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Tuesday, 08 September 2020 09:50

Since when are six-year-old comments by Torvalds newsworthy?

Linus Torvalds: his words are treated as entertainment by otherwise serious websites. Linus Torvalds: his words are treated as entertainment by otherwise serious websites. Courtesy YouTube

Six-year-old comments made by Linux creator Linus Torvalds at the annual Debian conference of 2014 and part of a private mailing list of that project have been leaked to the campaigning website Techrights (formerly BoycottNovell) and written up as though they are hot news.

The fact that these events have been overtaken by the issue of a code of conduct for the Linux kernel project which Torvalds has lived by has not apparently struck Dr Roy Schestowitz (yes, the honorific is correct) who runs the Techrights site.

There are 253 emails in that list and they are mostly mundane. The comments by Torvalds that gave rise to this outpouring of rubbish is also very tame.

Some opportunist has reproduced Dr Schestowitz's post and the great American site Slashdot (News for nerds. Stuff that matters) has featured it, offering only as an afterthought the fact that the material it is based on comes from 2014 (see screenshot below). That should have been the lead paragraph, but then it would have meant there was no reason to post about it; the person who posted obviously did not read the original in full. Or is the class clown. Or both.

This is another indication that all is well in the land of the free and the home of the brave [and the stupid, as well]. Facts, obviously, should not get in the way of clickbait.

slashdot news for nerds

There have been numerous attempts in recent times to blackball the Debian project by people who have an axe to grind with that entity. I could name names here but I would rather not; you know who you are and this is silliness taken to an extreme. Grow up, agree to disagree like a mature adult and move on.

Why write about six-year-old posts that are clearly water under the bridge? It may be driven by the fact that any utterance by Torvalds is treated by some as though it were dynamite, even by so-called respectable sites like the UK's The Register. There Torvalds' words are used as flamebait whenever and wherever possible. It's a pity, but then that is the state of play today.

Anyway, in keeping with the journalistic practice of contacting people who are central players in any story, I asked Jonathan Carter, the current leader of the Debian GNU/Linux Project for his take. He hasn't yet responded, but if he does, I will add his response here.

Torvalds was asked for his take and, as usual, he was very prompt in replying. With him, I have never had to hold my breath waiting for a reply; if he does not get back to you within the hour, then he is not going to offer a response.

"Honestly, I think those emails are more about Debian culture than they are about me, and you should probably ask the Debian people about them rather than me," was Torvalds' response. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

I would have liked to elicit a comment from the good doctor too, but he seems to be stuck in the era of IRC. However if he does respond — he has my email address — I will certainly give his opinion an airing.

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Sam Varghese

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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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