OCDEP 1: Purpose and Guidelines

Created:2014-06-05
Author:James Turk
Status:Accepted

What is an OCDEP?

An OCDEP (Open Civic Data Enhancement Proposal) is a design document providing information to the Open Civic Data community, or describing a new feature or process for Open Civic Data. OCDEPs provide concise technical specifications of features, along with rationales.

We intend the proposal process to be the primary mechanism for proposing major new features, for collecting community input on issues, and for documenting design decisions that have gone into Open Civic Data.

The concept of OCDEPs is a blatant copy of Python’s PEPs (http://www.python.org/dev/peps/) and Django’s use of DEPs.

Rationale

We’re introducing the concept of OCDEPs in Open Civic Data in order to formalize the process of making significant changes to the project.

Now that Open Civic Data is beginning to gain traction, we want to use this to avoid duplicate effort (by announcing intentions) and to avoid developers from feeling like they’re building atop unstable ground.

While there will still be discussions that take place on the Google Group (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/open-civic-data) and in IRC, etc. it is expected that all major decisions will take place via the approval of an OCDEP.

When to write a proposal

Taking inspriration from Django’s DEP-0001 (https://github.com/django/deps/blob/master/deps/0001.rst) we too wish to avoid introducing “bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake” and so have a relatively simple process reflecting the small size of the project.

Proposals should be for significant additions or changes, especially those that would introduce some sort of compatibility issue for downstream users.

Examples of things that will fall under the proposal process:

  • addition of a new type to Open Civic Data
  • backwards incompatible changes to the API response format
  • significant new functionality to the API (such as a new method, probably not a single new field in a response)

And things that will not require a proposal:

  • purely technical changes, such as a backend refactor
  • bugfixes

Submitting a Proposal

Our process is intentionally lean at the moment, as we try to get it up and running.

To submit a proposal, write a text document in the and submit it as a pull request to this GitHub repository (https://github.com/opencivicdata/docs.opencivicdata.org). Put it in the “proposals/drafts” directory of the repository and give it a short name that describes the feature, e.g. “formal-xml-serialization.rst”.

The proposal format is reStructuredText, with “Created,” “Author” and “Status” fields near the top. For example, look at the top of this document. “Status” should be “Draft” to start.

Beyond that, a proposal should include the following sections:

  • Overview. A sentence or short paragraph describing the feature.
  • Rationale. A few paragraphs describing why this feature is needed and what specific problem(s) it solves.
  • Implementation. A technical description of how this feature will be implemented. This may or may not include code snippets.
  • Copyright. A statement placing the document in the public domain via the CC0 1.0 Universal License. For example, see the bottom of this document.

Once you’ve written a proposal and submitted the pull request, post a message about it to the open-civic-data mailing list (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/open-civic-data).

At that point, the core Open Civic Data team will make sure it’s technically feasible, not spam, etc., assign it a number and commit it to the repository. This doesn’t mean the feature will be implemented; it merely means the proposal is officially an OCDEP.

Discussion and Acceptance of a Proposal

After something has been proposed, the merits will be discussed, the proposal edited, with a goal of reaching a general consensus.

As a guiding principle these discussions should be as open as possible, suitable places include:

Note that final acceptance (or rejection) must be announced via the mailing list, and to include as many people as possible it is recommended that questions needing broad consensus take place there, while GitHub is more suitable for more isolated concerns and revisions.

At this point the proposal status will be changed (from Draft) to Accepted, Rejected, or Withdrawn.

If an agreement cannot be reached the core Open Civic Data team reserves the right to accept or reject the proposal. Additionally, the core team may choose to set the status to Deferred, indicating that no decision has been made and the issue can be revisited at some future point.

Implementation of a Proposal

Once a proposal has been marked as Accepted, implementation can begin (if it hasn’t already) and upon reasonable completion the proposal will be marked as Final, indicating that future changes to this feature or component will require an additional proposal.

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