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 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the tone is wrong the content is lost

    In normal society or in day to day business, the use of degrading insults or poor language means that the reader will be drawn away from the content of what is being said so the message is lost.

    I think what happens in the coding community is that they only care about the content because that's what coders do. They rate the people they deal with based on the quality and function of the code, because good code is elegant and works and bad code does not.

    However. Coders would do well to recognise that they operate in the real world too. It's ok to tell someone their code is poor. You don't have to tag on the words "you twat" to make your point however cathartic it makes you feel.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: If the tone is wrong the content is lost

      Slightly more complicated I am afraid.

      There is a fundamental problem in a volunteer project. If someone's contribution is crap and is not improving how to tell them to go away. Even more interesting - if you have told them to go away and they have not, how to get rid of them. 'cause there are some people that consider their ideas to be so good that they will simply never ever let go.

      If this is a workplace, you fire them or if you cannot fire them assign them a menial task at the desk next to the door. If this is a volunteer project you sometimes have to use "inappropriate" methods to achieve the equivalent of getting someone fired. C'est la vie.

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: If the tone is wrong the content is lost

        There is a fundamental problem in a volunteer project. If someone's contribution is crap and is not improving how to tell them to go away.

        If there are not mechanisms and processes which can overcome that without having to publicly insult people and swear at them then something is seriously broken in the organisation and management of that project.

        Public dressing-downs are a sign of failure. And what when that doesn't work? You send 'the boys' round to break some fingers?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Holmes

        Re: If the tone is wrong the content is lost

        @Voland - "There is a fundamental problem in a volunteer project. If someone's contribution is crap and is not improving how to tell them to go away."

        So you are saying Alan Cox was a crap coder, and Linus cussed him to try to get him to take his crap code and go away?

        Poettering - whether you like systemd or not - clearly knows how to code.

        Your idea sounds all well and good, but when you apply it to the actual situations that occurred, the logic falls apart.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Marshalltown
        Pint

        And there it is

        Volunteers are not all equal and their abilities are often less than they believe them to be.

      4. Dr Andrew A. Adams

        Re: If the tone is wrong the content is lost

        A properly run volunteer project still has someone in charge who has the ability to "lock the doors" against unwanted participants. While it's possible to set up a code repositoryto allow anyone and everyone to upload changes, that wouldbea really stupid way to do it and no serious project does.

        So, no, one does not have to use inappropriatemethods to get rid of someone. Whoever is in charge, whether that's one person or a committee, makes the decision, and revokes write access to the repository, remove them from the main discussion group (email, chat room, whatever).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If the tone is wrong the content is lost

      "Working software is the primary measure of progress." - Agile Manifesto.

    3. Nigel 11

      Re: If the tone is wrong the content is lost

      There's also a social issue when contributors come from a wide range of social backgrounds and cultures. What is showing a bit of mild exasperation by some, is felt as a serious attack or insult or humiliation by others. (Translation between a second language or "lingua franca" and a mother tongue is likely to make this worse. Words can have overlays of meaning in one language that are absent in another.)

      My own approach is always to wait and see. Actions speak a lot louder than words (or alternatively, supply the context by which the words should be interpreted). I don't care if someone calls a spade a spade, and I've called myself a fscking idiot enough times that I won't be overly bothered if someone else does -- provided there is some justification (which I don't necessarily agree with), and provided they're not trying to denigrate everything I do regardless of its quality.

      There's probably also a reverse problem, if someone's maximum expression of disappointment is so gentle that some other person doesn't register it at all ... until words have failed to convey the message, and they become the subject of an actual act of rejection.

    4. Olius

      Re: If the tone is wrong the content is lost

      This is all very good analysis on the face of it, but when you get in to the nitty-gritty of what happened it is much more straightforward:

      Someone continually writes crap code and is continually asked to fix it. They say it is not crap and everyone else needs to fix their code to work around the original author's bugs. More than one person calls him an idiot for being so petulant. Rinse and repeat and eventually said person is told to f-off.

      This doesn't seem unreasonable to me. As has been said, in a corporate environment they wouldn't be sworn at, they would be sacked.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If the tone is wrong the content is lost

      The truth of the fundamentals of the problem is one that the commentards don't want to hear: the fundamental problem is that most coders are men. And, as men, most of us don't want to deal with the idea, especially in today's modern society, of "compromise". "My way or the highway" has become social dogma, from politics to economy to simple interpersonal relationships. 'If you don't think like I do, then you're wrong' has become the new (mostly male) ego-centric status quo.

      All too many people completely fail to understand the idea of esprit de corps, that is, MORALE. It does NOT work, within a social construct, to simple worry about an individual's work product and dismiss him bodily as a person - that person will LEAVE and dismiss you eventually as "Not worth the effort". If you do not accept the person as being beyond their work they, in the long run, will simply not give you their 'best' - their morale will collapse and the will deem you no longer worthy of the effort to create their best output. This is shown time and time again but yet the coding community is attempting to dismiss this basic, fundamental human truth.

      It is amazing to read some of the replies below, the ones who say to only judge a coder by their output, and then ask "Did YOU stay in a work environment where the boss mistreated you??". The answer would assuredly be "No!", yet they expect others to stay in abusive situations simply because they should be 'honored' to work on a FOSS project for someone with a merit badge. We have ALL left jobs and relationships after we said to ourselves, "This is not worth it!!", and we should all apply that same standard of allowance to others as well.

    6. asdf Silver badge

      Re: If the tone is wrong the content is lost

      I will just leave this nugget here:

      “I still really despise the absolute incredible sh*t that is non-discoverable buses, and I hope that ARM SoC hardware designers all die in some incredibly painful accident.”

      ...

      “So if you see any, send them my love, and possibly puncture the brake-lines on their car and put a little surprise in their coffee, ok?”

      -- Linus Torvalds

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

    From www.catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html:

    "Much of what looks like rudeness in hacker circles is not intended to give offence. Rather, it's the product of the direct, cut-through-the-bullshit communications style that is natural to people who are more concerned about solving problems than making others feel warm and fuzzy."

    Cutting through management waffle is fine. Being derogatory I don't think is necessary.

    1. Anonymous Bullard

      Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

      Cutting through management waffle is fine. Being derogatory I don't think is necessary.

      I completely agree with that.

      However, let's say cutting the bullshit wasn't enough to get the message across... I'm wondering, what's the next step up from a direct talking to?

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

        > what's the next step up from a direct talking to?

        That's the problem. In the real world it would (ultimately) be termination - not in a kill -9 way, but withdrawal of salary and benefits. However, in the free software world; where contributors are not getting any tangible rewards, there is nothing to threaten them with.

        The motivation (the "carrot") is easy: these programmers do it for the recognition and we can see from the obsessive number of hours that some spend writing FOSS that they value this highly - maybe even more than earning a regular salary.

        If this is the form that the programmer-figurehead contract takes: you give me working code, I tickle your egotistical tummy, then it's easy to reward good work but difficult to punish the bad without resorting to the only leverage you have: public humiliation. And even that doesn't work when they can just take their project and fork it.

        That does seem to me to be the biggest weakness of the whole "free" development model. The contributors cannot be directed to doing things they don't want to do. So while coding is fun and they will willingly do that, debugging is tedious (and intellectually hard) and takes some effort to motivate. Documentation is beyond the capabilities of most FOSS-ers (not meant to rhyme with any pejorative terms) and intuitive UI design is simply impossible for almost any of them to understand the importance of, let alone get right.

        1. stanimir

          Re: Documentation is beyond the capabilities of most FOSS-ers

          Erm, the code is obvious. Why do that?

          Although I'd disagree, for example linux kernel doc is pretty darn good (unlike Apple's threading stuff)

          1. Pete 2 Silver badge

            Re: Documentation is beyond the capabilities of most FOSS-ers

            > Erm, the code is obvious. Why do that?

            I'm assuming you omitted the JOKE icon?

            But just in case the question is genuine, it's for the same reason that knowing how a car engine works doesn't give you the ability to drive.

            1. stanimir

              Re: Documentation is beyond the capabilities of most FOSS-ers

              Actually it's not a joke - it's a reference to Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal [1] "Real Programmers don't need comments-- the code is obvious.".

              [1]: http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/real.programmers.html

              On a more serious note working on an open source project kind of demands the ability to easily read others' code. Some comments do help indeed, however often comments (and internal docs) tend to become obsolete.

              1. Pete 2 Silver badge

                Re: Documentation is beyond the capabilities of most FOSS-ers

                > Actually it's not a joke - it's a reference to Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal

                Yes. I'm familiar with the quote. However, I've always considered it sarcasm.

                The reason is that the code describes what the computer will DO, not necessarily what the coder INTENDED. It also completely fails to assist in indicating what false leads the original implementer tried and discarded, the assumptions or requirements that were in the original design (another part of the documentation) or the reasons for choosing that one particular way of writing the solution. Even then, it doesn't take into account whatever bugs, shortcomings, numerical overflows or timing/race conditions are applied by the hardware, even if the software is algorithmically correct and compiled to a true executable.

                1. stanimir

                  Re: Documentation is beyond the capabilities of most FOSS-ers (sarcasm)

                  It is sarcasm and it was meant that way, hence the 'erm' part and the serious note in the next comment.

                  Comments are needed as the train of thought is easily lost after a couple of months even if the developer is the same. The point is that participating in open source projects may pushes people to be able to deal with the lack of comments, not that following suit is a good idea.

                2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

                  Re: Documentation is beyond the capabilities of most FOSS-ers

                  But sadly most comments state the bleeding obvious while ignoring the obscure - "i++; // increment counter" type of thing. The best advice is to pretend your code is going to be maintained by a homicidal maniac who knows where you live .

        2. asdf Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

          >However, in the free software world; where contributors are not getting any tangible rewards,

          You do know the if not the majority, a very large portion of the FOSS written today is written by paid developers (at work, explicitly tasked by the employer) many of which work for large corporations right? A lot of the developers Linus is usually ranting on actually work for Red Hat who seem to think Linux is here just for them.

          1. sisk Silver badge

            Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

            You do know the if not the majority, a very large portion of the FOSS written today is written by paid developers (at work, explicitly tasked by the employer) many of which work for large corporations right?

            I'm pretty sure it's the vast majority of them when it comes to the kernel. How many people do you know who's put up with Linus' management style for free? I know exactly one, a guy who'd love the prestige of being able to call himself a Linux kernel dev enough to put up with it if he had the skills to match his ego. I sure as heck wouldn't put up with it unless I was being paid.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

      We have a "Ticket System" at work, and someone asked for a change to the system that had no technical merit, would disastrously impact the performance of the database (they wanted to change a page that is looked at probably every second by someone somewhere) to add information that was not relevant to 99.9% of people wanting to look at the page.

      I tried explaining on a technical level that this wasn't sensible, but they kept ignoring it until I just said "This idea is stupid"

      They got the idea at this point that I wasn't going to do it, but then took offence that I had called him stupid ... I was able to "back down" and apologise, and at the same time I didn't have to implement their stupid idea, and we were able to come to a compromise that they were much happier with.

      1. WraithCadmus
        Headmaster

        Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

        "[...]but then took offence that I had called him stupid[...]"

        But you didn't, you called his idea stupid, which isn't the same thing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

          I consider it a bit of a freudian slip, only with listening instead of speach.

          You call the idea stupid, but they hear you calling them stupid, and they only hear it that way because it's true.

        2. Cookieninja

          Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

          Gee that was a stupid thing to say, but don't that personally.

          Let me guess, you would also look at painting, tell the painter that it was shit and not expect him to take it personally.

          1. JEDIDIAH
            Linux

            Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

            The painter may need to take it personally. The painter may need to fix his work. Telling him pleasant lies might spare his ego but it's probably not what's really best for him.

            Does the white lie benefit you or the person you're telling it to?

        3. razorfishsl

          Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

          Some people think everything is about them and to them it is the same,

          Because they have spent a good amount of time mentally justifying their contribution that it becomes part of them.

          And attack on the idea is an attack on them directly, after all nearly every one wants to be recognized a genius.

        4. binarytux

          Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

          We know that, but in Human Resources eyes it is the same thing. This is what creates the "management waffle." It's a brutal, no win, spiral downwards.....

        5. Tom 13

          Re: which isn't the same thing.

          to stupid and stubborn people, it is. Which is at the heart of the problem with Putterings.

        6. Vic

          Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

          But you didn't, you called his idea stupid, which isn't the same thing.

          You'd be amazed at how many people can't see that distinction...

          Vic.

    3. Filippo

      Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

      I disagree with Raymond's quote. "Being direct" means telling what's wrong, why, and how to fix it. Insults *are* exactly the sort of bullshit Raymond claims they're cutting through. They suggest that someone is more concerned about feeling smug and superior than he is about solving problems.

      People who *actually* want to solve problems stay technical. They don't get into pissing contests. They sure as hell don't actively try to bring the discussion to the emotional level. That's just about the last thing you should do if you want to solve problems.

      We're humans, not robots; we have a hard time keeping a conversation strictly technical - but, at least, let's not kid ourselves about it by trying to argue that hacker bullshit smells nicer than HR bullshit, okay? It's all bullshit.

      1. Tom 13

        @Filippo

        That was written with all the confidence of someone who has never been involved from the ground up of a successful, large, volunteer project.

        Emotions always come into play. The biggest piece of bullshit anyone ever dishes is that you solve all problems by focusing on only the technical. Human beings don't work that way. The question to the manager is always: Is it worth my effort to deal with their ego at the same time I deal with the technical issue.

        It's never fun being on the receiving end of the vulgar and emotional attack. I know I've been there and the accusation was a hell of a lot worse than anything Torvalds ever wrote to any of his devs. The title of the email, sent to the entire group on the mail list was:

        YOU FUCKING THIEVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        It went on to accuse the board of directors of colluding to give improper compensation to the friend of the current President of the organization. At the time I was treasurer and the one who was actually driving the decision. The person making the accusation was one of the founders of the group. He was heavily emotionally invested in the success of the group because of the long hours he labored in promoting it. We resolved the issue by forwarding the issue to the lawyer who proceeded to explain the seriousness of the email to the sender. Because of the long distance and indirect communications it required the better part of a month to resolve. Eventually the sender recognized the valid reasons for the decision, withdrew the accusation, and apologized for his emotional outburst. There were complex reasons for the outburst. First up was an underlying animosity between the sender of the message and the person who was being contracted to do work for the NPO. Second up was that the sender considered himself to do the work and said he would have done it for free. Next up was that the sender felt shut out of the decision making process. The key to the resolution wasn't actually focusing on the technical issues. Those were down pretty cold: the person contracted had already written a similar program for a larger organization than we were and was actually being paid a pittance for the work. The pittance was more of a chain for the NPO to ensure it was done on time (always the biggest problem in an NPO). But what actually resolved the issue was showing him that we were taking his concerns seriously, even to the point of having the lawyer handle a fair part of the discussions and openly discussing the issues at meetings. Healing the emotions was as important to the resolution as addressing the technical issue.

        While I wouldn't say the two individuals are good friends these days, they are civil to each other, and from time to time invite the other to social events.

        Bottom line: programs are mostly written by geeks who for the most part are better at talking to machines than they are to each other. Recognize and accept that and you can deal with it better.

        1. jtaylor

          Re: @Filippo

          Great explanation, Tom13. I agree. This matches my own experience in volunteer organizations.

          Non-Violent Communication has helped me communicate directly, honestly, and carefully. I try to keep focused on my goals. Often, berating someone will not inspire them to offer more, work harder, or take personal risks to help the team. No matter how you feel, as a leader you have a responsibility to the group first. That doesn't mean waffle impotently. It means you should do your job. And if the demands of your job exceed your skills, admit it and fix it. Or get out.

          And yes, it's entirely possible to directly, honestly, and carefully kick someone out, never to return. If that's the goal.

      2. Marshalltown

        Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

        I disagree with Raymond's quote. "Being direct" means telling what's wrong, why, and how to fix it.

        The problem takes multiple forms. The worst is equifiniality. There's no effective quality difference in one coder's work, other than the fact that he just doesn't give a rip about making it integrate well with the essential standard being followed by others. Others are just too blind to see that problems their code has. It's broken, buggy, and has too many problems to enumerate. Yet the coder simply cannot believe the fault lies with him. The former is a total pain because he simply cannot accept the premise of cooperative work. The latter is what boot camp is for.

    4. sisk Silver badge

      Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

      Cutting through management waffle is fine. Being derogatory I don't think is necessary.

      Indeed. Direct, blunt communication is one thing. Profanity and personal insults are another. The former usually saves trouble. The latter causes problems more often than not and is considered by some to be a sign of immaturity.

    5. abit

      Re: Eric Raymond's (in)famous quote

      A bazaar, not a Cathedral. I break I cry, you break you buy, fix it, yes, no? Damn you no go, I call police!

  3. Stretch

    For his creation of git I sincerely hope his testicles be caught in some industrial mincing machine.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just because you find that enjoyable, it doesn't mean others will.

    2. Roadcrew
      Linux

      |But to be fair to Linus....

      ...he did say that both of his best-know works (Linux and GIt) were named after him!

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      I think you are failing to comprehend the definition of cruel and unusal punishment

      I think you need to work for a year or two in a place where they use MKS or try to work using Clearcase in a distributed/remote/home worker environment. I will be glad to hear from you after that one.

      Git is like democracy. It sucks, but we have been unable to come up with something better (at least as far as distributed development is concerned).

      1. Stretch

        Re: I think you are failing to comprehend the definition of cruel and unusal punishment

        There are many better tools. Many, many. Its more like Dictatorship. You MUST do everything EXACTLY as it demands with NO deviations or you will be forced to run nonsensical, undocumented random commands until it breaks irrecoverably.

        Its a piece of fucking shit, and if you like it you should kill yourself. Simples.

    4. asdf Silver badge

      >in some industrial mincing machine.

      Like the one that took Tony Ionmi's finger?

      Seriously though the joke we made in my old shop was anytime someone got off in the git weeds (common occurrence) we would say Git is great! Because that is what some young punk web developer who talked management into using about 3 months before he left would always say.

  4. lotus49

    Social skills and techies

    What this comes down to is very poor social skills. In my thirty years of dealing with techies, I have found over and over again that technical ability is inversely correlated with social skills. Linus, and many others in the Linux community, behave this way because that is all they know how to do. It's not deliberate, they simply don't have the ability to behave like civilised human beings nor do they appreciate the need to change because they don't understand the impact their poor social skills have on others.

    I have worked for two of the Big 4 firms of business advisors and two groups of people stand out in both firms as being poor at interacting with their colleagues. They are the pen testers and the technical tax specialists. Both groups have often been filled with hugely intelligent and knowledgeable people who understood their subject brilliantly and didn't understand their fellow human beings at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Social skills and techies

      I think that applies to Linus quite well. I mean, he didn't become "the boss" by arse kissing or manipulating people.

    2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Social skills and techies

      @lotus49: they simply don't have the ability to behave like civilised human beings

      "The wizards were civilised men of considerable education and culture. When faced with being inadvertently marooned on a desert island they understood immediately that the first thing to do was to place the blame."

      Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent

    3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: Social skills and techies

      [They are] hugely intelligent and knowledgeable people who understood their subject brilliantly and didn't understand their fellow human beings at all.

      Sounds like a case of Asperger's/Austism: Something which appears to be more frequent in the IT world.

    4. NumptyScrub

      Re: Social skills and techies

      quote: "In my thirty years of dealing with techies, I have found over and over again that technical ability is inversely correlated with social skills."

      In my 20 years of working as, and around, support staff, if you don't understand people and understand technology enough to properly troubleshoot and fix it, you are not a good support engineer.

      It is entirely possible to be pleasant, personable, approachable, and technically skilled. What you found was a corollary of the "nice guys finish last" effect; only people ruthless enough to climb the corporate ladder have climbed the corporate ladder, and if they do not think you are important enough to be nice to, they are unlikely to be nice to you*.

      If you have regularly had to deal with support engineers who are also socially unskilled, then I apologise, as in my experience these should be the exception rather than the rule.

      *Some of the senior and board level people I've had to deal with can be total dicks when they are under even a little pressure. This includes those in PR, who are supposed to have excellent social skills, so it's not just technical staff that have this particular failing.

      1. sisk Silver badge

        Re: Social skills and techies

        if you don't understand people and understand technology enough to properly troubleshoot and fix it, you are not a good support engineer.

        That's why the first person you talk to when you call tech support is usually using a flipbook.While it's possible to have excellent people skills and technical skills in the same person it doesn't seem to happen very often.

        1. DropBear Silver badge
          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.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      Re: Fuck off

      Bollocks!

      Oh bugger! Did I just prove you right?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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? ;)

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        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...?

    3. Vanir

      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?

  6. DrXym Silver badge

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  7. Evil Graham

    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.

  8. Paul Johnston

    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.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      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.

    2. Tom 13

      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.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      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".

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        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.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          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.

      2. razorfishsl

        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

  10. Ralph the Wonder Llama

    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.

  11. Fibbles

    Oh Leonard...

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

  12. frank ly Silver badge
    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.

    1. stanimir

      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.

  13. jake Silver badge

    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.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Biopic

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

  15. sugerbear

    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.

  16. 404 Silver badge
    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.

  17. richardcox13

    … and in other news

    Arboreal areas contain ursine turds.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. J J Carter Silver badge

    Most devs are pretty far along the spectrum

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    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.

    1. Tom 13

      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.

  23. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    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.

  24. Donkey Molestor X

    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.

    1. jake Silver badge

      @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.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        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.

        1. jake Silver badge

          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.

    2. abit

      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!

  25. david 12 Bronze badge

    "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.

    1. jake Silver badge

      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.

  26. agricola
    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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