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Linux And The Contributor Covenant

Fri, Sep 21, 2018

Linus has temporarily stepped down as the lead developer of the Linux kernel. He has been known to be rather harsh in his criticism of sub par programming, often swearing. Linus would only accept only code he thought was the best, and was unapologetic about it. All of a sudden it seems he’s had a change of heart. He posted a message apologizing for his past actions, and had the Linux project adopt the contributor covenant. While I am not inherently opposed to the idea of a code of conduct, the contributor covenant is one of the most repugnant.

The contributor covenant is written by professional victim Coraline Ada Ehmke (formerly Corey Dale Ehmke.) Ehmke is also the author of the Post-meritocracy Manifest. Yes, you read that right. This is a person that does not think you have to write good code if you are a member of an “underprivileged class.” I could understand wanting your code to stand on its own, but Ehmke thinks that isn’t good enough. The contributor covenant actually doesn’t look too bad on the surface. It says to act professional and not discriminate. Those are things I think most people can get behind. The problem is not only that the contributor covenant is overly broad, and basically makes anyone getting their feelings hurt for any reason a violation, it applies everywhere. It applies inside and outside the project space. That means if you make a joke that someone doesn’t like at a restaurant, or on Twitter, and someone doesn’t like it, they can try to get you thrown off the project for breaking the code of conduct. We’re already seeing this happen to Linux developers, and it’s only been a few days. The only one that comes to mind is Sage Sharp’s drama whoring, but I’ve been told there are others. I’m not going to go looking for them, because I try not to pollute my mind with such garbage. Having to read the contributor covenant and post-meritocracy manifesto was bad enough. I’m also not going to dignify such garbage by posting the address to these things here. You know how to use a search engine.

So what’s the answer to all this? If your project is going to adopt some kind of code of conduct, I recommend something like the Code of Merit at It’s not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the contributor covenant.

Tags for this post: Linux Linus Torvalds Coraline Ada Ehmke Cory Dale Ehmke CoC Contributor Covenant Merit Free Speech

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