Linux Kernel Code of Conduct, and the FUD being spread about it

Recently, the Linux community went through a bit of a transition when Linus decided to take some time to reflect and improve his behavior. The problem he identified is that just because he’s passionate, doesn’t mean he should use the harsh language he used to use, and probably still does (with email filters to correct it) to rectify the issue.

I for one support having a Code of Conduct, a guide to behavior, for people who don’t know better. Notice how I said “Don’t know better”, not “are a bunch of assholes”. There are people who simply don’t know how to act all the time, myself being one of them at times. I am a socially awkward individual, who doesn’t always read a situation appropriately. This turns into bad jokes, in appropriate comments, and sometimes me looking like an asshole, even if that wasn’t the intent.

I have worked on and improved my behavior, with the help of a very patient wife and very supportive family. Not everybody has that.

What I identify as the main issue with the previous code of conduct, aka the “Be excellent to each other” doctrine was that’s all it really said. Foul language and disrespect of others as human beings happened, by the people who are paid to develop the Kernel (aka, professionals).

I don’t believe that everything needs a code of conduct. Like SELF, whose organizers said they don’t believe a code of conduct is required for them. In person, people tend to not be the same way as they are when behind a keyboard. The anonymity of the internet, even when you personally know somebody offline, leads to aggressive behavior. Because the text we type doesn’t impart a tone, no one really knows if that “offensive thing” was meant as a joke or not.

The fact of it is that the Linux Kernel is now larger then a simple community project. It’s got funding, corporate backing, and multiple major organization contributing to it. It’s a professional thing now, meaning those contributing to it should know what to expect in terms of culture and communication standards, as well as technical standards.

But it won’t be a meritocracy anymore

This is the biggest thing I’ve heard from those detracting, and spreading the FUD. When I ask why it won’t be, I never get a straight answer. Some refer me to “far-right” conspiracy theory videos, others call me names and insult my intelligence. Both of these camps are guilty of one thing: proving the need for a Code of Conduct.

Linus, being the man that he is, would never accept bad code just to be “nice”. That’s total BS, and an insult to legacy he has created. He’s just realized maybe he doesn’t need to use foul language or throw insults to get his point across. Does that mean code quality or acceptance criteria will change? Hell no. Just means we stop getting hundreds of articles about another “Foul Mouthed Linus Rant” per year. I’d rather hear about the technical achievements of the kernel developers, not the drama behind a rant. If you consider yourself a supporter of a meritocracy, then you probably should to.

This is a plot by horrible SJW’s to kill the community and destroy our world!

This is the craziest conspiracy theory I’ve heard. I’ll be honest, being a level headed guy that I am, I had to look up what SJW meant. For those who haven’t learned it, it’s Social Justice Warriors. They are at the other extreme in this debate, but I’ll get to them later.

Since the Code of Conduct in the kernel is based on the Contributor Covenant, written by a prominent self proclaimed social just warrior (Coraline Ada Ehmke), that she somehow has direct influence over the Linux Kernel development team. As far as I can tell, her only involvement in the Linux Kernel community was indirectly by there choosing to base the Code of Conduct on something she wrote. She has no say in how or why the CoC is enforced, or even what they change to suit the community. In other words, she has no power in Kernel Development community. None. No say, no ability to enforce, no ability to push agenda’s.

I was accused, when asking for evidence from those who believe this, that I was an ignorant sheeple, or a libtard, or a liar, just by asking for facts instead of wild conjecture. I won’t name names, as that’s what children do to pass blame around and build hate, but it makes no sense that someone can present obvious flaws of logic and reason as truth.

Linus and the majority of top contributors have endorsed it, which is the only reason it exists in the repository. No outside pressure, no ulterior motives, no snap decisions. Just a realization that a guideline is needed to create a more welcoming community.

Linus is being coerced and forced into this against his will

Linus Torvalds? Pushed and forced into something? Give me a break. This is the guy who called out Nvidia, Intel, AMD, Microsoft, and governments. He’s technically minded, not socially absorbed and doesn’t strike me as the type of person who cares what others think of him, or gives in to pressure. Moving on from this one, as it’s just crazy.

I saw no problem, and don’t understand why this is necessary

This one is less of a FUD and is more akin to ignorance then malice. For the majority (vast, vast majority) of users, this is a non-issue. For some, it’s the first mention of a problem in the Kernel community. For those of us that follow kernel development, it’s either long overdue, or the worst possible decision (see above for more explanation of that). For the rest, who are just trying to understand the issue, and why it was any kind of issue to begin with, I refer you to Linus’ post on the Linux Kernel Mailing List.

The TLDR version is Linus was presented with facts about his treatment of some individuals. He reflected on it, and decided he had a problem that needed fixing, and that his behavior caused issues for many potential contributors. He decided, after that reflection, that he needed to fix it.

Sounds good to me. I’d like to think that if presented with an issue of my behavior, I’d have the strength of will to take a good look at myself and figure out if there is an actual issue or not. I’d also like to think that I can be objective enough to correct those issues. I also know that as a human being, I make mistakes and should strive to improve myself in whatever way I can.

The other side of the problem

The other side of the problem, the extremism of some SJWs. A very prominent Kernel Developer was being called out on horrible things that they brought to a logical fallacy, accusing him of being a rape apologist. I don’t personally know him, but have yet to see anything akin to that kind of behavior from him. It seems to me that the only reason he was targeted was because he doesn’t support a Code of Conduct.

Seriously guys, the ones who claim to want to end extremism and make the world equal to all do the exact opposite in there treatment of him. They are just as wrong as the conspiracy theorists.

The middle ground

I’m firmly in the middle ground on this. I support having a more inclusive Code of Conduct, and understand the reasoning behind it. I can also see the point of view of the those that think it’s not needed (not the conspiracy theorists, the reasonable, logical opposition). My political views tend towards the “left”, but much closer to the center. I believe that to far in either direction leads to distrust, anger and hate. I also believe that the current political climate in the US (I’m a proud Canadian) has led to even more discord then usually, with terms such as “Libtard” and “Trumpian” being tossed around like it’s normal.

One thing history should have taught humanity so far in our journey together is that extremism on either side of the political spectrum leads to violence and hate. We need to work as a group to keep the extremism from influencing our decisions. We need to step back, not panic, and objectively look at verifiable facts. In that spirit, these are the facts as I have come to understand them.

  • Linus was shown objective evidence that his behavior had a negative impact on the kernel community as a whole.
  • Like the reasonable and logic person he is (from the vast majority of his communication, not the few rants he made that make the news) he stepped back and examined the evidence.
  • He accepted that he needed to make a change to better the whole community.
  • He made the initial change of adding a Code of Conduct, and the broader change of working on his personal behavior (including email filters, which is helpful for many of us).
  • The community continues to openly discuss and modify the Code of Conduct to better suit the community as a whole.

There is 0 evidence of a conspiracy against the kernel development community. There are 0 facts supporting the conspiracy theories being touted as logic. There is also plenty of evidence supporting the need for a Code of Conduct.

So it’s a perfect Code of Conduct then?

No way. Far from it, actually, but it is a start. The beginning of the end to some is the start of a new existence to others. For the rest of us, it’s just business as usual, and until something comes up to change my perspective, and please try to do so in a respectful way, I’ll remain supportive of action that creates more inclusive environments. I’ll also do my best to try and spread fact based evidence when conflict arises.

I believe that a person is generally smart enough to be able to reason through evidence and come to reasonable conclusions. The ones spreading conspiracy are a very loud minority that the rest of us need to try and take with a grain of salt to find the facts in what they spread. Their conspiracies are based on some fact, but lead to jumps in logic that just don’t add up.

To end this post….

Just in parting, I want to say that I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and came to give us a choice in our own salvation.

I also believe that faith should not be mixed with politics. That reason and science are the basis of truth, and that it doesn’t contradict my faith.

I’m also human, and able to make mistakes. That those mistakes don’t define me, and that I can grow and learn from them. That ignoring or not learning about history dooms us to repeat it.

I also want to state, for the record, that just because I don’t agree with someone means I don’t respect their opinion. I just don’t respect it when it impedes someone else’s basic human rights.

In the end, I am an expert on my own opinion, and welcome discussion about it.

Published by Matthew Stobbs

Matthew is the Chief Information Officer and Chief Financial Officer for Sprouting Communications. From server side development, to Web Applications, to Phone Apps, his passion for computing ensures he is on top of the latest technologies and design trends.

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