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Aging Linux Kernel Community Is Looking For Younger Participants 332

Lemeowski writes "Time has been good to Linux and the kernel community, with the level of participation and volume of activity reaching unprecedented levels. But as core Linux kernel developers grow older, there's a very real concern about ensuring younger generations are getting involved. In this post, Open Access supporter Luis Ibanez shares some exciting stats about recent releases of the Linux kernel, but also warns that 'Maintaining the vitality of this large community does not happen spontaneously. On the contrary, it requires dedication and attention by community members on how to bring new contributors on board, and how to train them and integrate them alongside the well-established developers.'"
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Aging Linux Kernel Community Is Looking For Younger Participants

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @04:17PM (#45404731)

    I know I've mentioned this before, but you need to consider the possibility that your software might be done.

    Take TeX for example. The last stable release is 5 years old. It's done.

    At some point even the OS kernel will switch from "active development" to "something people study". We studied the circuit diagrams for radio receivers, memory circuits, and even more complicated things like 8-bit ALUs. They're done. We weren't developing that stuff in school. We were just understanding it.

    The Linux kernel will end up in a text book some day. People will want to understand it. Nobody will want to develop it. That's a good thing. It means that this phase of technology is approaching the done phase.

    What's the next phase? If you're young that's where you should be looking.

  • by hamster_nz ( 656572 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @04:25PM (#45404809)

    It is just too damn big, hard and complex. Why would I want to learn the ins and outs of such a large codebase unless somebody is paying me to?

    It is not like the old days when you could pick up a "... in a nutshell" book, start hacking up a driver, then get it accepted into the kernel. I don't want a three year unpaid intership while I get up to speed and gain respect in the comunity.

    I'll spend my time working on my project on either a microcontroller (AVR, PIC...) or a bare-metal build on ARM.

  • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @04:40PM (#45404949)

    After watching a few videos of "Linuz"... I can assure you that he's pretty harmless, at least in person. I think he puts on the aura of raging narcissist on purpose and if you think about it, the whole persona serves him and Linux well. So far the Kernel project hasn't been fragmented and the project has been extremely stable for many years. This is not the normal course of an open source project, especially one of this visibility. This is largely due to "Linuz" and his persona.

    But this is not to say I think the kernel is in good hands with him at the wheel. I worry about succession should "Linuz" become unavailable (say he's hit by a bus to use his illustration about why you should use git). I worry that the succession battle would be bad for the Kernel and the transition from the dictator rule to something else would be bumpy. Linuz could fix that by starting to transition what he does to his trusted few, and publish a clear future succession plan. But the future is "Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:08PM (#45405305)

    Well clearly you have never once 'been to' the LKML but instead built your opinion on the basis of stories-posted-on-slashdot.
    Otherwise you would know that the LKML receives around 400 mails per day, the vast majority of which are polite, friendly and helpful.
    Compare that with the number of posts offensive enough to make a story on /.

    I *have* posted bugs on LKML, and gotten responses. I have interacted with at least two high level developers, as well as Mr. Torvalds. The one time I got a reply (Len Brown, INTEL senior systems engineer) plus asked to download software to dump the rom from hardware, followed by an analysis and a change to the kernel (which I then applied, re-compiled and tested with reports. About 200,000 people were affected by that bug (and I got email from around the world). I've also gotten several very polite replies from Alan Cox and a few others. The trick is that you have to 1) know about computers, be able to describe the bug fully, what you have tried to fix the bug, and how it affects things. 2) be able to reply to questions / do more testing 3) re-compile a kernel with a fix and see if it fixes the bug. Most people can't do #3.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:15PM (#45405393)

    I'm just saying that he's about par for the course if you work with teams that actually get things done instead of teams that just putz along

    Bull. The best teams I've worked with are often composed of people that play nice with others. Sure tempers flare sometimes, but on the whole the people are reasonable. In fact that's part of the reason the teams are good - yelling and finger pointing are not very productive. It also turns people into stubborn defensive asses that play NIH. In a good team, even when somebody screws up, it's politely pointed out to them, even to the point of not directly blaming them. Good people know when they've screwed up, and work hard to fix it and make sure it doesn't happen again. If they don't do that, get rid of them. Want to vent? Go yell at your dog.

  • by TWiTfan ( 2887093 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @05:33PM (#45405631)

    If someone wants to right to yell at me, he's going to have to pay me (well) for the privilege. I would have taken Steve Jobs' abuse, as long as he kept the paychecks coming. Some prick who expects me to VOLUNTEER for the honor of having him dress me down like a bitch? Not so much.

  • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <{atd7} {at} {}> on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @06:03PM (#45406041) Homepage

    Yeah. Sometimes projects can wind up in a nightmarish situation in terms of getting new contributors, because the bar to contribution is perceived to be high (even if it might not be).

    I used to be a contributor to a fairly large open source project - Overall it was good, but the leads could be downright pricks. They would often trash talk potential contributors, even ones that did show potential. (Sadly, this particular area had a lot of "wannabes" out for glory too...) - While their smacktalk would keep the "wannabes" at bay, it also drove away some exceptional talent.

    I was always frustrated by some of these "lone wolf" developers that weren't upstreaming, until myself and a few contributors had a massive disagreement with the project leadership regarding an attempt they made to obtain dual-license commercial rights to a contribution. We started working on founding our own project, and we've found that many of those who I originally (mistakenly) perceived as "lone wolves" and not contributing because something was wrong with them were actually not contributing because there were so many things wrong with our former project and we had been drinking the kool-aid. Quite a few of them have proven to be spectacularly talented and excellent team players.

  • by Joining Yet Again ( 2992179 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @07:11PM (#45406713)

    And that ^^ is exactly the kind of "alpha male" talk I mean.

    I have no interest in proving "myself" - I just want to contribute good code. If I don't contribute good code, that's fine - reject it and tell me what's wrong with it. I'll try again. You have no good reason to shout me down unless I'm causing you immediate harm. If I'm simply wrong about something, and you have the final say, what exactly motivates the aggression?

    I'm a fairly competent mathematician. I've worked with people who are smarter than I could ever dream to be. My peers are occasionally mocking when I fuck up, and I can take a friendly jibe, but no senior has ever made an insulting, showboating remark to me - not even one to one, let alone in public. This macho culture is something I've only really seen professionally in engineering (software and mechanical).

    It doesn't matter in the slightest how successful Linux is. That's not an excuse for complacency. In fact, if you look at the very topic of this Slashdot post, it's the worry that there's not enough fresh blood. Arguing that the problem must be with everyone else isn't going to get you that new talent, is it?

  • issue is overblown (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chirs ( 87576 ) on Tuesday November 12, 2013 @07:26PM (#45406867)

    I've worked on the kernel (and other low level stuff) professionally for ~10 years. I've had code submitted into the kernel. I've interacted with Linus directly, I've met him in person, etc.

    Yes, on occasion he flies off the handle. It doesn't happen often, and when it does it's mostly at things that would drive many people nuts. I think he could deal with it a bit better sometimes, but most of the time it's not a big deal.

    Generally when people get flamed it's not a new contributor, and it's for things that they've done wrong multiple times.

    So for new people looking to contribute, go ahead. It's fun, and the quality of the code that you'll see is generally pretty high.

  • Let it die (Score:2, Interesting)

    by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Wednesday November 13, 2013 @03:39AM (#45410255) Homepage Journal

    My last few remaining microns of sympathy for Linux, evaporated not long ago when I read Lennart Poettering encouraging everyone around him, to throw POSIX under the bus. I'm aware that Linux developers have viewed the system's relationship with older UNIX, in roughly the same manner as a venereal disease since probably 2000; in a sense, it surprised me that it took that long for someone to actually come out and say it openly.

    Linux has completely gone to shit; and not in the "yes it causes me to rage, but I'm still putting up with it," sense, but the "I now feel so much contempt and disgust for it that I've washed my hands, and can no longer be remotely bothered," sense.

    Linux's developers these days, are a bunch of ivory tower elitists, who in reality have no idea what they are doing, but who have the attitude that everyone else using the system can just shut up and take what they are given, and if the rest of us don't like it, then that is just too damn bad. Lennart Poettering, again, is the main offender when it comes to this sort of thinking, but it has also always characterised the GNOME developers as well.

    GNOME should have been recognised as a mess, and rewritten from scratch, before Canonical got hold of it. The problem there is that you have people who are using Microsoft Windows as their template, and so they think that making everything opaque and hard welded together, is somehow the "professional," way to do things. Graphical user interfaces don't *need* to be a bloated pile of shit; it's just that Windows is, and Linux people now are determined to copy Windows.

    I've been learning about FORTH, recently; and about the idea of (in languages which are designed for it, at least) writing one function per file, and having said function consist of no more than 500 bytes each. FORTH was the product of an era in which programmers actually knew what they were doing; unlike today, when computer science graduates emerge from university with their heads densely packed full of bovine fecal matter, such as the idea that programs should be as long and complex as possible, rather than short and simple.

    But there's no point. There's no point arguing with any of you. You'll just mod me down, and tell me that Ubuntu is great, and GNOME is superb, and Poettering is a genius. So go ahead. Have fun.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"