On ending discussions and painting bikesheds
By pascal on Tuesday, May 15 2012, 00:52 - Permalink
A high-profile maintainer to a large Open-Source project recently found himself involved in a discussion in which, at some point, after having explained his arguments—I think—very clearly, he had to call someone else a moron. Now everyone with write access to the internet is weighting in on how this is no way to behave and how the bike-shed really should be painted a more friendly color.
Most of the people I have seen opine do so with the confidence of someone who has created something as widely useful as Linux and knows how things are done. Dominik Dabrowski comments “You might have fun raging on the internet, but I think your goals would be better served if ...”. Kenneth Reitz writes a blog post with the title “Be Cordial or Be on Your Way”. If everyone who has expressed their opinion had created as much great software as Linus, this would be a better world. I might even not have to use Mac OS X.
Now, of course, the Github discussion is a little bit difficult to follow, because the comment Linus was replying to has been deleted. A little bit of investigation is needed to find out that he was probably replying to the sentence “I did not realizes that Linus' shit does not stink. Thanks for clearing that up...” (source).
“You're a moron” seems to me a perfectly fine retort to someone who thus butts into a public discussion in which you have already made your technical arguments clear. Plenty of alternatives are also acceptable, of course, including ending the thread. I do not see what the racket over Linus' answer is. But my point is that even if I thought his answer was unacceptable, I would first question whether my opinion should matter, as someone whose contribution is relatively small. Where is the evidence that doing things my way is better? Is there, for instance, anyone in the world with a comparable contribution (especially in terms of visibility) who isn't brutally frank in eir interactions with the thousands of persons ey has to deal with—some of whom, statistically, have to be pretty dim-witted? Perhaps this is the kind of personality one needs to have to build something useful in the first place. Perhaps one becomes more and more direct with each of the million e-mails I roughly estimate one needs to handle in the lifetime of such a project. Where, in other words, is the person that Linus Torvalds could use as role model?
To reiterate, I wish everyone who has been expressing their opinion on how to handle Open Source contributions had written the kind of highly visible, useful software that justifies having an opinion on contribution management. If they had written so much more, so much more useful software that someone like Linus could be on his way without being missed, that would be great.