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Linus Torvalds apologizes for years of being a jerk, takes time off to learn empathy

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Linus Torvalds flips off Nvidia. (credit: aaltouniversityace)

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has apologized for years of rants, swearing, and general hostility directed at other Linux developers, saying he's going to take a temporary break from his role as maintainer of the open source kernel to learn how to behave better.

For many years, Torvalds has been infamous for his expletive-filled, aggressive outbursts on the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML), chewing out developers who submit patches that he believes aren't up to the standards necessary for the kernel. He's defended this behavior in the face of pushback from other developers, insisting that people being nice to one another was an American ideology.

But that may be coming to an end. In a lengthy email posted to the LKML on Sunday night, Torvalds expressed a change of heart. Taken to task over attacks that he recognizes were "unprofessional and uncalled for," he says he now recognizes that his behavior was "not OK" and he is "truly sorry." He's going to step back from kernel development for a while—something he's done before while developing the Git source control system—so that he can "get help on how to behave differently."

It's not entirely clear what precipitated this change, though Torvalds did mention a little of the backstory. The Linux Maintainer Summit, an invitation-only gathering of around 30 core Linux developers, takes place each year to provide a venue for kernel maintainers to discuss issues around the kernel's development process. This year's summit was due to be in Vancouver but was moved earlier this month to Edinburgh after it turned out that Torvalds had mistakenly booked a vacation in Scotland that clashed with the Vancouver event.

This situation presented two options: stay in Vancouver without Torvalds or move to Edinburgh with Torvalds. Torvalds himself preferred the first option, but this idea was met with resistance, suggesting that Torvalds' behavior, which is known to have driven some developers away from kernel development entirely, was one of the issues that the maintainers wanted to discuss. Accordingly, the decision was made to move to Edinburgh to fit in with his vacation. That such a disruptive change of venue should occur indicates there's considerable strength of feeling about Torvalds' presence.

Simultaneously with this, the Linux project now has a code of conduct. Previously, the project had a "code of conflict": a short document that asserts that the code quality is the only thing that matters and implores developers to "be excellent to each other." The new code of conduct is more extensive and sets explicit standards for behavior, requiring it to be positive, professional, welcoming, and inclusive.

Together, these changes represent a big shake-up of the kernel development process and style. Of course, it remains to be seen whether anything will actually change—old habits die hard, after all. Kernel developer and Torvalds critic Matthew Garrett tweeted that the changes are a "long overdue step in the right direction" but that he'll "believe it when [he sees] some actual change." By contrast, many denizens of the /r/Linux subreddit are unimpressed, dismissing the code of conduct as made up by a "completely insane and bigoted individual" and claiming that "millenial [sic] snowflakes finally got to him."

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LeMadChef
3 days ago
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Study: people tend to cluster into four distinct personality “types”

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Enlarge / Average, Reserved, Role Model, and Self-centered: not everyone falls into these four categories, but you might. (credit: Northwestern University)

People love taking online quizzes; just ask Buzzfeed and Facebook. A new study has sifted through some of the largest online data sets of personality quizzes and identified four distinct "types" therein. The new methodology used for this study—described in detail in a new paper in Nature Human Behavior—is rigorous and replicable, which could help move personality typing analysis out of the dubious self-help section in your local bookstore and into serious scientific journals.

Frankly, personality "type" is not the ideal nomenclature here; personality "clusters" might be more accurate. Paper co-author William Revelle (Northwestern University) bristles a bit at the very notion of distinct personality types, like those espoused by the hugely popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Revelle is an adamant "anti-fan" of the Myers-Briggs, and he is not alone. Most scientists who study personality prefer to think of it as a set of continuous dimensions, in which people shift where they fall on the spectrum of various traits as they mature.

What's new here is the identification of four dominant clusters in the overall distribution of traits. Revelle prefers to think of them as "lumps in the batter" and suggests that a good analogy would be how people tend to concentrate in cities in the United States.

Divide the country into four regions—north, south, east, and west—and then look at how the population density is distributed. You will likely find the highest concentration of people living in dense cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Houston. "But to describe everyone as living in one of those four cities is a mistake," he says. Similarly, "What we're describing is the likelihood of being at certain parts of that distribution; we're not saying that everyone is in one of those four categories."

The Northwestern researchers used publicly available data from online quizzes taken by 1.5 million people around the world. That data was then plotted in accordance with the so-called Big Five basic personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The Big Five is currently the professional standard for social psychologists who study personality. (Here's a good summary of what each of those traits means to psychologists.) They then applied their algorithms to the resulting dataset.

The four “types”

Revelle admits that when his Northwestern colleague and co-author Luis Amaral came to him with the initial findings using traditional clustering algorithms, he had found 16 distinct clusters. Revelle was instantly skeptical: "That was ridiculous," he says. He didn't think there were any types at all lurking in the data, and challenged Amaral and another co-author, Martin Gerlach, to better refine their analysis.

"These statistical learning algorithms do not automatically produce the right answer," says Revelle. "You need to then compare it to random solutions." That second step made all the difference, by imposing extra constraints to winnow down the results. The researchers ended up with four distinct personality clusters:

Average: These people score high in neuroticism and extraversion, but score low in openness. It is the most typical category, with women being more likely than men to fit into it.

Reserved: This type of person is stable emotionally without being especially open or neurotic. They tend to score lower on extraversion but tend to be somewhat agreeable and conscientious.

Role Models: These people score high in every trait except neuroticism, and the likelihood that someone fits into this category increases dramatically as they age. "These are people who are dependable and open to new ideas," says Amaral. "These are good people to be in charge of things." Women are more likely than men to be role models.

Self-Centered: These people score very high in extraversion, but score low in openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Most teenage boys would fall into this category, according to Revelle, before (hopefully) maturing out of it. The number of people who fall into this category decreases dramatically with age.

The team used one data set on the first analysis and then replicated the same result on two other independent data sets, meaning their methodology is replicable—at least on similarly large datasets, which are much more common today, thanks to the Internet and rise of open access. "A study with a dataset this large would not have been possible before the web," says Amaral.

Courtesy of Northwestern University

DOI: Nature Human Behavior, 2018. 10.1038/s41562-018-0419-z (About DOIs).

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LeMadChef
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Desiré Wilson Proved She Was the Most Successful Woman in Racing by Winning in a Formula One Car

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At five years old, Desiré Wilson (née Randall) was behind the wheel of a go-kart at local South African tracks. She didn’t have big dreams about competing in Formula One, or of becoming a endurance racing star. Quite simply, Wilson loved the thrill of speed, finding the very limits of control, and coming home with…

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LeMadChef
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Twitter CEO: conservative employees ‘dont feel safe to express their opinions’

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LeMadChef
4 days ago
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Fucking snowflakes.
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Authors’ viral Twitter thread is now a horror film starring Alyson Hannigan

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Enlarge / Chuck (Alyson Hannigan) offers timely advice to summer camp counselor Sam (Fran Kranz) who finds himself dealing with a crazed killer. (credit: Curmudgeon Inc)

Last July, Twitter denizens relished a hilarious improvisational thread between fantasy authors Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes, in which the latter was a summer camp counselor in the midst of a massacre, wondering if, you know, he might be the killer. Now, Wendig has announced on his website that the impromptu story is a feature-length slasher film: You Might Be the Killer, starring Whedonverse superstar Alyson Hannigan (Buffy, How I Met Your Mother) and Fran Kranz (Cabin in the Woods).

The trailer just dropped, and it looks like it could be a hoot—like a low-budget Scream or Cabin in the Woods. Hannigan plays Chuck—sporting a mug quoting Scream quoting Psycho—who gets a panicked call from her friend Sam, covered in blood, who informs her that "everyone's dead" and there's a serial killer on the loose. "Sometimes that happens," Chuck deadpans. "Especially the counselors." It remains to be seen whether the inventiveness of a Twitter thread can translate to a feature film, but Sykes and Wendig produced the film, so we're hopeful the bonkers joy of the original thread should survive intact.

You Might Be the Killer will premier at the Fantastic Film Fest in Austin on September 21. Here's hoping it finds a distributor fast so we can all revel in its gory absurdity.

Trailer for You Might Be the Killer.

[h/t Tor]

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LeMadChef
4 days ago
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Hailie Deegan Makes NASCAR K&N History By Being the First Woman to Score a Pole Position

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It’s a good weekend to go out and carve out a little place in history. And that’s just what Hailie Deegan did when she laid down the quickest lap at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track ahead of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series Star Nursery 100 race.

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LeMadChef
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