Yesterday, James Bennett, a software developer and an active contributor to the Django web framework issued the summary of a proposal on dissolving the Django Core team and revoking commit bits. Re-forming or reorganizing the Django core team has been a topic of discussion from the last couple of years, and this proposal aims to take this discussion to real action.
What are the reasons behind the proposal of dissolving the Django Core team?
Unable to bring in new contributors
Django, the open source project has been facing some difficulty in recruiting and retaining contributors to keep the project alive. Typically, open source projects avoid this situation by having corporate sponsorship of contributions. Companies which rely on the software also have employees who are responsible to maintain it. This was true in the case of Django as well but it hasn’t really worked out as a long-term plan.
As compared to the growth of this web framework, it has hardly been able to draw contributors from across its entire user base. The project has not been able to bring new committers at a sufficient rate to replace those who have become less active or even completely inactive. This essentially means that Django is dependent on the goodwill of the contributors who mostly don’t get paid to work on it and are very few in number. This poses a risk on the future of the Django web framework.
Django Committer is seen as a high-prestige title
Currently, the decisions are made by consensus, involving input from committers and non-committers on the django-developers list and the commits to the main Django repository are made by the Django Fellows. Even people who have commit bits of their own, and therefore have the right to just push their changes straight into Django, typically use pull requests and start a discussion.
The actual governance rarely relies on the committers, but still, Django committer is seen as a high-prestige title, and committers are given a lot of respect by the wider community. This creates an impression among potential contributors that they’re not “good enough” to match up to those “awe-inspiring titanic beings”.
What is this proposal about?
Given the reasons above, this proposal is being made to dissolve the Django core team and also revoke the commit bits. Instead, this proposal will introduce two roles called Mergers and Releasers.
Mergers would merge pull requests into Django and Releasers would package/publish releases. Rather than being all-powered decision-makers, these would be bureaucratic roles. The current set of Fellows will act as the initial set of Mergers, and something similar will happen for Releasers.
As opposed to allowing the committers making decisions, governance would take place entirely in public, on the django-developers mailing list. But as a final tie-breaker, the technical board would be retained and would get some extra decision-making power. These powers will be mostly related to the selection of the Merger/Releaser roles and confirming that new versions of Django are ready for release.
The technical board will be elected very less often than it currently is and the voting would also be open to public. The Django Software Foundation (DSF) will act as a neutral administrator of the technical board elections.
What are the goals this proposal aims to achieve?
Mr. Bennett believes that eliminating the distinction between the committers and the “ordinary contributors” will open doors for more contributors:
“Removing the distinction between godlike “committers” and plebeian ordinary contributors will, I hope, help to make the project feel more open to contributions from anyone, especially by making the act of committing code to Django into a bureaucratic task, and making all voices equal on the django-developers mailing list.”
The technical board remains as a backstop for resolving dead-locked decisions. This proposal will provide additional authority to the board such as issuing the final go-ahead on releases. Retaining the technical board will ensure that Django is not going to descend into some sort of “chaotic mob rule”.
Also, with this proposal the formal description of Django’s governance becomes much more in line with the reality of how the project actually works and has worked for the past several years.
To know more in detail, read the post by James Bannett: Django Core no more.