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[Gnu-arch-users] Re: Linus

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: [Gnu-arch-users] Re: Linus
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 2003 14:05:00 +0900
User-agent: Gnus/5.1001 (Gnus v5.10.1) XEmacs/21.4 (Portable Code, linux)

>>>>> "Tom" == Tom Lord <address@hidden> writes:

    Tom> Are Linus' limits on his ability to process email _really_
    Tom> supposed to be a bottleneck on linux kernel development?

Yes.  "Conceptual integrity ... dictates that the design must proceed
from one mind, or from a very small number of agreeing resonant minds."

    Tom> A different idea is that it's a shared database.  It's
    Tom> everybody's queue where we're all equal.  For example, can I
    Tom> query the database this way:

    Tom>      Mere human:

    Tom>        Oh, great patch-queue database, please tell me: what
    Tom> is the status of a linus-2.6-stable tree with patches #4598,
    Tom> #987234, and #32454 applied?

Good idea.  But as long as we're fantasizing, first, let's look at the
Apache GET logs this month:                   5   112341983


The thing is, the number of people who think they can stand in for
Linus (and making decisions based on the kind of information you put
in that report is precisely "what Linus does", although he doesn't
currently get anywhere near that much information) is very small.
Even among kernel hackers I doubt there are more than a couple dozen
who would pull such reports except for the fun of it.

Yes, even if available to everybody, that database is really the tool
of Linus and his lieutenants.

Second, the number of responses logged in your "artist's conception"
web page was unrealistic, unless supported by the kind of automated
testing I described, with really muscular organizations (like your
sgi-skunkteam) running huge numbers of tests.  The combinatorics
(which is spelled E X P O N E N T I A L, as you well know) will kill
you.  Such queries will return "closest match is linus-2.6-stable
(missing #4598, #987234, #32454)" most of the time.  Most of the rest
will return "closest match is andrew-2.6-merge-queue" (missing #4598).

Another way to think about it is that to get that kind of numbers, you
(as the author of the query you described) are very likely the
debian-unstable maintainer---probably the best way to get experimental
kernel patches installed on several thousand machines in one go---and
you know the leader of the sgi-skunkteam personally (not surprising,
she used to be your boss and wrote those patches), and (because
sgi-skunkteam has an annual $5 million budget for Linux development,
some of which bought fish and beer for Linus at the last LinuxWorld)
Linus actually answers your email personally, on alternate Thursdays,

What has changed?  Not much, except Linus, Andrew, and Alan have much
better access to certain kinds of information.

Factor of 2 speedup at best.

Bottom line:  the patch-queue manager will improve quality of "core"
decision-making dramatically, but it's the revision-control system
itself (ie, tla) that is the foundation of software democracy.  I
recommend Stuart Kauffman's _The Origins of Order_ here.  It's about
how the genome evolves, but it's a good framework for thinking about
cooperative distributed software development as well (outside of the
part where Linus rules, and it even has some theoretical foundation
for thinking about the "Linus phenomenon" as well).

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.

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