Linus shows humility in apology to Linux kernel developers

Linux creator Linus Torvalds isn’t known for mincing his words, but in his latest update, he’s apologised for his rude behaviour towards kernel developers.

The apology was made in the latest email to kernel developers regarding the most recent Linux 4.19-rc4 release.

Only a quick note was made regarding the actual kernel, mentioning small changes and being ‘fairly average in size for this stage in the release cycle’. However, the ‘other, much longer, part’ (in Linus’ words) was set aside for the apology.

Linus 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.”

After being confronted by members of the community this week for a supposed inability to recognise emotions, he wanted developers to know it’s been heard and he’s working on fixing himself before continuing Linux development.

“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. I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately.”

He goes on to explain how at conferences – when asked what the biggest pain-points in kernel development are – he sometimes responds that it’s less about technical issues and more about changes in community flow and behaviour.

Such a pain-point hasn’t arisen in about a decade, Linus claims, but this week he says it felt like one.

As for now, Linus says the actual 4.19 release is looking good but has asked Greg [Kroah-Hartman] if he minds finishing it up in order for Torvalds to take a break and fix his own behaviour.

Linus promises this isn’t an "I'm burnt out, I need to just go away" break, and that he very much wants to continue working on Linux as he has for almost three decades.

What are your thoughts on Linus’ apology to Linux kernel developers? Let us know in the comments.

(Image Credit: Linux's father, Linus Torvalds painted portrait by thierry ehrmann under CC BY 2.0)

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