[ocaml-infra] Adopting a Governance framework for OCaml.org

Anil Madhavapeddy anil at recoil.org
Mon Sep 14 16:43:03 BST 2015

On 14 Sep 2015, at 16:22, Fabrice Le Fessant <Fabrice.Le_fessant at inria.fr> wrote:
> On Mon, Sep 14, 2015 at 3:23 PM, Anil Madhavapeddy <anil at recoil.org> wrote:
>> Consider how many companies have come and gone in OCaml's 20 year history.
>> The same individual characters still pop up with alarming regularity
>> through those years, however, no matter who the paymasters are :-)
> I have exactly the opposite opinion: companies have been quite
> consistent in their choice of OCaml (with good reasons ;-) ), and once
> they had a good part of their software in OCaml, it's hard for them to
> stop supporting it. The membership of the Caml Consortium has been
> also very constant over the years, increasing slowly but keeping most
> former members.  When Thomas left OCamlPro, it was also the fact that
> we already had started to distribute his knowledge of OPAM that
> allowed us to go on in the developement without almost any disruption
> (and today, we already have other developers ready to take over the
> development if Louis gets bored). On the contrary, individuals are
> much more versatile, they can contribute full-time to OCaml (if their
> employer allows them), or only part-time (on spare time), or not at
> all (if they get interested in a project that uses OCaml, but do not
> contribute to it) depending on many different constraints, that
> ocaml.org should depend on.

My point is not that companies backing OCaml aren't valuable, but that
the individuals themselves should commit to the 'board of trustees'
(as Xavier put it).  For instance, my observation is that the real
handoff of OPAM happened after Thomas left OCamlPro, over the course
of a year.  This was primarily a 1:1 between him and Louis via the
usual code mentoring, and happened as a personal undertaking.

> Anyway, I am still puzzled by this document, I would have expected a
> dedicated organization (an "association" in French law) to take over
> this task, as it is the case for some other open-source languages
> (Python for example). What is the legal meaning of signing this
> document ? In an association, the governance dictates who governs the
> association, what they can do (i.e. what they are allowed to do, and
> what they are not allowed to do), who votes for them, how to become a
> member, etc. And if you don't follow the association rules, you are
> excluded. Here, I don't see any such thing.

There is no legal meaning to signing this document, because nobody is
signing anything.  It is, as Amir noted, a "living document" that
simply documents what superstructure exists at the moment.  As Xavier
notes, many of the resources currently used by ocaml.org are owned
personally by several of us, and we are keen to 1) ensure that their
ownership is tracked; and 2) a path of authority exists to one person
(Xavier Leroy) to facilitate any conflict resolution.

There may be an OCaml Foundation in the future, but there have been
no concrete movements in this direction yet beyond this effort to 
document what currently exists.

> Let's take some examples of things that could also be clarified: if
> somebody wants a new project to become an ocaml.org project, how long
> is he supposed to wait to get a reply ? When is the "consensus phase"
> supposed to end, if nobody replies with either yes or no ?  Is it yes
> by default, or no by default ? What if nobody is against the project,
> but still the sub-domain name is not created ? on the contrary,
> suppose that there is no consensus for a project, but somebody with
> admin rights decides to still create the sub-domain, is it ok ?
> For me, such a document should handle all these cases, and the process
> should be democratic (admin rights should be put to a vote by the
> members). Which leads to having an association for that. And
> associations usually welcome institutions too, not only individuals,
> even if they give them different rights.

We will need to clarify all of these things together, moving forward.
For now, the important scope from my perspective is simply to document
what we have an ensure that the community knows what is available
(e.g. the mailing lists), and to enable people who are interested in
helping to step up.  For instance, if someone wanted to help manage the
mailing list infrastructure other than me, I'd be quite happy to
document it better and grant access.  The only area where I really
need to keep control is the Rackspace VM infrastructure, since it
puts around $25,000 a year onto my personal credit card before being

I'm sure we will all come up with a nice democratic system in a few
years when our community grows so large that we need to elect local
governors of the subdomains.  For now though, this seems like a poor
reason to refrain from documenting the status quo that already exists.

> Finally, the compiler/distribution is now distributed on ocaml.org,
> since caml.inria.fr is deprecated. But is it an ocaml.org project ?
> What rights have the core-team members over the corresponding pages ?
> Shall they care about changing them in the event of the migration of
> sources from SVN to GIT, or is it a task for the ocaml.org project
> itself ?

Xavier and Damien have administrative access to any ocaml.org needed

I'm also trying to understand if there's something you need that you
can't currently do with the ocaml.org infrastructure... happy to help
as I can if so.


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