Title: An "old-school" metastructure proposal with "boot for being a slacker"
Author: Grant Goodyear <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Ciaran McCreesh <email@example.com>
Post-History: 2005-09-01, 2006-02-09, 2007-10-12, 2008-01-19
Implemented. The metastructure proposal was accepted by a vote of all
Gentoo developers on 2005-06-14 [#Metastructure_vote]_.
GLEP amended on 2006-02-09 to add the final bullet point to list B in
GLEP 4 is replaced with a new "metastructure" that retains established
projects (and makes new projects easier to create), but adds a new "Gentoo
Council" to handle global (cross-project) issues.
The Fosdem and subsequent reform proposals shepherded by Koon are thorough,
extremely detailed, and somewhat complicated. They have a lot of good ideas.
For many who have been with Gentoo a long time, though, there's just something
about them that they don't really like. More than a few Gentoo devs are
almost entirely uninterested in metastructure as long as it doesn't get in
their way, and because the current proposals impose at least some order on our
unruly devs these proposals are guaranteed to "get in the way" to some degree.
For example, a frequent comment that has been heard is that many Gentoo devs
don't know who his/her manager (or project lead) is, which is a clear
indication that our current system is broken. The existing proposals solve
the problem by requiring that each dev belong to a project. Perhaps the part
that is broken, though, is the belief that every dev should have a manager.
The history of Gentoo is such that traditionally big advances have often been
implemented by a single or a small number of dedicated devs (thus our
long-standing tradition that devs have access to the entire tree), and surely
we do not want to make things harder (or less fun) for such people. So here's
a minimal proposal for those who remembers the "good ol' days" and thinks
things aren't really so different now.
Synopsis of the current system
* There are 13-15 top-level projects (TLPs). Top-level projects are
comprised of sub-projects, and the goal was that every Gentoo
project would be a sub-project of one of the TLPs. Supposedly each
dev therefore belongs to one or more TLPs.
* Each TLP has at least a "strategic" manager, and potentially also an
"operational" manager. Only the strategic managers vote on global
* The managers of each TLP were appointed by drobbins, the other
TLP managers, or elected by their project members. These managers
have no set term.
* Within each TLP the managers are responsible for making decisions
about the project, defining clear goals, roadmaps, and timelines
for the project, and solving problems that arise within the TLP
(see GLEP 4 for the specific list).
* The strategic TLP managers are also responsible for deciding issues that
affect Gentoo across project lines. The primary mechanism for
handling global-scope issues is the managers' meetings.
* Disciplinary action taken against erring devs is handled by the
"devrel" TLP, unless the dev is a strategic TLP manager. In that
case disciplinary action must be enacted by the other strategic TLP
Problems with the existing system
1. The assumption that TLPs are complete is either incorrect (there
still is no "server" TLP) or just plain weird (but the lack of a
server TLP is technically okay because all devs who don't have an
obvious TLP belong to the "base" TLP by default).
2. There is nothing at all to ensure that project leads actually do
represent the devs they supposedly lead or satisfy their
responsibilities. Indeed, should a TLP manager go AWOL it is not at
all obvious how the situation should be resolved.
3. Nothing is being decided at global scope right now. Some TLP strategic
managers rarely attend the managers' meetings, and the managers as a
whole certainly are not providing any sort of global vision for
Gentoo right now.
4. Even if the strategic TLP managers were making global decisions for
Gentoo, the TLP structure is such that almost all devs fall under
only one or two TLPs. Thus voting on global issues is hardly
proportional, and thus many devs feel disenfranchised.
5. Regardless of whether or not it is justified, devrel is loathed by
many in its enforcement role.
Additional problems identified by the current metastructure reform proposals
6. The current system has no mechanism for identifying either projects
or devs that have gone inactive.
7. Bugs that cut across projects often remain unresolved.
8. GLEPs often linger in an undetermined state.
A. A project is a group of developers working towards a goal (or a set
* A project exists if it has a maintained Wiki
project page as described below. ("Maintained" means
that the information on the page is factually correct and not
out-of-date.) If the Wiki page isn't maintained, it is presumed
* It may have one or many leads, and the leads are
selected by the members of the project. This selection must
occur at least once every 12 months, and may occur at any
* It may have zero or more sub-projects. Sub-projects are
just projects that provide some additional structure, and their
Wiki pages are defined as sub-projects of the parent project.
* Not everything (or everyone) needs a project.
* Projects need not be long-term.
* Projects may well conflict with other projects. That's okay.
* Any dev may create a new project just by creating a new project
page on the wiki.gentoo.org (see [#Project_pages]_) and sending
a Request For Comments (RFC) e-mail to gentoo-dev. Note that
this GLEP does not provide for a way for the community at large
to block a new project, even if the comments are wholly negative.
B. Global issues will be decided by an elected Gentoo council.
* There will be a set number of council members. (For the
first election that number was set to 7 by acclamation.)
* Council members will be chosen by a general election of all
devs once per year.
* The council must hold an open meeting at least once per month.
* Council decisions are by majority vote of those who show up (or
* If a council member (or their appointed proxy) fails to show up for
two consecutive meetings, they are marked as a slacker.
* If a council member who has been marked a slacker misses any further
meeting (or their appointed proxy doesn't show up), they lose their
position and a new election is held to replace that person. The newly
elected council member gets a 'reduced' term so that the yearly
elections still elect a full group.
* Council members who have previously been booted for excessive slacking
may stand for future elections, including the election for their
replacement. They should, however, justify their slackerness, and
should expect to have it pointed out if they don't do so themselves.
* The 'slacker' marker is reset when a member is elected.
* If any meeting has less than 50% attendance by council members, a new
election for *all* places must be held within a month. The 'one year'
is then reset from that point.
* Disciplinary actions may be appealed to the council.
* A proxy must not be an existing council member, and any single person
may not be a proxy for more than one council member at any given
So, does this proposal solve any of the previously-mentioned problems?
1. There is no longer any requirement that the project structure be
complete. Some devs work on very specific parts of the tree, while
some work on practically everything; neither should be shoehorned into
an ad-hoc project structure. Moreover, it should be easy to create new
projects where needed (and remove them when they are not), which this
proposal should enable.
2. By having the members choose their project leads periodically, the
project leads are necessarily at least somewhat responsible (and
hopefully responsive) to the project members. This proposal has
removed the list of responsibilities that project leads were supposed
to satisfy, since hardly anybody has ever looked at the original list
since it was written. Instead the practical responsibility of a lead
is "whatever the members require", and if that isn't satisfied, the
members can get a new lead (if they can find somebody to take the job!).
3. If the council does a lousy job handling global issues (or has no
global vision), vote out the bums.
4. Since everybody gets to vote for the council members, at least in
principle the council members represent all developers, not just a
5. An appeal process should make disciplinary enforcement both less
capricious and more palatable.
6. This proposal doesn't help find inactive devs or projects. It really
should not be that much of a problem. We already have a script
for identifying devs who haven't made a CVS commit within a certain
period of time. As for moribund projects, if the project page isn't
maintained, it's dead, and we should remove it. That, too, could be
automated. A much bigger problem is understaffed herds, but more
organization is not necessarily a solution.
7. The metabug project is a great idea. Let's do that! Adding a useful
project shouldn't require "metastructure reform", although with the
current system it does. With this proposal it wouldn't.
8. This proposal has nothing to say about GLEPs.
.. [#Metastructure_vote] Grant Goodyear, "Metastructure vote preliminary
results", posted to ``gentoo-dev`` mailing list on 2005-06-14,
.. [#Project_pages] https://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Gentoo_Wiki:Developer_Central/Project_pages
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