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mlpack governance structure (DRAFT)

Revised Oct. 21st, 2019.

Introduction

mlpack has grown much since its initial inception as a small project out of a university research lab. Now that there are over 150 contributors, it's important that we have a clearly defined process for making our decisions and organizing ourselves.

This document aims to clarify the governance of mlpack. This is a living document: it may change over time. The process for making these changes is detailed in the "Governance Changes" section.

Code of Conduct

mlpack aims to be an open and welcoming environment, and as such, we have a code of conduct that helps foster this environment. See (here)[https://github.com/mlpack/mlpack/blob/master/CODE_OF_CONDUCT.md] for more information.

Teams & Roles

To keep overhead minimal, mlpack's teams and roles are simple: there is only the Committers team, and the NumFOCUS leadership team.

Members of the Committers team have commit access to all mlpack repositories and help guide the development directions and goals of mlpack. Committers should be familiar with the contribution process and follow it when merging code and reviewing pull requests; this is important for the continued stability and quality of mlpack's codebase. Responsibilities and activities of Committers team members can include:

  • Welcoming new members to the community: helping support users and point potential contributors in the correct direction.

  • Reviewing pull requests and approving them when they are ready.

  • Merging pull requests after they have been approved by others for merge.

  • Communicating and coordinating with contributors to help get code merged and improve the software.

  • Helping map out mlpack's development directions and processes.

  • Maintaining mlpack infrastructure (build systems, continuous integration, etc.).

Membership on the Committers team does not expire. Contributors who have repeatedly shown that their code quality is high, demonstrated adherence to the code of conduct, and shown that they have a strong interest in the project can be added to the Committers team using the organizational decision process in the next section.

The NumFOCUS leadership team is a subset of the Committers team whose additional responsibilities are to coordinate with NumFOCUS and maintain this governance document. Membership in the NumFOCUS leadership team is limited to five people, and does not confer any special voting power or decision rights.

Voting and Organizational Decisions

Historically, mlpack organizational decisions have not been controversial and this has allowed efficient decision making. Therefore, a vote on a proposal is not required unless there is any explicit disagreement or concern with the proposal. The topics of a proposal might be:

  • Adding/removing a new member to/from the Committers team.

  • Participating in a program such as Google Summer of Code or Outreachy.

  • A change to some part of the mlpack infrastructure or contribution process.

  • Refactoring or change of an important public part of the API.

  • Use of funds for a particular project.

That list is not inclusive. Introducing a proposal or idea can be done informally in a public place, such as the mlpack mailing list or on Github as an issue. It's a good idea (but not mandatory) to make the proposal discussion fully public so that people who are not on the Committers team can also comment and provide opinions---after all, this is a community-led project so we should be sure to include the entire community whenever possible.

If there is any disagreement or concern with the proposal, the person who introduced the proposal should work to try and find a resolution or compromise if possible. If that is not possible, then the proposal can be brought to a vote.

For a proposal to pass, a simple majority vote suffices. Each Committer has one equal vote, and they may choose to abstain from voting if they do prefer. Since some Committers may be inactive or busy, it is not required for every Committer to participate in every vote; instead, someone who has a proposal should make a good-faith effort to post the proposal in a public location so that interested and active Committers can respond. Voting for any proposal should be open for at least five days to allow sufficient time.

If a proposal passes despite votes against it, it is generally a good idea for the Committer who introduced the proposal to spend some time considering and understanding the arguments that were presented against the proposal, or if appropriate, for the Committer to try and find an acceptable compromise or alternate strategy that addresses the given feedback.

Governance Changes

The NumFOCUS leadership team is responsible for this governance document, and thus any changes to this document, NumFOCUS membership, or the NumFOCUS leadership team must be approved by that team, also by a simple majority vote. Because every member of the NumFOCUS leadership team should be an active Committer, any proposal requires votes (or abstentions) by all five members.

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