So as you can see in the original article, the "bad cops" here were reason for Linus not to examine his own behaviour. That only happened because the other side had bad cops as well. In other words: at least in this case (and in mine as well), it only worked to achieve the opposite effect from what's intended.

Why do you feel it is "the natural tendency" to make minorities feel less welcome? My natural tendency -- and anecdotally, pretty much everyone I know -- is to treat people well regardless of their race; to treat people the way you'd want to be treated.

"Natural tendency" does not mean intention. Few people intend to make minorities feel less welcome, but many more adhere to habits and cultural norms which have that effect. Here's an example from right here a couple of days ago:


Another example: where I work, I recently took someone to task for saying "your shit is broken" in a very public thread. It's a phrase I've seen too many times at this company. Sure, it might just seem casual to a California millennial, no big deal, but it can come across very differently to someone from a higher-context and more status-conscious culture - e.g. most of Asia, and therefore a significant portion of our workforce. It can have strong and lasting effects on their willingness to engage with you personally, or with the broader community.

Am I saying that we should all dumb down our language to the blandest common denominator? F* no. The important thing is to calibrate your behavior to the environment. If you know the people you're talking to, and the subject of the comment is not personal, let fly. Knock yourself out. If you're talking to someone you don't know, in front of many others you don't know, and the comment could be interpreted as personal (hint: if "you" or "your" is in it), then maybe you should apply a measure of decorum and cultural sensitivity.

Listen, I take a huge exception to the way you said things. As a minority (non-white) person, I don't need you to speak for me and me to be your pet.

In fact, your attitude is highly patronizing and condescending, the fact that you don't see it, is problematic.

Linux Kernel was being run ok so far. Sure there were rants from Torvalds which went overboard sometimes but accept it as a quirk of the maintainer and move on. Including this COC is a huge can of worms though. Now you can be Brendan Eiche'd out of any open source project. When that happens, perhaps you'll be celebrating a win for your progressive values but a more real happening at that point would've been loss of good open source software which some of your pet minorities could have used.

> As a minority (non-white) person, I don't need you to speak for me and me to be your pet.

Nor was I making you one. There's nothing patronizing about pointing out how language can affect different people differently. Surely you're aware that others do need and appreciate people who will use whatever advantages they have to help raise awareness of these issues. Please don't use your own personal good fortune to promote an agenda that prevents others from following you up the ladder.

I'm not sure you realize but this exact tone of discourse comes across as patronizing. Please stop playing messiah for minorities.

Also, I'm not some super rich privileged person. As a matter of fact, I'm unemployed right now but privilege or no privilege, there's no reason to cripple good open source software which is already one of the most equalizing resources that has been produced by mankind.

" there's no reason to cripple good open source software"

Nobody is doing that. No one. That is not happening at all. I'm sorry, but people not being assholes to each other is not going to affect the quality of software in a negative manner.

You mean there is no loss of valuable contributions when people get Brendon Eiche'd for reasons unrelated to open source project?

You mean when someone openly says to their LGBT employees, 'You are less valuable. You are not deserving of the same basic rights as straight people. You are second class citizens'? Mozilla seems to be doing just fine.

They were not play messiah for minorities; they were explaining how some people (i.e. not all minorities) prefer to be addressed in a way different from other people -- the fact that you consider his tone patronising when I don't is proof of that. And the point of the comment is that we should keep that in mind when conversing. Because I'm doing that, I can now imagine why you might consider it patronising, and can try (not necessarily succeed, unfortunately) to make it more palatable to you.

(Unless of course you consider that patronising as well, in which case, my non-patronising advice would be: deal with it. Either way, I hope they'll still be able to make comments like the above in the future :) )

As another minority, it wasn't concerning to you that Eich actively lobbied against equal rights for a particular demographic? See, I'm tolerant of different viewpoints practiced consensually and privately; lobbying against those who don't affect your own life is a bit below the belt.

I'm sure turning public forums into language/tone correctness minefields does miracles to encourage participation from people who aren't native language speakers and aren't keenly aware of nuances western socio-political background. Miracles.

Public forums are already language/tone minefields. Non-native speakers already have to understand the dominant slang and tone cues to interpret what the "natives" are saying, putting the burden on them. Using neutral language isn't that hard, and helps relieve that burden. I never suggested replacing one set of codes with another.

BTW, sarcasm is really helpful when dealing with non-native speakers. Your sincere concern for their well being just shines through.

I think the point is that language/tone is already a minefield, and being aware of that can be of help to avoid triggering some of those mines.

the question of the status quo is itself politicised. One side (progressive sphere) says people who don't belong to the normed group (cis-white-hetero-male in US/EUR) are inherently treated worse, either consciously or unconsciously (bias), and conscious effort has to be made to overcome this. Another (classical liberal sphere) says that exclusionary behaviour are the exception and most people abide by the golden rule, and that bias is small or insignificant enough to be inconsequential. There are other interpretations but I understand these are the two canonical ones. If you belong to the former you may feel the need to be conscious of your behaviours to make sure you don't perpetrate feelings of "othering". If you belong to the latter you likely feel that you don't need to treat people differently based on intrinsic characteristics. This is really the defining ideological split of current politics, IMO.

It is important to note that this isn't merely a matter of opinion. One can study the effect/presence of unconscious bias objectively and quantitatively. These studies have large error bars but they use conventional and accepted statistics.

To the extent it is politicized, it's politicized the way evolution and climate change are: groups who are politically opposed have opinions about the consequences of these studies. One or the other group sometimes finds empirical reality to be in conflict with the arguments they wish to make in support of their preferred policies.

As far as I can tell, unconscious bias has fallen victim to the replication crisis.


The article seems to focus on the Implicit Association Test. Other studies have used devices like identical job applications with different names.

Is there a meta-study of Cochrane quality on this subject? Because, you know, replication crisis.

note that I didn't suggest that the classical liberal side deny the existence of subconscious bias. Just the scale of the impact of said bias, and what can realistically be done about it (or, perhaps, the cost of attempting to correct it). There are probably people who deny the existence of bias and you're right in that they don't express a reasonable opinion.

Taken at face value, your statement seems to imply that if there is any research devoted to a topic using "conventional and accepted statistics", then no one can have an opinion on it.

I don't think you're taking it at face value. Note the word "merely".

There are typically many arguments for and against a particular policy, many costs and benefits. These costs and benefits don't hit everyone equally, which explains most of the difference in political opinion. One category of argument in the political debate is to claim that particular costs or benefits are illusory or of a different scale. The empirical evidence can show that this is false. This does not eliminate the debate. One would hope it would then proceed on different arguments, because denying empirical reality makes any resolution other than physical domination of one party by the other impossible. But even if it does, costs and benefits still fall unequally on the participants, meaning the political division remains. This difference in opinion is normal and legitimate.

[ETA I do not think it is pure coincidence that the group that believes it is more likely to win a contest of physical dominance is the one more likely to deny the validity of empirical evidence.]

>cis-white-hetero-male in US/EUR) are inherently treated worse, either consciously or unconsciously (bias)

This is hard for me to wrap my head around, because in almost any social or work environment I've ever been in, cis-white-hetero-males make up a small subset of the population.

Per sibling comment, the question of whether discrimination happens, consciously or unconsciously, is one amenable to factual analysis and is not a political question. What is political is whether anything should be done about it.

> exclusionary behaviour are the exception and most people abide by the golden rule

So the question for this has to be: when do you think the date was at which "most people" started to do this? Was it a mass conversion at the enactment of the US Civil Rights Act, or a much slower battle?

personally, I think the majority of people have acted like this (or perhaps more "live and let live") by default for a long time. However, basic morality is not the only operator of people's behaviour, and other operators can override morality such as economic exploitation, group conflict, education, stereotypical perception of other groups, and so on. Basically, it's a really complicated series of systemic issues that leads to things like racial inequality. Fundamentally I don't think people hate groups because they look different (beyond a small amount of subconscious in-group/out-group bias), they hate because of fear, conflict, they dehumanise to exploit, they misunderstand, basically just the whole gamut of human flaws driven by systemic issues in the economy, in justice, in culture and other systems we operate within. The idea that we can fix these problems by curing the symptom rather than the disease seems illogical to me.

or TL;DR: bias is mostly a learned behaviour, with probably some inherent subconscious bias from our evolutionary roots.

> the majority of people have acted like this (or perhaps more "live and let live") by default for a long time

The majority of people where at what times?

Does it actually matter why people hate, only that they do?

Your argument seems to be that all racism etc is systemic and structural, and therefore there's no individual responsibility?

> The majority of people where at what times?

Do you expect me to be an expert on the moral history of every group on earth? I'm not going to specify in exact detail, but my point is that I think people naturally default to ambivalence and have to learn (or be taught) to mistreat specific groups of people.

> Does it actually matter why people hate, only that they do?

Yes, it matters if you want to do anything about it.

> Your argument seems to be that all racism etc is systemic and structural, and therefore there's no individual responsibility?

Yep, pretty much. Or at least, most racism. Individuals are responsible for forming the opinions but to make any real difference you need to take away the reason they formed the opinion.

If you want to reduce oppression at scale, you need to address the systemic issue. Do you think a racist hates some set of people arbitrarily? Or do you think he might have a (obviously invalid) reason to hate them, such as feeling they are a threat, are inferior, can be exploited, are ridiculous and so on? Dig down into those reasons and I believe you will find a systemic root most of the time. Obviously that person shouldn't hold those views, but how are you going to address the problem? Attempt to force everyone with a bad opinion to change that opinion? Or do you address the reason they acquired the perception in the first place, meaning that the next generation has less reason to discriminate? I think the latter is more viable.

Your bringing up the "golden rule" is interesting, as I there are various situations where i have felt discriminated against and in retrospect the golden rule was to blame.

If I'm in a room full of (in my case) people much posher than me, and they all treat everyone in the room as they wish to be treated, that can easily create an oppressive atmosphere. Also, if I try treating them as I wish to be treated, and can easily be seen as a troublemaker.

Now I try to treat people as they wish to be treated (within reason).

I think that's partly because the golden rule is a moral rule, not a communication one. It describes a mindset that promotes empathy, but doesn't make affordances for communication differences such as social/economic status, culture and so on.

Because it is human nature to relate more with people who are like you

If you are a white male working as a software engineer, your natural tendency comes from a place of privilege, and it's good to understand that fact and to understand that even if you think you're woke, you're still affected by the socialization of discrimination.

I was thinking about this sort of thing the other day, and the word "fanatic" really stuck in my mind. I especially like this word for its religious connotations, because for some of these people their politics, and more specifically extremism in their own politics, has become a sort of secular religion for them.

I certainly have my own political leanings and find more agreement with those on "my side", but I would much rather spend time with someone from the "other side" who can be polite and civil and magnanimous than a "fanatic" from "my side" who cannot.

It makes perfect sense. With no higher supernatural authority, the clearest higher authority for a person is one's government. Religion doesn't disappear, it just changes its targets.

I wish people would stop being so concerned about what other people think. If treating people well is the right thing to do, then do it. If people are nasty when they try to make you treat people well, ignore them.

When people say that they wanted to do the right thing but got pushed away because the advocates were jerks, that just sounds like an excuse.

That’s not to say that it’s ok to be a jerk just because you’re telling people to do the right thing. I’m just tired of this line people like to pull out of, it’s not my fault I’m hurting the vulnerable, those SJW jerks made me do it.

Civility is the bedrock on which justice is built.

That's why Gandhi, King, and Mandela effected change.

And so many passionate others did not.

That's extremely selective memory. Mandela was a member of a terrorist organization. Apartheid didn't end because Mandela sat in prison politely.


King railed against people who spoke like you to quiet the people fighting for justice: https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham....

"I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as "rabble rousers" and "outside agitators" those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare."

Mandela didn't control the entire ANC, just as one person doesn't control a movement. We only have his words and decisions.

And before I'd dare to selectively quote the finest and most comprehensive American Civil Rights document from that period (written from memory and without reference material, no less), I would spend more time reading and understanding all of Dr. King's remarks in that letter.

(And its context: local white Christian leadership had published a newspaper piece blaming "outside agitators").

> "In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action."

You listed a few examples of individuals who effected great change and were civil. (Mostly civil. Gandhi, King, and Mandela were each accused by their detractors of being insufficiently civil.)

I could easily list examples of individuals who effected great change and were NOT civil. Neither list would prove anything. An actual analysis of leaders who were then classified according to their civility and rated on their effectiveness would tell us a lot, but I haven't seen such an analysis.

I'm not saying civility is a bad idea -- it is the approach I usually use. But you haven't convinced me of anything by listing 3 famous names.

My broader rationale goes like this:

- The objective of any movement is to effect a change

- The number of people pro- or anti- change is always dwarfed by the number of ambivalent or mostly-ambivalent bystanders (aka those who don't really care)

- The shortest path to the object is therefore converting the bystanding mass to your side

- You convert people more easily if you don't scare them

- Overthrowing the system and militancy always scare people

I don't have my books on designing effective protest movements in front of me, but I'll post the names when I'm home later. The above ideas are all cribbed from reading.

PS: Not that militancy doesn't have a place. But unless you're willing to start a civil war and have substantial economic and popular backing before initiating hostilities, the state is always going to have more power (see point about silent bystanders).

It’s also why Washington and Lincoln were able to effect change. Wait a minute....

In any case, you’re missing the point. The point is that if you use someone’s incivility as an excuse to behave badly, you’re not doing it right. It’s fine if you don’t like them, it’s fine if you want them do change their approach, but if they push you away from treating people well, that’s on you, not them.

I'd argue neither Washington nor Lincoln initiated hostilities. So yes, both took a non-violent path until it could not be avoided.

Furthermore, both had substantial popular support, larger political apparatus backing them (the Continental Congress and remaining US Congress respectively), and almost lost.

I could care less about me. I care about the masses out there who are swayed by civility -- if you show me a pattern of disagreements that have been won by a minority alienating a majority, then I'll concede the point.

> I'd argue neither Washington nor Lincoln initiated hostilities

Why did Lincoln resupply Fort Sumter? If he did not want to initiate hostilities, he could have evacuated it.

My comment is all about “me”, specifically people who say they are pushed away from good behavior because advocates are jerks. If you don’t do that then I don’t think this is the right comment thread for you.

The history book you read was so whitewashed it may as well been bleached.

I'm curious about your thoughts of Malcom X and his effect on the civil rights movement.

If you're talking about pre-Mecca Malcolm X (and specifically a more confrontational stance), then I personally believe the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party were helpful in the eventual furthering of the civil rights agenda.

By demonstrating a forceful and armed alternative to peaceful protest, they (to use the parlance of our day) pushed the Overton window in such a way that the SCLC and NAACP Legal Defense Fund seemed more mainstream.

But their effectiveness in the broader effort and end result was absolutely predicated on the existence of a more moderate and palatable (to those on the sidelines) alternative.

If we're talking about post-Mecca Malcolm X, then I think it's an excellent example of someone who has found that love triumphs over hate, both in the world and in ones own character, even when fighting terrible injustice.

All of whom were described as extremely uncivil by their enemies at the time. During the 80s it was routine for British conservatives to denounce Mandela as a terrorist (which was actually the crime he'd been convicted of, and he was actually involved in plotting acts of sabotage against the SA government).

Paying attention to what other people think is vital for converging on an agreed "right thing to do" as the social challenges become less obvious and more complex. This exercise requires proponents of ideas to engage in civil conversation, something which those given the most air time or who shout loudest seem completely incapable of. The natural response to this level of aggression is disengagement in the interest of self-preservation or spending one's time wisely.


I currently work and no, people don’t leave their politics at work. You’ll hear about people’s partners and they’ll expect to hear the same form you, which is now a political matter because some states let you get fired for being gay (sexuality is now political). People will talk about current events, the latest and greatest hit tweets from the POTUS, so on and so forth. Hell I can hardly have lunch with co workers without them telling me how they feel about younger people , talking ethnicity and immigration...

The problem is a lot of “sjw” stuff is basic identity that is considered political. Wanting to be seen as a woman is political to a lot of people, but it’s not seen as political to ignore someone’s requested pronouns. Being gay can be a firable offense with no repercussions in many states, but it’s not considered political to talk about your hetereosexual marriage at work. The definition of “bringing politics to work” is inconsistent except to consistently inform minorities that trying to achieve equal treatment is political, but continuing to contribute to systematic erasure of minorities is not.

The idea of "leaving politics outside of work" is, in itself, extremely political.

How many social and political movements, and even revolutions came out from workplaces and worker communities?

The 8-hours revolution, Fascism in Italy, Bolshevism in Russia, and the list goes on.

You said this stuff “pushes me away from it.” It should push you away from the troublesome people, and nothing more.

When you say most people leave this stuff at home, that seems to imply that the status quo is neutral. It isn’t. Continuing to treat people the way you always have is just as much of a statement as saying you should treat people differently. It’s just easier to find agreement.


By talking about how problematic these people are, you miss and reinforce my point.

I’m not saying anything about how they behave or whether it’s acceptable or helpful. I’m saying that how you behave should not be determined by them. If you’ve decided not to encourage people to do the right thing (or, worse, stop doing the right thing yourself) because some other people are jerks, you’re just making excuses for behaving badly.

There is a useful discussion to be had about persuasion. Phrases like “it pushes people away” are perfectly fine of that’s what happens. But when it becomes “it pushes me away,” well, take some responsibility for your own beliefs and actions.

As far as my side of the street: I've knocked on a LOT of doors for progressive candidates, and will continue to do so. Don't you worry about me.

But do you see the box you're building? I'm either 100% on board with an ever-more-extreme program, or I'm somehow revealing the evil nature of my heart by being turned off by them?

I'm very serious about the persuasion component, and the fact that it's pushing EVEN ME away ought to set off alarm bells. If they're annoying and unpersuasive to me, how on earth would they be perceived by someone in Ohio? Have they ever met someone from Ohio?

That’s not the box I’m building at all. Here’s what I’m trying to say: figure out what you believe in, figure out what to do, and then do it. Don’t account for how other people advocate for it, just do your own thing. If you think they’re useless or even counterproductive then fine, but if that changes how you do things then you’re doing it wrong.

What offensive rules have you faced?

Are we still talking about the LKML here? I don't feel "SJW" has much of anything to do with this outside of a few very isolated incidents. Personal attacks and disrespectfulness has been a staple in that community for decades at this point and definitely predates the somewhat modern hatefulness surrounding bias and privilege.

Off-topic and a minor thing, but "predate" is what predators do to prey. "Pre-date" is what one moment can do to another. At least according to my wife, for whom this matter looms large (she is an editor).

This seems like a preference. Merriam Webster agrees with your wife, Cambridge English and Oxford do not.

I haven't been following the LKML too closely but I can't recall personal attacks. I can recall people's code and ideas being called shit.

> I'm not turning around and saying "guess what, then, I'm the opposite, let's go be racist".

incidentally, the people who did decide to do this became the alt-right.

The alt-right as a movement is pretty clearly a counterreaction to the social justice movement, but I’m not sure if it’s so much reasonable people getting radicalized than an already rather unpleasant subset of the population finding a platform – and an echo chamber – for their unpleasantness.

Many of them blame the left for pushing them away. It’s probably not true, but it makes a convenient excuse for people.

Alt-right was a term used by grass-roots movements and libertarians long before the term was ever co-opted by other groups. If you mean neo-nazis, just say neo-nazis.

I mean neo-nazis, neoreactionaries, neo-fascists, all those types. Basically the subset of /pol/ and stormfront users who genuinely believe what they espouse. At least that's my interpretation of the term.

Fair enough, that is the interpretation that seems to be pushed a lot these days. I just annoys the hell out of me, since alt-right at some point meant exactly that: someone who was right-wing, but in a way which does not align with any of the standard right wing parties.

I'm aware of the origin, but the meaning of a word is not derived from it's coining but common knowledge in some form similar to (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_knowledge_(logic)). It's the same process that caused "hacker" to change its meaning from basically tinkerer to computer security expert (either white hat or black hat).

For me it's sorta the same, I'm broadly in favour of a CoC generally as a codified minimum standard of behaviour but I dislike intensely some of the people who then move in and use the CoC to attack everyone the disagree with (I'm not naming people because well that's not fair) often breaching the spirit of the CoC they pushed for in the first place, that or treat any discussion of whether the Coc is a good idea as a personal attack on whatever community/group they ascribe to.

A stand up comic said something a while back that I liked "Tyranny is the absence of nuance".

"I'm not naming people because well that's not fair"

Why is it not fair?

Because while I think they are wrong I'd rather discuss it one to one (if at all) than in public where either camp will jump on it.

I'm sure that some people go way overboard on social justice issues, but my reading of the CoC is that you keep your work professional. Generally, if you are polite and veer away from using racial slurs or sexist statements, you'll not run afoul of the CoC.

When you have a combative environment most unopinionated people leave. I don't think there is any secret that there are a lot of us out there that aren't very excited about Linux anymore. Just that most of us decided to spend time on something else instead.

And that's... Linus' fault?

Are you talking about kernel development or Linux as a consumer OS?

I mean, as the leader of the project, he is the one who sets the culture and the norms.

gonna level with you, there's nothing that feels more alienating & delegitimizing than someone overcompensating with niceness because of who you are.

What privileges do you have when interacting with people?

Plenty, I think. A personal example is that people are more likely to assume my authority when I have a beard, so being able to grow one is a privilege. It's a small one, but I'm guessing it's indicative of what I mean.

I understand most inside jokes from western culture.

That's not really important and I say this as a foreigner to your culture.


"If you don't love me at my worst, you can't have me at my best" is a load of nonsense in any context, and doubly so in politics.

> "If you don't love me at my worst, you can't have me at my best"

Said every wife beater who ever lived.

Really, I've always seen that quote associated with "basic bitches," who demand the world, but give nothing in return.

How the hell did we get here? Let's please try not to do this.

    > I'm still not exactly the most empathetic person. 
    > But I'm hoping I can at least 'fake it until I 
    > make it'.
This is great!

If you ask me, "faking it" is really just as good as "actually" being a more helpful or empathetic person.

What do you think "actually" being a helpful or empathetic person is like? It's basically just continually expending the effort to be helpful and empathetic.

Let's say my brother calls me up on a Saturday morning. He needs help moving some furniture. Do I really feel like doing that? Fuuuuuuuuuck no. Will I say "yes" anyway? Probably, because even though I'd rather play tennis or sleep or play video games I want to help him. So I will consciously expend the effort to go do the good thing for him.

Am I being "actually" good there or am I just "faking it"? I don't really think there's a difference. Nobody really wants to spend a day off moving furniture for free.

Same thing with reviewing a pull request. I am not known as a caustic reviewer, but that's because I spend the effort to try and make sure I'm not caustic. What is the difference between me consciously expending the effort and Linus consciously expending the effort? (I mean, y'know, besides Linus being 1000x more productive and talented than me) Is one of us more "authentic?" I would say there's no difference.

> If you ask me, "faking it" is really just as good as "actually" being a more helpful or empathetic person.

It is important to make the distinction between this and what Linus actually said, which was "fake it *until I make it" (emphasis added). The latter is essentially practice or exercise to develop empathy. The former is essentially how high-functioning psychopaths work.

> Let's say my brother calls me up on a Saturday morning. He needs help moving some furniture. Do I really feel like doing that? Fuuuuuuuuuck no. Will I say "yes" anyway? Probably, because even though I'd rather play tennis or sleep or play video games I want to help him. So I will consciously expend the effort to go do the good thing for him.

> Am I being "actually" good there or am I just "faking it"? I don't really think there's a difference. Nobody really wants to spend a day off moving furniture for free.

You haven't really made a comparison here, because you just say, "I want to help him." What is your motivation? You can definitely help him without having any empathy for him at all.

Empathy doesn't mean "being nice" or "being helpful". It means understanding, feeling, or experiencing the feelings of others. Being an empathetic person is largely orthogonal to being nice. It can help you be nice, because you understand how people feel. It can also help you be a huge asshole, because you understand how to really hurt people.

    > It is important to make the distinction between this and what Linus actually said, which was "fake it *until I make it" (emphasis added). The latter is essentially practice or exercise to develop empathy. The former is essentially how high-functioning psychopaths work.
Wow. Psychopathy is not a formally recognized or defined term, so it's hard to talk about without being completely sidetracked by trying to define it.

While it's certainly possible to exercise all of the things we're talking about (empathy, kindness, etc) for nefarious purposes ("I'm going to figure out Mrs. Smith's feelings and try to understand them... so that I can get close to her and con her out of her life's savings!") I really don't think that's what we're talking about here.

    > You haven't really made a comparison here, because you just say, "I want to help him." What is your motivation? You can definitely help him without having any empathy for him at all.
I'm saying they're the same thing. If you want to contrast them because you want to convince me that they're different, sure! Go ahead! That's your job.

    > Empathy doesn't mean "being nice" or "being helpful".
Sure, absolutely. That's why I consistently mentioned them as being distinct things, ie "helpful OR empathetic." Seems like we're on the same page for this one.

In this case, what's wrong with being a high-functioning psychopath?

Depends entirely on how good you are at faking it. That is, if it can be easily seen that you are faking; then no, it is not as good. Not even close.

Your brother scenario is silly. If someone calls and I don't want to help, but can. I'll be honest and make my own choice. If they ask if this is what I'd truly like to be doing, I'll always say no. However, in most cases, I don't actually care what I'm doing. Could I come up with something more fun? Maybe, but just being social in any way is typically its own ends.

On the far end of the scale, if you always answer, "Would you like to help us carry this heavy stuff down these stairs?" with "No, in fact I would loathe that, but I will comply in order to maintain the social bonds that are necessary to sustain my chemically-driven life functions for the long term."... then that will be problematic for your relationships.

I'm like you, I say yes often, and I'm honest about how excited I am to do it... but it comes at a social cost.

Sometimes its better to fake it and be nice, even when you're bad at faking it.

I think I misrepresented. Most people just ask, "can you come help?" To that I'll answer how long it would take me to get over there if I can, and start heading that way. Few people ask "would you like to help me" do anything. The answers really are different.

That is, you aren't faking it by being nice. You are just not bringing in extra crap to the discussion. Can you do dinner tonight? Yes or no. Not, I'd rather go do something with someone else, but if I have to be social with you, I can.

It is tough, because society is actually highly rewarding on bringing extra crap to the discussion many times. In humor situations, everyone actually enjoys it. And for situations where there is a jerk, society actually rewards it by putting up with it.

Linus has been a tough one. Often the community has relied on his behavior to help keep other jerks in check. People like to talk about how he is abrasive to nvidia, but they really are somewhat abusing the spirit of the crowd, as well. Problem seems to be that it is tough to know when to use a tool in your disposal.

     People like to talk about how he is abrasive to nvidia
That's a really good point. Overlooked in this discussion over Linus' manners are the times when he was abusive toward people who arguably deserved it, like nVidia who has historically not been a great community member.

To me the more important factor for whether “faking it” is adequate is what one’s motivation is. If it is merely as an act of fakery because other people expect something, then it’s a lot more like to be an act without merit. If it’s an integral part of striving towards being genuinely able to exhibit the behavior in question, then it’s a lot more likely to be received well.

I absolutely agree. If you're e.g. merely pretending to be nice to somebody in order to exploit them or harm them, that's obviously not a good thing.

I left angle that out of my original post because I really don't think anybody is doubting Linus' motives here.

I'm aware that some people think his attempt at self-improvement is misguided or silly, but I haven't heard a single person question whether his motives are negative.

> Your brother scenario is silly.

Sure, analogies are pretty flawed usually. I sort of regret typing it. Let's get back to Linus. What's the difference between:

  (a) A person staying respectful in their emails because it is natural and effortless for him


  (b) Linus staying respectful in his emails because he's putting in conscious effort to stay respectful

I would argue that there's no difference! Because it's never 100% natural for anybody; it always requires some effort even if it's easier for some of us than others.

I think we would all agree that (b) would be creepy IF Linus was being deceptively nice for some sort of dubious or dishonest reason. Like a con artist trying to develop bonds so they can rob you or something. But, that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm taking him at his word here, but all indications are that Linus is just trying to get better at treating people respectfully because he thinks it's the right thing to do.

Bringing it back to Linus is easy. The times he stayed technical and on point, he gets things done very well. The times he chest thumped back at someone chest thumping to him, it actually worked decently. The times he just started chest thumping to a quiet person trying to help, that is just obnoxious.

That is, in this case, I'd argue he isn't "faking" it to not bring in outside crap. Just leave it out. Stay on point for the topic at hand and he does amazing. I'd go so far as to say I think he is a bit of a role model in those situations. Deservedly so.

The best part was the next sentence:

> Part of that 'faking it' is definitely going to be a filter on my outgoing emails

That's about 95% of what people asked for over the decades. You can get your point across without incendiary language and belittling comments, and merely scanning for sensitive words is enough for most cases

FWIW - I don't know if there are FOSS implementations, but beyond simple word scanning (which I agree could be pretty effective!) there are also sentiment analysis tools out there.

I'm probably a person with not so great social skills. I'm a person of color.

I do not need SJW's to defend me. Please do not destroy our culture.

All of a sudden this movement to add "diversity" and other crap is just not right. I agree there is some casual racism/racism for the sake of racism in the community, but I am personally not even bothered and it has never affected me (I ignored them and they stopped and some of them now are my close friends). When I joined the industry, I felt a bit unwelcome, but just in a months no problem was ever there. I saw that people had a different culture then me, so I just over few months I adapted the same culture subconsciously.

The maintainers should always value merit over "diversity" or "women in tech" agendas and other stupid similar things. We're not a playground for your political agendas.

My personal contributions have been blocked several times, but it never bothered me. I did what I loved, and my contributions were committed after trying for a few times.

Instead of wondering why my commits weren't merged and blaming on xenophobia/racism/fascism/blameism/bla bla bla , I decided to look at the patterns of commits that were successfully accepted.

Every community has a different culture so if you cannot adopt what everyone is following, maybe this industry is not right for you.

>I do not need SJW's to defend me. Please do not destroy our culture.

All the SJW issues are like that, a group of people who feel they need to defend someone else. Like these people have solved all their own problems and can move on to "helping" everyone else.

I'm not going to get too fired up about it. But... I really cringe when I read "We're trying to change the predominately white face of programming". But, they aren't saying they'll do that by promoting people of color, or by opening a new distro that designed to be contributed more by people focused on social justice.

IDK... At some point I wonder why the color of my skin is so important to the people "trying to help".

edit: LOL shy downvotes. Because you can't tell me my skin color or physical features are important to my work - but you can't say that's not what this is all about either. Hackernews is becoming more and more like reddit :(

The problem is this entire ideology is paradox.

Improving inclusivity through exclusivity filters.

Being accepting of everyone by closely monitoring all parameters of all individuals to determine if they should be accepted.

I'm white. I decided long ago that everyone needs to treat everyone fairly. Part of that is basing promotions/etc on merit, but part of that is understanding that people are different and have different strengths and weaknesses, some of which are because of the culture they come from.

This applies equally to whites and people of color, rich and poor, nationalities, and more. I have yet to find a culture that didn't have both problems and benefits when you generalize about them.

I've also yet to have that generalization be actually useful when evaluating an individual.

But I have to ask: If I stop someone from discriminating against you, with or without your knowledge, is that really "destroying your culture"? If I'm in a meeting and stop someone from ruling out a potential candidate because of skin color, did I harm their culture?

I can't see how that's possible.

I could see how "culture" changes over generations as economic status changes. But I'm certainly not going to refrain from helping someone because I think there's a chance it'll change the culture of their grandchildren.

That said, I've been in situations where I could "help" someone avoid some racial prejudice and was asked not to by that person. As they wished, I did nothing. I didn't like it, and I still wish I could have helped them, but I felt I had to honor their wishes first. (The person I'm thinking about eventually quit from stress and moved out of state.)

> If I'm in a meeting and stop someone from ruling out a potential candidate because of skin color, did I harm their culture?

How could you possibly know the candidate is being ruled out for skin color?

Well the most obvious way is if they are dumb enough to actually say so.

But even without that, it's possible to recognize weasel words that people are using to rule them out that have more to do with skin color, nationality, or anything other than skill and personality. And even personality can be iffy, depending on what they decide isn't acceptable.

I wonder if the 'No Code Of Conduct' concept would actually be better in many cases. I am curious if this has been tried on any larger communities.


"Every community has a different culture so if you cannot adopt what everyone is following, maybe this industry is not right for you."

When I was growing up, being a nerd or a geek or, in fact, any kind of intellectual was regarded as a bad thing. I found some outright harassment, a considerable amount of belittling, and a whole lot of lack of interest. (The 57th time you are asked if you play football or basketball, you say "no", and someone immediately looses all interest, you may be forgiven for wondering if it's you.) Thinking about it, I don't remember ever seeing the inside of the restrooms in my jr. high or high school.

I learned to keep myself to myself. I learned to avoid talking about my interests to anyone; they didn't understand and didn't care to, and I'm not a good communicator. I never had any serious abuse, but I learned to pity those who couldn't put a mask on when necessary.

Fortunately, I picked the right time and have had a career making roughly twice the median household income. (And I've made some poor choices there; I could have done much better.) (There weren't many darkies where I grew up, but I sometimes wonder how many of the wetbacks who went to even worse schools than I did can say something similar.)

Now, the situation is reversed. Not playing video games will get you looked at funny. Being a geek or nerd is a good thing. It's certainly the easiest way to make money. But one thing I've also learned is that every social group puts barriers up to keep out people who are not different in the right way.

So here I sit, a professional programmer and a tolerably good one, and I find the defense, not of the right to be a jackass, but of the act of being a jackass troubling. I don't necessarily think the added layers of a code of conduct are a good thing. On the other hand, your last paragraph is spectacularly unappealing. If you can't not be a jackass in public, maybe this industry isn't for you.

Why on earth did you put racial slurs in your post? That's the kind of thing we ban people for on HN. Please don't do that again.

I apologize to those I have offended.

IMO the most interesting part - especially relative to the discussions I've seen right here - is near the end.

"But if people at least realise that I'm not part of the disgusting underbelly of the internet that thinks it's OK to show the kind of behaviour you will find if you really have been reading up on the 'discussions' about the code of conduct, then even that will be a really good thing."

Yes indeed, if you look at many of the anti-CoC comments (e.g. in the "killswitch" thread) you get to see a lot of that underbelly. There are people who will oppose any kind of general rule restraining behavior, because that would prevent them from exercising their own more personal and arguably more subtle kind of coercion against those they don't like for whatever reason. The other alternative is for an even bigger bully to keep them in line, but I shouldn't need to explain how "might makes right" is even more problematic. Linus is deliberately stepping away from that bigger-bully role to give the alternative a try, but in the above excerpt he makes it pretty clear that he thinks there's a problem to be addressed. The creeps should consider themselves on notice, whether there's a CoC or not.

>There are people who will oppose any kind of general rule restraining behavior, because that would prevent them from exercising their own more personal and arguably more subtle kind of coercion against those they don't like for whatever reason.

Do you really, truly believe this is the reason why so many people are against Codes of Conduct in open-source projects? Can you point me to this mass of disillusioned bigots, expressing frustration at their inability to continue to act bigoted while within proximity to open-source?

Either you've been going to wildly different parts of the Internet than I have recently, or your understanding of the side of the argument opposite you is based on a practically-nonexistent strawman, which is causing you to be completely unable to understand where "the other side" is actually coming from.

"Do you really, truly believe this is the reason why so many people are against Codes of Conduct in open-source projects?"

I think there are many reasons. This is certainly not the only one, but it's one I've run into quite a bit. Keep in mind that people usually don't realize how their behavior, or their acquiescence to others' behavior, is harming or excluding others. They feel no need for a CoC to support their side in any dispute, because the in-group already supports them. If any piling-on occurs, it's on their side. Thus they see only how a CoC might inhibit them in some (usually hypothetical) scenario, while remaining blind to how it might enable others. They oppose it "on principle" but it's a flawed principle.

But the point is not that I believe that. The point is that Linus clearly does (see quote) and he's willing to do something about it. If a CoC doesn't work, then I would expect to see him coming down personally on some of the worst offenders. I've known and worked with a few of them, so I for one would welcome that.

I truly believe you are misunderstanding Linus’ email.

He is referring to overt white nationalists and racists. Like storm front types.

You seem to be referring to subconscious bias, which seems to be literally an endless accusation.

I truly believe you are misunderstanding my comments. Linus himself might indeed only be concerned with the extreme "Storm Front types" as you say, but the topic for the last three comments prior to yours was the people who act offended by his actions. Subconscious bias is relevant to them, even if it's not to him.

You literally wrote an assertion regarding what Linus thinks in the original comment.

Yes, and that assertion had nothing to do with subconscious bias. You're conflating statements made in different contexts. Why? What useful outcome do you expect from that?

I've generally been against CoC in less-than-huge projects for practical reasons (as a founder and leader of several communities, both in FOSS and outside of software, I have my informed opinion on what works to maintain good community health).

I can attest that the people GP refers to exist, but it's more complicated than that. Codes of Conduct are established sometimes without a problem actually existing in the community in question, which raises the implication that the community hasn't been welcoming thus far (and often enough, that's wrong). They're also often seen as a way to legitimize a "we can silence you for any reason we choose" behaviour that is far too frequent in community moderators.

This is all very context-dependant. Point is there are legitimate concerns over codes of conduct. Unfortunately, those concerns disproportionally affect the category of nasty people mentioned in GP, and that category gets way more defensive and, since this is the internet, tends to jump into these issues even when they're not part of the community in question and hijacking the topic.

... and since this is the internet, this also happens on the pro-CoC side. Which basically results in 95% outside noise on both sides of any sensitive topic that happens to catch public wind.

It's super easy to point to nasty people on both sides of the issue. It's also very easy to get radicalized by seeing how nasty the "other side" is and becoming part of the problem. And those getting caught in that filter tend not to, as you say, "understand where the other side is coming from".


Edit: Downvotes are very telling of the behaviour I describe, btw. This post has gone between -3 and +3 and back without a single reply. It's not about discussion, it's just about whether people think I'm part of their "camp".

No room for mixed arguments.

>Codes of Conduct are established sometimes without a problem actually existing in the community in question

I don't understand the word sometimes. I have yet to be shown an example where a woman, trans person, person of color, Muslim, or someone on whatever the oppression index is today was discriminated against when pushing code to a project. No one knows what you are unless you tell them - and it's always been 100% irrelevant to the topic of coding.

This is absolutely trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist while flat out saying things like "we're trying to change the predominantly white face of programming"... wtf.

>They're also often seen as a way to legitimize a "we can silence you for any reason we choose" behaviour that is far too frequent in community moderators.

Because that was IMMEDIATELY what actually happened.

I don't care one way or the other. I don't contribute to FOSS because my job isn't really conducive for that to be part of my activities. But I see people who are looking for a fight just to fight, and that's a bad idea.

> [...] was discriminated against when pushing code to a project. No one knows what you are unless you tell them - and it's always been 100% irrelevant to the topic of coding.

Well, we're not just talking about commit logs. Projects usually need discussion, and depending on the environment, that might be one where real names, professions, photos and various other bits of real life seep into (or are a pillar of). In those environments, discrimination can 100% be present.

Saying "it's just code" dances around the issue IMO.

> while flat out saying things like...

That is also what I refer to in my post above. It's noise, not signal.

> Because that was IMMEDIATELY what actually happened.

You clearly have an example in mind. I don't. Keyword is once again sometimes.

"Code of Conducts" are the software community rediscovering what we used to call "community guidelines" or "forum rules" in other fields. They're not necessarily oppressive or progressive. They're not necessarily helpful. And they're often unnecessary.

They don't give enough credit to the positive message that "be good to each other" sends. They give far too much credit to bigots by suggesting that merely because "the rules say not to be a bigot", they won't be.

Until I left, I ran a ~30k user strong gaming chat community. We still don't have "community guidelines", and the prevailing rule is "don't be a jerk". Very few people have been banned. (It is getting right about the correct size to introduce community guidelines, though)

The health of a community is primarily determined by how it's moderated. If you allow bigots to be part of it, bigotry will run rampant. If you allow personal attacks to fly freely, it'll be a tense environment. If you start silencing any form of criticism, it'll turn into an extremist echo chamber.

Either way, CoC documents tend to be just talk. Only recently, I tried to contribute to a project, only to be completely ignored and shut down without any discussion because the project owner didn't like my feature proposal. When I pointed out the owner's attitude didn't match what he promoted in the code of conduct he himself had added to the project, I was ignored.

> In those environments, discrimination can 100% be present.

Where? When?

Because this came about on Linux specifically, where are the examples of someone refusing code or discussion because of another's physical traits... -OR- is this all at it's very base an accusation that can never be proven? (edit: Because no one is going to come out and say "I shut down this conversation because its a bunch of <derogatory names> just yammering")

I think the obvious specific example is of Google's Ted Tso who was targeted to be banned from submitting - and at the same time breaking their own new code of conduct by smearing him as a "rape apologist".

> Either way, CoC documents tend to be just talk.

I'm not seeing that here, I'm seeing deliberate actions. My example above, Torvalds letter here. Are you seeing just talk?

>Only recently, I tried to contribute to a project, only to be completely ignored and shut down without any discussion because the project owner didn't like my feature proposal.

So, you're saying you were discriminated against because of some physical feature or that he just didn't like your proposal? If the latter, isn't that kind of how it's supposed to work? It's his project and if he doesn't like your contribution you're sometimes free to fork it, or make your own? There is no right for people to like you or your ideas. The internet would not exist if everyone's ideas have been given equal opportunity.

> Can you point me to this mass of disillusioned bigots, expressing frustration at their inability to continue to act bigoted while within proximity to open-source?

Sure. Just take a look at the trainwreck that is the CoC commit ”discussion” at GitHub. Of course, almost nobody participating in it has anything to do with Linux kernel development. But they do appear to be rather unpleasant people.

>The creeps should consider themselves on notice, whether there's a CoC or not.

Yep, no politics here. No us-vs-them tribalism. No power plays. No jeering and celebrating a "victory" over "the other side". Just improving the community and making it more welcoming to everyone, that's what it's all about.

Why do you assume "the creeps" refers to all opponents and not just specific individuals? That you would take it personally says more about where you're coming from than about anything else.

It only takes a few seconds on Twitter to apply any label to anyone, and then a few hours more to have it retweeted several thousand times. So it makes sense to assume that labels will be used for all visible opponents, whether it makes sense or not.


"the problem is that the same thing can be said vis-a-vis the COC toting social justice warriors"

I'm no friend to some of the people pushing this. Just a couple of days ago, I was in a Twitter argument with some of them as they tried to turn this into part of their "kill Linux Foundation" feud. They definitely do have their own faults, but I still think there's a difference. They're willing to put in place a set of rules that could very well be used against them in their own immoderate moments. Some have already pointed this out. The anti-CoC crowd accept no explicit limitation. I'm not trying to put one above another, but those positions are different.

The set of rules won't be used against them though, and they know it. The creator of the new Linux CoC has a history of being hateful and organizing mobs on twitter to harass project owners, yet they aren't suffering repercussions from it. They push for projects to add their CoC so they can use it as a weapon against people they don't like, but know they're safe because they won't use it against each other. They're already using it as a reason to start harassing kernel maintainers (calling Theodore Tso a "rape apologist"), yet they aren't holding each other accountable for their own CoC violations.

>The anti-CoC crowd accept no explicit limitation

Ah, no, the anti-CoC crowd wants the status quo antebellum, which DOES have explicit limitations; for example: GPL-2.0, and of course whether your contribution is accepted or not by the main kernel dev team. Of course, all these limitations are of CODE, not behaviours, but is it important for an open source project (theoretically) open to all members of humanity to contribute, no matter how evil or repugnant their personal views are, to regulate this? Does the fact that ReiserFS was developed by a murderer mean that we need to explicitly delete all his contributions to the kernel?

[0] https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2006/10/7956/ >Wikipedia: ReiserFS is currently supported on Linux (without quota support) licensed as GPLv2. Introduced in version 2.4.1 of the Linux kernel, it was the first journaling file system to be included in the standard kernel

Anyone else get a chuckle that out of the myriad of relevant quotes, the author selected, "He... once [described] an Intel fix as 'complete and utter garbage'".

Good for Linus, I'm happy that he's not looking to adjust his technical expectations:

"technically wrong is still technically wrong, and I won't start accepting bad code just to make people feel better about themselves."

They could have taken a quote from 2012:

""...should be retroactively aborted. Who the f+ck does idiotic things like that? How did they not die as babies, considering that they were likely too stupid to find a tit to suck on?""

I always read Linus as a Finn speaking English as Finnish is spoken in the company of good friends, profanity will be used, often quite liberally, and if anything, the Swedish speaking minority he harkens from swear even more. Only outdone by the good people of Åland, to which swearing seems to be a form of art, or how they breathe.

I believe it's well known that people tend to curse more in a second language, applying that theory to some Finns is going to lead to a very colorful and explicit language.

Personally I barely swear, I find it somewhat pointless.

However I have never really been bothered in the least of what he writes. I'm wondering if it is because English is a second language to me? Maybe because I have at least a cursory knowledge of Finn culture, or even because it felt so blindingly obvious to me that regardless of the superficial content of the profanities, they were rarely ( if ever ) a statement of value regarding people, only their contribution.

I really don't know, but it is interesting because I think I would have reacted quite strongly to most people saying what you quoted above!

Language and communication, it's perplexingly complicated.

So you don't see a difference between:

* This code is idiotic.

* You are an idiot.

* You should be dead.

That is just super funny. It always will be.

It is, absolutely.

If you view software development as entertainment.

If you view it asa profession, maybe not.

Not true. The fact that professional software developer sometimes uses profane language does not mean it is not funny.

I think Linus was actually trying to be funny with those statements. Some of us understand that humor, some of us don't.

I understand the humor, I just don't appreciate or see the value of "being funny" in a personally insulting way to a code commit.

There's nothing wrong with saying something is crap, if it is actually that, and if there isn't really an individual on the other side.

Generally, it's probably not a good idea to use such language with an individual. But if it's 'not good' - you can say that.

But finally there's no reason to demean individuals arbitrarily.

This discussion is wayward: it's not about groups, minorities or being PC ... it's really just about being 'honest' vs. 'being sensitive'.

Some people perceive some honest remarks as insensitive, while others perceive 'politically sensitive' remarks as dishonest, and therefore a little offensive.

Personally I'm in the 'candid' camp, but I don't mind people who are a little indirect with the intention of being nice.

This has nothing to do with arbitrary douchebaggery - there's never any reason for that. Ok - maybe you scan scream at a big, faceless corporation now and again, but not individuals.

I think there's too much intellectualize of this subject and so many are missing the point.

You can be candid or sensitive, that should be your choice.

But you can't be an arbitrary jerk.

If Linus wants to be candid at the cost of not being well received, then fine. But he shouldn't be attacking people.

> But you can't be an arbitrary jerk.

Why not? Who invented that rule?

Fair point.

As to the topic, I don't think it's ever been a mystery to Torvalds why people might not like him. Doesn't really change anything about the product.

Not to compare him to anyone else, but who really thinks that talented artisans throughout history were great people to be around?

>Good for Linus, I'm happy that he's not looking to adjust his technical expectations:

Did anyone seriously, with good faith and without political goals, believe that that was going to happen?

Stranger things have happened.

I've personally found an increase in instances in which I think, "The likelihood of X is so low," and then bam! X occurs.

Nobody, anywhere, for any of these projects, has ever suggested that bad code be accepted just to make someone feel better. That has always been an excuse used by the anti-CoC people, and has always been without merit.

It's interesting that Torvalds describes himself as "not a people person", when he's a gifted communicator who has been tremendously successful at managing the community around Linux over many years. His current refinements are making a great thing even better.

This is more of a question than a critique on your comment, but:

Couldn't he still not be a people person _(perhaps a poor communicator)_, and still manage a successful community? I say that because historically it's been a bit of a meme around how forceful and abrasive Linus is. Yet, he's often right, or at the very least very informed.

He's a very smart man who has done very smart things. I'm not sure if the Linux community inherently means he's a gifted communicator. Eg, I don't think I could behave like Linus and make a Linux-like community - I think his talent and intelligence carry his lack of communication skills. Which is not a discredit to him, we're all different.


Torvalds' written communications are incredibly well-composed, full of information and get his point across well. On the basis of his emails alone, he's a "gifted communicator" in my view. Not everyone who is as logically brilliant as him can write like that.

Despite that, I'm sure that when he says he's "not a people person" there's something to it. Maybe a certain difficulty reading people or anticipating their responses?

That those two things live together side-by-side, that's what I personally meant by "interesting".

I highly recommend watching the TED Talk that Torvalds presented. You get a much clearer idea what he means by "not a people person".


This talk is also back in 2016, and even then, he talks about not being proud of the way that he reacts to people sometimes. So, while his recent announcement may come as a surprise to some, it's something he appears to have been giving a good deal of thought for a while now.

IMO, the thing that he doesn't seem to understand is the difference between criticizing the implementation and criticizing the person. Pointing out flaws in the code is not the same as calling a person stupid. If he could just learn to explain why the code is bad most of his people problems would disappear.

Not all, since some people take criticism of their code poorly, but if you aren't committed to the highest quality code possible then you probably shouldn't be working on something like kernel development. There are some ways to reduce problems with those kinds of people though. Asking probing questions to get the person to think through the problems on their own to fix them for example. Or having a standards document that all kernel code is expected to conform to so you can just point out parts that don't conform to the standard.

"Asking probing questions to get the person to think through the problems on their own to fix them for example."

My impression that most of his blow ups happen after he has tried this approach unsuccessfully.

I am just a little tech lead but over the years I have found that with some people you have to yell at them from time to time because they don't understand feedback that was given nicely.

That's a fair point. My comment is mainly in reference to my viewpoint that to be a good communicator, you need to both convey information, and convey a socially acceptable tone to allow people to ingest your view with ease. It's what make heated conversations (ie, politics, sensitive subjects, etc) hard to communicate about - the tone becomes aggressive and communication is less effective.

You are very correct, he is very good at conveying information. I think he's poor at placating people and handling people in ways that ease tension, lesson aggressive tones, etc. Great communicators need to do both if they want the information to be conveyed as effectively as possible - even though it stinks to have to placate/etc people, sometimes.

"not a people person"

Some people are are task oriented and some people are relationship oriented. I think he cares more about the project than making people happy.

There's different types of communication.

From my casual view, he's not a great communicator in the sense of communicating with the public. That requires measured response and dealing with issues in a particular way.

He is a master of his craft, and very effective technical communicator. As a non-kernel programmer, I can read something that he writes about and understand it enough to answer questions I have about how things work.

It's one of the challenges of working in big groups of people. He is dealing with a huge community, all with their own interests and agendas in pursuit of his vision of excellence. In a private company he would be able to exert (directly or indirectly) control over the conduct of community members. In this public forum, he has the ability to influence rhetorically or control what gets past him. That's a different and more difficult form of control, especially when you have to do it in public.

The fact that he has been leading this for so long shows that he is a great communicator. You can't do this without.

Communication skills doesn't necessarily mean to be smooth and agreeable. It's one facet of it but not everything. On the other hand some people may think his style works because he is abrasive and emulate that (like some people didnand still do with Jobs).

In the end as a leader you need to have a vision where things should go and be able to communicate that. You need to give people freedom to do what they need to do but also sometimes clearly say "no" and risk to alientate some people.

If the email to BBC was written by Torvalds, then he is a great communicator. Very few people can write with such clarity.

I also think Linux is successful because the tool and ideology appeals to people rather than Linus.

In a huge part of development of distros you don't come into contact with Linus anyway, and they are part of the reason why Linux is popular.

So I would not attribute the whole Linux effort and community to him. (He had a huge part in getting it off the ground though and I do not wish to minimize his influenve and input)

Yes. That seems entirely plausible and even likely.

Have you ever worked with someone who is both skilled and a good communicator? It’s an excellent experience, because good people skills are like a force multiplier on those technical skills.

It's truly remarkable that he has been able to keep that project together for so long. Instead of looking at his weaknesses people should look at how he did this. There is a lot to learn.

He's an uncut (but polished) diamond, a bit rough around the edges but trully brilliant.

I get where he's coming from. I have no problem speaking in front of people or participating and leading groups when it comes to technical/professional/job related things, but dealing with groups and people in a more ambiguous social contexts just makes me want to run and hide in a corner.

I’ve been called a gifted public speaker. I’m also not a people person. In fact I dislike damn near everyone I meet.

I don’t see why the two need to be correlated in some way.

He communicates well but on a task instead of things about people per say. Someone like him for instance isn't sure about how to respond say Sandra having a baby and would have to ask if it is good news or not but he knows how to process say increasing multithreading is important in the Kernel but there are competing security issues he knows how to coordinate there to patch Heartbleed and its ilk.

I think he means it as in "I'm not one to cater to people's feelings"

A community of programmers isn't the same as a community of average Joes. Engineers care about facts not so much about sentiment. That is why you can be harsh and still get the message through. Trying doing that in the general public though won't work. If you notice politicians always talk to the public like they're imbeciles. Short, easy to remember messages without a lot of technicalities. Quite the opposite of the way we communicate.

I don't know, I find a lot of engineers to actually be really sensitive. Confident and nice people can hold their ground and maintain civility in a disagreement without devolving into name-calling, questioning someone's character, or question someone's abilities because they don't agree on how to implement a process (be it in software, hardware, or something more mechanical).

Adding a large ego onto being sensitive makes for a very unpleasant and volatile combination. It causes them to take disagreement personally and then it becomes a religious discussion along the lines of vim vs emacs (obviously vim is superior and if you think otherwise, go back to sociology you moron). I think Linus is just like that.

That's my two bits.

This is a myth about engineers that I've almost never seen demonstrated in reality.

I suspect we would be better served by just admitting that engineers are people to with all the flaws that come with it.

"Engineers care about facts not so much about sentiment."

Some engineers do. But all are still people who have feelings, and the sentiment of the message can definitely affect and hurt them.


True. But was Hitler a People-Person? What about Goebbels?

Supposedly he was good at dinner parties. There are plenty of accounts of various British aristocrats describing him as "charming" before the war. But while trying to find the canonical Hitler dinner party story I came across an even more extraordinary one, involving the massacre of Jews as after-dinner entertainment: https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/europe/.premium.MAGAZINE-...

Being a "people person" and a mass murderer are not at all incompatible. It all depends what that person thinks of as "people".

If not for this guy - we wouldn't have Linux. I'd much rather work with honest person that can tell me how he really feels then nice spoken liars.

That’s essentially a cliché false dichotomy. Wouldn’t it be even nicer to work with someone who can express how they feel in a constructive and helpful manner?

Sometimes "constructive" requires more effort, which for an engineer could mean "overhead". Especially if communication is text based (email, chat, etc.), it's more difficult to express your emotions.

My imho of course.

As far as I can tell Linus's feedback is almost always constructive in that it generally points out precisely why he thinks something should or shouldn't that way. The problem is that he sometimes splices personal attacks and uses an overly aggressive tone which doesn't really help anything.

I can somewhat justify using a very corrosive tone if you're not in a place of power and you want to be sure that you're not ignored (I'm not a fan of it but pragmatically it sometimes gets the job done). However it's clearly not the case here, he has the power to reject any contribution he doesn't fancy. And his developer clout is huge enough that he'd still be heard if he criticized third party projects he doesn't maintain.

From a purely pragmatic point of view I don't see what his corrosive tone gets him. Actually I can easily see what it cost him, some devs have resigned from their maintainer position in the Linux kernel and probably many more who gave up contributing at all because they were worried they were going to be shot in flight.

You are highlighting the false dichotomy that a lot of folks in this thread--and, if I'm being frank, not for good, decent, or ethical reasons--are piling in on.

You can do something that makes people upset without being an asshole.

It's really that simple.

"No, I won't merge this pull request because of X, Y, and Z." Somebody's probably not going to be happy. But you have not needed to stoop to insulting them. You have not been an asshole. You have done your job, you have kept whatever level of high technical quality you care about. But you have not been an asshole.

It is not hard to do both, and if you are but-forring Linus's decision to maybe be less of an asshole it's probably look-in-the-mirror time.

I don't believe it's that simple. Many people have some emotional stake in the acceptance and quality of their efforts; telling them that the code they wrote won't be accepted because X, Y, and Z will almost certainly rub many the wrong way.

And what of questions about their process? I've seen LKML questions along the lines of, "This code produces many warnings when compiled; did you even compile it?" It's a valid question, if a little terse, and almost certainly insulting.

Asking if somebody compiled the code is kind of shitty, yeah. Assume good faith. But even that is nowhere near the kind of direct and point-to-point insults that some folks, particularly Linus, have gone to on occasion.

I think that you are arguing apples and apple pies.

Assume good faith, certainly; but when compiling the code shows strong evidence that the assumption was incorrect...

Questions of process are made valid when it becomes clear there may be a flaw in the process which was applied. Asking them if they compiled the code is warranted, is it not?

No; it's just being shitty, and to be frank I think you know that.

"This code has more warnings than we accept under our process; please remedy." You aren't telling onlookers that they will be lit on fire for the temerity to contribute, you aren't causing anyone to lose face and you aren't hurting anyone. No aspersions, no chilling effects, and a positive path forward. Done and done. Everyone wins. To do otherwise is inhumane.

> "This code has more warnings than we accept under our process; please remedy."

That fails to address the possibility that their process is broken, and so achieves the possibility of inducing technical debt when these issues will inevitably arise again.

Fixing process can be as important as fixing code.

Sure. OK. Where does insulting people come into that?

There have been a lot of electrons perturbed dancing around that that's what we're talking about, yes?

It doesn't? But I believe that I've made my point: it was not so simple to communicate as first suggested.

I'm not pro-insult, not by any means.

Do you think just saying “this is broken in this way” has an identical effect to yelling at someone for being thoughtless?

It seems you think one approach is clearly worse.

But as a thought experiment can you imagine how each approach might have real tangible advantages?

It does not have an identical effect. For one, the listener has a reason to listen to you with regards to the former. For two, everyone else is not provided with a reason to pull the ripcord and avoid you entirely.

I understand the point of view that yes, it may have advantages to abuse people for your immediate and short-term desires. The attempt to cast abuse as valid for those advantages belies the truth of a nasty participant in the body politic.

I think saying “this sucks” can actually make certain personality types want to really dive in and analyze their own thought process.

I’ve wotked with people who genuinely respond well to that kind of feedback. It seems you think one-size fits all, and fits every situation?

In a public space, which is the implicit context of everything we are talking about here? No. Because listeners matter, too.

If you want to tell somebody in a 1:1 "this sucks" when you know--know, not assume--that that is their preferred mode of communication? Sure. Fine. I think that resorting to such modes of communication makes you a lousy leader because it's important to train your people out of high-tension and low-value communications, but fine. But y'know what? Nobody here is talking about that situation, so table it and move on.

I won't reply to your diversion again.

Is it better to train myself to not be affected with insult ? If some one say to me "No, you stupid pile of sheet, I won't merge this pull request because of X, Y, and Z." I'll just ignore the insult part or at very least to not let myself negatively affected and move on.

No, it's not.

It is better to respond coolly to assholish behavior. But it is not better to allow it to remain unchallenged. Not challenging assholish behavior means that it becomes a community norm and is then incumbent upon everybody else to "train" themselves, as you say, to ignore the behavior of a minority of assholes. It hands the responsibility of defining what the culture is to those assholes.

Letting the assholes normalize the culture is bad. It decreases uptake. It increases, even if people "train" themselves, the likelihood of burnout and of departure. And it makes the world, even if incrementally, a worse place.

Isn't is easier to change one person namely myself, rather than try to change one other person, let alone many?

The culture and the world always evolving and changing, it can be worse or better or whatever, most importantly for me is how can I make myself adapt to the every situation and make the best of it.

I don't care about "easier" and I don't think you should either. Why would "easier" be even on the radar?

"Changing yourself" and letting rot fester is of little value to anyone. Be so mildly discomforted as to push back on other people's nasty behaviors and you make the world a better place.

Do what is right.

Because is practical, obviously changing myself to adapt to every situation has value for me, it makes a world a better place for me. what is right is relative, this is what I think Right.

No, because you're never going to do that, and in trying, you're probably going to cause yourself to send out more insults to others. You're also going to normalize a culture of calling everyone a "stupid pile of sheet" or worse when something goes wrong, which leads to a pretty unwelcoming and hostile atmosphere.

These days there is hardly any insult that can negatively affect me. I found it can be useful skill to have.

It's unlikely that someone can be impervious to all and every type of insult and at any point in your life, as long as you are human.

In some cultures e.g. Japanese, being publicly accused and insulted is worse than insulting - it's a mark of shame that doesn't go away.

Unfortunately people simply can't rewire their brain, especially as adults, and that's why good manners exist.

> It's unlikely that someone can be impervious to all and every type of insult and at any point in your life, as long as you are human

Sure, but I can always make the effort and try

>Unfortunately people simply can't rewire their brain, especially as adults

I think It works both way. Some asshole can't simply be not asshole.

Everyone, modulo the pathologically mentally ill who require at least some level of direct and personal care (and who, frankly, are such a vanishingly tiny minority that optimizing for that case is silly), can choose to not be an asshole.

Someone's ingrained bad habits may make this harder.


It's a choice; make it.

> From a purely pragmatic point of view I don't see what his corrosive tone gets him.

I don't know whether it actually, but I think Linus becomes "corrosive" to get rid of someone. Certain developers disappearing is not a side effect, it's the intended effect.

If you have a "contributor" who keeps submitting the same faulty patch over and over, who doesn't listen, but keeps making a fuss about his "contribution" not being accepted, what can you do? You tell him that his code is no good and won't be accepted, and you tell him that his making a fuss about it is not welcome. But he doesn't stop, so now what? Block him from the mailing list? He just comes back with a new address. What's next? You decide to be so unpleasant to him that he leaves.

Anecdotally, this sequence happened with certain engineers at Redhat, who kept dumping their bad code at Linus so that it may be maintained upstream. They could have cleaned it up, but that's exactly the maintenance cost Redhat wanted to outsource to the community.

The problem is, it's not just the intended targets that go away with that behavior. A lot of spectators who see that decide they no longer wish to put themselves through that, and leave as well.

No doubt, but we're people talking to other people. We can afford that overhead, and neglecting it incurs down-stream costs that can be unpredictable and significant.

It isn't overhead. It helps contributors improve.

> Sometimes "constructive" requires more effort

Not typing insults saves time. We are not talking about psychologist-grade emotional communication, just basic manners.

Lots of people don't have the cognitive ability to hit the perfect mixture of expressing every necessary criticism with sufficient force, without hurting any feelings more than absolutely necessary, without taking energy away from completing other tasks.

It would be nice if we could find a person who was a world class 100x programmer AND project organizer AND had decades of sustained high productivity AND had absolutely perfect social skills.

But in real life people like this are hard to find, so we have to deal with imperfect people.

The question is: Which kind of imperfection do you prefer for this purpose? Someone who is technically weak? Disorganized? Can't stand the pressure of leading a massive organization? Can't sustain effort over time? Writes unnecessarily mean criticism that drives some people away? Writes too-soft criticism that fails to correct technical failings? Choose at least one.

If you had someone who was technically deficient, would you just push them away, or would you push them to get better? Why not the same with someone who doesn't have the best interpersonal skills? Why shouldn't we push those people to get better?

Linus himself is saying he can and should do better.

Under duress. Let's not pretend it's some organic evolution in his personality, he has been pressured into this new position.

Sometimes you have to be nudged towards the right direction. But change comes from inside. You’re being rather insulting to Linus if you assume he’s just a pawn being moved from the outside here instead of moving on his own accord.

Linus wrote emails all day every day for 15 years and like once a year he'd go off on somebody.

It's not a false dichotomy, because nobody's perfect. You're gonna have flaws, they're gonna come out on bad days, and at that point you've got a few options for what kinds of flaws you prefer.

he has generated an veritable everest of writing and some people want to focus on a few of the rocks.

Sure. But in reality as a leader you sometimes have to be willing to piss off some people. You can't always be nice. Sometimes you have to draw a clear boundary.

What is the scenario where it is necessary for a leader to tell someone they should have been aborted?

Probably never. I think he should hire someone who checks his E-mails and asks him "Do you really want to send this?".

In any case, I find there is way too much focus on words instead of actions. It's the same in politics and in business. You have people who get nailed for cursing but the standard for company leadership seems to be to use nice words while at the same time stabbing people in the back. I would be more concerned if Linus physically abused people or laid off people with one day's notice "It's just business".

My parents joke about that with my brother and I; "Dammit jbob, we should have aborted you!". Jokes like these require context and when you look at them from the outside, they look terrible. It's not "necessary", but then again, neither is 90% of human communication, my parents could have just said "You. Bad action. Fix."

That seems to be what's missing from this whole SJW movement; context. These people watch from the sidelines, pick up on a few "trigger" words, and then burn your house down because they didn't understand the context of your comment.

Just because there are contexts where it wouldn't be bad doesn't mean that the example fits that narrow context.

You asked when it would be ok for a leader to tell someone they should be aborted and I gave you an example. Don’t throw away the example just because you don’t like it or it doesn’t fit your theory.

Absolutely. That doesn't mean you have to tell them you wish they were retroactively aborted.

Wow, you respond to a comment about false dichotomy by invoking the false dichotomy.

Correct. My point is that you can't always be nice. It works as little as always being abrasive.

But you gave the false dichotomy that to do that, you have to be an asshole. That's purely not true.

sure but I can't realistically expect everyone to be nice, Isn't better for me to always try to prepare myself for the fact that anyone can be rude and unhelpful ?

Yes, but it is also unreasonable to expect everyone you professionally deal with to be that way. To be frank, it's unreasonable to even expect this at the team level. It's also completely orthogonal to whether it's OK for the team leader to be an asshole.

I am not sure what you mean, yes it is unreasonable to expect everyone I professionally deal with to be that one way.

While everyone was spending their time learning how to be nice - this guy actually sat down and built something useful.

Does it take hours to learn not to write "$people should be retroactively aborted"? Weeks?

Years, lifetime. If it is so easy to force people to be polite, societies would already taken that low hanging fruit ages before*

*Actually, they do in some societies, such as for example Japan, or my own native Java. People insult each other with more esoteric means instead.

Oh, sure. It'd also be very nice to work in a 50% female developer team where everyone estimates correctly.

Do you ever fire people who are nice and really trying?

Yeah, I've done that – and I've not been a dick about it.

Why is it such a prevalent idea that someone has to be an asshole in order to give negative feedback, or to take an action that someone doesn't like?

Because me telling you that your code sucks is not being anti-gay if you are gay or anti-trans if you are trans. It is me telling you that your code sucks. You should either make your code not suck, or you can GTFO unless I'm lower on the org chart than you are, then you can do whatever you want, including telling me to shove it or GTFO and based on how I feel about it, I can either forget about it or GTFO. That's equality - we are dealing with code and not our sexual lifestyle(s). Org chart is used to determine who gets to win in the argument if neither of the two sides are willing to budge.

Alternatively, we can spend a year debating if me using a word "suck" is appropriate or triggering because you found out based on the DNA testing of your twice removed uncle that his grandfather was lactose intolerant which caused you to develop an emotional response while your code continues to suck and create problems, causing the company to lose money or a project to lose users.


It should be pretty obvious that this thread is going nowhere good. Can we please stop wasting our time shouting past each other? If we're not receptive to learning something new we should just go elsewhere because that's what this site is for.

In the course of your excessive use of hyperbole and strawman, you've effectively turned off anyone who might have been interested in hearing your argument out. I'm not sure what point, if any, you're trying to make here other than to air out grievances about some grossly unrealistic perception of other people based entirely on [social] media stereotypes.

You must be insufferable to be around.

Here's a novel idea, how about instead of directly resorting to "Your code sucks." we instead say something like "I think there's still some work to do here. Here's the way I would have done this." It's really not that hard to give constructive criticism.

In practice it works like this:

"Your code invokes undefined behavior and may fail in the following ways. These corner cases are handled incorrectly. There are a few other cases I'm not sure about, because I have trouble following the logic."

"The code is fine. I have tested it!"

"It happens to work on you current machine. That's the nature of undefined behavior. It might fail in the future without warning."

"I tested it, it works. Now merge it!"

"Sorry, man, the code is crap. Go and fix it."

Nobody resorts directly to "your code sucks". Engineers love to give constructive criticism, but they hate to give marks for effort. And where constructive arguments fall on deaf ears, they give up and either ignore you or tell you to GTFO. Both are perceived as impolite, but what else could they do?

>"The code is fine. I have tested it!"

In your scenario, the person saying this is being the bad contributor, and should be told to explain what they disagree with in the review. If anyone shuts down in a code review like that more than once, they should be finding a new place to work. And that really goes for both sides to be fair -- if I put in effort into a PR I deserve a good constructive review. If it's a public project and this stranger refuses to follow the rules, no harm done in closing the request and telling them to come back later when they're ready to discuss things.

Or you know, however you discipline them. I think we're in agreement that there's no need to resort to personal attacks and frankly someone telling me my code is crap is probably better than being told I should have been aborted in a code review.

It would cost you nothing to replace your last line with, “I’m sorry, but that’s not what we’re seeing and we won’t merge it until you fix it. I understand your passion, but I won’t sacrifice the quality of this project for that. Fix the code so that it no longer invokes undefined behavior and we’ll review it, otherwise we have nothing more to talk about.”

The end. No need to call it crap, no need to burn a bridge.

It costs time and energy, because there is no end to this kind of debate. Some people are persistent and will blame you for explaining badly when they don't understand. These discussions never end; usually not even after things got labelled as crap.

Personally, I just stop responding after the technical arguments have been exchanged. There is no point in repeating what was ignored already, no point in ELI5, no point to using swear words, silence is what works best.

By the way, if you told me "I understand your passion, but...", I'd be angry beyond belief. That's the way you talk to children, and even my mother is no longer allowed to talk to me like that. I consider that a stronger insult than my code being called crap. Which probably shows that shutting up in time is the best response.

It costs time and energy, because there is no end to this kind of debate.

The end is “nothing more to talk about,” and then you stop replying. As to time and energy, if you’re so depleted than an extra few sentences will materially impact you, then that is a problem. Healthy humans won’t be exhausted by expressing themselves in a half paragraph rather than a muttered “crap”.

Some people are persistent and will blame you for explaining badly when they don't understand. These discussions never end; usually not even after things got labelled as crap.

So don’t call it crap, just clearly state that you’re not interested anymore and hit ignore. The rest is their problem, not yours, and you’ll gain a reputation for being forthright and firm rather than hysterical.

Personally, I just stop responding after the technical arguments have been exchanged. There is no point in repeating what was ignored already, no point in ELI5, no point to using swear words, silence is what works best.

Amen brother.

By the way, if you told me "I understand your passion, but...", I'd be angry beyond belief. That's the way you talk to children, and even my mother is no longer allowed to talk to me like that. I consider that a stronger insult than my code being called crap. Which probably shows that shutting up in time is the best response.

The person in the example was acting like a child, and deserved to be treated (politely) like one. Either way though, my particular wording was just off-the-cuff and only an example.

But... what you wrote means exactly the same thing, with way more words.

The code was obviously bad enough to not get accepted and should be fixed. What is so bad in saying it like it is instead of dressing things up with layers of words?

Even with that long reply everyone will understand the intent behind it.

Maybe it is a cultural thing in the end. North American culture is very different from, say, Finnish culture (from which I am from, too).

I’m somewhat familiar with Finnish culture, and to be honest I sort of wish the world worked that way. The Finnish version of the example conversation could have just been:

Merge my code! It’s great!


Aaaand scene.

Hell, that “no” could even have been a silent stare, or a grunt and it would have worked. Sadly much of the World finds that crosses the line fopekm taciturn and direct, into either rudeness or lack of communication. Dressing things up with layers of words, while tedious, is also the basic way many cultures keep arguments from turning into murders. North America (and the UK and some other parts) probably do take it a bit far. Not as far as Japan, but still, too far.

All of which is to say, yes it’s probably cultural, but it’s also a matter of people who are invested in something missing the obvious. Sometimes you really have to drive a point home, and my general recommendation was that it’s better to do so directly and civilly, rather than rudely.

You just insulted someone personally. Do you see that you did that?

It is not optimal resource allocation of my most valuable resource - time.

The low emotional intelligence on display throughout this thread is both disappointing and unsurprising.

I have fired "nice and really trying" people. Because they were decent people, I have also then recommended them to my personal network for positions that are better suited to their skills (and more than once have they gone on to success at a friend's company), because hiring somebody who can't do the job is management's fault.

I also fire people who are toxic assholes. I do not recommend them to my network because I would not inflict them upon people I like. Even if they're competent.

You can, in fact, do both, and hats off to Linus for at least making a goddamned attempt to not be the latter.

> The low emotional intelligence on display throughout this thread is both disappointing and unsurprising.

You're pretty close to behaving a certain way mentioned in this comment yourself. Could you please, like we've asked before, try not to be so mean to other users?

I would like to point out: you just insulted a number of people’s emotional intelligence, while talking about how important it is to be nice.

Correctly identifying poor emotional intelligence as such is not necessarily nice, no. Fortunately I never-not-once said a word about "how important it is to be nice".

It's important to not be a toxic asshole.

There is a real and obvious difference between the assertion I made and the assertion you are attempting to say that I made.

Sorry, that kind of thinking is problematic. A person can't exactly change their EQ, so you shouldn't be so toxic about this.


Wow. This...uh. There's a lot of shitty to unpack in this post.

First: I've never had to fire somebody I hired. I have had to fire people I inherited. It doesn't suck less, but given your odd attempt at turning this into a referendum on people who aren't big on jerkass coworkers, I feel like it helps complete the picture.

Second: firing people is rather unlike "coddling".

Third: that I have fired people does not mean I do not think that they are decent people. It does not mean that I think they are fit for no job. And it does not mean that I, as somebody with a working empathic function, don't want to help them to land as softly as possible in a job where they can be happy and productive.

Fourth: the notion that a reference can't be honest because somebody puts forth the above idea is entirely and only in your goddamn head. You are projecting. On the other hand, I've told somebody who asked (off the record) something along the lines of "I would not hire this person as a team lead because I've observed deficiencies in X, Y, and Z, but their strengths in A, B, and C make them good for role R" because honesty does not require being a prick.

Fifth: somebody who is fired for being an asshole--and, yeah, I've done that, and again, nobody I've ever hired--has no value to my network. I'm not going to inject the toxin I have spat out into somebody I actually like. Because I actually like those people and I want them to succeed. It isn't hard.

Were I in your shoes I'd be looking in the mirror right now. You're projecting something real ugly onto me and its source is worth thinking about.

Your website's cert has expired nearly a week ago. Competency is clearly overrated in the land of empathetic bosses.


So I address for this being a dig. It is an observation. Those who are empathetic eventually spend all of their time talking about feels rather than addressing issues. Time is a finite resource. Sooner or later ( typically sooner rather than later ) one needs to decide what he or she is going to value more : competency or empathy.

Also, I apologize if me noticing a bad cert was hurtful.

Oh, darn! I was on vacation and a reboot seems to have horked the cron job that runs certbot on the website that fronts my basically-spun-down consulting business and a side project of mine. I probably should have gone through my emails a bit closer when I got back from my trip! And, of course, that totally invalidates an argument.

I want to dig, though: is this what you think an argument is, from you? Do you think you're saying something meaningful? I can guarantee you've fucked up something quite a lot bigger and quite a lot more expensive in your career--or you haven't done anything, anything, of note. (Hell, I have. And I talk about it regularly! That's how you learn things.)

And yet that doesn't diminish your argument. Your argument falls on its face on its merits.

I have absolutely no idea how you can draw this conclusion.

There is a pretty obvious difference between "giving feedback in a respectful, polite and constructive manner" and "giving feedback in an aggressive, disrespectful and unhelpful manner". The former isn't "coddling" – it's "being a decent human being".

The problem I see is that too many people seem to confuse "having strong views and standing by them" with "being an unnecessary dick about it". You don't have to do the latter to achieve the former, and I'd argue that it is almost universally harmful.

Reminds me a lot of a Jeff Atwood quote from the Stackoverflow.com podcast's initial days.

>It's much better to have "strong views, weakly held" than to have "weak views, strongly held".

Meaning that you should be confident in your opinions but at the same time be willing to concede defeat if someone can show you why your opinion is wrong or not the most optimal one. Rather than persistently defending a view that you also over time come to realise was wrong.

Since you've invested so much time and are holding onto the weak view strongly, you would not want to abandon the view due to the feeling that it was all a waste.


How does this relate to anything? Even if that very hypothetical scenario were to happen, how do you think it would be more helpful for Linus to respond with an aggressive rant rather than a matter-of-fact ”Sorry, I can’t follow this, please try to refactor”?

You do what you should have done in the first place and locate specific problems.

If the code is too clever for you, ask them to refactor in a simpler way rather than rejecting outright.

Well, you ask for improvement and reject. You have to, because you don't want to accept it. That pisses the submitter off. What now?

A possible alternative is to do what Pieter Hintjens recommended: Accept everything, wait for the community to clean it up. Somebody might outright revert the bad patch... you accept that reversion patch, too, because you don't judge, you accept everything. This approach supposedly worked well for Pieter, but 0MQ isn't nearly as big or as visible as Linux.

>Well, you ask for improvement and reject. You have to, because you don't want to accept it. That pisses the submitter off. What now?

The goal of better communication (in this case) is not to be the offensive asshole. It is not to ensure the other person isn't pissed off. I've pointed it out in earlier threads, but do try to read some good books on communication. While they do talk about phrases that lead to defensive behavior and how to avoid them, the focus is always on ensuring your perspective gets out, and i a way that is most likely to be heard.

As one book said "Do not make a metric how upset the other person becomes. That is giving too much control to the other party, and you have limited control over their behavior".

Not always. Some of the best feedback I've ever gotten was when I was told that what I wrote was "crap". What's not constructive about that feedback?

When people use the word "constructive", what they actually mean is "nice" and "won't hurt my ego."

"Not always. Some of the best feedback I've ever gotten was when I was told that what I wrote was "crap". What's not constructive about that feedback?"

reply "


Saying something is 'crap' may be true, but it's definitely not constructive. 'Constructive' feedback helps you understand why it's wrong. So, 'constructive' would be: "hey that code was very problematic, and here are the reasons why: etc. etc. etc.."

"When people use the word "constructive", what they actually mean is "nice" and "won't hurt my ego.""

No. Saying something is 'crap' is generally not useful and counterproductive. It's also subjective. You can say 'It doesn't work' or 'it doesn't meet requirements' and that's more objective.

It was constructive to me, anyhow. And certainly not counterproductive.

Sometimes people need to be reminded just how badly they screwed up, and to purposely avoid offending people is pretending that some work isn't crap. Of course words like crap are subjective; to the person reviewing my work, my code was crap, and that actually means something to me if they think that it's crap.

Not constructive? Nonsense. Sometimes you need language like "crap" to punctuate the issue. It got me to take the issue more seriously. If I tried to ship some really awful code, I don't need someone to tell me "Gee, Ravenstine, let's talk about this, m'kay? So this part of your code is... problematic." People the word "problematic" gets thrown around all the time, even when referring to very minor bugs in public projects. But words like "crap" actually mean something because they're reserved for times when you really need to know what you did was wrong.

I'm irrational, as are all human beings. Not everything I do can be treated as an engineering puzzle with a fixed set of inputs that yield a deterministic return value. You can tell a human being that something "doesn't meet the requirements" like they're some kind of robot, but depending on who you're talking to, you may get the result you want by not talking to them like they're robots.

This is definitely not to say that people should be uncivil, I find that sometimes a kick in the rear is very helpful.

I abhor this kind of advice. "Hey this code was very problematic ..." is incredibly grating and I would think a lot less of a supervisor that chose to give feedback with such a veil.

Not sure about "This code is crap", but claiming it is less constructive than your example is a very superficial reading. A supervisor who told me "Your code is crap" would seem a lot more inviting than one who put the condescending remark you offered. It's a lot more constructive because it reminds me (a) that my supervisor expects more and (b) my supervisor expects more from me (i.e. both I know what to do to fix it and my supervisor thinks this is a lapse and I'm competent).

Totally disagree.

Saying something is 'problematic' is not remotely condescending. It's just a reasonably objective way of saying there are problems.

Saying something is 'crap' is neither more authentic nor more informative, it's absolutely not constructive and it certainly isn't polite.

I think you may have difficulty interpreting communication when you take things literally the opposite of what they are i.e. 'problematic' as some kind of 'crypto-speak' when it's not, and 'crap' - which is actually and objectively condescending and objectively not constructive.

If a piece of code needs work in a more general way, your manager's best option is to communicate that candidly in an impersonal and clear manner. Maybe with a tiny bit of sugar coating depending on the situation.

So 'the code needs a lot of work, specifically in these areas: a, b, c '. Or 'the code needs a lot of work and I see some ugly patters in there, maybe due to some habits you have developed elsewhere, let's work on these things specifically: a, b, c etc..' is appropriate.

The only time you can say code is 'crap' is when you have a very good relationship with someone, and a fair degree of mutual respect, and you also know that they'll never interpret it too negatively. As in 'heyzeus Joe that last checkin was abysmal, see: a, b and c ... and no more watching the pro-bowl while coding for you my man!' ... is what I could get away with someone I've known for quite a while.

You could use 'crap' in a public forum directed maybe at a group or company, but never publicly towards any individual.

If you're in charge of a major open source project, you can tell your staff that 'Joe from Montana's code is crap and we basically should ignore is pull requests' ... but you wouldn't say that to Joe himself.

So you are either a truthful asshole or a kind liar? There are no people who are kind and honest?

I don't know, but the idioms of the "white lie" and "polite fiction" certainly imply some connection between impoliteness and truth-telling, don't they?

Expectations of politeness generally involve letting people have their happy delusions if they aren't harming anyone. For instance for someone whose son went MIA in Vietnam and holds hopes that he will return one day telling them "He probably either died and his corpse was forgotten or in the off chance he is alive went AWOL with some peasant girl after getting fed up with the war and lives in fear that he will be found out.". Even if statistically it is 100% true that would be staggeringly rude to say to them.

So what? What I am saying is that there must be other possibilities. Even 1 person who is kind and honest would be enough to render what I said correct.

I was reacting to @stemc43 who said "I'd rather work with...". Why wouldn't you rather work with kind and honest people? If you are picking your ideal scenario already anyway why not pick the positive version instead of the negative one?

So what? There are also non benevolent lies and polite truth.

We just call those "lies" and "truth", and that shows us nothing because it was never in doubt that truth and politeness are often not in conflict.

On the other hand the idioms identified point to a long-standing understanding that sometimes, they are in conflict; a corollary of which is that one who always chooses complete honesty has likely failed to be polite from time to time, and one who is unfailingly polite has, like the curate describing his egg, likely given less than the total truth.

Most of us tend towards the politeness side of the tradeoff - we might, for example, describe a potential process failure when a more honest appraisal is that carelessness was the root cause.

In the era of victimhood and "microaggressions" honesty does hurt people's feelings apparently.

But we all know all that has nothing to do with honesty, it's about political control, in and outside a informal community. Open source is defacto an easy target since most projects don't have real organizations. The people who pull these stunts in the open source world have no power of persuasion in private businesses, they can't impose their dubious code of conducts,contributor covenants and other "post-meritocracy" manifesto there.

Maybe there are, but those are two distinct (although not necessarily orthogonal) metrics and thus the overlap where you get to maximize both tends to be much smaller.

In other words there may be much fewer people who are truthful, kind and technically skilled at the same time.

If kindness were constant among people we wouldn't say that some people are different.

If kindness is trainable and important, why is it not taught in schools?

Well, he told you how he really felt in this article. So I guess you should be OK or even happy with the new CoC, right?

True, we might all be running BSD today instead. Thousands of kernel developers might have spent the past couple decades improving FreeBSD instead. Would that be worse? Why?

Do you think other free operating systems are full of "nice spoken liars"? It's not like Linux is the only game in town.

If you think that nice people can't tell you how they really feel without being abusive then you're delusional.

But he is clearly telling everyone he isn't nice.

Honest != a*hole. Politeness and respect != lie.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact