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Linus Torvalds Back in Charge of Linux (zdnet.com)
140 points by atlasunshrugged 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments

I don't know what I thought would happen exactly but when he said he was taking time away I certainly imagined it would be a lot longer than a month.

To me on the other hand, it was obvious that he would be back as soon as 4.19 was released and the 4.20 merge window opened (the kernel release cycle has two phases, the merge window where new features and the bulk of the changes come in, and a phase where only bug fixes are supposed to come in). He took advantage of the time when the merge window was closed, since it's a less hectic period, and handed over maintenance to someone who already does something similar (Greg KH maintains the "stable" trees, which also accept only bug fixes).

That's impressive foresight.

Why did Linus make such fanfare about his departure if it was always intended to be so short?

> Why did Linus make such fanfare about his departure

I'm not sure he did. AFAICT he wrote an email on the Linux mailing explaining that he was taking some time off and why. He also did an interview or two, presumably because he was asked.

He probably realised that a portion of the internet would go bananas but that's not entirely his doing.

> That's impressive foresight.

Not really, it was on the announcement email from Linus (https://lwn.net/Articles/764901/):

"To tie this all back to the actual 4.19-rc4 release (no, really, this _is_ related!) I actually think that 4.19 is looking fairly good, things have gotten to the "calm" period of the release cycle, and I've talked to Greg to ask him if he'd mind finishing up 4.19 for me, so that I can take a break, and try to at least fix my own behavior."

If Linus asked Greg to "finish 4.19 for him", it's predictable that he'd be back for 4.20.

Because this was the first time in the history of linux this happened (a non-LTS release that wasn't by Linus himself) and Linus also wanted to take this as an opportunity to apologize for his behavior. Linux is a huge and very important project, so I'm not surprised this deal was a big deal and had a lot of coverage in HN or reddit.

Yeah I actually made the same assumption.

But, I suppose for someone who's always quite involved with everything and doesn't take long breaks- one month can seem quite long.

It was a political move from day one. As you might notice Kernel is not the only environment that adds and modifies their CoC currently. There is a group with political goals driving that effort. He wanted to see where the wind is blowing before making a move himself, as well as be flexible enough to also move into the corresponding direction.

That said, I also wonder if he moves too quickly, or if he found an agreement with other FOSS leaders.

Can you identify this "group with political goals driving that effort" or is it speculation bordering on conspiracy theory?

Can you check the other comments in the thread and any other post about CoCs in FOSS communities over the recent 4-16 weeks?

Check out this discussion for instance: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18281676

Also note that my previous comment is at -4 already of the time of this writing, which must be done by someone who doesn't like that opinion. You wouldn't go ask 5-7 of your friends to give downvotes to that comment just because you disagree with it, right?

I am now waiting for a post from Linus entitled: "Behaviour therapists are just bullshitters" ;)

Welcome Linus 1.0.1-000 (first minor revision).

Linus debugged his own communication routines after users complained.

People can change their habits only to a certain extent...

Except for Unix kernels and version control systems, I would say. #hailLinus

sudo change behaviour -f linus20.json

JSON is likely the least efficient container for a behavior type. ;-)

sudo change behaviour didn't work.

Maybe you used the wrong option?

Not in sudoers file or group more likely.

> Linus debugged his own communication routines after users complained.

And found nothing wrong with them.

Personally, I'm perfectly fine with Linus as he was.

If Linus is really the messiah (ans he probably is), he will soon illuminate us again. About human interactions, this time.

Funny that their code of conduct contains all the standard equal rights no matter what XYZ, while this was never Linus problem. He never lashed out on people because of gender, race or sexual preference. It should simply have said "Don't be an elitistic assh*le aginst people just doing their best."

Obviously the COC isn't written just to control Linus' behavior.

The timing is impeccable, would you not agree?

The timing is easily explained from the perspective of the New Yorker's article publication and a want to do something visible to the contrary as evidence of a willingness to improve as a community.

Hence why the CoC is a whole lot broader in scope than anything Linus has ever done. It's more of a "while we're here on this subject and have everyone's attention, let's clean house a bit."

No. It's designed to be used to wedge, curtail and essentially interfere with the projects to which it is attached.

It's scope will expand to fill the space available to it. Simple as that. Quotas, funding limitations and project oversight requirements on projects will arrive in increasing numbers as time goes on.

Definitely seen the divides it's created in the communities. The CoC discussion is likely a positive thing as it is bringing up issues that need light in them. I'd like to see some evidence of the funding limitations, quotas etc.

That said, a lot of the CoC discussion rapidly goes into political discussions about meritocracy / Marxism. As I'm reading "Gulag Archipelago" at the moment, I'm starting to see some parallels in the modern world we as a species should definitely have already learnt from. The number of deaths from Marxism and Nazism is horrific.


> who believes meritocracy is racist and sexist

Is it bad that nowadays I've trouble identifying whether this kind of categorization is redpillers bile or an accurate representation of an increasingly dominant extreme left? Would you have a quote from that lady, and if correct, how did she get in the position of writing Linux COC?

Here’s one: https://twitter.com/CoralineAda/status/874642259672801280

> “Meritocracy” is just thinly veiled misogyny and white supremacy propping up fragile cis het white men’s egos.

Or https://twitter.com/CoralineAda/status/1029952846492565504

> “Reverse racism” is such a weird phrase for “justice”.

Or https://twitter.com/CoralineAda/status/823064825366360065

> Why didn’t anyone punch the reporter giving the nazi air time?

(Note that the last one is endorsing violence against journalists. Not cool.)

Though I think you have the wrong impression. Coraline wasn’t asked to write the Linux CoC. They just used a CoC she wrote: https://www.contributor-covenant.org/

It's amazing to see how many nice open source projects have been pressured into adopting this.

Like SQLite? Well played if you ask me.. https://www.sqlite.org/codeofconduct.html

Thanks for pointing me to that, I wasn't aware. Very well played indeed. I think I'll proactively start including this in my own projects.

However what I meant was the projects on this list: https://www.contributor-covenant.org/adopters

I would include that in my project if I had one and I am an atheist. I would convert just so I can play this card.

One of the best things is you really don't even have to convert to anything.

And I'm not the only seeing a pattern...

"It's only fair to mention that the person who started the initial controversy by merit of whining about twitter things on the issue tracker is also the owner of the code of conduct that is being pull requested by @tarcieri in #947

One could claim personal bias. In fact, going through past projects that adopted this CoC, this seems to be a recurring trend, where people start a fake controversy, then propose the CoC and guilt trip it into being adopted." [0]

[0] https://github.com/opal/opal/issues/942#issuecomment-1133750...

OK, so I can't really find fault with the CoC itself, but the motivation as described in your link is indeed questionable, though I'd say worthy of discussion:

> Studies have shown that organizational cultures that value meritocracy often result in greater inequality. People with “merit” are often excused for their bad behavior in public spaces based on the value of their technical contributions. Meritocracy also naively assumes a level playing field, in which everyone has access to the same resources, free time, and common life experiences to draw upon. These factors and more make contributing to open source a daunting prospect for many people, especially women and other underrepresented people.

So, if merit is used to excuse bad behavior I agree that it's a problem (a fairly solvable one though I'd think). But I also detect an inequality-of-outcome kind of stance here, as inequality due to merits is seen as a bad thing. I just always have trouble imagining the end game of that kind of thinking - even in Stalinism, people with higher abilities were selected for various more demanding tasks. Are they saying that everyone is absolutely born with the same abilities? Because that's just so easy to falsify with data.

I had a long and fun argument with someone the last time the kernel came up on this exact subject. A very interesting observation is that in the extreme "meritocracy" 100% implies that people with merit should be excused for their bad behavior in public spaces based on the value of their technical contributions.

Any political system comes with trade-offs. Meritocracies fundamentally excuse bad behavior, democracies fundamentally allow mob rule/bad decisions in haste, monarchies fundamentally ignore commoner's problems, bureaucracies are too risk averse and slow, etc, etc. If we rejected political systems that allow failings and excuses, we'd only have anarchy.

To the topic at hand, the kernel folk don't seem to be particularly political, and obviously they don't want anyone behaving badly in their community, but one does suspect that there is a game of political football afoot that is not going to benefit the kernel. The kernel is a technical project - people who reject the idea of technical merit have a home in society, but that home isn't in the Linux Kernel community; it is a space where merit is meaningful. The kernel maintainers should first and foremost concerned about the technical quality of the kernel.

> A very interesting observation is that in the extreme "meritocracy" 100% implies that people with merit should be excused for their bad behavior in public spaces based on the value of their technical contributions.

That’s a non sequitur. There’s no reason that a meritocracy must allow bad behaviour from high performing contributors. Linus’s behaviour has been accepted, even lauded by certain members of the community, but I’ve always seen it as brash, arrogant and off putting. The simple fact is that people who have power tend to abuse that power, but that has nothing to do with meritocracy as a concept.

>The simple fact is that people who have power tend to abuse that power, but that has nothing to do with meritocracy as a concept.

Except that by definition, meritocracy creates a power dynamic which can be abused in this way. Those with "merit" are trusted and respected more than those without. This means that complaints about their behaviour are more often ignored or dismissed. And even when bad behaviour is too blatant to ignore, the punishment is often lesser, for fear of chasing away their "merit".

In theory, one could define "merit" in a way that recognises behaviour alongside technical contributions, but in practice that is rarely how the term is interpreted by tech communities.

Which system do not create a power dynamic that can be abused? It seems like an shared problem, where the only reachable goal is to create safeguards so that when power dynamic create abuse there is some form of process to address it.

A democratic system based on popularity share all those problems attributed to meritocracy. Those deemed popular are trusted and respected more than those without. complaints about their behaviour are more often ignored or dismissed. When bad behaviour is too blatant to ignore, the punishment is often lesser, for fear of loosing influence and power.

What I would like to know is if meritocracy has a higher risk of causing abuse compared to other systems.

In theory, one could define "merit" in a way that recognises behaviour alongside technical contributions, but in practice that is rarely how the term is interpreted by tech communities.

Linus is an incredibly influential figure in tech, having written both Git and Linux. He has decided to work on his own behavior.

This could be a watershed event in that regard.

>In theory, one could define "merit" in a way that recognises behaviour alongside technical contributions, but in practice that is rarely how the term is interpreted by tech communities.

Linus' contribution is not just the code he commits, but his ability to organize and marshall developers. That ability is tied to his communication skills.

To the extent that his discourse drives skilled developers away, it is a detriment which is presumably why he is working on it. If it were to get extreme and he became unable to lead due to his toxicity, "meritocracy" would imply that he would step down or be removed.

Life creates a power dynamic which can be abused in this way. This is getting ridiculous. Have some minimal set of rules so that people, including important people, can’t be outright nasty to each other and leave it at that. There is absolutely no need for all this ideological baggage.

>Life creates a power dynamic which can be abused in this way.

And such dynamics should be acknowledged and opposed wherever they exist.

>Have some minimal set of rules

Except as I said, these rules are frequently ignored or applied less fairly in one way or another for those with "merit".

And such dynamics should be acknowledged and opposed wherever they exist.

Power itself can't be opposed. By definition, opposition doesn't exist without power.

Abuse can be opposed and to some extent mitigated but it's not at all a static game. When you build walls humans go around them, climb over them, dig under them, or break through them. There is no wall that one person can build that another cannot overcome.

I said power dynamics (i.e. power imbalances) should be opposed, not the abstract concept of power itself.

Power itself is an imbalance. It implies the non-universal capability to do something. When we say "the president of the club has x, y, and z powers" we're not talking about the things everyone else in the club is able to do.

So to be opposed to "power dynamics" is to be opposed to non-universal capability, an extremely radical position which I am not sure you hold.

Could you expand on your definition to clarify your position?

I think the very first rule of life is to live. If someone helps you live when otherwise you're going to die, you should tolerate more of his weirdness. If someone helps you live better when otherwise you're going to be quite miserable, you should also be more tolerant. I think this is the logic of meritocracy, and the logic behind capitalism.

You either believe in capitalism and thus meritocracy as its twin, or neither. Why do capitalists get to take away so much profit, and why should we award patents to inventors, if we don't reward those with "merit"?

>If someone helps you live when otherwise you're going to die, you should tolerate more of his weirdness.

Yes, if someone has control over your life or death, you should probably do what they say.

That is what most people call "violent coercion".

>You either believe in capitalism and thus meritocracy as its twin, or neither.

Well, quite...

>If someone helps you live when otherwise you're going to die

>That is what most people call “violent coercion”.

Really? Is it?

There’s no point in continuing here, I’m afraid we’re too far apart to gain anything from this discussion. Have a good day.

If they can choose not to help they're not "helping you to live", they're choosing not to kill you.

And if they choose whether to kill you based on whether you do what they want, that's violent coercion.

> Meritocracies fundamentally excuse bad behavior

This may often (?) be true in practice if you remove "fundamentally", but not always and it doesn't have to be. In an environment where people work together to produce an outcome, the ability to interact positively and productively with others is a valuable behavioral merit. It keeps one talented asshole from chasing away all the other talent. You can have a meritocratic organization where "works well with the team" is a requirement. Where this breaks down is when talented people sit back and allow abuse (or worse, start to emulate it) because they're all starry-eyed about an offender's other talents and achievements.

I'd go further than just remove "fundamentally" from that statement. I'd say the entire statement is false.

Getting rid of meritocracy is "Everyone gets an A+". Teams will quickly get in trouble if everyone got A+ for "works well with the team" but some should've gotten a D- or an F.

Meritocracies don't have to excuse bad behaviour if they simply penalise it. Perhaps those stuck in bad situations and complaining about meritocracies are really just suffering from the ill-effects of cronyism, favouritism or some other "ism".

Meritocracy means that a political system is organised so that the "meritorious" get power, where merit is based on performance.

You are talking about getting rid of ranking, possibly the concept of merit. It isn't possible to have a meritocracy with no concept of merit, but that is much stronger than not being a meritocracy.

For example, I could rank a team of 5 from A+ to F, then put cousin Ahmed in charge because he is a relation of mine. That would be a system that is not a meritocracy, because to be in charge a person would have to be related to me, but there is still a concept of merit. I would expect my cousin to then consider merit carefully as he divides up tasks.

Perhaps I was not clear. A merit system that tolerates cronyism and "other isms" is not actually a system based on useful merit. And I believe that most people who are hating on meritocratic systems are really hating on corruption or dysfunctional systems. What is the point of getting a "A+" based on some merit based score if Ahmed can get in by being your cousin? Corruption would tolerate this happily. So penalise corruption!

To use your example, your cousin was put in place due to nepotism. This is very much covered by my "some other ism" as corruption or at least bad behaviour. Cronyism and nepotism both bypass natural "best person for position based on merit" selection criteria.

Integrity is well within performance measures under a meritocratic system, eg police who are corrupt can't be seen as acting as the ideal for police officers or authority by any useful measure (merit). If you hired your cousin that nepotism impacts both yours and your cousins integrity and therefore merit. This bypasses the meritocracy and is actually simple corruption.

Plenty of other "isms" are also really just corruption in various forms: sexism, racism, tokenism, ageism. I'm sure there are plenty more.

Part of the point is that the unprivileged don't get the same opportunities in many ways, so they don't do so well in tests but they still do well at the job; therefore, you need to give them extra leeway during recruiting and such.

Also, the experience of the less privileged is that some people use claimed-impartial tests and barriers to exclude them in particular, and so when a test comes along it is demotivating, as it might just be an attempt to exclude them. Look at the voting reforms in various places for examples of this.

Using tests to try for pure meritocracy only works when everyone has had the same kind of background and nobody has bias. Look at the examples of CVs/books sent around with just the name/gender changed and the huge difference in response rate to see the bias. Essentially, if you're recruiting (or filtering any set of people) and aren't actively controlling for bias (anonymization is key), you will be biased.

> Look at the examples of CVs/books sent around with just the name/gender changed and the huge difference in response rate to see the bias.

That's not true. The original studies used low class names for blacks and hispanics, but not for whites. (For example, they didn't use names like Cletus or Billy Ray.) Once this was corrected for, they found almost no bias in resume screening.[1]

1. https://economics.missouri.edu/working-papers/2014/wp1419_ko...

So looking at their methodology, they chose the "high class" black names ("Anderson" and "Thompson") (EDIT: I misread, these aren't the black names) based on census proportions, but that doesn't necessarily mean those names are actually read as "black" by most people.

Moreover, using census results ignores exposure to foreigners with these names. My own strongest association for "Thompson" is the white police officers in Tintin, and more generally for white English people. (Although I'm British so that may not be representative.)

As long as "low class" black names are more readily associated with blackness than "high class" ones, this methodology isn't really isolating anything, just doing a slightly more intersectional analysis.

You misread the paper. The surnames Anderson and Thompson have white connotations, while Jefferson and Washington have black connotations. The researchers backed up their choices with data. From page 3:

> For example, based on data from the United States Census, 90 and 75 percent of individuals with Washington and Jefferson surnames are African American, respectively. Similarly, 90 percent of individuals with a surname of either Hernandez or Garcia are Hispanic, and 70 percent of Andersons and Thompsons are white.

Ah yes, you're correct, I got confused by the first-name/surname thing.

I would still question the validity of this approach, and more generally, I don't think you can meaningfully isolate class and race, since they're so inter-related in the US.

They acknowledge that the names may not be strong signals, but the very reason that's the case is that people are less likely to associate black people with high socioeconomic status in the first place.

Even if you object to their choices of black surnames, they also ran experiments with male and female names, and with hispanic names. In those cases, resume screeners were all but certain as to the race and sex of the applicant. Still, there was almost no discrimination detected.

Honestly, I feel like I'm playing whack-a-mole here. You started by claiming that there was a massive gender & race bias:

> CVs/books sent around with just the name/gender changed and the huge difference in response rate to see the bias.

When I corrected that and linked to a study, you replied with an argument based on a misreading. When I corrected your misreading, you fell back to, "I don't think you can meaningfully isolate class and race, since they're so inter-related in the US." If that's the case, then it also refutes the conclusions of the original (flawed) studies claiming racism. After all, if your argument is true, those can be just as easily explained as classism.

I'm not sure there is anything that could convince you that you are mistaken.

I don't think that shows a lack of racism, rather the existance of classism.

People are being unfairly judged based on racial and class identifiers, rather than on their CV.

The study I linked to shows that there's almost no race or sex discrimination for names on resumes, even in the southeast US. Regarding class discrimination: I don't think you'll get much disagreement from reasonable people. It's ubiquitous. That said, I do think classism is far less common in tech than in most fields.

The emily and jamal paper controlled for mother's education level distributions.

This doesn't disprove the original contention.

From an organisation’s point of view, does it matter how one person came to be a better performer than another? Surely they just care about current state: this person performs better than this other person now.

Perhaps had their backgrounds been different, their performance would be different. Perhaps if the under-performer had more training, their performance would be better.

But right now, things aren’t different. From the organisation’s self-interested point of view, they should just choose the better performing candidate.

This only makes sense if you assume the organisation's interest is only to maximise productivity in the short term.

An open source organisation may explicitly be interested in attracting marginalised people into the tech sector, to improve equality in society as a whole.

Or even from a cynical perspective, a profit-led corporation may desire to increase their ability to hire competent but undervalued (and thus cheaper) employees in future.

I think that quote reflects a concern about the equality of opportunity ("access to the same resources"), not outcome. And in particular, that rewarding merit as measured solely as the outcome, and not the struggle to reach it, will only reinforce that inequality, since two groups of people who have (on average) the same abilities will have different outcomes if they start from two different positions.

I think what people mean is that purported meritocracies aren't often actual meritocracies, since unequal opportunities will give some people's contributions more weight than others.

Unfortunately, rather than explaining how self-proclaimed meritocracies often aren't actually judging on merit, such remarks often get wrapped in remarks about cis white males or whatever (or at least - the ones that make the rounds do), which understandably leads to people getting defensive.

Additionally, as a sibling comment shows, there also appears to be some misleading research, which I think is more likely to happen when arguments like these become as heated as they are.

Thus, I'm not sure whether the argument is true or not. However, I think it's good to separate it from the loud voices unsuccessfully making it, and to try to consider it on its own... merits.

"Studies show" is carrying a lot of water. I don't have access to the study that is linked, but almost all of these studies about sexism in tech end up not being true. An excellent example was Gender Bias In Open Source: Pull Request Acceptance Of Women Vs. Men.[1] This study claimed to find evidence of sexism. If you looked at the data, it was clear that there wasn't any.[2] Still, it was the basis for articles by Vice.com[3], The Guardian[4], Business Insider[5], and the BBC[6]. None of these news organizations issued retractions. The bias in both academia and news organizations is such that they simply cannot be trusted to be accurate on this topic.

The bias in bay area tech companies is just as bad. If you express the slightest doubt about sexism being rampant in tech, you will be ostracized. If you speak up in protest when all the women in the office go to a free screening of Wonder Woman during work hours, while all the men have to stay and work, you will become persona non grata. These sorts of things have happened to me and others I know. It's infuriating. Even if sexism and racism are as bad as people like Coraline Ada claim, these "solutions" are making the problem worse. Discriminating on the basis of race and sex only serves to balkanize us and polarize opinions.

1. https://peerj.com/preprints/1733v1.pdf

2. Scott Alexander explains the whole saga: https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/02/12/before-you-get-too-exc...

3. https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/9aep3y/women-are-bett...

4. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/12/women-con...

5. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/more-evidence-of-sexism-o...

6. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35559439

> None of these news organizations issued retractions.

And then this gets repeated, retweeted and multipied, and finally people start the discussion with "obviously...", "it is widely known that...", "as it's been established...". Not only it gets a life on its own, but you can receive social punishment for just trying to discuss that.

> Studies have shown that organizational cultures that value meritocracy often result in greater inequality

Inequality is not in and of itself a bad thing. It is the reasons for that inequality that can be unjust.

If you and I are unequal in society either because you made poor decisions or else were unwilling to work as hard as me, that is in fact "just" even if it is not "equal". Equality at all costs simply does not work, which is why it has failed every time humanity has tried to enforce it on society.

We should fight inequality that results from factors like ethnicity, ideology, and disability, but what's interesting to note is that people like Coraline have shown no qualms about creating inequality for those with different political views-- calling even for the explulsion of OSS devs from projects where their only crime is holding a different political view in private.

It's hard to read her comments and the phrasing of the CoC and not think that its purpose is to allow purging those who commit "wrongthink".


Do you think it's actually possible to convey this same meaning without denigrating somebody?

> but by being a mediocre straight white male promoted and supported by other mediocre straight white males.

That sounds kind of nice actually.

If that was actually the case why would the mediocre straight white male feel threatened?

Honestly that would be a pretty powerful safety net.

> If that was actually the case why would the mediocre straight white male feel threatened?

Because revealing that gets the majority of people who aren't straight white males united in opposition against it, while the myth of meritocracy, as long as the facade holds up, gets at least some significant share of the losers to buy into the system, which reinforces it's stability to the benefit of the straight white male winners.

> Honestly that would be a pretty powerful safety net.

It is, as long as only the beneficiaries see it, and as long as they don't have any kind of moral compass.

If everyone else sees it (including beneficiaries with a moral compass), they start lighting it on fire, which makes it less effective of a safety net.

> Because revealing that gets the majority of people who aren't straight white males united in opposition against it

Why would that be the case? What would hold all of these very different groups together?

The obvious outcome is a balkanization of the workforce (and maybe broader society).

Why would that scare the mediocre people in the most powerful group?

The thing that is threatening to them is having the concept of 'meritocracy' rumbled and exposed as an unclothed emporer for all to see.

Why would that threaten them?

It wouldn't. Meritocracy, on the other hand, certainly threatens the SJW crowd. Being measured by your accomplishments is terrifying to somebody who has no accomplishments and who measures their worth by their identity (race, sex, political affiliation, etc).

> Meritocracy, on the other hand, certainly threatens the SJW crowd.

Yes, I think that’s true - especially in tech. Look at all the amazing open source contributions from people far worse off than even the bottom quartile of Americans.

>I just always have trouble imagining the end game of that kind of thinking - even in Stalinism, people with higher abilities were selected for various more demanding tasks.

Rejecting meritocracy doesn't mean not acknowledging ability, it means not structuring power hierarchies around it.

Those most able should be chosen for tasks because those involved in the work agree collectively, without the coercion of power dynamics, that it's best to assign them that task.

Meritocracy doesn't require structuring power hierarchies around merit.

Furthermore, there will never be collective or universal agreement in any remotely complex issue, which means some block of the community is inevitably being coerced into accepting a communal choice.

Those who can write code. Those who can't whine about their inability to write code.

Not that I believe the fierceness of the assertion however.

The CoC's writer's blogpost https://where.coraline.codes/blog/my-year-at-github/ certainly proves she has issues with the term "meritocracy"

> At first I had my doubts. I was well aware of GitHub's very problematic past, from its promotion of meritocracy in place of a management system

And most articles I have read detail the idea that "meritocracy" is inherently biased because it is men deciding the merit (since male dominated) https://readwrite.com/2014/01/24/github-meritocracy-rug/

She wrote a COC and various projects have adopted it to a lesser and greater extent and with varying levels of controversy

Thanks, see also my other comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18281843.

Take a look at her comments on github and judge for yourself.


She wants to tar and feather an OSS contributor for views expressed on a personal twitter account. Further down searches through his ~400 git repositories, finds two with potentially offensive names (which have rational explanations, including being non-native english speaker), and uses that as basis to continue witch hunt.

Eric Raymond did a good write up on what's happening here that I certainly found insightful. He gives a description that perfectly describes what you see in that github issue:

"What’s there is totalitarianism in miniature: ideology is everything, merit counts for nothing against the suppression of thoughtcrime, and politics is conducted by naked intimidation against any who refuse to conform."


Having read her twitter posts she's no lady. Some of the most toxic vitriol available. She would easily fail her own code of conduct rules.

That's actually pretty typical of crusaders, IME. Most of them don't actually want to end the Lord of the Flies pecking order. They just want to shift around who is on top crapping on people and who is getting crapped on. Generally speaking, they want to do the crapping (along with some highly arbitrary set of "their people") and whomever currently has privilege they would like to see getting crapped on.

Their "vision" is a form of revenge fantasy, basically, not actually a better world.

This is where it's at.

Also this ... palaver about equality is, well, nonsense simply because, well, people, on the whole, can't be nice.

Not in any longterm, meaningful way.

Make no mistake, if the current system where replaced tomorrow by one dreamed up by some other set of people, it would come with it's own complete set of bugs.

People can easily be nice. But they are afraid. Being nice is seen as being weak and vulnerable in this culture and several others. The societies as a whole are sick and twisted away from basic humility and useful cooperation.

She is not wrong the author that coined the phrase in the 50's said basically the same - he did not in any way "meritocracy " was a good thing.

Wow. TIL. Thanks for this comment even though people are downvoting you into oblivion.

Although the concept has existed for centuries, the term "meritocracy" is relatively new. It was used pejoratively by British politician and sociologist Michael Young in his 1958 satirical essay[2][12][13][14][15] The Rise of the Meritocracy, which pictured the United Kingdom under the rule of a government favouring intelligence and aptitude (merit) above all else, ... In this book the term had distinctly negative connotations as Young questioned both the legitimacy of the selection process used to become a member of this elite and the outcomes of being ruled by such a narrowly defined group. The essay, written in the first person by a fictional historical narrator in 2034, interweaves history from the politics of pre- and post-war Britain with those of fictional future events in the short (1960 onward) and long term (2020 onward).[17]


[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meritocracy#Etymology

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_of_the_Meritocracy


[2] Young, Michael (1958). The rise of the meritocracy, 1870-2033: An essay on education and inequality. London: Thames & Hudson.

[12] Young, Michael (29 June 2001). "Down with meritocracy: The man who coined the word four decades ago wishes Tony Blair would stop using it". The Guardian. London.

[13] Ford, Boris (1992). The Cambridge cultural history of Britain. Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-521-42889-7.

[14] Ford, Boris (1992). The Cambridge cultural history of Britain. Cambridge University Press. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-521-42889-7.

[15] Best, Shaun (2005). Understanding Social Divisions. London: Sage. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-7619-4296-2.

[17] Young, Michael (1958). p. 11.

She is not communist, communism is all about meritocracy, I don't read anywhere in the books of Marx all this gender and equality bullshit.

Communism says that no matter who you are you are evaluated for the work you do, having policies that explicitally favorites womans is not communism, is discrimination against mens

I'm assuming by 'communism' you mean Marxist philosophy. The most accurate description would however probably be that morals like this don't exist in a metaphysical sense, but are tied to each stage in social development (hunter/gatherers, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism and communism) [0].

Under socialism (the next stage from ours) workers would be rewarded according to contribution (meritocracy) whereas the final stage (communism) would reward humans according to need instead. It's a philosophy colored by the positivism and development optimism of the 19th century, which tried to superimpose a deterministic (scientific) model on history unfolding, with contemporary Europe at its development pinnacle.

Whether it is a correct theory remains to be seen (in a few thousand years, but I wouldn't hold my breath), but the case could be made that we are already gradually leaving the capitalist stage, and that we are even moving into communist territory (rewarding according to need - affirmative action etc), i.e. with the stages simultaneously coexisting with one another, without the violent revolutionary disruptions that traditional Marxists anticipated.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marx%27s_theory_of_history#Sta...

I don't think we're "moving toward a communist phase", as that requires a complete change in motivation.

I believe that people are selfish. Helping other people feels good (you're exerting power over someone my helping them), thus the wealthy are content to do so once their quest for riches has been fulfilled. Instead of the public owning the means of production (socialism), I think the wealthy will retain control, but give freely (or insanely cheaply) of the _fruits_ of production. The average person doesn't want control, they just want the fruits, and they're content to let the wealthy play their political games if they get what they want.

Instead of seeing a complete reversal of capitalism into socialism, I think it's _far_ more reasonable to expect something like UBI where everyone receives according to their need, but they still don't have control of the means of production, and society certainly won't be classless (there will always be the wealthy/powerful, but perhaps no "poor", esp with automation taking must labor jobs).

There is no "stages" in Marxism. That's a Stalinist bullshit that doesn't make any sense in the theoretical framework of Marx&Engels. The natural force that makes capitalism possible is commodity production because: as long as there are commodities this implies a division of labor where a labor produces something for the sole reason trade and thus implies social class; and as long as there is commodity production you'll have the accumulation of value. Communism is in direct opposition to social class and value. The Marxist idea is instead that communism is the society where the natural force that generates capitalism is somehow killed, this implies the society will not have social class, will not have value (and as an implication no trade, since in Marxism value is determined in the moment of trade, and that moment alone). Thus thinking about "stages" where some "State" is governing "towards" a classless, valueless, stateless society makes as much as the rest of Stalinism. Traditional Marxism predicts a communist revolution much like French Revolution.

And that's not what the OP said. Marx said there are stages to "society", which are (from the link):

- Primitive communism - tribes sharing everything - slavery - e.g. ancient Egypt - feudalism - kinds, fiefs, serfs - capitalism - current state - socialism - dictatorship of the proletariat - communism - stateless, classless society

Marx combines the last two into one "communist" stage, but distinguishes them as phases.

Traditional Marxism uses words differently than we do today. Yes, it predicts a revolution, though we'd term that a "socialist" revolution, not a communist one, because even Marx believed there needed to be a phase to transition to a stateless, classless society because society is affected by the previous stage.

Now, I completely disagree with Marx's assessment of things, but that's irrelevant.

"Dictatorship of the proletariat" is not a phase, the same way the dictatorship of bourgeoisie was/is not a phase. (also sidenote Marx used the word "dictatorship" a vastly different way than we use it today).

> because even Marx believed there needed to be a phase to transition

This is [[citation needed]] (if you're thinking of low phase communism, high phase communism (C. of Gotha Program), this is vastly misunderstood, so I could explain this in details but this is not a good argument is all I can say now). As I said, this doesn't make sense inside the framework of Marxism, since it only makes sense to classify societies based on material grounds, not idealistic grounds. So, the fundamental thesis of Marx is that society exists completely independent of politics, power hierarchies, ideas etc... You can disagree with this, but you cannot argue about Marx with semi-understanding of his thesis. The only time we can talk about a societal stage is when the economic structure changes, and these changes are well-defined, well-understood inside the framework of Marxism. As I keep repeating myself, Marxism claims there are fundamental "forces of nature" that make capitalism possible inside society (just like photons make light possible). While this force of nature is still alive, it doesn't make sense to say this society is not capitalistic. DotP is one possible way socialism can be achieved, it's not a stage as Marx intentionally does not explain the economic structure of such a society (it would be idealistic and inherently anti-Marxist).

In my experience in the internet most people argue about Marxism from his idealist "supporters" like Stalin or Mao, but such ideas rarely have much relation to both tradition Marxism (Marxian) or modern academic Marxism (world systems etc).

Ok, those phases may not have been as pronounced with Marx and Engels as later proponents of state socialism. But seems to me that the hard dichotomy between "the founders and the usurpers" that you propose is false, and indeed the token escape route from the obvious inhumanity of the Marxist societies that have evolved from this thinking for modern Marxists, hence the constant quarrel between these of who is most orthodox. An honest scholarly assessment seems to me to be that "scientific" historical determinism is embedded in the Marxist thinking from the outset (albeit not without contradictory tendencies), including the objective historical phases based on the means of production. It is a reductionist approach which plagues much scientific thinking, which, contrary to the actual scientific method as we understand it, assumes that we know all the basic variables (the 'atoms' of history as it were), or at least that the variables behave in a mechanistic cause/effect manner, a determinism that ultimately paves the way for the moral/ethical irresponsibility we've seen. [0]

That be as it may, in view of your fairly economist view ("the fundamental thesis of Marx is that society exists completely independent of politics, power hierarchies, ideas etc.."), it would be interesting to hear how you assess this letter of Engels from 1890, especially first and last paragraphs [1]

I would also be interested to know what you mean by "DotP is one possible way socialism can be achieved"

[0] https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/scientis...

[1] https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1890/letters/90_...

> [first paragraph]

While I don't wanna get more into this debate, I should one more time state that reducing Marxism to "inhuman Marxist societies" is ad hominem and your argument doesn't have any value to me. Also you used/coined a word "state socialism" which to me is an oxymoron as I cannot conceptualize socialism that is not stateless.

Marxism may be reductionist or wrong (and it is) but it is almost by design wrong. Darwin was also vastly wrong and ignorant (he didn't even know genes). There is a very rich academic literature on Marxism, that is not written by laymen (like Stalin who I doubt ever read any Marx). Similarly, modern biology is almost all about evolution regardless whether Darwin's original ideas were accurate or not, they found their own way. Marx is outdated in a very similar fashion Freud or Darwin are outdated. Just 'cause some inhuman eugenics people thought we can apply "Darwinism" to kill people doesn't make Darwinism inhuman (unless you think it does, but I don't think so).

> [Engels talking about dilettantes and how not everything can be reduced to economy etc]

This sort of reduction wasn't what I was going for. To me Marxism is a tool, just like any other tool. It gives me a clear framework to conceptualize and analyze things, using a very similar analysis Marx used in the German Ideology, Capital etc (which people sometimes say reversed Hegelianism, but this is not very accurate). It's about when you observe the world what you see in abstract. Of course, in real life people still do stuff independent of their financial situation etc. This is not relevant imho.

OK thanks, we can leave it at that. I personally dropped Marxism (and joined the idealists) some 20 years ago when I became convinced that analysis doesn't portray reality as much as it creates it, and Marxism paints a more hopeless and sinister world than I actually adhere to. That said, agree that some aspects like class analysis are useful as analytical tools, that I still use to some degree.

I really wonder what's going to happen to Linux once Linus is gone. I think we've seen now that just a week after he took a break the community started falling apart rapidly.

Kernel fragments into a dizzying array of forks, TrueLinux, RealKernel, Linux Core, LinuxPlus and DogeKernel fight for supremacy on obscure making lists and github issue trackers.

The public remains largely unaware.

Huge PR battles over which logo to use erupt, somebody sneaks backdoors into the majority of the kernels. Somebody else backdoors the backdoors. Pretty soon over half the code base consists of backdoors and embedded nVidia graphics drivers.

Buzzfeed publish a list of 15 linux kernels you won't believe exist. A week has now passed since Linus left the project, and we have hit Peak Kernel.

Linux fades from the cusp of becoming a mainstream desktop OS and eventually settles into a niche server role until the 2038 bug wipes out humanity due to some buggy memory management running on an ICBM launch computer.

Chrome OS sees a slight uptick in users.

I really enjoyed reading this comment. I'm still smiling. Thanks. Now I can start working happy.

carlmr, you issued a nice writing prompt.

I've been keeping a plain text file of quotes for 15 years. I hadn't put anything in it since April this year.

Thank you.

This is perfect.

Did it? People actually involved in the Linux community seemed fine. It was just internet people shouting "the sky is falling!"

What I read about was Kernel contributors having some friction with the CoC. That got blown up by the press a bit, but it wasn't only the press.

That was just because the CoC was updated at the same time that Linus left. There would have been CoC controversy if Linus had never left.

You might have hit the nail on the head here.

The belgian king once resigned for a single day so the parliament could pass a law on abortion.

Could Linus have pulled of a similiar stunt?


I find it unlikely. It came up on the lkml that Linus requested changes to the CoC, and Greg was just the person who ended up managing the changes.

If you mean that Linus didn't want the flak for the changes, then that seems like weak leadership on his part, and since iiuc Greg is likely to take over kernel management when Linus ever retires, passing the controversial work to his eventual replacement is bad tactics as well, since it'll undermine Greg's authority in some people's eyes if he takes over.

If anything, drama related the CoC was what caused Linus' hiatus (in a "straw the broke the camel's back" sense), not the other way round.

He left after detonating a bomb. It would have played the same even when he stayed. He probably just left to avoid the shitstorm and his first violation of the CoC.

Though, it's true that with "eternal" project-leads like Linus, or recently Guido van Rossum at Python, we never think about what will happen when they are gone. But I think with big projects like Linux they will be fine. There are enough people to replace them, even if things might change, the project moves on.

We should think more about important projects from single developers. What about vim? Or all the important plugins/addons? There are so many small important gears around which depends on so few support.

"Some people on the internet with no involvement whatsoever in kernel development shouting about political correctness gone mad" !== "Falling apart rapidly"

Git seems to be doing fine after Linus left it...

True, but Linus is not the leader of Git since 13ish years. He gave the reins to Junio Hamano before it became such a large and influencial project, and Linux is way larger and way more influencial now. There's way more Linus "baked in" the kernel than in Git, I would say

It would probably be for the best if Linus stayed away for a while and saw what happens. That way he and the community could make a better plan for when he retires for real, and start steering in that direction now.

[citation needed]

Hopefully natural selection will bring us a profile similar to Linus that will take over the job.

...or various specialized kernels... Who know...

Very first thing? Kernel ABI becomes unstable, thus securing Linux's position as the OS most incompatible with itself.

Once there are enough moderators, community guidelines and steering committees in place it will just write itself.

Ballmer yelling at people "cancer is cured!"

>Jon Corbet, kernel developer and editor of LWN, thinks the Linux community will become less of what was once a "Wild West world with dueling developers and more of a professional developer community."

Well, that's what all this has always been about right? Power-washing the personality out of open source by subverting the popular movement of the day. A group wants something but there are very few actionable steps to achieve it, and the ones that do exist are long term investments. They're turned into unwitting campaigners for a different goal when someone provides them an easy answer that's really a thin veneer over a different purpose.

Thus restoring the natural order.

That was easy.

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