In case you don't know who Theo is, he is in charge of the OpenBSD project. I think OpenBSD is a great project, and I like a lot of what's happening with OpenBSD itself, but we can't hide the fact that the OpenBSD community is less than helpful sometimes, and I think that's mostly Theo's fault, because he is arrogent, rude, and always looking to start a fight for no reason. He's a much more radical and stubborn Linus Torvalds, if you will. I'd heard this from various sources online, and in fact it is Theo's abrasive personality that got him kicked out of the NetBSD community, which led him to start OpenBSD. But I hadn't heard of any incidents lately, so I figured that he's probably calmed down over the years.
I think I was wrong. I think it's just been normalized that Theo is an unpleasant person to work with. On the openbsd-misc mailing list this morning, I read a message, which prompted me to write this post in the first place 1. I understand being upset that people don't follow the rules and ask silly questions sometimes. But I do not understand harrassing these people just because they don't know as much about OpenBSD as you do. Instead of going on an angry rant, Theo could have easily said something along these lines:
Thanks for reaching out to the OpenBSD mailing list.
We'd like to help you, but we can't until we get some more details on your problem. Can you attach some logs?
He could even link to the FAQ that explains the mailing list procedures. But instead, he threw a tantrum like an immature child and told this person to go away.
So this blog post is a formal statement that I do not, in any way, condone the behavior of Theo de Raadt. My digital life is proudly powered by OpenBSD, and I don't plan on changing that any time soon. I think OpenBSD is a great accomplishment, and I don't want to take away credit for that. I think Theo has made some good decisions regarding the direction and implementation of the OpenBSD project, but he is not helpful to the community in any way, and he is seriously turning away people that want to give OpenBSD a try.
He is an expert in his field, but that does not give him an excuse for being as rude as he is, and that's not something I can tolerate. I myself want to contribute to the OpenBSD project. I think I have some nice ideas, but there's no reason for me to upstream my patches and deal with him instead of just building my kernel from sources that I patch. The community is exceedingly hostile to new contributors, like I would be. This causes people to be more likely to fork the OpenBSD project instead of contribute to it.
I am all for what the OpenBSD project itself stands for, and I hope that it continues to be high quality software for the foreseeable future. I do get that OpenBSD is opinionated, and that's what I like about it. But I am not okay with the way Theo conducts himself in the process.
We all must be kind and understanding, and I think we can do that by remembering the big picture. There's no need to get so upset and angry for something so minor. Posting to an operating system mailing list is extremely minor. With all of the world's problems, somebody not attaching their dmesg(8) to their bug report is not really one of them.
This incident has prompted some more thought for me on the matter of wayward political figures and other well-known people. People are often quick to point out that Henry Ford was antisemetic, or that all of the founding fathers of the United States owned slaves. Likewise, most of our politicians and businesspeople today are just absolutely horrible. But does the fact that they have dark areas in their lives discredit them entirely? Does this mean that their good accomplishments ought not be recognized?
I didn't think so before this incident, and I don't think so now. It is important to know that Henry Ford was racist, yes, but we can still appreciate the fact that he paid the highest of any factory in the country at the time, and he invented the assembly line, which allows products to be made faster and cheaper than ever. This is a great accomplishment that all of us depend on today. Likewise, we should keep in mind that the founding fathers were slave owners, and that there was a bit of hypocrisy there, but at the same time, they founded a new nation, and wrote down their ideals, ideals which we are still striving for today. If it weren't for their innovation, we wouldn't be the most innovative country in the world today.
So that's how I reconcile the situation with Theo de Raadt. He is not a good person at all, but we have to hand it to him that he started and maintains a very successful operating system that does a lot of things right. I just want to make it clear that when I say I support the OpenBSD project, I mean that I use the operating system and advocate for it. But I do not in any way support the attitude of the community behind the operating system. I acknowledge that it is producing a worthwhile product, but I sincerely believe that there are other ways to achieve the same end, ways that don't involve slamming the door on new users in the mailing lists.
As a Christian, I believe that the most important virtues a person can have are those of humility, respect for others, and patience. There are many virtues that a Christian is called to have, but these are just a few that I see the most people struggling with in our culture today. Our culture is very much driven by anger. Everyone is angry with their parents, politicians, business people, and more. And we tend to use this anger to advocate for change. External change, that is, as though our anger is always justified. But I don't think that all anger is justified. I think there is right anger and I think there is wrong anger, but I tend to err on the side of thinking more anger is wrong than right.
For example, it is okay to be angry at the fact that not only is infanticide legal, it's celebrated too. But it is absolutely not okay for that anger to drive you to berate and yell at people that do support these atrocities. Is it okay to share your opinion in a civil manner? Yes, absolutely! But please don't assault people that don't agree with you. I think it's best to try to engage each other in a manner that is respectful and civil.
© 2019-2023 Jordan Bancino.