back to article Torvalds CONFESSES: 'I'm pretty good at alienating devs'

Linux Lord Linus Torvalds has admitted that his tendency to use strong language has alienated other members of the Linux community. In a Q&A with Intel's chief Linux and open source chap Dirk Hohndel at LinuxCon Europe in Düsseldorf on Wednesday, Torvalds was asked what he'd do differently if given the chance. According to …

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Stop

NO.

They say a skilled diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip. Well I for one - when applicable - much prefer to tell the retard in question to fuck the fuck off instead. And I definitely salute someone with the balls to do that much more often that I can afford or dare to.

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Anonymous Coward

Fuck off

It's quite easy to for a gentle discussion to turn into a raging argument with personal digs on an online forum where you're just reading and typing text, rather than interacting directly with humans. All you tossers on this forum demonstrate that quite well.

My guess is this will die down as the society becomes used to communicating via computers.

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Devil

Re: Fuck off

Bollocks!

Oh bugger! Did I just prove you right?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fuck off

No, no, no - it looks like that (and I'd agree with you that 'impersonal' on-line communication can be a factor) but I do assure you, @AC, that I'm just as obnoxiously task-focussed in real life - more so if anything.

Took too many decades to realise this, and to learn to include a disclaimer in the preamble to all sorts of communication situations with colleagues. Laughter breaks the ice, I'm told....

Talking to a friendly head medic, I was told (laughingly) that I was obviously borderline OCD, and coping.

She added that the rack of unusual things I build and invent in wildly varying fields could never have come to pass otherwise. What? I've just been having fun and getting paid for it, mostly.

If anything, I can come across as far less discourteous in this sort of forum, where I type stuff, review it, and think a bit.

Person-to-person I might be distracted by the internal computations necessary for 'the current task' and come straight out and tell the CEO/CTO/Chairperson :-

"Wrong. It will fail massively, because...." (or similar unfriendly raw data)

.....before returning my gaze to a squared-paper notebook full of diagrams and calcs.

In one infamous incident, the Great Man grinned, and agreed.

Didn't happen often, mind.

I have a 'Friendly Human Overlay' that runs in most social situations, but comes unglued if I run out of CPU, or RAM, or something else in my thinkbox, like good temper or patience.

So you're right in that _individuals_ can indeed learn to use this form of communication in a civilised fashion, but I fear that as a society each generation has to learn the same lesson over and over and over.....

Grim, ain't it? ;)

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Happy

Re: Fuck off

What you need is the opposite of noise cancelling headphones.

A phone (as an easily pocketable mobile computer will do). This should be set up to recognise your voice, then do the clever out of phase noise cancelling thing whenever you speak. Probably with some other sound, just to make sure. This then cancels out what you say, then flashes up the text for your review and then rebroadcasts a few seconds later (if you don't stop it).

I guess to make this even better, you could have a huge bushy moustache, so people can't get confused by your lips moving, or even lip read. Result while busy you're on a delay, like a sweary musician on the radio, and you can override if for those times when you're actually concentrating on talking.

What could possibly go wrong...?

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Re: Fuck off

I am a C++ software engineer; socially inept to the degree that I do not know what 'Fuck off' means.

What does 'Fuck off' mean?

Can you show me a spec?

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He's a good leader

Torvalds has particular style of command - directness, an expectation for people to do things right, and he isn't afraid to lay into them when they don't. It probably does bruise egos but it also ensures a high standard of code in the kernel that everyone benefits from. Given how successful the kernel has become he's clearly doing something right.

I actually enjoy reading his rants because they're normally accompanied by a sound argument.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: He's a good leader

Must agree. In fact, how many CEOs or CIOs do you know who would be happy to talk about their perceived weaknesses, or the things they would prefer to put right in hindsight? These are the remarks of someone with human foibles but with the humility to admit them. His style has proven effective.

The cultural aspects of moral stances, as has been pointed out, should also not be underestimated. In one transnational for which I worked, there were two countries (I'll not say which) with whom the British contingent really disliked working, largely because their cultural norm appears confrontational to us. I do not believe it was - it was just a style, along with language barriers, but meant making allowances for others for behaviour at which we've become accustomed rather to take offence.

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Frustration

I doubt that Linus stomps round like Malcolm Tucker all the time. From what I've seen, most of his rants are down to terminal frustration, when someone is causing a problem and earlier complaints haven't been addressed.

It's a big project, involving a lot of smart and headstrong people. I bet the same stuff goes on behind the scenes of many tech companies, it's just that you don't see it.

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Don't start off being obnoxious

Isn't the problem that if you constantly resort to being rude people cannot work out if it's an act or really something important.

I'm sure we all know the case when it's either "Bloody hell X, doesn't normally talk like that, what's up?" and "oh it's just Y, always kicking off, ignore him!".

The boy who always cried wolf comes to mind.

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Happy

Re: Don't start off being obnoxious

The boy who always cried wolf comes to mind.

So are you suggesting a new fairytale, called 'The Boy Who Cried Fuck'?

I'm sure it would be popular with children. Not so convinced the parents will be willing to read it as a bedtime story though...

At least now that Doctor Who and Malcolm Tucker are the same person, we have the correct actor in place to do the job properly.

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Re: Don't start off being obnoxious

Oddly enough I knew someone who used this line of thinking to masquerade his occasional outburst. By starting every conversation off with "What a maroon!" Or "What a l.user!" he established figured the real outburst would just be part of the pattern.

...

No, it didn't actually work. You could tell when he was really upset by the color of his face. But the language wasn't any worse than his friendly greeting.

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Anonymous Coward

Development

Swearing and lack of respect for others is a sign of immaturity. Writing good code doesn't change that. People often develop at different rates in different parts of their life.

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Re: Development

Most old school hackers believe the internet should be a meritocracy, like it was in the 90s. In a meritocracy, you don't need to have respect for others, only respect for better ideas. In a meritocracy if your ideas and knowledge are rubbish, then I do not need to have respect for you.

These days we have to be "forward thinking" and "inclusive", and make sure that no-one feels that they cannot contribute because their feelings may get hurt. For instance, the Django project changed their documentation on database replication to remove the terms "master server" and "slave server".

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Re: Development

> In a meritocracy if your ideas and knowledge are rubbish, then I do not need to have respect for you

It is important to differentiate the person from the product.

One should always respect (or at least: be polite to) others. But that doesn't mean you have to praise, use or accept whatever work they have produced. Most of us would claim respect or admiration for Leonardo da Vinci - even though most of his "designs" were fanciful and impractical, given what we know today.

In the same way, most americans: even ones who dislike the present occupant of The White House would claim respect for the position of President, without necessarily extending that to the person holding that office.

The true mark of a leader is that they can motivate the immature, the insolent, the arrogant and the plain obstinate. Getting intelligent people (those who can see the greater good or the long view) on board is easy. Getting the best out of those who are both gifted AND childish is where a leader's talent shows itself.

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Re: Development

" the Django project changed their documentation on database replication to remove the terms "master server" and "slave server"."

Which is the kind of politically correct shit that just needs to be told to 'fuck off'.

Are we to change all the terms in electronics as well?

Can we no longer have SPI or I2c master & slave devices

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Re: Development

>Getting intelligent people (those who can see the greater good or the long view) on board is easy.

Only if the leader is not a total sociopath self promoting get my bonus/golden parachute and go type of person. Unfortunately a good number of CEOs people are working under today are that way.

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Tar, Brush, Easy *sigh*

Of four comments thus far, precisely half make broad, sweeping generalisations about an entire section of society, to wit: programmers are socially incompetent. As with many such aphorisms, there is a, ahem, kernel of truth, but that is all. I would venture to suggest that anyone given to making what might even be termed prejudicial judgements and neglecting to recognise the diversity of a population is not quite a master of social skills themselves.

But I digress.

This:

"didn't understand their fellow human beings at all"

We do understand them. We just don't like them.

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Oh Leonard...

Perhaps people would be more polite to you if you weren't such a twat...

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Headmaster

re. metric ****load

The correct expression is "****load, since there is no difference between a metric ****load and an imperial ****load, both being a qualitative rather that a quantitative measure.

For the ****ton, whether it is metric or imperial needs to be specified in speech, since the words 'ton and 'tonne' sound identical. In writing, the spelling is different and so the word 'metric' is not needed.

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Re: re. metric ****load

Does tonne vs ton matter in the UK to warrant the metric prefix? The UK ton is just around 1.6% heavier than the tonne

The US version is just 2000 pounds, so the difference in non-trivial.

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Who gives a fuck? The Corporate marketard universe?

Frankly, I just want the OS to work, not get in the way, and make me blissfully unaware that it even exists.

Linus & PV have not made me upset about the OS for the couple decades that I have been running (and advocating!) Slackware. Without advertising. Can you say that about your OS of choice?

Screw corporate OSes ... Too much cruft, not enough useful capability.

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Anonymous Coward

Biopic

We just need a biopic of him, starring Peter Capaldi in f*cking full pre-Doctor mode.

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Being rude/abrasive/verbally abusive hasn't hurt other leaders in the tech industry.

Sometimes peoples ideas are shit. And maybe calling that out very quickly actually works.

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Mushroom

Words

They can have real world consequences, direct and indirect.

For instance, the name 'Milky'. Five letters in the alphabet that are slang for an individual who is 'milking' or extending a job or contract for profit. What began as a courtesy call to ensure a workstation was configured properly, became an invoice for $73.30 (.5 hr).

We keep the equipment running properly so you can do *your* job, We are not casually insulted furniture.

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… and in other news

Arboreal areas contain ursine turds.

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Anonymous Coward

I had a boss who, whenever she made a mistake, would say stuff like, "Look at me! What am I like!? I'm always forgetting things! Silly me", which would be fine but when I ever did something like it, I was getting warnings.

She's not my boss now and she's off my †mas card list.

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Most devs are pretty far along the spectrum

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Well I'm sure peeps have their own interpretation of his actions, but all the instances I've read about where Linus loses his rag, occur after a fairly long and painful process of him trying to get people to realise they have made a mistake, and perhaps they'd like to fix it - soon.

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In my old age, I've developed a tolerance for Jobs.

He produced some decent hardware. My take on Torvalds is that he has light years to go before reaching the prick level Jobs achieved very early in his career. If Torvalds ever reaches the same level Jobs did, I may re-evaluate my good opinion of him. But not until then. And neither pretty boy nor any of his Torvalds hating acolytes posing as news writers will alter that opinion before then.

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Sounds like a culture clash to me

Sounds like a culture clash to me. Between people who are genuine coders, want to cut through the BS and call crap code crap code if it's crap code. They have a passion for functional, clean, and correct code that gets work done. Versus people who want to hold hands and discuss each others feelings, and make sure to NEVER show a strong opinion about anything, because that might hurt someone's feelings. I think you can tell which side I favor.

If someone's just out chewing people out all the time? That can be a problem in any organization. But in this case, it's really not a problem at all, Linux is a complicated and important piece of software and the barrier of entry to submit code to it is relatively high anyway (usually, people submit any patches they may have to someone 1 level downline and *they* vet and submit the patch to mainline.) And people are chewed out based on the merits of their technical discussions and patches, not just because.

If you want to see what happens when you favor politeness and sensitivity exclusively, read up on companies where wasteful policies are never eliminated, and new products rarely come out, because nobody wants to risk theoretically insulting anyone else by "rocking the boat" and suggesting there may possibly be a problem with the current processes, products, and services.

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Funny, Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie built the OS that Linus made a knockoff of and they didn't need to be assholes to do it. Looks like being an asshole is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to produce great work.

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@Donkey Molestor X

Actually, Donkey Molestor X(sic), Linus built a knockoff of Minix, which was in turn a BellLabs knockoff. Regardless, ken & dmr and Tanenbaum don't condone idiocy, any more than Linus does.

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Unhappy

Sigh

It's not a 'knockoff' of anything. Linus used Minix as a platform to build with. There is not, and never was, any Minix code in Linux - as was confirmed by the writer of Minix. Maybe you think Linus should have entered the code on bare metal with banks of switches.

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Re: Sigh

Apparently, Will Godfrey, you don't know what "a knockoff" means.

MWC's "Coherent" was a knockoff of the *nix paradigm ... but it was entirely hand-coded in assembler, with absolutely zero Bell Labs code. Just like Minix. Linus followed up on this concept.

I've been happily using Linux for 20+ years. It's still a knockoff.

Not that that's a bad thing. Running code trumps all.

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Progress is slow and nasty business

@Donkey Molestor X

The Phoenicians built the first sea-worthy vessels(by greed), the Chinese invented gun-powder(by corruption), and the Soviets conquest space(by fear). At each of these stages of progress there were a LOT of assholes involved cracking whips.

"Looks like being an asshole is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to produce great work."

"Looks like" based on what to you, pacifically? The Holocaust never happened because .. you were not there, and/or the Holocaust is really not a Great Work? Oh, you did not specify good or bad!

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"it would surprise if they're talking,"

Given that Torvalds is a Techie, and a Fin, it would surprise if he took offense at all.

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Re: "it would surprise if they're talking,"

He's not a "Fin", he's a "Finn".

But he's not, not really, he's Swedish.

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Boffin

Major contributions...

...HAVE been made to any field of human endeavor you can name by people who did it by not being assholes.

Linus Torvalds can NOT claim that distinction,

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