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Subjectopen conflicts vs. hidden conflicts (was: [ 00/19] 3.10.1-stable review)

* Sarah Sharp <sarah.a.sharp@linux.intel.com> wrote:

> On Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 12:07:56PM -0700, Linus Torvalds wrote:
> > On Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 11:46 AM, Sarah Sharp
> > <sarah.a.sharp@linux.intel.com> wrote:
> > >
> > > Bullshit. I've seen you be polite, and explain to clueless
> > > maintainers why there's no way you can revert their merge that
> > > caused regressions, and ask them to fit it without resorting to
> > > tearing them down emotionally:
> >
> > Oh, I'll be polite when it's called for.
> >
> > But when people who know better send me crap, I'll curse at them.
> >
> > I suspect you'll notice me cursing *way* more at top developers than
> > random people on the list. I expect more from them, and conversely
> > I'll be a lot more upset when they do something that I really think
> > was not great.
> >
> > For example, my latest cursing explosion was for the x86 maintainers,
> > and it comes from the fact that I *know* they know to do better. The
> > x86 tip pulls have generally been through way more testing than most
> > other pulls I get (not just compiling, but even booting randconfigs
> > etc). So when an x86 pull request comes in that clearly missed that
> > expected level of quality, I go to town.
>
> Good lord. So anyone that is one of your "top maintainers" could be
> exposed to your verbal abuse just because they "should have known
> better"?

As one of those maintainers who sends lots of patches/commits/trees to
Linus and has done so for the last 15+ years, and as one who has messed up
enough times to have been grilled by Linus probably more times than anyone
else in this thread, I guess I should chime in with my first hand
experience.

In short: you are wrong on many levels.

1)

Your notion that conflicts and insults somehow hurt group cooperation is
wrong. It is a scientific fact that open conflict _helps_ cooperation
while hidden conflict hurts it.

There's a famous psychological study that examined the cooperation
patterns within string quartets playing music (Murnighan & Conlon, 1991):
it evaluated different string quartets, examining their internal
'politics' and their conflict resolution techniques.

Effective, successful string quartets embraced open conflict: they
honestly told each other when they messed up, not avoiding confrontation.
Open conflict allowed them to eventually play music as a team,
incorporating the concerns of all the musicians.

'Polite' string quartets on the other hand generally played poorer music,
because each musician played individually, not as a team. The conflicts
were never really resolved.

With a quick search I have not found the original study on the open web,
but here's a citation of it:

" Murnighan 84 Conlon (1991) found that effective string quartets
accepted conflict as positive, and incorporated one another's
concerns into the final product, whereas less successful quartets
typically avoided conflict."

http://www.delta.gatech.edu/papers/maximizing.pdf

[ I think this study might explain in part why the high tech industry is
so strong in northern Europe: honesty pays off. ]

2)

Your notion that insults are harmful because they 'hurt' is misleading to
such a level that it's almost wrong.

Insults do hurt of course, but that argument misses the full context: in
real life the typical substitute for an avoided open conflict is not
singing kumbaya around the camp fire, but _hidden_ conflict.

Hidden, suppressed conflicts, office politics and passive-aggressive
behavior are _far_ more harmful than the occasional four letter word:

There was a recent study that showed that 'giving the cold shoulder', 'the
silent treatment' and other forms of passive-aggressive violence activate
exactly the same brain regions as being physically injured. (!)

The difference between Linus's chiding of maintainers who messed up and
'hidden' conflicts is significant:

1) passive-aggressive violence can go on essentially forever, without
outsiders noticing it. You won't notice it even on lkml, and yes, it
occurs all the time ...

2) passive-aggressive violence _thrives_ in 'polite', 'professional'
environments that supress open conflict. Hidden violence also occurs
in a lot of 'polite' open source projects that I know.

3) so the net duration of the conflict is _far_ shorter in the Linus
case.

I will pick an honest, colorful Linus flame over workplace mobbing or
other forms of substitute passive-aggressive violence any time of the day.

3)

I couldn't cite a single example where Linus flamed me unprovoked,
unjustified, just for the sake of letting off steam or any other petty
reason. I've not seen Linus flame newbies and I've not seen him
micro-manage people over unimportant details.

In the large majority of colorful flames the flame was over something that
_matters to the kernel_ - and heck do I prefer a top level maintainer who
cares and who is honest, over someone who is indifferent or sloppy ...

Thanks,

Ingo


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