Linus Torvalds is taking time off from Linux to work on his ‘unprofessional’ attitude

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(Image: © Wikimedia Commons via Krd.)

Linus Torvalds, the creator and principal developer of the Linux kernel, is taking a break from overseeing its development to work on correcting his "unprofessional" behavior towards others.

Torvalds made the announcement in an open letter to the Linux community shared through the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML). In it, he acknowledged that he is "not an emotionally empathetic kind of person," and that his rough attitude may have driven talented developers away from Linux. He also apologized for his "flippant attacks in emails" that were sometimes personal.

"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.  In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry," Torvalds said.

"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," he added. "I'm going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people's emotions and respond appropriately."

Torvalds has not been one to mince words when he disagrees with other developers, and it can be especially tough on newcomers. Back in 2014, Lennart Poettering, creator of the systemd system management software for Linux, called the open source world "quite a sick place to be in" because it's "full of assholes." He specifically called out Torvalds, noting that his brass style of management is not an efficient way to run a community.

"I don't want to have much to do with the worst offenders, and the communities they run. My involvement with the kernel community ended pretty much before it even started, I never post on LKML, and haven't done in years," Poettering stated in a lengthy rant on Google+.

Torvalds has been aware even before then that he sometimes rubs people the wrong way.

"I’d like to be a nice person and curse less and encourage people to grow rather than telling them they are idiots. I’m sorry—I tried, it’s just not in me," he said in 2012. "I like the fact we have a lot of personalities in the kernel team who can guide people through the development process. I’ve never been that person."

Now six years later, he wants to be that person. Torvalds says he is not burned out on Linux and very much wants to continue overseeing its development. However, he is taking a moment of pause. While he's away, developer Greg Kroah-Harman will step into his place.