Re: Proposal for a new "Steering Committee Charter"

Josh Berkus

As promised, we had an in-depth discussion of the Steering Committee
proposal drafted by Alexis Richardson for the July 7th TOC meeting
during the Governance WG meeting. Six members were present and
participated in the discussion; notes are available here:


Regarding the specific proposal of using steering committees (SC) as a
workaround for the requirement to have maintainers from multiple
organizations for projects to move to the Graduated level, the
Governance WG recommends that the TOC not adopt it.

Full explanation:

Steering Committees are frequently important governance tools for large
and distributed projects, and more projects should consider having one
as a channel for end-user, collaborator, and diverse audience
representation. We valued Alexis’ writeup, and would like to
incorporate it into our handbooks in progress for CNCF projects on how
to develop governance.

Projects that would need the "SC workaround" are projects that have been
unable to attract a single maintainer from outside the original
sponsoring organization, which is usually a sign of serious issues
within the project. The Governance WG feels that the CNCF ecosystem is
ill-served by moving projects with such problems to the Graduated level,
and the proposal will not have the desired outcomes.

Our decision was based on what we view as the inability of a
non-technical Steering Committee to ensure that a project with
maintainers* exclusively employed by the same organization treat
submissions, roadmap items, and maintainer candidates from other
organizations fairly. Even diligent SC members would find it difficult
to understand enough about technical architecture decisions to
differentiate between bias and legitimate objections in reviews.
Further, unlike code and docs maintainers, it would be challenging for
the TOC to monitor activity and involvement levels of SC members, as
that would not create the same kind of contribution trail.

For this proposal, we considered specifically projects that are having
problems attracting contributors, because only such projects would need
this mechanism. It certainly takes time to bring code reviewers up to
speed, but the current requirement is a low bar; even a single dedicated
documentation leader from an end-user company would technically satisfy it.

While many folks have cited the Kubernetes project as an example,
Kubernetes has a diversity of maintainers all the way down to the SIG
level, so it would qualify for a maintainer multi-org requirement even
without a Steering Committee. At this point, the Governance WG does not
know of a good example of a project that successfully has used an SC to
moderate the influence of development being dominated by a single
company, so doing so would be experimental. As an experiment, we might
adopt it for one specific project, but we'd want to see the outcome of
that before we adopt it as general policy.

Even Alexis’s document suggests that in problem cases it would be up to
the TOC or their delegates to intervene to resolve project problems.
Given this, it’s unclear what advantage having an SC would offer over
Alexis’s original suggestion of having designated TOC monitors.

Overall, our judgement was that adopting the SC workaround would be, in
essence, removing the maintainer multi-organization requirement, and
that it would be better to simply remove the requirement instead if that
is the direction the TOC wishes to go.

Drafted by Governance WG:
Josh Berkus
Dawn Foster
Jennifer Davis
Davinum Srinivas
Paris Pittman

(* by “maintainers” we mean involved, leading contributors with the
authority to merge code, docs, and/or community materials into any of
the key repos belonging to the project. Such contributors may be called
"maintainers", "committers", or other titles. It does not refer to the
official CNCF maintainer list for voting purposes, as that list contains
many people who do not have merge authority in their individual projects.)

Josh Berkus
Kubernetes Community
Red Hat OSPO

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