Wong tells a story of burnout caused by understaffing, which is similar to what we’ve heard from other important but under-the-radar projects.
Yesterday Darrick Wong, the maintainer of the XFS file-system, announced in a patch series that he is calling it quits:
“I do not choose to continue as maintainer.
“My final act as maintainer is to write down every thing that I’ve been doing as maintainer for the past six years. There are too many demands placed on the maintainer, and the only way to fix this is to delegate the responsibilities. I also wrote down my impressions of the unwritten rules about how to contribute to XFS.
“The patchset concludes with my nomination for a new release manager to keep things running in the interim. Testing and triage; community management; and LTS maintenance are all open positions.
“This is an extraordinary way to destroy everything. Enjoy! Comments and questions are, as always, welcome.”
For nearly 12 years Wong’s day job has been as a self-proclaimed “kernel hacker” at Oracle, where many of his duties have revolved around XFS, a high-performance 64-bit journaling file system created by Silicon Graphics in 1993. Before that, he spent eight years at IBM as an “open sourcer,” where he, “Wrote kernel code, mostly.”
XFS was ported to the Linux kernel in 2001, and in 2002 Gentoo became the first Linux distro to make it available to its users as an option. These days it’s supported by most Linux distros, and since June 2014 it’s been the default file system in Red Hat Enterprise Linux — starting with the release of RHEL 7.
Like many maintainers who’ve walked away from important but “unsexy” projects in recent years, Wong cited burnout caused by overwork as a major reason for his decision to quit:
“I burned out years ago trying to juggle the roles senior developer, reviewer, tester, triager (crappily), release manager, and (at times) manager liaison. There’s enough work here in this one subsystem for a team of 20 FT, but instead we’re squeezed to half that. I thought if I could hold on just a bit longer I could help to maintain the focus on long term development to improve the experience for users. I was wrong.
“Nowadays, people working on XFS seem to spend most of their time on distro kernel backports and dealing with AI-generated corner case bug reports that aren’t user reports. Reviewing has become a nightmare of sifting through under-documented kernel code trying to decide if this new feature won’t break all the other features. Getting reviews is an unpleasant process of negotiating with demands for further cleanups, trying to figure out if a review comment is based in experience or unfamiliarity, and wondering if the silence means anything.”
Wong has recommended Chandan Babu, who for the last two years has been a XFS filesystem developer at Oracle, as his replacement.