Benevolent D***tator

This is a response to one of Week 3’s readings, about the creator of Linux stepping down.

I had no idea. For some reason in the back of my mind the Linux project was always associated with a grassroots, community-based, stick-it-to-the-man mindset. The few people I know who openly admit to being Linux power users are unconventional, and (to me) have a sense of what it feel like to not be part of the mainstream. As such, those people are some of the most considerate I know. It was a shock to have such a stark contrast revealed in the Linux leadership.

Further, the term “Benevolent Dictator” also has a strong identity in my mind. The government of the UAE is often thought of as a benevolent dictatorship. The power is almost absolute and unquestioned, but the ruling family very clearly has the nation and the citizen’s best interests in mind. The other ‘Benevolent Dictator’ that comes to mind is Ton Roosendaal from Blender. From what I’ve seen he also works hard to foster a welcoming and compassionate community around his software. To be fair I did not put much thought into it until now, but it did not occur to me that the leadership of a software that is based on community contributions could be so antagonistic towards the community.

The good news is that as of this week the Linux foundation has revised (read: implemented) its code of conduct, based on the contributor covenant. In itself this does not solve the problem of aggression and discrimination in tech, but hopefully – along with continued bottom-up pressure from the community – it helps, and acts as a precedent for the future.

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