​Linux adopts conflict resolution code

The Linux development community now has an organized way to deal with the eternal problem of developer conflict.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

"If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen" could be the unofficial motto of the Linux kernel community. Over the years, there has been one conflict after another in the heart of the the Linux development community, the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML). Now, in order to make the LKML more peaceful, the group has adopted a Code of Conduct.

This title isn't quite accurate; it's not a code of conduct. Rather, it describes a method to resolve conflicts. It says:

The Linux kernel development effort is a very personal process compared to "traditional" ways of developing software. Your code and ideas behind it will be carefully reviewed, often resulting in critique and criticism. The review will almost always require improvements to the code before it can be included in the kernel. Know that this happens because everyone involved wants to see the best possible solution for the overall success of Linux. This development process has been proven to create the most robust operating system kernel ever, and we do not want to do anything to cause the quality of submission and eventual result to ever decrease.
Linus Torvalds and the Linux kernel leadership listened and will be trying a new way to resolve developer conflict.
There's no question that Linux is the most successful operating system and open-system project. But it's also true that if you watch it closely, you'll see a lot of conflict within the community. In particular, Linus Torvalds, Linux's founder, doesn't suffer fools gladly, and he's never afraid to let other developers know when he thinks they're wrong.

There's nothing new about this, but recently, Lennart Poettering, a Red Hat engineer and one of the creators of the controversial systemd system and service replacement for Unix and Linux's sysvinit daemon, called out Torvalds publicly. Poettering accused Torvalds of encouraging hate speech and attacks on him. While Poettering's reputation suffered more from this episode than anyone else's, it sparked a discussion on how better to address conflicts within the Linux kernel development community.

The new code, which was made as (what else) a Linux patch, continues: "If, however, anyone feels personally abused, threatened, or otherwise uncomfortable due to this process, that is not acceptable. If so, please contact the Linux Foundation's Technical Advisory Board or the individual members, and they will work to resolve the issue to the best of their ability.

"As a reviewer of code, please strive to keep things civil and focused on the technical issues involved. We are all humans, and frustrations can be high on both sides of the process. Try to keep in mind the immortal words of Bill and Ted: 'Be excellent to each other'."

Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation's executive director, added in a blog post, "We believe the guidelines are grounded in the unique culture and process that makes Linux so successful. Conflict over code will and should happen. But the code is very clear that personal insults or abuse are not welcome."

This patch, which was written by leading Linux developer Greg Kroah-Hartman, was signed off by 60 developers and accepted into the kernel by Torvalds.

Related stories:

Editorial standards