Linux is one of the most popular operating systems built around the Linux kernel by Linus Torvalds. Because it is free and open source, it gained a huge audience among developers very fast. Torvalds further welcomed other developers’ contributions to add to the kernel granted that they keep their contributions free. Due to this, thousands of developers have been working to improve Linux over the years, leading to its huge popularity today.
Yesterday, Linus, who has been working on the Kernel for almost 30-years caught the Linux community by surprise as he apologized and opened up about going on a break over his ‘hurtful’ behavior that ‘contributed to an unprofessional environment’. In a long email to the Linux Kernel mailing list, Torvalds announced Linux 4.19 release candidate and then talked about his ‘look yourself in the mirror’ moment.
“This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry” admitted Torvalds.
The confession came about after Torvalds confessed to messing up the schedule of the Maintainer’s Summit, a meeting of Linux’s top 40 or so developers, by planning a family vacation.
“Yes, I was somewhat embarrassed about having screwed up my calendar, but honestly, I was mostly hopeful that I wouldn’t have to go to the kernel summit that I have gone to every year for just about the last two decades. That whole situation then started a whole different kind of discussion — I realized that I had completely mis-read some of the people involved,” confessed Torvalds.
Torvalds has been notorious for his outspoken nature and outbursts towards others (especially the developers in the Linux Community). Sarah Sharps, Linux maintainer quit the Linux community in 2015 over Torvald’s offensive behavior and called it ‘toxic’. Torvalds exploded at Intel, earlier this year, for spinning Spectre fix as a security feature. Also, Torvalds responded with profanity, last year, about different approaches to security during a discussion about whitelisting the proposed features for Linux version 4.15.
“Maybe I can get an email filter in place so that when I send email with curse-words, they just won’t go out. I really had been ignoring some fairly deep-seated feelings in the Community…I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person…I need to change some of my behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely,” writes Torvalds.
Torvalds then went ahead to talk about him taking a break from the Linux Community. “This is not some kind of “I’m burnt out, I need to just go away” break. I’m not feeling like I don’t want to continue maintaining Linux. I very much want to continue to do this project that I’ve been working on for almost three decades. I need to take a break to get help on how to behave differently and fix some issues in my tooling and workflow”.
A discussion with over 500 comments has started already on Reddit regarding Torvald’s decision. While some people are supporting Torvald by accepting his apology, there are others who feel that the apology was long overdue and will believe him after he puts his words into action.
It’s never too late to turn around and face redemption. I am so encouraged to see Linus Torvald’s words today.
— tejas (@TejasKumar_) September 17, 2018
Good for Linus, I think that will serve him well. Still, for some of us it might be too little, too late. The toxic development culture of the Linux Kernel makes working on alternatives much more attractive that it would otherwise be.
— Corey Tabaka (@coreytabaka) September 16, 2018