Linux Ecosytem in Limbo over Controversy surrounding Newly Adopted Code of Conduct

Linux Ecosytem in Limbo over Controversy surrounding Newly Adopted Code of Conduct

For the past few weeks I been living under a rock being exhausted from dealing with family matters and project related work. So I've just started to catch up with the rest of the world when I've learned about the controversy surrounding Linus Torvalds, the founder of the Linux project and the previous adoption of a new - as I find - quite political code of conduct (CoC). In relation to that Linus has announced to be taking some time off the project (!) to develop a better understanding of human emotions... yikes!

Linus Torvalds dropping the F-Bomb on graphics chip vendor NVIDIA during an interview at the University of Helsinki in 2012.

As for the timeline; on Sunday, Sep 16th he wrote on the kernel mailing list announcing the release of Linux 4.19-rc4 as well as offering an apology to the community combined with a maintainership note.

Allow me to quote what I believe is the most vital part of that email:

So here we are, me finally on the one hand realizing that it wasn't actually funny or a good sign that I was hoping to just skip the yearly kernel summit entirely, and on the other hand realizing that I really had been ignoring some fairly deep-seated feelings in the community.

It's one thing when you can ignore these issues. Usually it’s just something I didn't want to deal with.

This is my reality. I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person and that probably doesn't come as a big surprise to anybody. Least of all me. The fact that I then misread people and don't realize (for years) how badly I've judged a situation and contributed to an unprofessional environment is not good.

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.


The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat painful personal admission that hey, 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. I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately.


This is more like the time I got out of kernel development for a while because I needed to write a little tool called "git". I need to take a break to get help on how to behave differently and fix some issues in my tooling and workflow.

And yes, some of it might be "just" tooling. Maybe I can get an email filter in place so at when I send email with curse-words, they just won't go out. Because hey, I'm a big believer in tools, and at least _some_ problems going forward might be improved with simple automation.

I know when I really look “myself in the mirror” it will be clear it's not the only change that has to happen, but hey... You can send me suggestions in email.

Well, as surprising as all this is, the actual bummer isn't him taking time off but the actual adoption of the new code of conduct. It seems to have divided the Linux project, leaving the ecosystem in limbo as contributors consider withdrawing the license. The kernel is licensed under the General Public License Version 2 which, as this open letter explains ...

The GPL version 2 lacks a no-rescission clause (the GPL version 3 has
such a clause: to attempt furnish defendants with an estoppel defense,
the Linux Kernel is licensed under version 2, however, as are the past

Without wanting to blow this whole thing out of proportion; for a technical project the situation in regards to the CoC has gotten out of hand. I somewhat don't understand why certain people want to carry purely technical projects into a social safe space.

As unlikely as it seems, instead of contributors just withdrawing the license of their contributions, perhaps we will see a fork of the kernel? Yeah, because that's exactly what we needed; yet another fork ... All I know is that the situation has the potential to rip a hole into the fabric of the Linuverse (term licensed under the JDL 1.0).

So, let's kick back and buckle up as once again we're headed into the unknown!