If the U.S. presidential election were strictly in the hands of U.S.-based open source developers and aficionados, Democratic candidate Barack Obama would be the hands-down winner, with 56% of the vote compared with 30% for John McCain and 14% for an unspecified independent candidate. Hardly surprising in view of national polls, the results were tallied on SourceForge.net, an open source code repository, of SourceForge.net users and Slashdot.com readers. But the SourceForge.net poll had a number of other questions and this is where the results get interesting, humorous and embarrassing.
The pollsters asked if the U.S. should appoint a national chief technology officer. Surprisingly, the votes were evenly divided, with yeas narrowly edging out the nays, 51% to 49%. The funny and embarrassing part is that the pollster then asked respondents, open source developers and readers, mind you, to choose their top candidate for the job. And Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel, tied for first with the king of proprietary software, Bill Gates. On an open source software site. Is there a disconnect here?
Even worse, the night before the official results were posted, the draft version of the results misspelled Torvalds’ last name as Torvolds. Given Torvalds’ creation of software that has been a huge success — running servers and desktops all around the world — couldn’t SourceForge.net spell his name correctly? (The mistake has since been corrected.)
Torvalds said that this year’s attendees were more concerned about the development process itself than pressing technical issues, but he gathered that the process wasn’t irretrievably broken since no one complained. “That’s a good sign,” but some tweaking of the process might be in order, he admitted.
The Linux community continues to create first-rate code by involving people who really care about the work, Torvalds added. “The secret of real quality is making sure people are proud of the code they write,” he said. “It’s making sure people are involved and taking it personally.” Sounds like good advice for just about any workplace.