The rate of development is staggering. For a huge, complex project of this nature to keep releasing so often, mostly high-quality releases, and display such a high work-rate consistently is simply amazing.
What is even more amazing is that despite all the flame-fests on mailing lists and the loneliness factor - you cannot do kernel development while socialising - the number of kernel developers continues to increase. And not merely from companies - where people are recruited to work on the kernel because of the company's interest - but from outside.
This, remember, is happening at a time when many other free and open source software projects are struggling to find people who can be added to the developer ranks.
To date, from the 2.6.11 release, a total of 855 companies have made contributions. For the latest release, 226 were involved. This means that they hire hackers to work on aspects of the kernel which suit their own interests.
But whether people are from companies, fall into the unknown category - where no company affiliation can be determined - or are working on their own, they are all managed well by one person who has created a hierarchy based on meritocracy that results in amazing output. That, in itself, is another very remarkable result. The word dysfunctional is never heard when discussing the kernel project.
In truth, this is one project where no one can throw a hissy fit. They would merely have to walk away - and what does a kernel developer do next? Sell real estate? No, this kind of nerd would find it awkward working in that or many other professions.
There was one case when a release had less lines of code than its predecessor - 2.6.36 had about 46,216 lines less than 2.6.35 because a lot of default configuration lines were cleaned up. But that is unlikely to happen in future even though there are people cleaning up duplicate code and generally cleaning up the kernel tree.
The kernel report is often used by people to ask why X or Y is nor contributing as much as expected. Canonical, the maker of Ubuntu, the most popular GNU/Linux distribution, is often the one that has to face questions of this nature. But the report probably isn't meant to be used to name and shame; it is more to give the outside world a look at what has been done within the sausage factory in the last year.
A word for those who provide this report free of charge - Jonathan Corbet deserves much praise for the writing; he and Greg Kroah-Hartman pull together all the stats needed mostly on time. Corbet is also very good at dealing with impertinent questions.