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Of or Relating to Struggle Within a Nation, Organization, or Group

Sep 21, 2007, 22:30 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

Today's new word, boys and girls. is internecine.

In-ter-ne-cine. Can you say that? I knew you could...

That's right, step right up, ladies and germs and witness the newest! The latest! The absolutely fan-tab-ulous term to describe the Linux community!

Internecine! As in the internecine warfare the community is undergoing right now because--horror of horrors--people in the community don't always agree how Linux should be built or used!

It's only shown up in two articles thus far, so in actuality it's a little early to call it a trend yet, but I sense that this is going to be the latest buzzword to lob at the Linux community as the proprietary crowd regroups from their Very Bad Month.

The label of in-fighting has shown up in more articles than two, mind you, though 'internecine' wasn't actually used. Groklaw found the theme in this article from Rob Enderle, InformationWeek's Alexander Wolfe uses the actual phrase, as does John Obeto from NetworkWorld, and Randall Kennedy also implies in-fighting is a big concern in his "Desktop Linux? Stick a Fork in It!" InfoWorld article. Four missives in a week's time... sounds like a meme to me!

A lot of this seems to be centered around Dr. Con Kolivas July resignation from the Linux kernel development team. (Groklaw raises an interesting question as to why this is being brought up again two months after the fact.)

Now, here's the God's honest truth: I have no idea if the decision to not include Kolivas' scheduler in the kernel was the right one or not. To make that assessment, I would have to be a developer, which I am not. That Kolivas left (loudly) the development team after this rejection is perfectly understandable, too. Regrettable, but understandable.

Here's the thing (which is me-speak for getting out the biggest cluestick I can find): this stuff happens all of the time.

No, really. All of the time.

People in this community fight about windows. Menus. Text editors. Icons. And that's just before breakfast.

And guess what?

This is normal.

People in communities fight. In my own community, there are disagreements about how to handle taxes. Trash collection. University parties. I imagine these kinds of things are going on where you live, too. Yet no one is calling our respective communities weak. In fact, many people would argue that the system that allows us to have all of these discussions and arguments--democracy--is a pretty strong one.

Granted, there are parts of Linux that function like a meritocracy, particularly the aforementioned kernel. With all due respect to Kolivas, if his scheduler was indeed the best one, why didn't anyone raise a huge fuss when he picked up and left? Linus Torvalds is the "benevolent dictator" but he has been known to change his mind if enough people rally around a certain piece of code.

Here's what gets me: people are acting like all of this squabbling is new. It's not. It's been going on since--well, since one primate looked at another primate's rock and said "I want that."

So, despite all of the horrible, terrible, nasty fighting, the Linux kernel and all of the attendant software has helped create a multi-billion dollar industry.

Yeah, I guess we must be in real trouble now.

Would we be more productive if we all just got along better? Sure we would. The pacifist in me craves calm, rational discussions. But should we abandon all hope because some developers get testy with each other? I think not.

One word of caution I feel I must insert: I think there are limits to how far such fighting should go, especially when dealing with those outside the community who disagree with you. While we should all feel free to voice our opinions, I was especially alarmed when I read Kennedy's account of getting slammed with racial and sexual epithets. I contacted him to confirm these messages, and I believe he was not exaggerating. That kind of nonsense must stop. If you can't get your point across without hate words, then I think I can safely say you don't represent what this community is about.

It will be interesting to see just how far this new word internecine will go.

Maybe we can make it a drinking game. Start pouring.