Linux kernel has a new code of conduct (CoC). Linus Torvalds took a break from Linux kernel development just 30 minutes after signing this code of conduct. And since the writer of this code of conduct has had a controversial past, it has now become a point of heated discussion. With all the politics involved, not many people are happy with this new CoC.
The new code of conduct for Linux kernel development
Linux kernel developers have a code of conduct. It’s not like they didn’t have a code before, but the previous code of conflict is now replaced by this new code of conduct to “help make the kernel community a welcoming environment to participate in.”
“In the interest of fostering an open and welcoming environment, we as contributors and maintainers pledge to making participation in our project and our community a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of age, body size, disability, ethnicity, sex characteristics, gender identity and expression, level of experience, education, socio-economic status, nationality, personal appearance, race, religion, or sexual identity and orientation.”
You can read the entire code of conduct on this commit page.
Was Linus Torvalds forced to apologize and take a break?
The code of conduct was signed off by Linus Torvalds and Greg Kroah-Hartman (kind of second-in-command after Torvalds). Dan Williams of Intel and Chris Mason from Facebook were some of the other signees.
If I have read through the timeline correctly, half an hour after signing this code of conduct, Torvalds sent a mail apologizing for his past behavior. He also announced taking a temporary break to improve upon his behavior.
But at this point some people started reading between the lines, with a special attention to this line from his mail:
This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry.
This particular line could be read as if he was coerced into apologizing and taking a break because of the new code of conduct. Though it could also be a precautionary measure to prevent Torvalds from violating the newly created code of conduct.
The controversy around Contributor Covenant creator Coraline Ada Ehmke
The Linux code of conduct is based on the Contributor Covenant, version 1.4. Contributor Covenant has been adopted by hundreds of open source projects. Eclipse, Angular, Ruby, Kubernetes are some of the many adopters of Contributor Covenant.
Contributor Covenant has been created by Coraline Ada Ehmke, a software developer, an open-source advocate, and an LGBT activist. She has been instrumental in promoting diversity in
Coraline has also been vocal about her stance against meritocracy. The Latin word meritocracy originally refers to a “system under which advancement within the system turns on “merits”, like intelligence, credentials, and education.” But activists like Coraline believe that meritocracy is a negative system where the worth of an individual is measured not by their humanity, but solely by their intellectual output.
Remember that Linus Torvalds has repeatedly said that he cares about the code, not the person who writes it.
Coraline has had a
Coraline was neither in the discussion nor was she a contributor to the Opal project. But as an LGBT activist, she took it to herself and demanded that Elia be removed from the Opal Project for his ‘views against trans people’. A lengthy and heated discussion took place on Opal’s GitHub repository. Coraline and her supporters, who never contributed to Opal, tried to coerce the moderators into removing Elia, a core contributor of the project.
While Elia wasn’t removed from the project, Opal project maintainers agreed to put up a code of conduct in place. And this code of conduct was nothing else but Coraline’s famed Contributor Covenant that she had pitched to the maintainers herself.
But the story didn’t end here. The Contributor Covenant was then modified and a new clause added in order to get to Elia. The new clause widened the scope of conduct in public spaces. This malicious change was spotted by the maintainers and they edited the clause. Opal eventually got rid of the Contributor Covenant and put in place its own guideline.
This is a classic example of how a few offended people, who never contributed a single line of code to the project, tried to oust its core contributor.
People’s reaction on Linux Code of Conduct and Torvalds’ apology
As soon as Linux code of conduct and Torvalds’ apology went public, Social Media and forums were rife with rumors and speculations. While many people appreciated this new development, there were some who saw a conspiracy by SJW infiltrating Linux.
A sarcastic tweet by Caroline only fueled the fire.
In the wake of the Linux CoC controversy, Coraline openly said that the Contributor Covenant code of conduct is a political document. This did not go down well with the people who want the political stuff out of the open source projects.
Nick Monroe, a freelance journalist, dig up the past of Coraline in order to validate his claim that there is more to Linux CoC than meets the eye. You can go by the entire thread if you want.
Nick wasn’t the only one to disapprove of the new Linux CoC. The SJW involvement led to more skepticism.
While there were many who appreciated Torvalds’ apology, there were a few who blamed Torvalds’ attitude:
And some were simply not amused with his apology:
The entire Torvalds apology episode has raised a genuine concern ;)
Jokes apart, the genuine concern was raised by Sharp, who had quit Linux Kernel development in 2015 due to the ‘toxic community’.
What do you think of Linux Code of Conduct?
If you ask my opinion, I do think that a Code of Conduct is the need of the time. It guides people in behaving in a respectable way and helps create a positive environment for all kind of people irrespective of their race, ethnicity, religion, nationality and political views (both left and right).
What are your views on the entire episode? Do you think the CoC will help Linux kernel development? Or will it deteriorate with the involvement of anti-meritocracy SJWs?
We don’t have a code of conduct at It’s FOSS but let’s keep the discussion civil :)