Friday, July 27, 2007

Is the LKML's tone preventing up and coming kernel developers from particitpating

I was recently reading the interview with Con Kolivas, a former active kernel developer with a wide following. He recently decided to hang up his shoes as far as Linux kernel development goes. It appears that he was just fed up with the focus of where the kernel was going. From his vantage point, he did not feel there was enough emphasis on the desktop issues within the kernel.

Whether right or wrong on his take of the kernel development's direction, what I found interesting was his comments regarding the LKML. He appears to be not too fond (that is an understatement) of the attitude/professionalism/interaction of other kernel developers that take part in the development process. In one part of his interview with APC Magazine , he goes so far as to mention, "The Linux kernel mailing list is the way to communicate with the kernel developers. To put it mildly, the Linux kernel mailing list (lkml) is about as scary a communication forum as they come. Most people are absolutely terrified of mailing the list lest they get flamed for their inexperience, an inappropriate bug report, being stupid or whatever. And for the most part they're absolutely right. There is no friendly way to communicate normal users' issues that are kernel related. Yes of course the kernel developers are fun loving, happy-go-lucky friendly people. Just look at any interview with Linus and see how he views himself."

Now, we have known for years about the sometimes harshness of developers on the LKML. But, I had started to hear that times were changing, and people were more open with their responses. Of course, there will always be your flame wars, that is not going to go away, nor should it. However, my big concern is if people's interest in getting involved is diminished by certain behavior that takes place on LKML. With the lack of talent that exists to go along with the demand of corporations for solid Linux kernel programming skills, there must be an open door for developers.

Now, they have also set up other lists, such as kernel mentors and others that have been a great asset, in my opinion, to getting people to participate. The real question is who Con is speaking of. Is he speaking of developers that do not have enough experience to participate at that level, or are there experienced people that just do not want to participate for the fear of personal ridicule. If that latter is the case, it does not help the Linux and Open Source community from moving forward.

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