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SubjectRe: People need to say "no"
Larry et al,

What Larry is describing is PRECISELY what happened to Apple's Copland OS
(also called the "real" MacOS 8). There was no manager who was willing to
say NFW when people wanted to add any random lame feature to the system.
This effect, along with other management (NOT technical) stupidity, KILLED
the project. I worked hard on the project for more than three years . It
was a technically brilliant operating system. Creeping featurism killed it.
I believe this is very likely the reason Micro$oft W2K is very very late as
well (more's the pity, eh?).

In similar situations I have been involved in, the guy who said "no" as Linus
does has been termed an "asshole". But in fact the projects got done more or
less on time and they did not suck. Also in fact, the guy who said "no" was
really a reasonably good guy who had a hard job to do. Just like Linus.

One other observation: Linus may say NO, but he is very willing to be
persuaded. You just have to do your analysis and be persuasive. While this
may leave out some features championed only by someone who is not gifted with
the powers of persuasion, perhaps that's reasonable: Sometimes features don't
get in because they aren't wanted by badly enough by enough people to get
someone who IS so gifted fired up to make Linus (or whoever) change his mind
after the initial NO.

I strongly concur with Larry.

Larry McVoy wrote:

> It looks like the pseudo-RT stuff is coming back which suggests that we
> might have another lovely flamefest on the topic. I wanted to explain why
> I repeatedly get involved in these obviously painful discussions.
> I've watched several operating systems die. For the single reason that
> nobody was paid to sit in judgement of every idea or line of code that
> went into the kernel. It is far too easy to let the kernel grow in size,
> or complexity, or in cache misses. It's easy - people show up and say
> "I measured it, you can't tell the difference" or "it's just a little
> change".
> People need to say no. In Linux, that burden falls on Linus' shoulders,
> and we have come to depend on his good judgement and good taste. But that
> is a long term losing strategy. What would we do if, God forbid, Linus
> got hit by a truck? Or the more likely scenario where he just gets burned
> out or bored with the kernel and moves on? Even if neither of these
> happens, don't you think it is a little lame to count on Linus to always
> clean up your mess?
> Somebody needs to say no. All design and code needs to go through a
> screening process and people need to justify their changes. If everyone
> had Linus' sense of taste, his broad perspective on the whole OS, etc,
> etc, then this process would not be needed. But Linus is remarkable,
> I've never seen anyone quite like him in 15 years of OS work. Most people
> are not like Linus, unfortunately.
> People will get mad when other people say "no" or say "justify this" or
> say "that's a bad approach". They will retort "who the hell are you to
> tell me what I can do?"
> The answer is that the no-sayers are nobody, it doesn't matter who they
> are, it matters only that they guide people into doing good work. You
> could actually produce most of the right results with an AI program that
> just repeatedly asked "and why do you want to do that?"
> The focus needs to be on the health and well being of the kernel.
> Every change, every discussion, every action which affects the kernel,
> they all need to be held up and discussed out in the open. You may
> disagree, many people do, but the history of operating systems will show
> these truths to be self evident, so to speak.
> -
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Alan Mimms -or-
Never pour concrete until you have planned what goes on top in detail. Its
very embarrasing trying to put a square house and a round foundation, however
firm. - [the illustrious Alan Cox on the linux-kernel mailing list]

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