Wisdom from the Linux Kernel Summit

Thursday, September 13, 2007
Linux Weekly News reports from the developer relations session at the Kernel summit. A subscription is needed to view the article, but the following comment from James Bottomley (scsi subsystem) caught my eye.
Flaming and generally unpleasant behavior remain a problem in the kernel community. Whenever one developer flames another - for something trivial like whitespace violations or something more substantial - he sets an example for others. The original developer may feel justified in the flaming by being "right," but those who follow may be less right while being just as inflammatory. The result is flaming by people who have never considered sending in a kernel patch. We are, says James, attracting idiots to our community by our behavior.
"We are, says James, attracting idiots to our community by our behavior." Ah, how true that can be in bloggerdom, the examples of HuffPo and DKos come to mind. Those venues that also offer ratings systems encourage something similar in that posts can be toasted with a simple mouse click on a button. Sometimes the online world looks like an alternative school for dunces.


Knucklehead said...

It has been ever so when it comes to "internet" communications. Even the earliest newsgroups, even internal ones with but a few participants reasonably well known to one another, suffered this problem. Of course, back then, it was possible for people to step in and play referee/peacemaker and get things calmed down and functional again. I wonder if that is possible in the wider blog community.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

And yet, despite the propensity toward flaming rather than working, the fact is that the Linux kernel has progressed, has improved, has very few bugs, and all this over a period of many years. Something seems to go right with the process even though it's completely volunteer and nobody's get paid to do it. It's quite remarkable really. It's an engineering marvel. The modern-day equivalent of a cathedral.

chuck said...


I think Linus is the key to the success of Linux. He has done a remarkable job managing the project while changing his own role and methods and delegating responsibility as the project enlarged.

The flaming really isn't that bad on the list these days. There are a few individuals who are a bit harsh, but even the infamous Al Viro, before whom grown men quailed, has moderated. I think the flaming comment was mostly brought on by the brou-ha-ha surrounding the inclusion of the new scheduler written by Ingo Molnar. That event brought on a lot of comments from non-kernel folk who usually hang out elsewhere.

Known volunteers contributed about 9% of the patches in the current release candidate and folks of unknown affiliation, some of whom are undoubtedly volunteers, were responsible for about 19%.The rest of the patches were sent upstream by company employees. The employer breakdown is:

Most active 2.6.23 employers
By changesets

Unknown 1180 19.0%
Red Hat 744 12.0%
None 559 9.0%
IBM 507 8.2%
Novell 421 6.8%
Intel 184 3.0%
Oracle 146 2.4%
Renesas Technology 134 2.2%
MIPS Technologies 119 1.9%
NetApp 116 1.9%
Consultant 103 1.7%
Google 99 1.6%
NTT 98 1.6%
Sony 93 1.5%
Astaro 93 1.5%
Linux Foundation 82 1.3%
MontaVista 81 1.3%
SGI 77 1.2%
Qumranet 72 1.2%
QLogic 62 1.0%

As you can see, there are a lot of big name companies involved in kernel development these days.

loner said...

Nice to know that some things remain constant. I haven't looked in since sometime prior to the greatest non-event of my lifetime, which means sometime in 1999. I came across the box containing what few computing books I still have a couple of weeks ago. This one is on top and will probably be the last to go.

Doug said...

Hsu What?