Sorry Lennart, but you are wrong once again

Lennart Poettering’s post in G+ is gathering a lot of attention these days, most of the feedback is supportive, and positive, which is not surprising to me, because although Poettering would like us to believe otherwise, most of the open source community is pretty accommodating and non-confrontational.

I am however going to go against the current here, and criticize him, but first let me state clearly that I do not condone any physical attacks towards his person, or the threats of such. His ideas however are a different matter.

Lennart’s chief mistake is to attack the way the Linux’s kernel community is run, and say their success happens despite this. How does he know? Has he ever run a more successful community? Has anybody ever? Linux is the most successful software project in history, by more than one order of magnitude from any way you look at it. It would be presumptuous for anybody to say they know how to run this project better, specially without any evidence to back such claim, which is precisely what Poettering is doing.

In this blog I’ve analyzed the many reasons why the Linux kernel is so successful, and one of them is its combative style of discussion in which ideas are not exempt from ridicule, and strong language is often used to drive one’s point home as efficiently as possible. Many people in the community agree this is desirable, and there’s even scientific evidence that supports this notion; the best ideas arise in a confrontational environment, not in a protective one.

What’s more, Poettering himself accepts he hasn’t been involved in this community. So what the hell does he know about it? Nothing.

Poettering’s second mistake is to assume that for non-white, non-western, non-straight people the situation surely must be worst… That is not the case. Maybe, just maybe, he receives such vitriolic feedback not just because of what he does, but because of the horrible way he does it. Of course not, Poettering doesn’t need to change, his approach is perfect, in fact, the only reason he receives criticism is because he is too progressive, too audacious, too efficient, surely, that must be the reason!

Personally, my beef with Poettering starts from the fact that he blocked me from Google+. Why? Because I was complaining about a technical issue with systemd, which he initially spotted and commented, but then ignored. In the middle of the discussion I made some value judgements about certain systemd code, and he stopped responding and blocked me. That is the worst way to end a discussion; block the people who disagree with you.

Sorry Lennart, but actions have consequences, and you can only do so much disruptive changes to the Linux ecosystem without much care or consideration for others, there’s a limit to the amount of people you can block, and the criticism you ignore. You can grow as thick a skin as you want, you are still wrong. No community is going to let you continue being wrong and acting as if you are beyond reproach just like that (unless you run that community and have blocked any dissident voices of course).

Maybe it’s time to take a hard look in the mirror.

11 thoughts on “Sorry Lennart, but you are wrong once again

  1. Actually the comments he get in g+ are mostly positive just because he have blocked almost everyone who disagree with him. I read his firsts posts and comments and I saw how he blocked everyone. That is how you make a happy community. 1984-ish?


  2. The fun part is that I used to call him a friend. And talked with him, even when I disagreed. But at some point just stating that I was not in agreement with what he was doing but I would have preferred collaborating on different-but-compatible solutions was enough for him not to reply me any more and (I guess) blocking me in the past year or so.

    So yeah, I think you said it right.


  3. @Jorge Villasenor In part it’s that, but I see the same in other communities like reddit. The bulk of people wouldn’t criticize him when is being open and vulnerable, which is kind of ironic.


  4. I read Lennart’s post and did some quick research on the topic. I’m so new to the world of Computer Science and programming (I made a bunch of friends in those fields last year) that much of this is overwhelming, but it’s also very interesting and eye-opening how intricate and controversial many parts of this line of work are. Laymen like me really don’t appreciate this topic as much as we should given how our lives are so dominated by computer technology.

    I found this article interesting:
    — ‘I know most of Linux’s top developers. None of them are fantasizing about killing anyone or encouraging such hateful attitudes. When I spoke to Torvalds recently about systemd he told me, “I don’t actually have any particularly strong opinions on systemd itself. I’ve had issues with some of the core developers that I think are much too cavalier about bugs and compatibility, and I think some of the design details are insane (I dislike the binary logs, for example), but those are details, not big issues.”
    This is hardly hate speech.’

    Sounds like Poettering may have gone off the deep end already. Again, I’m a novice to this debate, but a lot of this controversy reminds me of David Fincher’s ‘Social Network’ (2010) and that whole Facebook clash 😀

    Good response article!


  5. > Many people in the community agree this is desirable, and there’s even scientific evidence that supports this notion; the best ideas arise in a confrontational environment, not in a protective one.


  6. Perhaps we should remember here that free speech is a political right (the state could not imprison you on what you say), not a indispensable condition for all the social relations.

    We could argue about cognitive dissonance vs noise reduction. At the end it doesn’t matter, the technology development in our current society is over any other social reproduction, so the “best” technology, in the long run, will prevail.


  7. @ceyusa Here’s the article.

    Liberating role of conflict in group creativity.

    It’s not much, and it’s not scrictly related, but it’s something, which is more than what the opponents provide. They say it’s better to be always polite, but that’s just a comon belief, it’s not based on any scientific finding.

    It’s true that it doesn’t really matter, Linux will prevail regardless of what other people say about Linus’ abrasiveness. However, I still would like people to stop saying Linus (and everyone) should be polite; that’s their opinion, it’s not a fact, and they should stop threating it as such.


  8. Pingback: Sorry Lennart, but you are wrong once again – init news

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