Kernel Developers Don't Bite: Best (and Worst) practises from the World's Biggest Open Source Project

James Bottomley (IBM Research)
Average rating: ****.
(4.33, 9 ratings)

The Linux Kernel is a phenomenally successful open source project, incorporating contributions from over ten thousand individuals and scaling to change about fifteen thousand lines of code every day while making a stable release roughly every two to three months. By any metric, that’s an amazing achievement.

Several interesting insights can be gained from this. Firstly, how do people become contributors to the project, and how easy is this. The talk will cover some do’s and don’t … particularly with regard to how to train contributors to recognise and defuse the diffractive elements which seem to accrete around any large open source project.

Secondly, how is the project governed and what can be learned to help in governance of other open source projects. Here we will discuss the licensing choices for the kernel, copyright assignment and attribution (including how the kernel shares code with other incompatibly licensed projects, like BSD, and how we’ve avoided the perennial licensing disputes that can afflict open source projects), how we get provenance of the code (Developer Certificate of Origin and tracking with git) and how we resolve disputes amongst participants.

Finally, we will study how the project is managed, from Linus at the top, through the Maintainers to the actual contributors. We’ll look at the various management styles and try to synthesise what makes a good manager for an open source project and what the best practises for doing this are .. and also what to do when someone in a position of trust stops managing effectively.

Attendees should learn how to be a good contributor, how to run a well governed open source project and how to manage other contributors in a way which contributes to the best interests of the project overall.

Photo of James Bottomley

James Bottomley

IBM Research

James Bottomley is a Distinguished Engineer at Novell and Linux Kernel
maintainer of the SCSI subsystem, the Linux Voyager port and the
53c700 driver. He has also made contributions to PA-RISC Linux
development in the area of DMA/device model abstraction and memory
management. He is currently a Director on the Board of the Linux
Foundation and Chair of its Technical Advisory Board. He was born and
grew up in the United Kingdom. He went to university at Cambridge in
1985 for both his undergraduate and doctoral degrees. He joined AT&T
Bell labs in 1995 to work on Distributed Lock Manager technology for
clustering. In 1997 he moved to the LifeKeeper High Availability
project. In 2000 he helped found SteelEye Technology, Inc as Software
Architect and later as Vice President and CTO. He joined Novell in

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