Linked by David Adams on Wed 6th Aug 2008 15:28 UTC, submitted by estherschindler
General Development In an "as told to" article for, Linus Torvalds explains how he keeps the Linux people and software on-track. Arguably the most surprising facet of Linus' management style is that he's perfectly willing to flame people when he thinks they're wrong--though he's also happy to be corrected himself. "Part of that, by the way, is not feeling shy about saying impolite things or showing some emotion. So I'd rather flame people for doing stupid things and call them stupid, rather than try to be too polite to the point where people didn't understand how strongly I felt about something." That's particularly interesting in light of several OSCON presenters who believe that the way to grow the open source community is to make projects more welcoming to would-be contributors. Do these attitudes actually contradict one another?
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I Agree
by galvanash on Wed 6th Aug 2008 17:08 UTC
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Maybe I'm getting older and grumpier, but I have to say I agree with Linus on this one. I personally don't think intelligent self-motivated people, especially the typical developer, respond well to the way most managers handle them.

The majority of managers I have worked with seem to try to go out of there way to be polite and friendly, but it is painfully obvious most of the time that they are full of shit and are just going through the motions. If it isn't genuine, it usually shows...

I would much rather someone say "thats stupid - here's why - fix it" than the usual "this is great! but I think you could improve it by doing this, changing this, etc.", which when read with all the ego stroking removed says "thats stupid - here's why - fix it"...

I wouldn't say it is a good idea to be that brutal with inexperienced people, but when you reach a certain level of expertise imo you should be thankful if you work for someone who appreciates your talents enough to drop all the PC crap and just tell it to you straight.

Reply Score: 9

RE: I Agree
by AndrewDubya on Wed 6th Aug 2008 19:53 in reply to "I Agree"
AndrewDubya Member since:

I'm not too old or grumpy, and I rarely want to just flame someone, but you're absolutely right that there's no reason to lie to someone or sugar coat your message. And if it keeps the kernel cleaner, even better!

Regarding the article itself:
As to whether this is a contradiction with other ideas? Sure it is, there are a million different management strategies, and every OSS project doesn't need to adhere to one. People doing kernel development are probably completely different from those doing user mode development. Or, there are various levels of technical requirements in a given project, and how polite you need to be depends a lot on where the work is being done.

I don't see a problem with the way Linus wants to manage. I don't see a problem with the way other OSS projects want to manage. I am not contradicting myself (too much ;)

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: I Agree
by acamfield on Thu 7th Aug 2008 13:18 in reply to "I Agree"
acamfield Member since:

Old and grumpy here. I think you're kind of missing the point. Linus can flame people because he knows what he's doing. But comparing Linus Torvalds to the typical IT Manager is like comparing a once a month golfer to Tiger Woods. In 20 years, I've only had one manager that I thought was technically sophisticated enough to understand what I do. The rest... well, I'm sure you all have stories just as bad or worse than mine. But my biggest peeve is the completely arbitrary nature of most management decisions. I can't count the number of times I've worked over to get a project done on deadline and then sat and watched for weeks and sometimes months before it went into production. So, why did it have to get done on such and such day. Mainly because some clueless middle manager said so.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: I Agree
by Kebabbert on Fri 8th Aug 2008 08:23 in reply to "RE: I Agree"
Kebabbert Member since:

I think you missed my point. If a girl that doesnt like me, is a fashion model and upper class and knows everything about clothes and etiquette, humiliates me in front of her friends, but at the same time tells me the reasons she why never would even talk to me - is it ok because she is knowledgable?

If a child's teacher is very smart and good, and humiliates and offends the child in class - is that ok? Sure, the teacher knows lot but that doesnt give her right to do so.

Seriously. I cant believe what I am hearing. I mean it. Just because someone is knowledgable it is green card to humiliate and shout at people? And you drag in non technical managers into the discussion? Why? We are discussing why it is ok to insult people if you have higher IQ, higher degree or more power, than the other. Not whether the manager is stupid. Stupid or clever, there is not necessary to insult people.

It is like you said something like "well that girl that got raped, were drunk. Therefore it is ok". Is this medieval times? If I am stronger than you, is it ok that I hit you and shout at you?

Seriously. If this behaviour is what Linux supporters approve, then I'm amazed. I hope it is only you guys that think so. And not the rest of the Linux guys.

You can be nice to people. You dont have to be a prick, just because you have the power to do so. (The power in terms of greater knowledge, or higher position, or being a professor in math, or being richer, etc). Only non-empathic people think like that. Just because Linus Torvalds is a prick, you dont have to imitate him.

Reply Parent Score: 3