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Torvalds on future of Linux kernel developers&development

Postby Hooray » Wed Nov 18, 2020 6:33 pm

https://www.zdnet.com/article/linus-tor ... velopment/
Is Linux's leadership graying out? Hohndel said, "Many of us have a five at the beginning of our ages, while a couple are approaching their 60s. So at some point, we as a community need to start thinking about generational change."

Torvalds agreed. "For us, there is nothing more interesting than interacting at a low level with the hardware and really controlling everything that's going on. So don't get me wrong, kernels are not boring but it's definitely true that the core people have been around for decades. Yes, we are getting grey."

He continued, many of the oldest developers "have moved into maintenance and management. I don't like the word management, because I don't think of myself as a manager, but realistically that's what I do." Indeed, Torvalds thinks of himself these days as a code manager and maintainer, not a developer.

The new people are the ones who are often doing the [programming] work. We have managers and retainers who are old and starting to gray, that's, I think, a completely different issue. But we do we have a generation of people in their 30s who are moving up through the ranks of maintainers so that we have that next wave of people to take over eventually, I mean, look, we've been doing this for almost 30 years so we need to start thinking, the next 20 to 30 years. And so we need to have that next generation.

The problem is, Torvalds continued, "We don't have enough maintainers. It turns out it's really hard to find people who are maintainers. It's interesting and it's challenging, but one of the downsides of being a kernel maintainer is you have to be there all the time. Maybe it's not 24 hours a day, but every day you react to email, you have to be there."

Moreover, "it's not a very easy niche, to get into. And we do not have enough maintainers. We do have a lot of people who write code. We have hundreds of people who are beginners, and that's usually more than most projects have. But at the same time, the one gating issue we often have is it's our need for maintainers to look at other people's code and help."

Another problem with finding maintainers is that:

It takes time, it takes experience. You have to have done this for a while, as a low-level maintainer to slowly move up and then gain the trust of enough people including your trust. And I think the keyword is trust. No, it's not just trust from other maintainers, it's also trust from all the people writing the code. And, that just, it takes time.

Still, there are maintainers moving up in the kernel developer system. Hohndel wondered if another generational problem for Linux developers is finding people who are experienced C programmers. He worried, "Is there a risk that we are becoming the COBOL programmers of the 2030s?"

Torvalds doesn't think so. "I think C is still one of the top 10 languages." That said, Torvalds continued, "people are actively looking at doing drivers and things that are not very central to the kernel, for example, in Rust. People have been looking at that for years now. I'm convinced it's going to happen one day."



https://www.theregister.com/2020/06/30/ ... _torvalds/
Linux: The Next Generation

The talk soon turned to an uncomfortable question: what will happen to Linux when the current generation of maintainers moves on? With Torvalds and many of the leaders in their fifties and sixties, "at some point we as a community need to start thinking about generational change. What do we do?" asked Hohndel.

Torvalds answered that the Linux kernel community as a whole is not so old. "A lot of new people who are not 50 years old; they are often the ones doing the real work," he said. "The people who have been around for three decades, yes, we are getting grey and old. But... the people who have been around for a long time, we have moved into maintenance and management."
There is an issue, though. "It turns out it's really hard to find people who are maintainers," said Torvalds, who a couple of years ago had to promise to no longer yell at kernel developers who displeased him, we note.

"One of the downsides of being a kernel maintainer is you have to be there all the time," Torvalds continued. "It is every day. You read email, you react to email, you have to just be there. And it's not necessarily a very easy niche to get into.

"We do not have enough maintainers. We do have a lot of people who write code, we have a fair number of maintainers, but... it's hard to find people who really look at other people's code and funnel that code upstream all the way, eventually, to my tree... It is one of the main issues we have."
'You can't do the wild and crazy things that we used to do'

The problem is the time it takes to build up trust in the community. "It's not just trust from other maintainers, it's also trust from all the people writing the code... and that just takes time," said Torvalds. "Thirty years ago when we started, we didn't need that. It was like, you showed up, you got the job. So many people now depend on the kernel, you can't do the wild and crazy things that we used to do."
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