opinion You may be excused if you think most Linux and open source guides are, uh, rude.
If you follow open source at all, you know the stories of Linux founder Linus Torvalds fingering Nvidia for its lack of Linux support and how he tramples developers on the Linux kernel mailing list when they make mistakes.
And let’s not forget what former Perl Foundation director Curtis “Ovid” Poe had to say about the behavior of certain people at TPF: “It’s the online version of Road Rage. face to face. But online, they’re angry assholes.”
This phenomenon is not limited to grey-haired developers either. Recently, Kat Cosgrove, a Pulumi Developer Advocate and CNCF Ambassador, tweeted the CNCF Executive Director embarked.
She wrote at the time: “This sucks Priyanka. It’s dangerous and it sucks and doesn’t speak at all to the CNCF who care about their community.”
In the end, Cosgrove won her point. Masks are compulsory at KubeCon. As someone who takes Covid-19 seriously, I agree. But some hard feelings remained.
There is nothing extraordinary about any of these interactions. But if you think this phenomenon only occurs in open source communities, you are wrong. Arrogance and rude behavior are common in tech circles.
Through my work, I’ve met some of the greatest tech leaders of all time, including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Larry Ellison. Compared to them – and far too many other tech CEOs and executives large and small – even the most toxic open source executives are kitty cats. I’ve heard that tech bosses abuse employees so much that they burst into tears and panic attacks all too often.
Heck, I had my first panic attack after a boss threw a fit at me for quitting my job for another position that came with a 50 percent raise. Too often tech companies are tough.
Also, you don’t work under open source community leaders, you work With She. Plus, the proprietary companies can and did fire you and ensure you never worked in the industry again. All in all, I’d rather have Linus yell at him in an email.
But people change. While no one will ever mistake Torvalds for a meek, mild-mannered developer, in 2018 he realized he needed to change his ways. It drove out good developers and got on the nerves of even the best programmers who were still around. So Torvalds actually left the Linux development community to change his personal demeanor.
Do you know how rare that is? Just think of your own colleagues. How often do you admit mistakes, apologize and try to change? Hardly ever, right? You know what’s even rarer? Everyone in the tech industry is apologizing.
And what’s even more amazing? Torvalds came back and he changed. Oh, it can still get salty at times, but it’s way better than it was and the community is better for it.
In fact, the open source community as a whole has become more polite. Part of that was the rise of the code of conduct. These are based on Coraline Ada Ehmke, a software developer and open source advocate, Contributor Covenant. It is used by projects like Eclipse, Kubernetes and Rails.
Some people hate that. Using their contributor covenant caused a sulky outburst Twitter and Reddit.
There are also claims that the Linux community is being politicized and being taken over by so-called Social Justice Warriors (SJWs). Some examples of the new code of conduct are: “In practice [will be] abused Tools to hunt down people who don’t like SJWs. And they don’t like a lot of people.”
And: “Yes, as long as you are authoritarian left-wing and/or censor yourself, you can participate.”
Despite all the whining, the codes were more successful than not. They promote politeness and encourage people to be “excellent in dealing with each other.”
Additionally, we’re seeing more and more open source executives not making headlines because they’re being rude. These leaders bring us a kinder, gentler open source community.
However, I think there will also be more rudeness in tech circles than in other companies. Many technology leaders are on the autism spectrum. While ASD can sometimes give people the superpower to focus on code that is beyond most people’s abilities, it often prevents them from working well in society. But just as you can learn to be a great programmer, people on the spectrum can learn to be great leaders.
Slowly, but before long, the open source community is getting friendlier, gentler, and better. ®