Tuesday, 20 January 2015 10:27

LCA Q and A leads to abusive Twitter attack on Torvalds Featured

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A question and answer session at Australia's national Linux conference has led to a bitter Twitter attack on Linux creator Linus Torvalds by Shanley Kane, founder of tech and culture essay publisher Model View Culture.

Further fallout from the session, held at the conference which took place in Auckland from January 12 to 16, has led to supportive tweets for Torvalds, under the hashtag #IStandWithLinus.

The conference had, as part of its policy, a stipulation that all content at the event should be suitable for a 12-year-old.

The question that caused the attack was asked by Matthew Garrett, a former employee of Red Hat who now works for a cloud company named Nebula. Garrett, a self-styled supporter of women in the open source community, told Torvalds that over the years a number of people, including himself, had stepped back from involvement with the Linux kernel due to the aggressive tone of the LKML mailing list, to which Torvalds was a major contributor. (Watch from 10:06 on this video).

Garrett then asked why, in the light of this, Torvalds continued to insist that being really unpleasant to people was good management strategy.

Torvalds' reply was straightforward. He told Garrett that he did not care about individuals, only about the kernel and the technology. He also mentioned that to diversity was not about gender and skin colour; "it's about people are different, people are different in what they are interested in, different in what they are good at, skin colour and gender and all these issues that get brought up as really important things – those are details.

"What is great about open source is that some people are unpleasant but they are really good at technical things. Some people are pleasant and like bringing other people in and I think that's one of the most important parts about open source, that you can do what you are good at."

Kane got into the act with this tweet: "The Linux community needs to kick out Linus Torvalds." She followed this up with numerous others (which can be seen on her account) including: "The Linux community is f****** cowards and assholes. You have coddled this mother****** for years with no accountability." and "Again, I don't give a f*** about his technical contributions. Sometimes the creator of a thing becomes the thing rotting it from the inside."

This led to the creation of a bogus account on GitHub for a non-existent Linux distribution called ToleranUX and run by the Feminist Software Foundation, a group that does not exist.

It also led to the #IStandWithLinus tweets, which can be seen here.

The ToleranUX site has a great deal of sarcasm worked in, for example: " ToleranUX (like UNIX, but with more Toblerone and Tolerance) is the world's first UNIX-like operating system kernel that adheres to the 21st Century modern tenets of Equality, Inclusiveness, and Tolerance. ToleranUX is created to revolutionise the Toxic Meritocracy that permeates the FLOSS (Free, Libre, and Open Source Software) world that has proved itself to be the crux of divisiveness, the cause of the gender imbalance in IT, and the bane of True Equality."

And "Absolutely no coding experience is necessary: all code are equal in the eyes of the Feminist Software Foundation. There is no objective way to determine whether one person's code is better than another's. In light of this fact, all submitted code will be equally accepted. However, marginalized groups, such as wom*n and trans* will be given priority in order to make up for past discrimination. Simply submit a pull request for any submission, whether code, artwork, or even irrelevant bits – nothing is irrelevant in the grand struggle for a Truly Tolerant UNIX-ike Kernel!"


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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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