Sharp was an important kernel developer but said she could longer contribute to a community where she was technically respected, but would not give personal respect.
“I could not work with people who helpfully encouraged newcomers to send patches, and then argued that maintainers should be allowed to spew whatever vile words they needed to in order to maintain radical emotional honesty.”
Sharp said that she did not want to work professionally with people who were allowed to get away with subtle sexist or homophobic jokes.
“I feel powerless in a community that had a “Code of Conflict” without a specific list of behaviours to avoid and a community with no teeth to enforce it,” she said.
While the technical efforts of the Linux kernel community, which had “scaled and grown a project that is focused on maintaining some of the highest coding standards” were great, a bad combination of overloaded maintainers, and people with different cultural and social norms, meant that Linux kernel maintainers were blunt, rude, or brutal to get their job done, Sharp said.
“Top Linux kernel developers often yell at each other in order to correct each other’s behaviour. That’s not a communication style that works for me. I need communication that is technically brutal but personally respectful,” she said.
The behavioural changes Sharp wants in the Linux kernel community are unlikely to happen any time soon. “Many senior Linux kernel developers stand by the right of maintainers to be technically and personally brutal. Even if they are very nice people in person, they do not want to see the Linux kernel communication style change,” she said.
“There’s an awful power dynamic there that favours the established maintainer over basic human decency,” she added.