Linus Torvalds apologizes to Linux community for unprofessional 'flippant attacks'

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has used his regular Sunday email to the Linux Kernel Mailing List to apologize for unprofessional behavior, and to announce that he is taking a break from his Linux kernel work.

Acknowledging that he has previously launched "flippant attacks" on people -- something he labels as "unprofessional and uncalled for" -- Torvalds says he wants to "apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely".

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In his email -- which starts off talking about the latest Linux kernel release candidate -- Torvalds apologizes for his behavior, particularly the attacks he has launched on people in emails. He says he is taking some time out to seek help, acknowledging that he needs to work on himself a little.

He writes:

This is my reality.  I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person and that probably doesn't come as a big surprise to anybody.  Least of all me.  The fact that I then misread people and don't realize (for years) how badly I've judged a situation and contributed to an unprofessional environment is not good.

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.

Torvalds adds: "The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely. I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people's emotions and respond appropriately."

The complete email is available to read here where you can also learn about the changes in Linux 4.19-rc4.

18 Responses to Linus Torvalds apologizes to Linux community for unprofessional 'flippant attacks'

  1. cruizer says:

    Well! It's about time Linus finally realises the truth. Appreciate him coming to grips with reality and his need to personally change (for the better).

  2. Cool Charac says:

    I wonder how long he'll be gone.

  3. Slavic says:

    Linus decided to attend one of psychotherapeutic and communication courses, and he needs a break in his usual schedule? That's good.

    • ja_1410 says:

      Linus wants to learn as an adult something that mother should teach son in early years of child development.

  4. MyDisqussion says:

    I read that he'll be back in the saddle in October. I guess it's hard to deal with some of the poor quality submissions for kernel patches. I guess it will be like:

    "I would be very pleased if you would rather not expect the kernel to perform a function which should best be left in userland. Understand that I have nothing but the utmost respect for your submitting kernel code, but perhaps you might rather use 0x1 instead of 0x7 to limit the possibility of exploiting a known vulnerability in this function?

    (int)*((char *)scancode) & 0x7F,


  5. Nihil Verum says:

    I always knew that, deep down, Linus Torvalds is a decent individual. Sad to see it took some sort of confrontation to get him to admit is was wrong. But he's right on this: His attacks were unprofessional, rude, and counter-productive.
    Linus' biggest weakness, in my opinion, is his narrow focus. He simply fails to see how is behaviour affects others and, as a consequence, made it so the Linux kernel suffered indirectly, as a result. Ironic that he claimed his outbursts were intended to spur programmers into helping him develop a better Linux.
    Linus Torvalds has guided his Linux kernel for over a quarter century. Maybe it's high time to get some fresh ideas into the mix.

  6. Mr. Food Genius says:

    Lets take a moment to acknowledge all the sycophantic, unthinking, fanboy linux users who for decades have been trying to convince the world to give this guy the wealth, noteriety and power of bill gates......

    Meanwhile...Bill Gates has donated more to charity than everyone who has ever lived....combined (minus maybe Jeff Bazos' recent 2 billion donation)

    • adevar says:

      Actually, while it's funneled through the Gates Foundation, Warren Buffett has made the largest charitable donation (~$30B) - no one else is even close.

      • Mr. Food Genius says:

        The 20 most generous people in the world
        Bill Gates. Chip Somodevilla / Getty.
        Warren Buffett. Getty Images / Michael Buckner. ...
        George Soros. Getty Images / ChinaFotoPress. ...
        Azim Premji. Reuters. ...
        Charles Francis Feeney. YouTube/DocumFeed. ...
        Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi. YouTube screenshot. ...
        Gordon Moore. ...
        Carlos Slim Helú ...

        Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), also known as the Gates Foundation, is a private foundation founded by Bill and Melinda Gates. It was launched in 2000, and is said to be the largest private foundation in the United States, holding US$50.7 billion in assets.

        The Chronicle of Philanthropy calculated the giving since 2000 of the 10 richest people in America, and calculated their charity as a share of their total wealth.
        Buffett topped the list, giving away more than $46 billion since 2000. That worked out to 71 percent of his $65.5 billion fortune.
        Gates has given away $18 billion, or 22 percent of his $81 billion fortune, to charity since 2000. Yet he and Melinda Gates have given away more than twice that since they created their foundation in 1994. And last month, he donated another $4.6 billion in Microsoft stock.

  7. Greg Zeng says:

    Computer languages are more structured & disciplined than human languages, so few humans can manage these skills. Pity this specialization is not well understood by the noobs.

    Generally we specialists in non-human abilities are often considered autistic, anti-social, poorly socialized, etc. Specialist humans often need humanized interfaces to deal with generalists & baby-humans. Often idiots assume reaching or communicating with HQ (the "deep state") is needed. We specialists are often (always?) so poor with noobs & generalists, that these noobs etc feel "burnt" after interacting with us.

    Before I was able to do my shift-work as a generalist community worker (face-to-face, groups, meetings) I needed to de-specialize into a generalized human creature. This took about three hours of listening closely to emotionally gooey folk music. If I tried to deal with my wife, her friends, etc after finishing my "computer-work", then I'd be like grouchy, impatient, intolerant, pedantic, etc. Pity the outsider "generalists" have never had the abilities to become specialists in anything yet.

    • brainiac says:

      It is often such as this. People with highly specialized skills often don't readily exhibit generalized ones. That doesn't stop the rest of humanity from being insulted when they are insulted. It is all a balancing act. There is no perfection, only attempts at attaining. Who is more noble: the psychopath that fights his desire to kill every day and doesn't kill, or the person that doesn't have the proclivity to kill and doesn't. I argue in the former. Societal majority says the latter.

  8. Greg Zeng says:

    > " ... Linus Torvalds apologizes ... "
    The twelve step programs (AA, NA, Alanon, etc) have this "apologizing" as a necessary step in the re-birthing process. It reminds me of the essential "confession" stages required by my grandfathers for being too educated, too wealthy, etc in the eyes of the communist & socialist regimes.

    (1) Specialist (eg Linus) are valued because of their specializations.
    (2) Specialists have tightly defined & narrow skills.
    (3) Gateways are required to interact with specialists.
    (4) Gateways themselves are specialists.
    (5) Specialists have crippling opportunity costs.
    (6) CPU's (biochemical & otherwise) are bad at task-time sharing.
    (7) Multi-tasking & multi-skilling are costly to other engineering factors.
    (8) Specialists need specialized "gateways" to deal with "outsiders".
    (9) Specialists need not apologize for specializations.
    (10) "Apologies" are specializations rarely acquired by most people.
    (11) "Apologies" need specialized "gateways.
    (12) "Apology gateways" are specialized in time, place & IO types.
    (13) Generally the CEO "apologizes" for the junior staff.
    (14) CIT, CIO, CFO, etc are the junior staff to the CEO.
    (15) Each C*O has many "executive officers".
    (16) Not all CEO's have the immediate "people skills"
    (17) Junior officer(s) will ghost these missing skills & tasks.
    (18) "Shocking" apologies have disposable CEO's.
    (19) The "swamp" of the "deep state" makes organizational decisions.
    (20) Governance of organizations is unknown to noobs.
    (21) Noobs do not tolerate their ignorance very well.
    (22) Noobs are highly irrational & emotional.
    (23) Noobs & generalists are easily "injured".
    (24) Most "intelligence" wrongly understands the "big-picture".
    (25) The "big-picture" is always biased, like all "facts".

  9. doncanard says:

    speaking almost entirely as an observer of the linux community and consumer of its product rather than producer (I pushed a few driver changes upstream about 5 yrs ago) and having spent 32 happy years pushing -ix systems and code on them around - if I say that a piece of code (my own or someone else's) is broken, then that's not because I don't like the author or have constipation that day. It's because I can show the concrete ways in which it's broken, i.e. fails in some functional way. If I say that a piece of code (mine or someone else's) has bad style, then that's different than broken and we can agree to disagree. Up to a point: if the style is bad enough, it may well fail to function, particularly as re: maintainability. The same goes for poor but not explicitly broken design, failing extensibility or integration.

    The very fabric of our computing lives anno 2018 exists because of the rigor of the -ix community - the current one and the ones that preceded it. That includes an insistence on objective fact, as opposed to all views being nothing more than equally valid opinions. And objective fact being prioritized over social dynamics, including both power hierachies based on fiat assignment of power, and people's personal agendas, whether those are about not being offended when their professional capabilities are shown to be lacking, or placing self-aggrandizement and advancement ahead of technical merit and selling content of dubious quality via propaganda and politicking.

    If this new set of social rules ("code of conduct") is instrumentalized to end or even dilute this ethos, then the Linux community will stop being a guarantor of technical quality in computing, as it currently is (and yes, we are all fallible and pursue perfection while knowing that we can never do more than approach it asymptotically... individually and as a community. nevertheless...).

    That ethos will however not end until its last practicing proponent leaves the stage. I suggest that there's a fair number of us, and we're not leaving anytime soon.

    (footnote/coda: it is always remarkable how the dynamics of human existence, both subjective relativistic social phenomena, as well as substantive questions of objective functional merit, reflect basic processes in the natural world, notably in the realm of natural selection. This is about evolutionary success or failure. My resources are not available to be wasted on failed paths; I work hard to identify those as well as better ones. I propose that as a reasonable daily working approach... If someone is offended because that involves questioning the quality of their work product, that's happened plenty of times to me, so maybe they should get around more. Find something else to bind their ego and self-worth to, and meanwhile in their professional life, try to learn from the experience and fail less the next time.)

  10. brainiac says:

    It's easy to be generous when you're wealthy beyond belief. I don't find any of these people particularly admirable. Soros particularly, as his "generosity" is mostly to political organizations that are disruptive & violent, and only operate in the guise of openness and fairness. When implemented they are the least open and most unfair, and implementing them similarly comes by dictatorship: "do as we say or be destroyed" and uses lies & propaganda to achieve its goals. If you want proof, turn on the news or read a high school text book on "history." It doesn't take a genius to immediately see the lies kids are indoctrinated with.

    • Mr. Food Genius says:

      crawl back into your hole and die, loser. Nobody wants to hear your partisan hate in response to an unrelated post over a month ago

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