A great deal of Linux kernel development work is done by way of mailing lists. It is hard to be a fully-functioning member of the community without joining at least one list somewhere. But Linux mailing lists also represent a potential hazard to developers, who risk getting buried under a load of electronic mail, running afoul of the conventions used on the Linux lists, or both.
Most kernel mailing lists are run on vger.kernel.org; the master list can be found at:
There are lists hosted elsewhere, though; a number of them are at lists.redhat.com.
The core mailing list for kernel development is, of course, linux-kernel. This list is an intimidating place to be; volume can reach 500 messages per day, the amount of noise is high, the conversation can be severely technical, and participants are not always concerned with showing a high degree of politeness. But there is no other place where the kernel development community comes together as a whole; developers will avoid this list at the risk of missing important information.
There are a few hints which can help with linux-kernel survival:
- Have the list delivered to a separate folder, rather than your main mailbox. One must be able to ignore the stream for sustained periods of time.
- Do not try to follow every conversation – nobody else does. It is important to filter on both the topic of interest (though note that long-running conversations can drift away from the original subject without changing the email subject line) and the people who are participating.
- Do not feed the trolls. If somebody is trying to stir up an angry response, ignore them.
- When responding to linux-kernel email (or that on other lists) preserve the Cc: header for all involved. In the absence of a strong reason (such as an explicit request), you should never remove recipients. Always make sure that the person you are responding to is in the Cc: list. This convention also makes it unnecessary to explicitly ask to be copied on replies to your postings.
- Search the list archives (and the net as a whole) before asking questions. Some developers can get impatient with people who clearly have not done their homework.
- Avoid top-posting (the practice of putting your answer above the quoted text you are responding to). It makes your response harder to read and makes a poor impression.
- Ask on the correct mailing list. Linux-kernel may be the general meeting point, but it is not the best place to find developers from all subsystems.
The last point – finding the correct mailing list – is a common place for beginning developers to go wrong. Somebody who asks a networking-related question on linux-kernel will almost certainly receive a polite suggestion to ask on the netdev list instead, as that is the list frequented by most networking developers. Other lists exist for the SCSI, video4linux, IDE, filesystem, etc. subsystems. The best place to look for mailing lists is in the MAINTAINERS file packaged with the kernel source.