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Exclusive Women working on Debian have been getting death threats from a nut job who believes they're killing free software.

A poll by new project leader Steve McIntyre into whether people are happy on Debian revealed one female coder had been getting the threats as thanks for her hard work.

Further daggering soon revealed she was not alone.

McIntyre told The Reg: "I have since discovered that several of our female developers and documenters were threatened. It was some kook in the US who made quite a name from himself harassing women for supposedly destroying the free software movement."

In an email to the Debian community McIntyre promised to "track down and deal with the perpetrators" in future incidents. He told The Reg the women pledged to stand together and not to be intimidated. Which is good, "because we want more women to be involved in open source," he said.

This is not the first time the fringe elements of the open source movement have revealed their taste for intolerance and juvenile attacks. Blogger and author Kathy Sierra quit blogging and canceled a planned appearance at a Tim O'Reilly conference last year after she received death threats.

Turning to Debian, McIntyre told the community: "Many of our developers are used to strong discussions and technical arguments in the course of Debian and free software development, but I was shocked to hear that one of our community has been the target of death threats as a thank-you for her work."

Overall, the survey of the Debian community found the overwhelming problem is there just aren't enough developers involved.

"I wasn't aware of just how badly some of our teams were performing. Quite a few are barely functional at all. In more than one case, I had responses like 'team? what team?'. Several are technically made up of a group of people, but only one person is doing all the work."

Nut jobs attacking women in open source should remember that it's easy to kill their precious projects by turning people off through their antics. Getting people to participate becomes that much harder (see here and here).®

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