Why This Hacker Stood Up Against ‘Verbal Abuse’ In Linux Land

Robert McMillan | Wired | July 19, 2013

When Sarah Sharp was a 20-year-old university student in Portland, she took on an extra-credit project writing USB driver code for the Linux kernel. She was too young to stay past 10 p.m. in some of the brew pubs where the local Linux-heads met, but she hung in as long as she could, learned a lot about Linux, and embraced the community.

Growing up in the small town of Ranier, Oregon (Pop. 1,900), she knew she wanted to be a programmer. She profiled that way: She loved playing with Legos and, later, taking apart PCs. Now, she spends her spare time in appropriately geeky pursuits: tinkering with open source rockets and writing her own gardening software (available on GitHub, natch). And over the past seven years, she’s had her dream come true. She’s been writing USB code for the Linux kernel, working with her longtime mentor, Greg Kroah-Hartman.

But this week, after Linux creator Linus Torvalds told Kroah-Hartman to get tough with developers who submitted sub-standard patches, Sharp, 28, felt he’d crossed a line, and she told him so. Torvalds says he needs to be plainspoken so that the thousands of contributors to the Linux project will get a clear message of what works and what doesn’t. But Sharp says that that aggressive tone is bad for Linux. According to her, it’s keeping some good developers away. Following is an edited transcript of a telephone interview with Sharp