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Linux new Code of Conduct

20/10/2018 Leave a comment

If you have been following technology news, specifically related to free software or open source, even more specifically related to Linux, you probably already know 2 things:

  1. Linus Torvalds went on vacation to “improve his people skills”
  2. Linux Kernel got a sudden and surprising new “Code of Conduct”

Since I am not a kernel developer or an insider of any kind, I have no new information on these issues.

The purpose of this post is to arrange for me and anyone interested, the facts about this situation, in chronological order.

Also, there is a very good Youtube video that analyzes in depth the new CoC but unfortunately it is “unlisted” so will not show in search results.

I wanted to have another place on the web that links to it.

If you want to understand why people complain about this particular CoC, you must watch this video!

No – it is not because developers like being rude and want to keep doing it!

The facts so far:

  1. On September 15, 2018 Greg Kroah-Hartman made a commit to the kernel Git repository replacing the existing “Code of Conflict” with a new “Code of Conduct” taken from this site.All but one kernel maintainers signed off on this commit.
    The one who refused was promptly accused of being a “rape apologist” for his refusal.

    The thing to be concerned about here is the “post meritocracy” manifesto published by the same people who produced the CoC.
    This manifesto goes against the guiding principle behind Linux and most other free software projects: people are judged only by the quality of their work, and nothing else!

  2. The next day, September 16, 2018 Linus Torvalds posted to the Kernel mailing list that he is “going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately.”Linus did not state that this is a permanent retirement from kernel development.
    But, he also did not specify when he will be back.
  3. On the same day, Coraline Ada Ehmke, the main author of the CoC twitted the following inflammatory post:

    I can’t wait for the mass exodus from Linux now that it’s been infiltrated by SJWs. Hahahah

    For many this confirmed a malicious intent from the creators of the CoC suspected due to the anti-meritocracy manifesto.

  4. On the next day, September 17, 2018 Coraline confirmed that the CoC was a political document.It should be noted that Coraline has never contributed a single line of code to the Linux kernel.
  5. On September 19, 2018 The New Yorker published a character assassination piece on Linus Torvalds.Many on the net speculated that Linus “chose” to take his time off because the New Yorker contacted him before publishing the article, and this was his attempt to mitigate what was published.
  6. On September 20, 2018 an anonymous user unconditionedwitness posted to the kernel mailing list a claim that there is legal possibility for any developer harmed by the new CoC to demand removal of all their code from the kernel.
  7. On September 23, 2018 Eric S. Raymond posted to the LKML “On holy wars, and a plea for peace” where he stated “this threat has teeth”.
    He claims to have researched the issue and thinks unconditionedwitness may be correct.Unfortunately, Eric is not a lawyer.
  8. On September 26, 2018, ZDNet published an article, attempting to present legal opinion on the possibility of removing  code under GPL v2 from the kernel.Unfortunately, they did not interview any lawyers regarding current situation, just quoted old statements.
    Still, it seems that the possibility of code being removed from the kernel is legally dubious at best.
  9. On October 7, 2018 Phoronix reported that some prominent kernel developers were submitting patches to the CoC in an attempt to mitigate the harm it will cause and make it more usable.Unfortunately, these patches do not address all the problems (see the analysis video), and it is not yet known if they will be accepted.
  10. On October 15, 2018 Phoronix again reported that as of Release Candidate 8 for the upcoming 4.19 kernel no changes to the CoC were accepted.
    So basically, previously mentioned patches were thrown out.There is however another attempt, this time by developer from RedHat to submit more patches trying to fix the CoC.
  11. On October 20, 2018 (Latest news as of the time of this writing), Phoronix reported that though all previous patches were rejected, Greg Kroah-Hartman himself submitted a patch and a new “interpretation” document for the CoC.It is interesting to note, that the interpretation document is longer that the CoC it self, which brings up the question: how bad does a document need to be for it to require such a long interpretation guideline?

    Can you imagine a comment that is longer then the function it documents?
    Would you accept such code?

    Also note, that these changes were discussed privately, and only a very short time before 4.19 release was given to the developer community at large to consider them.

Summary:

It is clear from these events that there is an attack on the Linux kernel project.
Linus Torvalds, the creator of the project was driven out by using prime time media and political pressure, and at the same time a highly controversial at best, and plain destructive a worst, binding document was forced upon the community with no warning and no discussion.

I do not believe anything like this has happened before in the lifetime of the kernel project.

It should be noted however, that as of the time this post was written no other developer besides Linus have been driven off the project or decided to leave of their one free will.
No one is trying to pull code out yet.

 

Analysis of the CoC:

Some month before the CoC hit Linux kernel, Paul M. Jones, a PHP developer, gave a presentation detailing all the problems with the CoC.

You can find it here.

It is an hour long, and the video and audio quality is not the best, but the content is excellent. If you are wondering what is so bad about the CoC that people like me call it and “attack”, you must watch this video.

You should also read this post and this one.

I was going to add my own analysis here, but this post turned out longer than I expected, so I will write up my own dissection of the CoC in a separate post.

Most of it is covered in the video anyway, please watch it!

Categories: Rants Tags: , ,