The Clean Code Blog

by Robert C. Martin (Uncle Bob)

Open Letter to the Linux Foundation

08 November 2019

To: The Linux Foundation
Jim Zemlin: Executive Director
Angela Brown: VP of Events
Andy Updegrove: Legal Council

From: Robert Martin (@unclebobmartin) (

Re: Code of Conduct case of Charles Max Wood.

Dear Linux Foundation:

I am writing to you as a concerned member of the software development community which I have enjoyed serving for the last 50 years. I am writing in public because the events I wish to describe took place in public. I fear that something has gone terribly wrong within your organization; and that it will have deep repercussions within this industry that I cherish.

The timeline of events, as far as I can determine them, is as follows:

The Linux Foundation received a public tweet sent to the @KubeCon twitter address. That tweet recommended that Kube Con discontinue their association with Charles Max Wood. The reasons given in this complaint were his request for an open and civil phone call, and a picture of Mr. Wood wearing a MAGA hat.

The Linux Foundation publicly replied from the @linuxfoundation twitter account as follows:

Hi all, We have reviewed social and videos and determined that the Event Code of Conduct was violated and his registration to the event has been revoked. Our events should and will be a safe space.

First let me say that I find it highly problematic that the complaint and the decision were public. Indeed I am surprised that LF would accept a publicly submitted code of conduct complaint. I am much more than surprised that LF would ever consider publicly responding to such a complaint. Indeed, it seems to me that the public complaint, and perhaps even the public response by LF, could be seen as public harassment – which is explicitly prohibited by the LF Code of Conduct.

It seems to me that Code of Conduct complaints made in public must be immediately rejected and viewed as Code of Conduct violations in and of themselves. Code of Conduct complaints should be submitted in private and remain private and confidential in order to prevent their use as a means of harassment. It also seems to me that while the process of accepting, reviewing, and adjudicating such complaints should be public, the proceedings and decision of each individual case should remain private and confidential in order to protect the parties from harm. Making them a public showcase is, simply, horrible.

Was the Code of Conduct actually violated by Mr. Wood? I have watched the videos in question and read the tweets and I can find no instance where Mr Wood violated the LF Code of Conduct. I understand that LF can make any decision they like about what constitutes a Code of Conduct violation. However, when both the complaint and the response are so blatantly public, it seems to me that LF owes it to the observing community to explain their decision and describe the due process that was used to make it – including the decision to make the public response that undoubtedly caused harm to Mr. Wood. To date no such explanation has been forthcoming, despite repeated requests.

The software community needs to understand how decisions like this are going to be made. Otherwise those of us who have watched this case may be forced to conclude that LF has no internal process, that no due diligence will be applied to Code of Conduct complaints and determinations, that the accused will have no rights either of appeal or privacy, that LF feels free to make its decisions based on the blowing of political winds, and will loudly announce their decisions regardless of the harm it might cause.

Therefore I have the following questions:

  • Why was the initial complaint accepted and acknowledged in public? It was clearly political in nature, and very clearly intended to cause harm to Mr. Wood.

  • Is it LF policy to accept complaints that, in and of themselves, violate the LF Code of Conduct?

  • Why was the Code of Conduct determination announced publicly, despite the harm it would obviously cause to Mr. Wood?

  • Can LF specifically justify the determination that Mr. Wood violated the Code of Conduct?

  • Does LF have a documented process by which Code of Conduct complaints are to be submitted, reviewed, and adjudicated?

  • Is it LF policy to consider political affiliation, or support of certain public officials, as Code of Conduct violations?

  • Is it LF policy to publicly denounce registrants who have been determined to have violated the LF Code of Conduct?

  • Does LF have a Code of Conduct for how it conducts itself?

In summary, it appears to this humble observer that The Code of Conduct process at The Linux Foundation went very badly off the rails with regard to Charles Max Wood. That LF owes Mr. Wood, and the Software Community at large, a profound apology. That LF should keep all future Code of Conduct complaints and decisions personal and confidential. That LF should publish and follow a well defined process for accepting, reviewing, and adjudicating future Code of Conduct complaints. And that some form of reparation be provided to Mr. Wood for the public harm that was done to him by the careless and unprofessional behavior of The Linux Foundation.


Robert C. Martin.