Linus, empathy, and growth

So, for those who haven’t seen the news, Linus Torvalds has apologized for his community behavior and is taking steps to be more professional and empathic.

I am very glad to see this change from him, and I really hope that he’s able to take this opportunity to grow and set a new example to the F/OSS community, making it a more welcoming, friendly place.

There are many F/OSS projects where the core maintainers have behaved in a flippant, offensive manner, encouraged along because of the visible behavior of a successful F/OSS core maintainer. This has led many people to be very shy about participating in F/OSS, because it’s difficult to tell when you’re going to run across, to put it bluntly, a gigantic asshole.

There are several projects that I have made use of and regretted due to learning about their core maintainers, and I caution people away from those projects as well because of that. For a very recent example, I am currently in the process of rewriting a major, core part of Publ because it relies on such a project (for which I only recently learned about the toxicity of the maintainer, as a result of submitting what I thought was a reasonable bug report).

Of course, an important part of encouraging people to grow is to gently help them along their path when they decide to take one. This doesn’t mean we should treat toxic people with kid gloves, of course, but we should, as a community, be forthright in calling out toxic behavior, and not sinking to their level. Make it clear that toxic attitudes will not be tolerated, but also give room for forgiveness when they do come to realize that working together works better when everyone wants to work together.

And remember: if Linus hecking Torvalds can do better, so can anyone.

Including you.

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