Kernel Developers Adopt Code of Conflict

Mar 11, 2015

New rules emphasize collegiality in coding.

After many recent controversies and some high-profile critique from influential developers, the Linux kernel team has posted new rules for developers to guide the often-combative code reviewing process. The new guidelines appeared under the title "Code of Conflict." The rules are under the tolvalds directory of the kernel git tree, and Linus Torvalds is listed as the  author, although the message itself is not signed by Linus.  The document starts by explaining that the code review process requires careful critique to ensure high quality, and all contributors should expect to receive feedback on their work. The next part of the message adds a revolutionary new factor to the process, stating that the behavior of developers, as well as the quality of code, will be subject to review. The guidelines state:


“If however, anyone feels personally abused, threatened, or otherwise uncomfortable due to this process, that is not acceptable.  If so, please contact the Linux Foundation's Technical Advisory Board (>), or the individual members, and they will work to resolve the issue to the best of their ability.”


The addition of Linux Foundation Advisory Board as an independent referee and monitor for developer conflicts makes the kernel community a little less hierarchical and autocratic than it has seemed to some in the past. The good news is that, if the process works, the top-tier kernel developers will be able to focus their energies on what they do best – writing and reviewing code, with fewer controversies, rants, and flame wars.
The document ends in an endearing Linux geek flourish that sums up the aspirations of so many: “As a reviewer of code, please strive to keep things civil and focused on the technical issues involved.  We are all humans, and frustrations can be high on both sides of the process. Try to keep in mind the immortal words of Bill and Ted, ‘Be excellent to each other’.”

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