Linus Torvalds returns to Linux with an 'email filter' to quell his abusive language

Flickr via Alex Dawson. Click for original.

Flickr via Alex Dawson. Click for original.

(Image: © Flick via Alex Dawson)

Just over a month ago, Linus Torvalds, the creator and principal developer of the Linux kernel, handed the open source keys to developer Greg Kroah-Harman so he could step away and "change some of my behavior." Now five weeks later, he's back in charge, but has he changed?

Time will tell, and as of this writing, it's only been a single day since Korah-Hartman posted to the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) that he's "handing the kernel tree back" to Torvalds with the version 4.19 release.

"You can have the joy of dealing with the merge window," Korah-Hartman added.

Torvalds himself has not responded to the mailing list, though he did chat with ZDNet about his return and the new Linux Code of Conduct (CoC). Only so much can change in a period of just a few weeks. However, Torvalds did indicate that "its not going to be kernel development as usual," and is open to sharing the load with Korah-Hartman. He also talked about an email filter to keep his brass attitude in check.

"I expect it to be a continuing process, but for now I have an email filter in place (that might be expanded upon or modified as needed or as I come up with more esoteric swearing—the current filter is really pretty basic). And I have been talking weekly with a professional, although again right now my travel is messing with that schedule," Torvalds said.

It may seem like a minor thing, but what prompted his five-week hiatus was people in the Linux community confronting him about his "flippant attacks in emails," which he deemed both "unprofessional" and "uncalled for."

"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 at the time.

As part of the Linux 4.19 release, Kroah-Hartman made the Code of Conduct an official part of Linux—it's now part of the code. Torvalds says he kept himself absent from the CoC discussions because he didn't want others to feel like he was influencing it in any way. However, he did follow the discussion via email, and seems to be embracing the move.

"We don't want the CoC to define the tone of the discussion, I think we're actually much better off if we can just try to see the CoC as a last resort that never even gets invoked, simply because we encourage people to try to head any issues off before they escalate," Torvalds added.

How Torvalds return to Linux ultimately affects its development going forward remains to be seen. One of the pertinent bits of the CoC is that there is a "reasonable expectation to have maintainers lead by example."