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Linux creator Linus Torvalds apologizes for being a dick all these years

Linux creator Linus Torvalds apologizes for being a dick all these years
[Photo: Flickr user Mario Behling]

Torvalds has had a contentious relationship with those in the Linux community for years. He’s been known to be short-tempered and arrogant in his dealings with those very members. This all came to a head earlier this month when Torvalds messed up the scheduling of an annual Linux conference–and then almost didn’t go at all. The mix-up resulted in bad blood between him and those in the Linux community–an experience that Torvalds said was eye-opening. Now the Linux creator has penned an open letter to the Linux community apologizing for, well, being a dick all these years. In the letter, Torvalds states:

This is where the “look yourself in the mirror” moment comes in.

So here we are, me finally on the one hand realizing that it wasn’t actually funny or a good sign that I was hoping to just skip the yearly kernel summit entirely, and on the other hand realizing that I really had been ignoring some fairly deep-seated feelings in the community.

It’s one thing when you can ignore these issues. Usually it’s just something I didn’t want to deal with.

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.

Matter of fact, Torvalds was so struck by the community’s reaction to his actions this month that he also announced he’s “going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately.” But Linux fans shouldn’t worry. Torvalds says this doesn’t mean he is walking away from the platform or community:

This is not some kind of “I’m burnt out, I need to just go away” break. I’m not feeling like I don’t want to continue maintaining Linux. Quite the reverse. I very much *do* want to continue to do this project that I’ve been working on for almost three decades.

This is more like the time I got out of kernel development for a while because I needed to write a little tool called “git”. I need to take a break to get help on how to behave differently and fix some issues in my tooling and workflow.

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