back to article Talk of tech innovation is bullsh*t. Shut up and get the work done – says Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds believes the technology industry's celebration of innovation is smug, self-congratulatory, and self-serving. The term of art he used was more blunt: "The innovation the industry talks about so much is bullshit," he said. "Anybody can innovate. Don't do this big 'think different'... screw that. It's meaningless. …


  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I daresay that marketing, startups, and quite a few large companies pushing for IPOs are not going to want to hear this. But when he's right, he's right.

    Spot on Linus. I raise a toast to you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All the faffing...

      All the faffying companies like BT spend trying to sweat their copper assets, all the bullshit analysis of obfuscated, bamboozled "upto" speeds, distance by cable, whether the cable is copper, aluminum, actively powered devices, non-actively powered devices. Whether than can squeeze extra distance by forcing existing customers off ADSL, to implement long range VDSL. It's all just delaying tactics / hyped vapourware crap of pointless "upto" copper carcass

      Bullshit paper shuffling Ofcom stats whether its better to keep Openreach part of BT / Separate. Non of this would matter if the copper cables in the ground were put through a programme of replacement to fibre. Sack all these anaylsis numpties, do the 'real work', employ the engineers/people to do the hard grunt - the real world jobs that actually matter. Fibre optic cables replacements on the ground.

      Then, all these analysis/regulatory jobs are redundant. (though I'm sure they'd try).

      It's times like these we need someone like LinusTorvalds to say 'everyone - shut the fuck up'. Let's start putting true Fibre optics in the ground FTTP, and move forward, for the sake of UK.

      Copper is a dead carcass, going forward.

      There is hard work that needs to be done, and it needs starting now. BT needs to be sidelined, if they are unwilling to go this route.

      Enough talking Ofcom, we need some proper decisions, you need to be brave and sign your own death warrant, with the UK taking on a fibre replacement programme for new builds / end of life replacement. (as a bare minimum).

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      If Mark 85 and Linus can share this pint then that'd be great.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Mark 85

      You mean Snapchat isn't the pinical of innovation?

      1. SNaidamast

        Re: @Mark 85

        Facebook was just a copy of MySpace and has a terrible interface. Can't see anything innovative here either but it is a billion dollar company. Go figure...

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: @Mark 85

          Facebook (et ali) is just a kludged together combination of FTP, IRC and USENET with a hint of telnet, yet without the full utility of any of them, and all wrapped up in an ugly interface.

    4. MyffyW Silver badge

      Break stuff

      Love the comment about stuff not working being exciting. Because fixing a problem is always more interesting than re-packaging the same old gubbins.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Or, in the vernacular ...

    ... Running code trumps all.

    1. Roo

      Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

      Sadly that usage of "Trump" is obsolete. Besides I imagine is trademarked up to the hilt, there is no profit in upsetting the big cheese with the small personality any more than you need to.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

        I know what that word means, and how to use it. The big, fat, orange idiot-in-chief can kiss my pasty white butt if it thinks otherwise.

        1. Baldy50

          Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

          LOL, Trumpton, for all you lot abroad, over the pond etc, it's a kids TV show from way back when from the UK and is called 'Trumpton' believe it or not!

          'The big, fat, orange idiot-in-chief can kiss my pasty white butt if it thinks otherwise.'

          LOL, really, but do you think you'd get away with saying "The big black idiot-in-chief", a while back? Just saying, and your not alone mine is pasty and white too.

          1. Adam 52 Silver badge

            Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

            'but do you think you'd get away with saying "The big black idiot-in-chief", a while back?'

            Difference is that the 'orange' is a personal choice whereas the 'black' was not. Judge people by their actions not accidents of birth.

          2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

            Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

            And Private Eye ( have been running a very amusing cartoon parody of the orange one

          3. netminder

            Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

            Hair Furor is orange by choice, President Obama was not given a choice. That is the difference between labeling. The Tangerine Tantrum invites the abuse, it would be impolite of him to not accept it.

      2. GrumpyOldMan

        Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

        er.... I think you'll find its actually a reference to a very old card game or 10. One suit trumps another, the Ace trumps everything and so on, nothing to do with any individual. And since I were a wee lad in the 60's, trumping is a reference to farting. And Trumpton was one of my favorite shows..

      3. tony2heads

        Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

        You always get the highest score for No Trumps

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

      Or in the US:

      Trump running all code...

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Or, in the vernacular ...

        Trump's not running any code more complicated than his twitter client.And I rather suspect that even that is kept maintained by one of his sprog.

  3. Oh Homer Silver badge


    A word that marketeers use to describe something that isn't really an invention.

  4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    So, I guess that rules out hiding duff code behind animated gif's then...

    One thing about Windows that really annoys me is when a fundamental operation keels over, but the animation continues as if no error occurred.

    Note to Microsoft: Ever thought of assigning the team that does the animation to work on such things as programming operating system commands?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So, I guess that rules out hiding duff code behind animated gif's then...

      They learned that lesson very very well. The one about the on-screen cursors and their animation, that is. In the book Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made there is an awesome story about Bill Gates visiting the Apple campus for some demo or other, Microsoft was an early and huge Mac software developer in the 80s, and Bill was absolutely baffled at how the Mac cursor could move without any flicker. Bill kept asking if there was another computer doing the demo in another room, or that they were using special dedicated hardware for it. Jobs just smiled and said, nope it's all in software. Microsoft figured it out in the end, and must have got really good at it. :P

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: So, I guess that rules out hiding duff code behind animated gif's then...

      I'm with you. Went to create a folder to save a download in and Windows 7 got stuck. All the boxes and such were doing just fine, the actual creation of the folder just never happened.

  5. Notas Badoff
    Thumb Up

    "It's a social project, ..."

    Open Source is people. Hence the difficulties, and the victories.

    Open Source is not about being fettered by corporate, rather it is about being self-harnessed and self-directed towards common goals together with others of like mind.

    Think of a couple of open source projects you use - most likely the contributors have shifted around greatly over time, with others coming in to infuse new oomph and ideas every so often. This is a hidden strength of open source projects. I'm thinking of two where the original developers haven't been heard from for more than a decade, but the code is maintained and expanded by what is perhaps the 4th generation now. (And, yes, it's a small %age of new projects with lots of counter examples - no panaceas here)

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Never mind the code quality, feel the "innovation."

    Ideally there's a balance of some innovation delivered with solid program running.

    My instinct is a lot of a Linux kernel is about protocols and protocol implementation.

    I wonder how many of the developers do this as an FSM with the code written by the tool?

    Or how many (eventually) implement it as a bodged up FSM?

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      Re: Never mind the code quality, feel the "innovation."

      "My instinct is a lot of a Linux kernel is about protocols and protocol implementation."

      Download it and have a nose around. Even for a simple sysadmin like myself there are some interesting things in there.

      I think you'll discover it is rather more than just a finite state machine's output. Although there is one actually in it.

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Never mind the code quality, feel the "innovation."

      Female seeking male? Absolutely not. The LKML ain't a meat market. <sfsf>

      More seriously, the only person I can speak for is myself ... The only FSM I use is the one between my ears; no tool generated code here[0]. Reading through the source code, I suspect I'm not alone. The source is open, you can read along for yourself, if you like.

      Disclaimer: I'm not a coder, per se, but I have been contributing for a long time.

      [0] Yes, I know, I'm such a tool ... Feel better now?

      1. dajames Silver badge

        Abbreviation Hell

        Female seeking male? Absolutely not.

        I stared at the letters FSM for an embarrassingly long time before the words "Finite State Machine" trickled reluctantly to the forefront of my consciousness. It wasn't until I read further down the comments that "Flying Spaghetti Monster" even occurred to me.

        Does that make me a bad person?

        1. Swarthy Silver badge

          Re: Abbreviation Hell

          Does that make me a bad person?


        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          "I stared at the letters FSM for an embarrassingly long time"

          Err, it's an IT site. IBM manuals tend to describe protocols using state diagrams.

          Obviously such practices are less common than I thought.

          Perhaps that's why such work is so hard. *

          Note. True FSM's are not Turing complete. The question is how much of the functionality in the kernel needs needs something more powerful than an FSM to deal with situations due to massive growth in the number of possible states.

    3. Anonymous C0ward

      Re: Never mind the code quality, feel the "innovation."

      Spaghetti code?

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Never mind the code quality, feel the "innovation."

        Well, to be perfectly honest, sometimes I think a coder has decided to throw code at the list, just to see what sticks. If I were Linus, I'd enjoy the odd rant at idiots like that, too ;-)

      2. hplasm Silver badge

        Re: Never mind the code quality, feel the "innovation."

        There 's a FSM in the Kernel.

        All hail his noodly appendage, may he bless the sauce code!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux Lord - A modular poem.

    Linux Lord Linux Lord raging through the glen.

    Linux Lord Linux Lord and his mighty Kernel men.

    Bugs to the left, patches to the right.

    Linux Lord

    Linux Lord

    Oh my Gawd!

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Linux Lord - A modular poem.

      Has he spied the Weetabix yet?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Linux Lord - A modular poem.

        With his general levels of rage id imagine hes probably over doing his weetabix...especially the yellow cake uranium flavour ones.

  8. Brian Miller

    Edison and Torvalds

    Torvalds said he subscribes to the view that successful projects are 99 per cent perspiration, and one per cent innovation.

    "Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." - Thomas A. Edison

    Gee, same concept, a century or so later. I'm not surprised. Everything goes to crap when shortcuts are taken.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Edison and Torvalds

      I believe Torvalds was knowingly quoting.

      That's how Edison worked. No so Tesla.

      Bur we all can't be Teslas.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Edison and Torvalds

        "Bur we all can't be Teslas."

        You mean we can't all be bumped off and have our ideas and papers stolen?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is easy to underestimate the difference between tech owned by techies and tech owned by non-tech businesses. If "innovation" was not pushed by some the 1% of innovation would not have happened.

  10. JLV Silver badge

    he's really quite clever, ain't he?

    You could argue (I won't) that Linux cloned a lot of ideas from Unix/BSD/Minix. Lots of perspiration, not all that much innovation. In fact, a troll is surely waiting in the wings to chip that in. Or maybe whine that it's not a micro-kernel OS.

    But git seems to be another beasty entirely. Yes, it's a VCS, and yes, those have been done before. But, it's a different VCS in how it stores data. And it is a very different VCS in how its API interacts with standard file system commands.

    I confess I am a fairly clueless person wrt git. The railroad diagrams used to explain commit points just make me scratch my head. Lots of the advanced command and option combinations are incredibly complex and don't make that much sense, so I tend to cut and paste them from SO.

    But unlike some of the other VCS I have had the misfortune to interact with, I get the feeling that it's actually pretty elegant, if I was clever enough to grok it fully. Commands like git bisect, once you get with it does, just are "wow, this is so useful, why did no one do this before?". I am not sure how long he took to put git together, but as I recall, he had to do it when some (other) Linux devs kinda pulled a fast one on the vendor of a commercial VCS that they had been using (for free, IIRC).

    1. Baudwalk

      Git command line

      >>> Lots of the advanced command and option combinations are incredibly complex and don't make that much sense, so I tend to cut and paste them from SO. <<<

      Not done battle with ClearCase much then? >:-)

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Git command line

        ClearCase was one of those VCS "misfortunes" I worked with. "Abortion" is a way better term for CC tho ;-)

        To be fair, with git it's not that advanced commands don't make sense - they work and work well. It's just that if it's not your primary job to wrangle with it, then it's not worth the effort to really know obscure stuff and edge cases. But since git is command line - copy, paste, adjust, and run is doable. Much more so than with a super complex nested GUI like CC.

        1. Paul 135

          Re: Git command line

          What the hell are you talking about? ClearCase was one of the better version control systems.

    2. The Mole

      Re: he's really quite clever, ain't he?

      I agree with this point. I gave Linux much much more kudos and respect for his work (and innovation) with Git than for making the *nix derivative that is Linux.

    3. fishman

      Re: he's really quite clever, ain't he?

      "I am not sure how long he took to put git together,"

      IIRC, it took him about two weeks to write the initial version of Git. Of course, he might have been thinking about it for quite a while before that.

  11. Unep Eurobats

    'Linux kernel chieftan'

    He does look a little orange in that photo.

  12. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Well if we look into the past...

    ...many great improvements in computing came from people who were just doing something properly. Just think of UNIX. You have a bunch of people who were trying to put in a semi-minimal amount of work. Only features that had most "bang for the buck" were implemented, and the whole thing has a "can't somebody else do it" attitude. (having small programs for everything)

    Today many people see innovation as doing trivial things more and more complex. Android, systemd or much of the Freedesktop projects are prime examples for this. I think this is because we have an excess of bad programmers who all want to do something... without understanding how to do it in a minimal way. That way they create lots of code that doesn't do anything productive.

  13. Hollerithevo Silver badge

    There are two parts to it

    The two parts of real success in creating and sustaining anything are, to me, (1) focusing on solving a practical, actual need and (2) work with a tried and trusted group of people.

    This has always got results, in my experience. Sometimes the team came together as a bunch of unknowns and, through the project, we found out who were the good 'uns and who were not, but in the end you have a core of people who do their best, who are dedicated, and who are bright. Now point them to a real, present problem that needs to be fixed. Job done.

  14. EnviableOne Bronze badge

    "Process problems are a pain in the ass. You never, ever want to have process problems ... That's when people start getting really angry at each other"

    Is it just me or does Linus tend to have a lot of process problems ...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Is it just me or does Linus tend to have a lot of process problems"

      It's not just you as others seem to come to the same conclusion. It's a consequence of your looking at the exceptions, not the rule. Consider the situation:

      - He has a huge number of contributors

      - He's probably never met most of them

      - He never recruited any of them

      - He doesn't employ any of them nor work for a company that employs them

      - He doesn't provide any annual assessments of them

      - He doesn't recommend pay levels

      - He can't fire them

      If you were in that position and responsible for a project of such magnitude what management tools would you have to hand and what process problems might you experience?


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