Linus, Linux, Civility and Fighting in Hockey

linus nvidiaFrom the ‘It’s all part of the game’ files:

A lot of chatter on the LKML (and elsewhere) this week about civility, threats and verbal abuse in the Linux kernel development community.

It all started thanks to Sarah Sharp, who asked for a new level of decorum and professionalism.

It’s a conversation that remains hotly debated on the LKML today, which makes for some fun reading.

The TL;dr version is that Linus Torvalds is vigorously defending his position, his right to use whatever language/tone he needs.

“The fact is, people need to know what my position on things are. And I can’t just say “please don’t do that”, because people won’t listen. I say “On the internet, nobody can hear you being subtle”, and I mean it.

All this talk made me think about the debate around fighting in Hockey (yes i’m Canadian so we think about hockey 12 mos a year).

Fighting is bad right?

If you punch someone in the face on the street you go to jail (or could be charged). You punch someone in the face in a hockey game and you to the penalty box (maybe).

In hockey, fighting is part of the game.

Sure, Canadians debate the role of fighting in hockey all the time. Hockey Canada is changing the way minor levels of hockey play too, banning any hitting until the age of 12 or so now too. So there is change.

Much of that change has been driven by the need to prevent injuries, specifically concussions.

Bringing it back to Linux, is there a similar driver? (other than civility?) Is there an injury that verbal abuse/non-civil discourse is bringing?

Or is Linus’ style, just, ‘part of the game’?

I suspect, that just as is the case with fighting in Hockey – that civility in Linux development is an evolving debate. The right thing to do is to talk about it and thanks to Sarah Sharp, that’s what is now happening.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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