Torvalds is already more empathetic in Linux code reviews

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Following a promise to address his unempathetic approach towards kernel developers, Torvalds already seems to be more considerate in code reviews.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds recently acknowledged his problems in an email to kernel developers in September.

In his email, Torvalds wrote:

“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.”

He ended the email saying he would be taking some time off to get assistance on understanding people’s emotions and how to respond appropriately.

Torvalds promised the email wasn’t him wanting to walk away from Linux development and that he 'very much' wants to continue working on it as he has for almost three decades.

Last week, Torvalds showed off his more empathetic approach in an issue with the HID pull request and its introduction of the BigBen game controller driver that was introduced. In particular, that it was enabled by default.

This was his response:

“We do *not* enable new random drivers by default. And we most *definitely* don't do it when they are odd-ball ones that most people have never heard of.

Yet the new 'BigBen Interactive' driver that was added this merge window did exactly that.

Just don't do it.

Yes, yes, every developer always thinks that _their_ driver is so special and so magically important that it should be enabled by default. But no. When we have thousands of drivers, we don't randomly pick one new driver to be enabled by default just because some developer thinks it is special. It's not.

So the default !EXPERT was completely wrong in commit 256a90ed9e46 ("HID: hid-bigbenff: driver for BigBen Interactive PS3OFMINIPAD gamepad").

Please don't do things like this.


The response is firm but fair. It doesn’t come across demeaning or aggressive towards the developer, just sets them on the right course.

A response to a similar issue last November invoked the following response from Torvalds:

“You add new drivers and then default them to ‘on’.


I don't know why I have to say this every single merge window, but let's do it one more time:

As a developer, you think _your_ driver or feature is the most important thing ever, and you have the hardware.


Read it and weep. Unless your hardware is completely ubiquitous, it damn well should not default to being defaulted everybody elses config.

But something like CONFIG_DELL_SMBIOS sure as hell does not merit being default on. Not even if you have enabled WMI.

EVERY SINGLE "default" line that got added by this branch was wrong.

Stop doing this. It's a serious violation of peoples expectations. When I do ‘make oldconfig’, I don't want some new random hardware support.”

So far, it seems Linus’ time off (which is well earned) has done his people skills a world of good. There’s less of his profanity-ridden messages and general lack of professionalism when it comes to communicating with developers.

For most of us, it’s good to see. For Linux kernel developers, it’s well overdue.

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