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Linux kernel dev who asked Linus Torvalds to stop verbal abuse quits over verbal abuse

Could not work with people who 'spew vile words to maintain radical emotional honesty'

Sarah Sharp, the maintainer of USB 3.0 drivers in the Linux Kernel who in July 2013 urged Linux overlord Linus Torvalds to stop abusing fellow developers, has quit all Linux-related work.

Sharp has revealed she quit her role on the kernel last year and backed out of Linux entirely due to the abusive commentary she asked Linus Torvalds to address.

Her reasons are explained in a post, the meat of which is as follows:

I finally realized that I could no longer contribute to a community where I was technically respected, but I could not ask for personal respect. I could not work with people who helpfully encouraged newcomers to send patches, and then argued that maintainers should be allowed to spew whatever vile words they needed to in order to maintain radical emotional honesty. I did not want to work professionally with people who were allowed to get away with subtle sexist or homophobic jokes. I feel powerless in a community that had a “Code of Conflict” without a specific list of behaviors to avoid and a community with no teeth to enforce it.

Sharp goes on to say she has “the utmost respect for the technical efforts of the Linux kernel community” because it has “scaled and grown a project that is focused on maintaining some of the highest coding standards out there.”

“The focus on technical excellence, in combination with overloaded maintainers, and people with different cultural and social norms, means that Linux kernel maintainers are often blunt, rude, or brutal to get their job done,” she writes. “Top Linux kernel developers often yell at each other in order to correct each other’s behavior.”

“That’s not a communication style that works for me,” Sharp writes, calling for “the communication style within the Linux kernel community to be more respectful.

“I would prefer that maintainers find healthier ways to communicate when they are frustrated,” she writes, adding “I would prefer that the Linux kernel have more maintainers so that they wouldn’t have to be terse or blunt.”

Sharp thinks there's very little chance of that happening because “Senior Linux kernel developers stand by the right of maintainers to be technically and personally brutal.”

“Even if they are very nice people in person, they do not want to see the Linux kernel communication style change,” she writes. So she's off, seeking “other, friendlier open source communities for me to play in.”

Sharp's not named names in her post, but she has previously taken issue with Linus Torvalds over disputes in the handling of USB-related matters.

Torvalds' own words makes it hard to deny Sharp's assessment of some in the Linux community as, at the very least, blunt. In January 2015 he told the told the Linux.conf.au conference that “I am a really unpleasant person. Some people think I am nice and some people are then shocked when they learn different. I'm not a nice person and I don't care about you.”

Torvalds' has since, in March 2015 released a ”Code of Conflict” for behaviour on the kernel development mailing list concluded with the following advice:

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.'

Your correspondent glances at the Linux Kernel Mailing List most Mondays, to catch up with news of new release candidates and releases, but also because if Torvalds has unleashed some of the language for which he is infamous it's appreciated by readers far and wide. He's been quite circumspect of late, warning he was “in no mood to be polite” back in August but generally keeping it clean.

At the time of writing, Torvalds' Git page and Google+ page are silent on Sharp's decision. The Reg doesn't expect silence will be a problem in the comments on this story. ®

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