Linux ‘code of conflict’ takes aim at developers’ bad-tempered reputation

Proposed code of conduct would provide recourse to devs over threats, harassment.


The world of Linux kernel development can be a contentious place, marked by enthusiastic debate, spirited disagreement, and occasional out-and-out temper tantrums. But a “patch” authored by senior developer Greg Kroah-Hartman is looking to raise the tone a bit.

Greg Kroah-Hartman

Greg Kroah-Hartman

Kroah-Hartman, who is a fellow at the nonprofit Linux Foundation, calls for a “code of conflict,” which stipulates that criticism and critique are an absolutely unchangeable part of kernel development, and one that contributors need to be prepared for. However, it also states that personal abuse and threats are “not acceptable,” and asks that any developer experiencing such treatment contact the Linux Foundation’s Technical Advisory Board.

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“As a reviewer of code, please strive to keep things civil and focused on the technical issues involved,” Kroah-Hartman wrote. “We are all humans, and frustrations can be high on both sides of the process. Try to keep in mind the immortal words of Bill and Ted, ‘Be excellent to each other.’”

The “patch” was incorporated into release candidate 3 of version 4.0 of the Linux kernel, which was finalized on Sunday, with a comment from Linux creator and chief maintainer Linus Torvalds saying “let’s see how this goes.”

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Torvalds himself has been at the center of the debate over civility in kernel development – periodically lashing out at kernel developers and companies over poor decision-making or bad code contributions. He’s been largely unrepentant for his outbursts, saying that critics are simply trying to force him to be “politically correct,” and his defenders are many.

But Kroah-Hartman’s code of conflict may signal a shift in a less contentious direction, if even Torvalds appears to be on board.

This story, "Linux ‘code of conflict’ takes aim at developers’ bad-tempered reputation" was originally published by Network World.

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