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Seth Vargo
Seth Vargo

An engineer at Seattle-based Chef has resigned following hateful speech directed at him related to his work on the open source project.

Seth Vargo, who had worked as a release engineer at the company formerly known as Opscode for the past two years, said in a blog post that he was leaving due to an increasing amount of negativity related to his work in the Chef community.

He’s also decided to take a break from software engineering.

“I want to emphasize that the tooling I create and projects for which I am a contributor were never a part of my full-time job at Chef. I gave back to the community for the ‘love of the game.’ I identified problems, and I did my best to improve the Chef experience,” writes Vargo. “As a human, I recognize there are problems I cannot solve and questions I cannot answer. Recently my projects and projects I participate in have been the victims of vicious attacks and other select unpleasantries. Not only have I (not my code) been called offensive and derogatory names, but I have also received numerous abusive emails and two death threats in the past three months.”

Jay Wampold, vice president of marketing at Chef, confirmed that Vargo had left the company and said that they were still trying to gather details on the incidents that led to the departure. Wampold told GeekWire that they are taking the allegations very seriously, and that the hateful behavior that led to Vargo’s departure “can’t be tolerated.”

GigaOm reports that the dispute arose around tools associated with a workflow management tool known as Berkshelf, which Vargo worked on. Some in the community preferred an alternative solution, and directed their anger towards Vargo.

chefWampold said that contributors to the Chef open source community are encouraged to share diverse opinions and engage in spirited dialogue, but sometimes a few “bad apples” push too far.

“Communities, are communities and they are reflection of humanity,” he said. “People get some keyboard courage and write some nasty things — at a minimum they are hurtful, and potentially threatening.”

Wampold added that Chef is committed to making sure that those who participate in the open source community are treated with respect, and as part of that the company is stressing guidelines and policies related to contributors.

Chef is a fast-growing open source project, with about 10 million downloads of the software and tens of thousands of individual contributors. The IT automation tools allow developers to configure web servers, databases and load balancers, making it easier for organizations to manage their IT infrastructure. Chef, the company that is commercializing the open source tools, raised $32 million in venture capital last December.

UPDATE: Chef posted this blog post on the situation, noting that they are currently reviewing and enhancing guidelines as it relates to the community.

Chef takes allegations of misconduct very seriously and will investigate and address each incident. As a community, we are refining our policies and procedures for upholding our community guidelines.

Behavior outside of our community guidelines is unacceptable and should and will not be tolerated by anyone. If you encounter such behavior, please contact a member of the Chef community team immediately.

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