[linux-elitists] SJW FTW

Shlomi Fish shlomif at shlomifish.org
Tue Mar 1 11:56:14 PST 2016

Hi Tony,

sorry for the late response. Moreover, please note that you should reply
exclusively to the mailing list's address or otherwise your E-mail may be
discarded by the mailing list software (a fact which I am not happy with,
but lack the power to change.)

On Tue, 19 Jan 2016 11:20:03 -0800
Tony Godshall <togo at of.net> wrote:

> > ... From what I have seen
> > of what Linus said in E-mail messages, he can be pretty aggressive,
> > tactless, and insulting, and this has likely been driving away many
> > potential contributors to the Linux kernel. While it's human to be
> > insulting some time , it's not OK to not try to improve in this regard or
> > even advocate an aggressive tone like Linus does.  
> ...
> who are you to judge?

Either a criticism has some merit, or it lacks merit, or it's somewhere in the
spectrum between. The origin of the criticism (= whoever voiced it) does not
matter and should not be used to disqualify or ascertain it.

Anyway, I am quite qualified to testify (because I contributed some patches
and commits to it) that from what I saw, the GIMP’s core developers
had treated potential developers with impatience and rudeness, and as a result
have driven most of them away. The end result was that GIMP is now being
developed slowly, in large part due to lack of active contributors.

It's hard to know whether there's a similar risk for the Linux kernel’s
project, because it has much more momentum, and many people are being paid to
contribute to it and will tolerate an abusive tone from the more
core contributors (though they still won't be too happy about it). But I feel
it's not doing anyone any good.

> linus gets results.  there's a place for nicety
> and a place for bluntness.  there's a place for those who like
> emoticons and a place for those who express directly.

I agree that Linus gets results, but that doesn't mean that:

1. He is managing things in a perfect manner.

2. He cannot possibly improve.

3. He gets these results in part because of his sometimes abusive tone, rather
than *in spite* of it.

If I submitted a patch to an open source project and was told to improve it,
then I would be much more willing to do so if I were told so in a gentle,
friendly, and constructive manner (pointing to the detected deficiencies in my
changes and how they should be fixed), rather than by receiving a missive of
personal attacks about what kind of drugs they believe I smoke and how much I
was supposedly so stupid as a baby that they wonder how my mother was able to
breastfeed me. Which response will *you* treat better?

Such a thing may not drive me completely away, because I tend to
have quite a thick skin and don't give up very easily, but it will likely drive
away many people.

To quote this song - "Everybody wants respect - just a little bit.":


A certain female open source developer/contributor I talked with (who is already
a mother and in her 50s or so) told me that if she ever got blocked from one of
a project's online forums, she will completely stay away of this project and
wouldn't want to have anything to do with them again. It happened to me quite a
few times already, and I didn't give up on these projects immediately, but I'm
a guy and quite young and patient and like I said I probably have thick skin,
but not everyone has these qualities.

If you think an insulting tone actually encourages people to contribute rather
than discourages them and may risk driving them completely away, please tell me
why you think this is the case. I can tell you that it didn't work for GIMP and
I doubt it actually benefits the Linux kernel.

But who am I to judge? ;-)


	Shlomi Fish

Shlomi Fish       http://www.shlomifish.org/
The Case for File Swapping - http://shlom.in/file-swap

Writing a BitKeeper replacement is probably easier at this point than getting
its license changed.
    — Matt Mackall (who ended up writing a BitKeeper replacement)

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