back to article Nut launches death threats at Debian women

Women working on Debian have been getting death threats from a nut job who believes they're killing free software. A poll by new project leader Steve McIntyre into whether people are happy on Debian revealed one female coder had been getting the threats as thanks for her hard work. Further daggering soon revealed she was not …


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  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Given El Reg's notoriousness...

    ...I suspect "the nutjob" will out self in this here fine comment section.

    Yet another hikikomori living with a blow up doll and an ADSL in his parents' basement, I gather.

  2. Alan Donaly

    You need a thick skin.

    It doesn't have anything to do with software it has to with sick domination of strangers with threats. I notice some projects are damn near impossible to reach (except through bugzilla) this kind of static may be the reason. You need strong leadership and guts these days to be in the public eye at all. I believe these are brilliant people, and I wouldn't be surprised if they find a way to silence this noise. My personal preference would be to have a few human pitbulls to deal with the cranks, real sonsabitches have their uses and are not in short supply.

  3. D
    Dead Vulture

    we really need a wide eyed axe wielding penguin icon

    to cope with this recent flurry of open source nut-job stories.

  4. Sam


    "My personal preference would be to have a few human pitbulls to deal with the cranks, real sonsabitches have their uses and are not in short supply."

    So, where do I sign?

  5. Pete Silver badge

    zero tolerance

    This is something that the community should not handle itself. Death threats need to be handled by the correct authorities. It's not for a project leader to "track down and deal with".

    Similarly, referring to the individual making these threats as a "nut" or a "kook" does no-one any favours - it gives the impression the threats aren't serious: just someone messing around. Treat these threats with the same seriousness as if someone made them face to face, or attached to a brick thrown through your window. It may be more difficult to track down the sender, if they arrived electronically - but if the RIAA is prepared to make the effort for a few tunes, the police should do the same for someone's life.

  6. Herbert Meyer

    we really need a wide eyed axe wielding penguin icon...

    How about this one ?

  7. Winston Smith

    @we really need a wide eyed axe wielding penguin icon

    Like this guy? (scroll down a bit)

    Re: "track down and deal with the perpetrators"

    This is a short quote from a presumably longer message from McIntyre, and a few commenters here have taken it (possibly out of context) as an indication that he isn't treating this crime seriously enough. I do hope that he is contacting the appropriate law-enforcement authorities.

  8. anarchic-teapot


    'Similarly, referring to the individual making these threats as a "nut" or a "kook" does no-one any favours - it gives the impression the threats aren't serious: just someone messing around.'

    You're confusing "nut" and "kook" with "arsehole". Nut-jobs kill people like John Lennon, arseholes make prank calls to emergency services. Please don't mix them up again.

  9. Stuart Van Onselen

    Nut-job, and a stupid one at that.

    Sure, it may *seem* safer to target women, as it is probably too much of a coward to threaten men.

    But what it forgets, is that, despite decades of Women's Lib, there remains an atavistic tendency for men to see women as weak yet priceless creatures who need defending. No matter what the women in question feel, every man involved in open source will have lurid fantasies of beating this cretin to within an inch of its life, plus one foot.

    Of course, most geeks aren't really willing or capable of turning these fantasies into reality. But OSS is a very wide field these days. If one in a thousand OSS geeks *is* willing to help track down and pummel this degenerate, then it's in really, really big trouble.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Quick, someone tell Ballmer

    as soon as he finds out there are crazy people in the open source community, he won't be able to release Office source code fast enough

  11. Anonymous Coward

    I know who it is

    If they were threatened with a good chair battering then it was Ballmer!

    Mines the one with the anti-chair missiles in the pockets.

  12. Elmer Phud
    IT Angle

    chicken - not penquin

    What I'd like to know is why does the nut/kook/twat etc. target women and not men. Is he busy tugging his todger while hammering at his keyboard, does he feel that this abuse will have any effect or is it just for his own relief.

    It used to be that only women were deemed low enough to use keyboards with huge typist pools but that seems to have changed. Is he now afraid that they have the power to encode their (obvious) male-hatred in to software to quietly take over the world and emasculate men. Does he not realise that the male 'king penguin protects the eggs while the missus goes out with the lasses? Is this one bit of role reversal he can't stand?

  13. Pete James

    The lunatics are in my head.....

    Not really surprised to be honest. There's been numerous events where the open-source fraternity have behaved pretty disgracefully, proving to others that they're socially challenged and not particularly mature.All this shows is that sadly there is yet another person within this happy clique who has developed some disturbing ideas and is very much mentally ill.

    On that note, let's stop all this dancing round handbags about calling them 'nuts' or a 'kook' They're insane, they're mentally unwell and they need help. Describe them properly and use the words you're not comfortable with, because you can bet your bottom dollar they won't be at ease with those words either.

  14. Matt Bryant Silver badge

    Just not acceptable.

    Whomever this person is they need to be removed from the community in general and placed in a more suitable community - that of a secure unit (for our non-UK readers, that's a prison for nuts). Hopefully, the response of the Linux community will make this individual seek the help he obviously needs. In the meantime, I hope the Debian team draw strength from the support of the rest of the Linux community.

    On a lighter note:

    "....'team? what team?'. Several are technically made up of a group of people, but only one person is doing all the work." Ah! So doing Linux development is just like commercial work, then! Still, brave of Debian to make all the survey public - could you imagine a corporation such as Micro$haft making such an internal survey public!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Zero tolerance, please enough of your attempts at social engineering and feck off back to Daily Mail land.


  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Death threats need to be handled by the correct authorities"

    You what? People have threatened to kill me on dozens of occasions, by e-mail and face to face. I've never wasted any police time on it, or lost any sleep. If someone seriously intended to kill me, I'm guessing they wouldn't put me on my guard or draw suspicion by telling me about it beforehand.

    A brick through a window is an entirely different matter, as would be following me around, for example. Writing stuff in an e-mail, however unpleasant, is minor harassment, at most.

  17. Greg

    @Winston Smith

    Scroll down a bit? You're using a widescreen monitor, aren't you!

  18. Jerry

    It's a diversionary trick

    It's pretty obvious what this is all about.

    The Cult of Debian having been mightily embarrassed by their total and absolute cock-up with SSL has decided to play the sympathy card.

    A few death threats suitably reported to media agencies would be just the thing to make people forget about the SSL fiasco

    Of course, if that fails then desperate measures may be in order - perhaps an (undocumented) hostile takeover attempt by RedHat? Or even better, infiltration by Microsoft agents - repelled at the last moment with their bloodied corpses dragged down the street behind the Debian Corporate Prius?

  19. Jamie

    It is not always nutcases or so

    I worked for a few companies offering tech support now and have had multiple times where a female colleague would ask me to repeat what she has stated to a customer. When she would say the issue she would get all forms of things stated to her, when I state the exact same resolution they accept it.

    And just for the all chest beating feminist nutcases, most fo the people who did not believe the response from a woman was a woman.

  20. Stuart Van Onselen


    ...socially challenged and not particularly mature...

    Do irony much? Most people would consider trolling to be anti-social and immature.

  21. Robert Hill


    I totally agree - when people make death threats, especially that look to come in a focused fashion like this, the only way to deal with them is via the appropriate authorities. That's what we pay them for, frankly. In the US, I wouldn't start with local police, I would start with federal authorities, as the women involved probably live in very separate areas, and might even be international.

  22. Pete James

    Me, ironic? Do I look like Steve Austin?

    @ Steve Van Onselen

    Steve, this very organ has reported on plenty of events where the Open Source crowd has shouted down, insulted and threatened people who don't follow their zealous doctrine. So yes, I'm happy to stand by making the comments that some members of this tech tribe are socially challenged and/or not particularly mature; I'm hardly being controversial, merely reflecting events.

    If this is not comfortable with you then fair enough but infering trollness is a pretty poor comeback. Interesting that you chose to quote me in part though. Now that is a tried and trusted practice of a Troll.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    agent provocateur nutjob ..

    > Nut jobs attacking women in open source should remember that it's easy to kill their precious projects by turning people off through their antics ..

    It could also be argued that this nutjob is an agent provocateur charged with discrediting Open Source. For instance a particular NutJob has been trolling Linux groups on Usenet for over a decade. When it isn't referring to everyone else as lintards it goes about forging others and accusing people of paedophilia and so on. It begs the question as to what motivates such an individual.

  24. Rob Aley

    the fringe elements of the open source movement

    Er, it's not really "the fringe elements of the open source movement", its the fringe of society. Sexist shit like this happens in a closed source environment too, quite often, but the commercial "sensitivities" mean it is covered up and the perpetrators paid off or promoted. At least in the open source movement it is getting some airtime.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Sez it all rilly

  26. phat shantz
    Paris Hilton

    The death threats divert you from the death knell

    There are plenty of nuts for every forest. Open source has its share. The line between multi-billion-dollar mogul and madness is a fine one, I'm told.

    So the sensationalism of death threats obscures the real news. There aren't enough workers when there is no pay. My Econ 101 professor told me the same thing 35 years ago. (Who's surprised?)

    The marxism of open source has so many flaws that I cannot list them all, but I'll list two.

    1) Hobbyists never produce the best products.

    2) Experts command both respect and high pay.

    Violate either of these two economic principles and the business (if it's isolated) or the marketplace (if its endemic) collapses.

    Imagine if you contracted the world's worst curable disease. To which doctor would you go, provided you could afford it? The free clinic down the street, or Mayo Clinic where the specialists practice?

    Open source and software are like this. When you are broke or too embarrassed to admit that you got that e-rash during a fortnight of online revelry, you go to the free clinic -- but not because it's the best you can find.

    When you can afford it, you spend the money and buy the best the market can provide (or sufficient talent to the value you deem necessary).

    Is this a guarantee of always finding the best? No. Is it a near certainty that it will be better than the free stuff? Absolutely.

    When I looked around for a market to provide the greatest reward for my labor, I chose software and business consulting. I don't do it for free. (I don't think I couldn't even get work if I did.)

    Open Source pays nuthin' for their labor. They get what they pay for.

    Hey! Paris doesn't need the money. She can help y'all with the Open Source stuff. Good hire, McIntyre.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    "track down and deal with"

    This is probably a far safer thing than simply telling the coppers as they have no responsibility to do spit for you and can't be sued for failing to protect you; even when you have told them of threats and other actions. Court orders are also a joke and nutjobs (like most crims) simply ignore the law and ignore courts and do whatever they please. Sorry to all the feel-gooders out there, but if any of them were my family/friends I wouldn't give a second thought to introducing the nutjobs

    to mr. cluebat.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Re: The death threats divert you from..

    I was just going to reply "asshole - foff back to M$" to you originally - but I think you've kinda missed the point, (and the original reply makes me look bad too). As was explained to me, some OSS is used as a taster for the full "paid for" variety - for example CentOS/Ubuntu - it's free, but if you want commercial support then you pay for it.

    Likewise, you've made the classic mistake of assuming that everyone regards software as a "product" like an automobile, there's a heck of a lot of folks out there who treat it as an art form. Read the biog of Van Gogh etc and you'll see that quite a few of his paintings were done for free in the hope of getting a commission (or selling them) later on. Similarly - I do OSS because I want to show off what a "genius" I am (<grin>) - as you (correctly!) point out "Experts command ... respect" (but I don't claim to be an expert). The other day I was speaking to a major OSS developer and he was saying that it's when he gets those emails/forum-postings saying "this is great" or "this really helped me" that he feels it was all worth it - and it's nice for your ego to feel that others are listening to what you're saying.

    Back to the original point - I agree with the posters here - if these are death threats then they need to go to the police - no question. Okay, if the Debian community can assist with tracking this retard (or retards) down, then all to the good, but vigilatism won't help anyone. The person/persons making these threats is obviously mentally ill in a way that makes them dangerous to the community.

    (Paris icon because - hopefully like her - OSS developers do what they do sometimes because they enjoy it, not for $$$'s).

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @phat shantz

    You're forgetting one crucial element of the equation - motivation. God knows I'm know FOSS fanboy - BUT: Incredible things can be created for free if there's sufficient motivation on the part of the developers (this goes for anything, not just software - but the price of entry is far less for software).

    Hobbyists can indeed produce the best results when they are passionate about what they do; to this day, participants in the demoscene tend to produce code, art, and music that are several years ahead of the best professionals in the business. They don't need high pay to do it, because the motivation is elsewhere.

    It's kind of funny that you (who seem to have chosen your field not because you're interested in it but because the options spat it back with the most money attached) make an argument in which you can't even conceive of someone WANTING to do something for free.

    Oh, and the free clinic people, I'm sure, would love to do better. Their problem is a lack of resources. But, as I mentioned above, you don't need test equipment, lots of floor space, MRI machines, etc, to build software.

    All you need is motivation.

  30. gollux
    Black Helicopters

    Reisserfication of Linux...

    Given all the Fanboy flack I've had to listen to, sounds like we've got a whole crowd of developmentally disabled nutjobs out there. We need to compare notes, see how many death threats came from Microsoft, Sun, etc. vs Linux over the years.

    Need to be able to attach multiple Icons on this one, a Dead Penguin and a devil Gates to go with the OSS conspiracy against Women Geeks.

  31. keitai
    IT Angle

    Open source pays one money

    @phat shantz

    You make the mistake of assuming that free software is created by hobbyists. As recent kernel studies have shown, the biggest contributors to Linux are employees of companies (Redhat, IBM, Intel, Novell, Nokia....).

    Currently the market for free software experts is very strong. If you have based your business around a piece of free software, who else is the best person to employ than the one who already wrote it? Well done free software puts you in a better job market position than a flashy CV.

  32. Roger Heathcote

    Ok so you shouldn't respond to trolls and idiots but...

    @Pete James

    Calm down. "There's been numerous events where the open-source fraternity have behaved pretty disgracefully" Yes well the same can be said of Politicians, Clergymen, Teachers and Police Officers, you read the Mail don't you? You must have seen the stories!?

    When all's said and done people are people and I don't think the opensource community has a higher proportion of disgracefully behaved weirdos than any other conglomeration of computer programmers. In fact I think it is troll-like for you to be claiming that... you seem to be implying that this whole thing was inevitable because the open source community are a bunch of degenerates, a variant of the 'she was asking for it' defense. Honestly if you want to see disgracefully behaved just check out the BBC / Daily Mail message boards or, god forbid, You Tube comments.

    @phat shantz

    Actually most (read ~80%) of open source linux core/kernel work is paid for and I have to say all this 'deathknell' stuff is melodramatic even for a windoze fanboi. The market chooses the value of things,not conjecture, and the market has decided (for many HUGE companies) that open source software IS BETTER VALUE than Windows in many situations. If what you say is right and commercial software is inherently superior then shurely Google would have become an M$ shop as soon as they had the money?

    Money doesn't always buy you quality - look at Vista! Never mind the flaky proprietary shit that companies like CA peddle as 'enterprise software'. Honestly if open source is so bad why do so many banks and fortune 500 companies run Apache, BSD and SugarCRM?

    Your near certainty argument doesn't stand up in the incremental, zero marginal cost, world of OS kernels, Web Frameworks, Programming Languages, Web Browsers etc. And you REALLY underestimate how strong a motivating force LOVE is. The best and most talented people are in it for the love first and the money second.

    "When I looked around for a market to provide the greatest reward for my labor"

    Well that just sums you up nicely doesn't it ;-P

    Roger Heathcote.

  33. Daniel Palmer

    @Destroy All Monsters

    OT: Ramming romanised Japanese words into your sentences is neither big nor clever. The word basically means "Go live in the woods"; I know the ADSL roll out is progressing at a rapid pace, but I doubt that there are many wooded areas in which you can get ADSL. There again, if you moved to the woods in the first place surely you're trying to get away from modern technology and such anyhow?

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