LCA 2010: Using a public platform for personal attacks

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When Red Hat employee Matthew Garrett stood up to deliver a talk at the recent Australian national Linux conference on "The Linux community: what is it and how to be a part of it", he wasn't prepared for at least one of the questions that followed.

The appearance of the man who asked the question was nondescript but the question he asked was insightful. At the end of a rambling treatise on peace and harmony in the Linux community, this man had the good sense to ask: was it just possible that what was classified as disruptive behaviour in the community came about, at times, because of cultural differences? He had an excellent example to substantiate his point: the way women were expected to treat men as superiors in Iran.

The reaction was surprising. Some of the women in the audience booed. Why exactly, one is unaware; the man wasn't condoning any kind of sexist behaviour, he was merely stating the reality. But that didn't seem to percolate down to the intelligentsia among the booers.

Garrett's answer gave one some insight into his way of thinking: he replied that as, in his opinion, the Linux community was largely a Western, English-speaking one, those who participated in it necessarily had to adapt to the norms of this group.

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