Being a Moron on linux-kernel

(or: A Lurker's Tale)

Gentle Reader, Welcome to my humble guide to being a Real Guru on the linux-kernel mailing list; an estimated 20,000 others are reading it as well; through digests, exploders and directly. And anyone can post. It's the focal point of mainstream Linux development. And you don't need to know anything to contribute!

Why is behaviour on linux-kernel important?

Every time a burst of unrelated mail goes through, a few key people unsubscribe, defeating the purpose of the list. Don't worry though! That only applies to junk that other people post. Random ass-mumblings which you send in will confer instant Godhood.

Why Are You Doing This?

The Bazaar development model is obviously fundamentally flawed; the sooner we turn linux-kernel into a wasteland, the sooner we can return to a closed inner Team Linux Circle, of ad-hoc lists in personal EMail. Sure, less peer-review and actual code writing and all that, but on the upside we get to use the Kernel Hacker's Secret Handshake.

We've already started! Many core developers have given up, and do not read linux-kernel at all, and the rest have all considered doing so at one time or another. Each loss reduces our ability to coordinate ourselves, furthur proving the failure of The Bazaar, and irritating ESR.

I've been reading linux-kernel for some years now. I'm a minor maintainer (the IP packet filter code for 2.2). I'd really love to see linux-kernel closed, because not having to deal with bug reports and peer review would save me whole hours per day.

So How Do I Become Revered?

Reading the FAQ!

Don't do this. It's got words and stuff, and no animated GIFs. Who are these people trying to infringe my free speech; it's probably a Microsoft plant to sap away the anarchic feel of the Bazaar model! Don't read it!

The Latest Kernel Doesn't Compile!

You're sure to be the only one to notice. Really! Don't check the list for a patch to make it compile; definitely don't create a patch and send it, or (heaven forbit) wait.

The Gods Are Fighting!

Every so often, David Miller, Alan Cox, Linus Torvalds, or one of the other kernel gurus gets in an argument with one of the others. If you don't have anything to contribute, then obviously it's time to send a ``why don't we all take a deep breath'' message; they'll listen to you since you're a personal friend of those involved.

Since these geek-gods are incapable of using a telephone or private EMail, you're sure to be aware of all sides of the conversation: making you the perfect messenger!

Imagine the praise when Linus mails back to you (and CC's the list!) a message like the following:

    Thanks, Lou!  After reading your soothing message of peace, I
    realized that the world will be better if we drop
    these arguments and all get along!  It's more important that we're
    all in agreement than any fuzzy `cleanliness' or `efficiency'
    crap.  I'm going to start rewriting the kernel in Java right now!


Someone Spammed The List!

It happens; but not that often. Thus, it's important to send a message to the list about the spam: someone might have missed it! Every time it happens, we get about twenty times as much mail about it; think how cool it'd be to be one of the twenty!

Remember not to complain to the origin of the spam (even if you know how). Make sure you quote the entire original spam! And why not suggest allowing posting only by those subscribed to the list?

I Know The Answer To This One!


If it's an FAQ, and you're not the maintainer of that area, be sure to send it to the list; remember, noone reads the FAQ anyway, and the reader might not read the other five responses (there's so much crap on linux-kernel these days!). If it's not an FAQ, send it to the list as well: although it might be an obscure problem, obviously everyone wants to see your reply!

If you're the maintainer of the area, and it's an FAQ, do not consider sending a `canonical' reply to the list for other people's benefit. Sending it to the FAQ maintainer is a really stupid idea.

Who Does This Guy Think He Is?

Some people would ask ``Who cares?'' Those people are losers. If you feel like flaming someone, don't flame them personally; linux-kernel is your personal pissing patch; maybe they've already been killfiled by the core people, but if you reply to them to the list, you don't have to worry about joining them (nobody with a clue would killfile someone like you)!

I Found This Thing On Slashdot!

Cool! We would have missed it for sure: please send it to 20,000 people; many kernel hackers haven't figured out how to use the web yet!

I Have This Great Idea!

Great! You definitely shouldn't be prepared to implement it (or fund its implementation): such grunt-work isn't for geniuses like you! If you are not capable of implementing it, you're definitely capable of knowing whether it's a good idea or not (it is, of course!).

There are many recurring threads on the list; posting on these topics gives you an inside track into guruhood!

In particular:

Splitting The Kernel Sources
You're a genius! Linus will listen to you!
Rewriting The Kernel in C++
Woah! Someone turn off the good idea tap; we're drowning here! Although C/asm is the chosen language for the kernel, the other core hackers are just waiting to hear the arguments of someone (like you!) who is unencumbered by experience!
There's a Conspiracy Against Linux/What if Linus Leaves?
When there's a void of information, it's always best when the subject is discussed regularly!
There's Cusswords in the Source!
Trapped between shit-for-brains users and fucked-over hardware, kernel developers sometime use harsh language. It's your job to convince Linus to censor them now! Now, goddamn it, now!

Some Idiot Replied And We Already Know The Answer!

All the kernel developers should plug themselves into the list at all times, and operate on your timezone. If there is a significant time-lag in the list, it's because they live in countries with third-world connectivity (like Germany), and we don't want their grubby foreign hands touching the kernel source anyway.

Someone Broke The Rules!

It's just like you to be so deeply concerned with someone else! Agonize over this for a while, then flame them to the list; if you send them mail, don't be polite, or point out that their behaviour corrodes the effectiveness of the list as a whole: if they've gotten you riled, they are beyond hope!

Someone Posted Something Cool, And I Agree!

You are da man!. Reply to linux-kernel. This also applies to bug reports: if there is someone maintaining or hunting the bug, don't send them a direct report so they can look for correlations; just send it to us. We want to hear from you!

I'll CC: This To Linus!

Everything mentioned here about diluting linux-kernel applies triple to Linus. Losers only ever send Linus patches; only a single paragraph description, followed by the patch. Some even prefer to send patches through a maintainer, such as Alan Cox (for 2.2).

Every day, Linus gets 1.3 metric shitloads of mail. A good rule of thumb for mortals is to send Linus as much mail as he sends them. But it relieves Linus' tedium to realize that there are real peers like yourself out there! Send away!

HTML Mail/vcards/PGP signatures are cool!

Wooohoo! Too right! Plain text is for losers. Have another beer!

Sending Patches

Someone like yourself doesn't need to make patches; your words speak better than code. But in case you should stoop so low, make sure it's not done the standard way (diff -urN linux-fresh linux-modified); if it was hard to make, it should be hard to apply. Uuencoding a gzipp'ed patch, or using a base64 MIME attachment means that casual readers can't look at it; only hard core coders like you should be reading it anyway.

If your patch is large, don't post a URL; if you did a patch, everyone will want it in their mailboxes ASAP!


You should never fear posting to linux-kernel; if it's not a kernel bug report (search the archives first!), or a patch, post first, ask questions later!

Remember the First Rule of Usenet: ``Nobody Gives a Fuck About Your Opinions'', and the Zeroth Rule of Usenet: ``The Rules Don't Apply to You!''.