What Linus can do inside Linux community and you can’t do in yours

Linux kernel community has long been considered the greatest of all the open source communities. Linus Torvalds and his team has set the ground for open source development, defined processes and tools adopted and shared by other successful projects. The Linux kernel mailing list with its public review of patches and git, the tool to manage the incredible flow of code among thousands of people in tens of different branches laid the ground for many other open source projects. Even OpenStack doesn’t get close to those number (although OpenStack is only a three years old toddler and the kernel is old enough to vote and drink.) Linus has built an incredible community and an impressive culture around it. A culture where technology rules everything and also profanity and insults are common. And the results are clear: it worked for Linux kernel.

This doesn’t mean that any community can live and prosper like the Linux kernel with the same culture of harsh criticisms, middle fingers or what Linus calls management by perkele. In fact, I think nobody else can afford managing open source communities the way Linus does. Torvalds can get away saying things like “trying to come up with some ‘code of conduct’ that says that people should be ‘respectful’ and ‘polite’ is just so much crap and bullshit”. I certainly can’t and chances are you can’t either.

Now if you ask me if Torvalds should change his attitude my answer is: no, he is what he is and he’s made what he’s made because (or despite, who cares: results matter) of what he is. Should his lieutenants be assholes too? Of course not, and that’s why the kernel is still one of the most successful open source projects out there.

via Linus Torvalds defends his right to shame Linux kernel developers | Ars Technica.

4 thoughts on “What Linus can do inside Linux community and you can’t do in yours

  1. I do think he should, but I also think he’ll never be able to. Not just because he feels completely right and entitled, but also because the success and achievements of the whole community have somehow created a sense of justification for such behaviour: “Hey, this guy is quite offensive…”, “But he created the linux kernel and changed the world! Who cares if he calls you an idiot??”.
    Again, I don’t expect him to change in any way, and I don’t know what the rest of the LK community will do about that, but now that I got some further insights into the communication “style”, will I ever consider joining such a group as a contributor? No.

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    1. Laura, I see your point and I agree with you. I probably wouldn’t join such community either. My point is that this harsh culture hasn’t prevented thousands of people to join the Linux kernel development and, more importantly, stick with it. If you wouldn’t join such community somebody else will. Communities don’t need to be for ‘everybody’, they just need to be for enough people to achieve their goals. I will argue for a change in the culture of Linux kernel when the current one starts to become clearly an obstacle to developing the kernel. In other words, until it’s not visibly broken, don’t fix it.

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