In a mailing list message on Sunday, Linus Torvalds apologizes for a lifelong of outbursts and snappy retorts at developers that may have driven them away from the Linux project, and promises to work on improving his attitude.
The message starts with a short, technical note that informs of the progress made in release candidate 4 for Linux kernel 4.19. Then it switches to apologetic mode, triggered by the effects of him scheduling a family vacation overlapping with the Linux Kernel Maintainer's Summit.
Torvalds' had hoped he could skip the conference this year and booked a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland, in the same period as the 30 or so leading core kernel developers planned to meet in Vancouver, Canada, to plan the future development cycles and discuss the current state of Linux kernel.
After private talks, it was convened that the only feasible choices were for Torvalds not to attend, suggested by the Linux creator himself, or to move the conference in Edinburgh. The Program Committee decided on the latter option.
The discussions generated by this situation appear to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back and changed tracks, focusing on Torvalds' behavior and reactions towards people in the community that came with technical suggestions he deemed not good enough (yes, his reply to Intel's approach to patching Spectre is among them).
This is my reality. I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person and that probably doesn't come as a big surprise to anybody. Least of all me. The fact that I then misread people and don't realize (for years) how badly I've judged a situation and contributed to an unprofessional environment is not good.
This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry.
The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely.
I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately.
To give himself the time to come up with a patch for being better at human interaction, Torvalds will pass the kernel 4.19 wrapping to Greg Kroah-Hartman, the current Linux kernel maintainer for the stable branch.
The community should not take this as Torvalds being burned out, or a sign of him wanting to give up maintaining Linux.
It is just a break to "try and fix my own behavior," the Linux top maintainer assures, adding that this gap is similar to the one he took when he wrote Git version control system.
Torvalds says that while he will get help to change his behavior, he also plans to fix some issues in his tooling and workflow.
"Maybe I can get an email filter in place so at when I send email with curse-words, they just won't go out."