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  CIP: 1
  Title: CIP Purpose and Guidelines
  Author: Devon Weller 
  Status: Accepted
  Type: Process
  Created: 2015-10-27

What is a CIP?

CIP stands for Counterparty Improvement Proposal. A CIP is a design document providing information to the Counterparty community, or describing a new feature for Counterparty or its processes or environment. The CIP should provide a concise technical specification of the feature and a rationale for the feature.

We intend CIPs to be the primary mechanisms for proposing new features, for collecting community input on an issue, and for documenting the design decisions that have gone into Counterparty. The CIP author is responsible for building consensus within the community and documenting dissenting opinions.

Because the CIPs are maintained as text files in a versioned repository, their revision history is the historical record of the feature proposal.

CIP Types

There are three kinds of CIP:

  • A Standards Track CIP describes any change that affects most or all Counterparty implementations, such as a change to the network protocol, a change in block or transaction validity rules, or any change or addition that affects the interoperability of applications using Counterparty.
  • An Informational CIP describes a Counterparty design issue, or provides general guidelines or information to the Counterparty community, but does not propose a new feature. Informational CIPs do not necessarily represent a Counterparty community consensus or recommendation, so users and implementors are free to ignore Informational CIPs or follow their advice.
  • A Process CIP describes a process surrounding Counterparty, or proposes a change to (or an event in) a process. Process CIPs are like Standards Track CIPs but apply to areas other than the Counterparty protocol itself. They may propose an implementation, but not to Counterparty's codebase; they often require community consensus; unlike Informational CIPs, they are more than recommendations, and users are typically not free to ignore them. Examples include procedures, guidelines, changes to the decision-making process, and changes to the tools or environment used in Counterparty development. Any meta-CIP is also considered a Process CIP.

CIP Work Flow

The CIP editors assign CIP numbers and change their status. Please send all CIP-related email to the CIP editor, which is listed under CIP Editors below. Also see CIP Editor Responsibilities & Workflow.

The CIP process begins with a new idea for Counterparty. It is highly recommended that a single CIP contain a single key proposal or new idea. Small enhancements or patches often don't need a CIP and can be injected into the Counterparty development work flow with a patch submission to the Counterparty issue tracker. The more focused the CIP, the more successful it tends to be. The CIP editor reserves the right to reject CIP proposals if they appear too unfocused or too broad. If in doubt, split your CIP into several well-focused ones.

Each CIP must have a champion -- someone who writes the CIP using the style and format described below, shepherds the discussions in the appropriate forums, and attempts to build community consensus around the idea. The CIP champion (a.k.a. Author) should first attempt to ascertain whether the idea is CIP-able. Posting to the Counterparty forums or discussing it in the Counterparty Slack is the best way to go about this.

Vetting an idea publicly before going as far as writing a CIP is meant to save the potential author time. Many ideas have been brought forward for changing Counterparty that have been rejected for various reasons. Asking the Counterparty community first if an idea is original helps prevent too much time being spent on something that is guaranteed to be rejected based on prior discussions (searching the internet does not always do the trick). It also helps to make sure the idea is applicable to the entire community and not just the author. Just because an idea sounds good to the author does not mean it will work for most people in most areas where Counterparty is used.

Once the champion has asked the Counterparty community as to whether an idea has any chance of acceptance, a draft CIP should be presented on a dedicated thread created by the author in the Counterparty forums' development area. This gives the author a chance to flesh out the draft CIP and to address initial concerns about the proposal. Discussion should be limited to this forum thread and as much as possible at this time, so as to provide a full record of any debate for all involved parties. Wherever possible, long open-ended discussions should be avoided, and CIP authors should use their discretion in order to best keep all debate focused, good-natured and material.

Following a discussion, the draft should be submitted to the CIP editor as a pull request to the git repository. This draft must be written in CIP style as described below, else it will be closed or otherwise postponed by the CIP editor until proper formatting rules are followed. All discussion as to the CIP shall continue either in the comments area of the pull request or in the original forums thread.

If the CIP editor approves, he will assign the CIP a number, label it as Standards Track, Informational, or Process, give it status "Draft", and merge it into the git repository. The CIP editor will not unreasonably deny a CIP. Reasons for denying CIP status include duplication of effort, being technically unsound, not providing proper motivation or addressing backwards compatibility, or not in keeping with the Counterparty philosophy (as determined by a majority of the project maintainers as defined below).

The CIP author may update the draft as necessary in the git repository via submitting a pull request. Each pull request may host discussion about those specific proposed changes to the Draft, however the CIP author and editor should stay vigiliant to avoid more general discussion on the CIP on these subsequent pull requests. Once the pull request is merged, ongoing comments being posted to that pull request should be dissuaded.

Standards Track CIPs consist of two parts, a design document and a reference implementation. The CIP should be reviewed and accepted before a reference implementation is begun, unless a reference implementation will aid people in studying the CIP. Standards Track CIPs must include an implementation -- in the form of code, a patch, or a URL to same -- before it can be considered "Final".

For a CIP to be accepted it must meet certain minimum criteria. It must be a clear and complete description of the proposed enhancement. The enhancement must represent a net improvement. The proposed implementation, if applicable, must be solid and must not complicate the protocol unduly.

To be accepted, the CIP's pull request must be approved ("ACKed") by a majority of Counterparty project maintainers. A Counterparty project maintainer is defined as an individual that has commit access to the (counterparty-lib)[https://github.com/CounterpartyXCP/counterparty-lib] repository, and has made at least one commit in the last nine month period. If there is only one maintainer, only his or her ACK is necessary.

Once a CIP has been accepted, its status should formally be set to "Accepted" and its reference implementation must be completed. When the reference implementation is complete and merged into the master branch of the relevant Counterparty repositories, the status should be changed to "Final". CIPs that have no reference implementation (e.g. Process CIPs) should proceed directly to the "Final" stage upon being ACKed by the project maintainer(s).

A CIP in "Draft" status can also be assigned a status of "Deferred". The CIP author or editor can assign the CIP this status when no progress is being made on the CIP. Once a CIP is "Deferred", the CIP editor can re-assign it to "Draft" status at-will.

A CIP can also be "Rejected". Perhaps after all is said and done it was not a good idea. It is still important to have a record of this fact.

CIPs can also be superseded by a different CIP, rendering the original obsolete. This is intended for Informational CIPs, where version 2 of an API can replace version 1.

The possible paths of the status of CIPs are as follows:

Some Informational and Process CIPs may also have a status of "Active" if they are never meant to be completed. E.g. CIP 1 (this CIP).

What belongs in a successful CIP?

Each CIP should have the following parts:

  • Preamble -- RFC 822 style headers containing meta-data about the CIP, including the CIP number, a short descriptive title (limited to a maximum of 44 characters), the names, and optionally the contact info for each author, etc.

  • Abstract -- a short (~200 word) description of the technical issue being addressed.

  • Copyright/public domain -- Each CIP must either be explicitly labelled as placed in the public domain (see this CIP as an example) or licensed under the Open Publication License.

  • Specification -- The technical specification should describe the syntax and semantics of any new feature. The specification should be detailed enough to allow competing, interoperable implementations for any of the current Counterparty platforms.

  • Motivation -- The motivation is critical for CIPs that want to change the Counterparty protocol. It should clearly explain why the existing protocol specification is inadequate to address the problem that the CIP solves. CIP submissions without sufficient motivation may be rejected outright.

  • Rationale -- The rationale fleshes out the specification by describing what motivated the design and why particular design decisions were made. It should describe alternate designs that were considered and related work, e.g. how the feature is supported in other languages.

  • The rationale should provide evidence of consensus within the community and discuss important objections or concerns raised during discussion.

  • Backwards Compatibility -- All CIPs that introduce backwards incompatibilities must include a section describing these incompatibilities and their severity. The CIP must explain how the author proposes to deal with these incompatibilities. CIP submissions without a sufficient backwards compatibility treatise may be rejected outright.

  • Reference Implementation -- The reference implementation must be completed before any CIP is given status "Final", but it need not be completed before the CIP is accepted. It is better to finish the specification and rationale first and reach consensus on it before writing code.

  • The final implementation must include test code and documentation appropriate for the Counterparty protocol.

CIP Formats and Templates

CIPs should be written in markdown format. Image files should be included in a subdirectory for that CIP.

CIP Header Preamble

Each CIP must begin with an RFC 822 style header preamble. The headers must appear in the following order. Headers marked with "*" are optional and are described below. All other headers are required.

  CIP: 
  Title: 
  Author: 
* Discussions-To: 
  Status: 
  Type: 
  Created: 
* Post-History: 
* Replaces: 
* Superseded-By: 
* Resolution: 

The Author header lists the names, and optionally the email addresses of all the authors/owners of the CIP. The format of the Author header value must be

Random J. User <address@dom.ain>

if the email address is included, and just

Random J. User

if the address is not given.

If there are multiple authors, each should be on a separate line following RFC 2822 continuation line conventions.

Note: The Resolution header is required for Standards Track CIPs only. It contains a URL that should point to an email message or other web resource where the pronouncement about the CIP is made.

While a CIP is in private discussions (usually during the initial Draft phase), a Discussions-To header will indicate the URL where the CIP is being discussed. No Discussions-To header is necessary if the CIP is being discussed privately with the author, or on the counterparty slack.

The Type header specifies the type of CIP: Standards Track, Informational, or Process.

The Created header records the date that the CIP was assigned a number, while Post-History is used to record the dates of when new versions of the CIP are posted to the counterparty forums. Both headers should be in yyyy-mm-dd format, e.g. 2001-08-14.

CIPs may have a Requires header, indicating the CIP numbers that this CIP depends on.

CIPs may also have a Superseded-By header indicating that a CIP has been rendered obsolete by a later document; the value is the number of the CIP that replaces the current document. The newer CIP must have a Replaces header containing the number of the CIP that it rendered obsolete. Auxiliary Files

CIPs may include auxiliary files such as diagrams. Such files must be named CIP-XXXX-Y.ext, where "XXXX" is the CIP number, "Y" is a serial number (starting at 1), and "ext" is replaced by the actual file extension (e.g. "png").

Transferring CIP Ownership

It occasionally becomes necessary to transfer ownership of CIPs to a new champion. In general, we'd like to retain the original author as a co-author of the transferred CIP, but that's really up to the original author. A good reason to transfer ownership is because the original author no longer has the time or interest in updating it or following through with the CIP process, or has fallen off the face of the 'net (i.e. is unreachable or not responding to email). A bad reason to transfer ownership is because you don't agree with the direction of the CIP. We try to build consensus around a CIP, but if that's not possible, you can always submit a competing CIP.

If you are interested in assuming ownership of a CIP, send a message asking to take over, addressed to both the original author and the CIP editor. If the original author doesn't respond to email in a timely manner, the CIP editor will make a unilateral decision (it's not like such decisions can't be reversed :).

CIP Editors

The current CIP editor is Christian Moss who can be contacted at christian@mandelduck.com.

CIP Editor Responsibilities & Workflow

A CIP editor must belong to the Counterparty forums. All CIP-related correspondence should be sent (or CC'd) to christian@mandelduck.com.

For each new CIP that comes in an editor does the following:

  • Read the CIP to check if it is ready: sound and complete. The ideas must make technical sense, even if they don't seem likely to be accepted.
  • The title should accurately describe the content.
  • Edit the CIP for language (spelling, grammar, sentence structure, etc.), markup (for reST CIPs), code style.

If the CIP isn't ready, the editor will send it back to the author for revision, with specific instructions.

Once the CIP is ready for the repository, the CIP editor will:

  • Assign a CIP number (almost always just the next available number, but sometimes it's a special/joke number, like 666 or 3141).

  • Add the CIP to the CounterpartyXCP/cips repository on GitHub.

  • List the CIP in README.md

  • Send email back to the CIP author with next steps (post to counterparty forums).

Many CIPs are written and maintained by developers with write access to the Counterparty codebase. The CIP editors monitor CIP changes, and correct any structure, grammar, spelling, or markup mistakes we see.

The editors don't pass judgement on CIPs. We merely do the administrative & editorial part. Except for times when there's relatively low volume.

History

This document was derived heavily from Bitcoin's BIP-0001, which was derived heavily from Python's PEP-0001. In many places text was simply copied and modified. PEP-0001 text was written by Barry Warsaw, Jeremy Hylton, and David Goodger. They are not responsible for its use in the Counterparty Improvement Process, and should not be bothered with technical questions specific to Counterparty or the CIP process. Please direct all comments to the Counterparty forums or the CIP editors.