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posted by martyb on Wednesday October 30 2019, @11:07AM   Printer-friendly
from the programming...people dept.

Submitted via IRC for soylent_blue

Linus Torvalds: 'I'm not a programmer anymore'

Linus Torvalds, Linux's creator, doesn't make speeches anymore. But, what he does do, and he did again at Open Source Summit Europe in Lyon France is have public conversations with his friend Dirk Hohndel, VMware's Chief Open Source Officer. In this keynote discussion, Torvalds revealed that he doesn't think he's a programmer anymore.

So what does the person everyone thinks of as a programmer's programmer do instead? Torvalds explained:

I don't know coding at all anymore. Most of the code I write is in my e-mails. So somebody sends me a patch ... I [reply with] pseudo code. I'm so used to editing patches now I sometimes edit patches and send out the patch without having ever tested it. I literally wrote it in the mail and say, 'I think this is how it should be done,' but this is what I do, I am not a programmer.

So, Hohndel asked, "What is your job?" Torvalds replied, "I read and write a lot of email. My job really is, in the end, is to say 'no.' Somebody has to say 'no' to [this patch or that pull request]. And because developers know that if they do something that I'll say 'no' to, they do a better job of writing the code."

Torvalds continued, "Sometimes the code changes are so obvious that no messages [are] really required, but that is very very rare." To help your code pass muster with Torvalds it helps to ''explain why the code does something and why some change is needed because that in turn helps the managerial side of the equation, where if you can explain your code to me, I will trust the code."

In short, these days Torvalds is a code manager and maintainer, not a developer. That's fine with him: "I see one of my primary goals to be very responsive when people send me patches. I want to be like, I say yes or no within a day or two. During a merge, the day or two may stretch into a week, but I want to be there all the time as a maintainer."

That's what code maintainers should do.


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by janrinok on Wednesday October 30 2019, @03:50PM (4 children)

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday October 30 2019, @03:50PM (#913758) Journal

    That said he made a good life for himself

    He also made a pretty good OS that many of us use today. I am grateful for that, but 'Somebody' has to lead.....

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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30 2019, @08:05PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 30 2019, @08:05PM (#913848)

    I am not that pedantic gnu zealot but he only created a kernel. If it weren't for Linux we would have had Hurd with all that mind share and it was a big deal to license it under gpl, but he didn't make an os.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31 2019, @04:11AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31 2019, @04:11AM (#914024)

      What's stopping the FSF from making the superior GNU Hurd? It's only been DECADES already.
      They should form a procrastinators' club with the Perl people.

  • (Score: 2) by epitaxial on Thursday October 31 2019, @12:25AM (1 child)

    by epitaxial (3165) on Thursday October 31 2019, @12:25AM (#913949)

    Hey BSD, is that you hiding over there?

    • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Thursday October 31 2019, @06:19AM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 31 2019, @06:19AM (#914048) Journal
      I'm not saying he made the only OS - but his kernel work is still significant.