Governance

December 2020

Introduction

The CycloneDX Project Governance model is based on the Meritocratic governance model by Ross Gardler and Gabriel Hanganu. And is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Overview

This is a meritocratic, consensus-based community project. Anyone with an interest in the project can join the community, contribute to the project design and participate in the decision making process. This document describes how that participation takes place and how to set about earning merit within the project community.

Roles and responsibilities

Users

Users are community members who have a need for the project. They are the most important members of the community and without them the project would have no purpose. Anyone can be a user; there are no special requirements.

The project asks its users to participate in the project and community as much as possible. User contributions enable the project team to ensure that they are satisfying the needs of those users. Common user contributions include (but are not limited to):

  • evangelising about the project (e.g. a link on a website and word-of-mouth awareness raising)
  • informing developers of strengths and weaknesses from a new user perspective
  • providing moral support (a ‘thank you’ goes a long way)
  • providing financial support (the software is open source, but its developers need to eat)

Users who continue to engage with the project and its community will often become more and more involved. Such users may find themselves becoming contributors, as described in the next section.

Contributors

Contributors are community members who contribute in concrete ways to the project. Anyone can become a contributor, and contributions can take many forms. There is no expectation of commitment to the project, no specific skill requirements and no selection process. In addition to their actions as users, contributors may also find themselves doing one or more of the following:

  • supporting new users (existing users are often the best people to support new users)
  • reporting bugs
  • identifying requirements
  • providing graphics and web design
  • programming
  • assisting with project infrastructure
  • writing documentation
  • fixing bugs
  • adding features

Contributors engage with the project through the issue tracker and mailing list, or by writing or editing documentation. They submit changes to the project itself via pull requests, which will be considered for inclusion in the project by existing team members (see next section). The developer mailing list is the most appropriate place to ask for help when making that first contribution.

As contributors gain experience and familiarity with the project, their profile within, and commitment to, the community will increase. At some stage, they may find themselves being nominated for membership in the CycloneDX Team.

CycloneDX Team

Members of the CycloneDX Team are community members who have shown that they are committed to the continued development of the project through ongoing engagement with the community. Membership allows contributors to more easily carry on with their project related activities by giving them direct access to the project’s resources. That is, they can make changes directly to project outputs.

This does not mean that a member is free to do what they want. In fact, members have no more authority over the project than contributors. While membership indicates a valued member of the community who has demonstrated a healthy respect for the project’s aims and objectives, their work continues to be reviewed by the community before acceptance in an official release. The key difference between a member and a contributor is when this approval is sought from the community. A member seeks approval after the contribution is made, rather than before.

Seeking approval after making a contribution is known as a commit-then-review process. It is more efficient to allow trusted people to make direct contributions, as the majority of those contributions will be accepted by the project. The project employs various communication mechanisms to ensure that all contributions are reviewed by the community as a whole. By the time a contributor is invited to become a member, they will have become familiar with the project’s various tools as a user and then as a contributor.

Anyone can become a member; there are no special requirements, other than to have shown a willingness and ability to participate in the project as a team player. Typically, a potential member will need to show that they have an understanding of the project, its objectives and its strategy. They will also have provided valuable contributions to the project over a period of time.

New members can be nominated by any existing member. Once they have been nominated, there will be a vote by the CycloneDX Core Team (see below). Member voting is one of the few activities that takes place on the project’s private management list. This is to allow Core Team members to freely express their opinions about a nominee without causing embarrassment. Once the vote has been held, the aggregated voting results are published on the public mailing list. The nominee is entitled to request an explanation of any ‘no’ votes against them, regardless of the outcome of the vote. This explanation will be provided by the Core Team Chair (see below) and will be anonymous and constructive in nature.

Nominees may decline their appointment as a member. However, this is unusual, as the project does not expect any specific time or resource commitment from its community members. The intention behind the role of member is to allow people to contribute to the project more easily, not to tie them in to the project in any formal way.

It is important to recognise that team membership is a privilege, not a right. That privilege must be earned and once earned it can be removed by the Core Team (see next section) in extreme circumstances. However, under normal circumstances membership exists for as long as the member wishes to continue engaging with the project.

A member who shows an above-average level of contribution to the project, particularly with respect to its strategic direction and long-term health, may be nominated to become a member of the Core Team. This role is described below.

CycloneDX Core Team

The Core Team consists of those individuals identified as such on the CycloneDX website. The Core Team has additional responsibilities over and above those of a regular team member. These responsibilities ensure the smooth running of the project. Core Team members are expected to review code contributions, participate in strategic planning, approve changes to the governance model and manage the copyrights within the project outputs.

Members of the Core Team do not have significant authority over other members of the community, although it is the Core Team that votes on new team members and Industry Working Group members. It also makes decisions when community consensus cannot be reached. In addition, the Core Team has access to the project’s private mailing list and its archives. This list is used for sensitive issues, such as votes for new team members and legal matters that cannot be discussed in public. It is never used for project management or planning.

Membership of the Core Team is by invitation from the existing Core Team members. A nomination will result in discussion and then a vote by the existing Core Team members. Core Team membership votes are subject to consensus approval of the current Core Team members.

Core Team Chair

The Core Team Chair is a single individual, voted for by the Core Team members. Once someone has been appointed Chair, they remain in that role until they choose to retire, or the Core Team casts a two-thirds majority vote to remove them.

The Core Team Chair has no additional authority over other members of the Core Team: the role is one of coordinator and facilitator. The Chair is also expected to ensure that all governance processes are adhered to, and has the casting vote when the project fails to reach consensus.

Industry Working Group

The Industry Working Group (IWG) consists of those individuals identified as such on the CycloneDX website. IWG members are industry representatives who have specialist experience in software supply chain risk. Their experience might be industry specific, or specific to a particular type of risk or part of the software supply chain. They are not required to be regular contributors to the project. Their contribution is their unique experience and viewpoints to help guide the strategic direction and evolution of the CycloneDX specification.

Some examples of specialist experience are license compliance risk, vulnerability analysis/mitigation, component identification, software composition analysis, embedded device/software security, embedded device assembly, software development or device/software operations.

Membership of the IWG is by invitation from the CycloneDX Core Team members. A nomination will result in discussion and then a vote by the existing Core Team members. IWG membership votes are subject to consensus approval of the current Core Team members.

IWG members may appoint a delegate to act on their behalf for particular discussions and the decision making process.

Support

All participants in the community are encouraged to provide support for new users within the project management infrastructure. This support is provided as a way of growing the community. Those seeking support should recognise that all support activity within the project is voluntary and is therefore provided as and when time allows. A user requiring guaranteed response times or results should therefore seek to purchase a support contract from a community member. However, for those willing to engage with the project on its own terms, and willing to help support other users, the community support channels are ideal.

Contribution process

Anyone can contribute to the project, regardless of their skills, as there are many ways to contribute. For instance, a contributor might be active on the project mailing list and issue tracker, or might supply patches.

The CycloneDX mailing list is the most appropriate place for a contributor to ask for help when making their first contribution.

Decision making process

Decisions about the future of the project are made through discussion with all members of the community, from the newest user to the most experienced Core Team member. All non-sensitive project management discussion takes place on the project contributors’ mailing list. Occasionally, sensitive discussion occurs on a private list.

In order to ensure that the project is not bogged down by endless discussion and continual voting, the project operates a policy of lazy consensus. This allows the majority of decisions to be made without resorting to a formal vote.

Lazy consensus

Decision making typically involves the following steps:

  • Proposal
  • Discussion
  • Vote (if consensus is not reached through discussion)
  • Decision

Any community member can make a proposal for consideration by the community. In order to initiate a discussion about a new idea, they should send an email to the project contributors’ list or submit a patch implementing the idea to the issue tracker (or version-control system if they have commit access). This will prompt a review and, if necessary, a discussion of the idea. The goal of this review and discussion is to gain approval for the contribution. Since most people in the project community have a shared vision, there is often little need for discussion in order to reach consensus.

In general, as long as nobody explicitly opposes a proposal or patch, it is recognised as having the support of the community. This is called lazy consensus - that is, those who have not stated their opinion explicitly have implicitly agreed to the implementation of the proposal.

Lazy consensus is a very important concept within the project. It is this process that allows a large group of people to efficiently reach consensus, as someone with no objections to a proposal need not spend time stating their position, and others need not spend time reading such mails.

For lazy consensus to be effective, it is necessary to allow at least 72 hours before assuming that there are no objections to the proposal. This requirement ensures that everyone is given enough time to read, digest and respond to the proposal. This time period is chosen so as to be as inclusive as possible of all participants, regardless of their location and time commitments.

Voting

Not all decisions can be made using lazy consensus. Issues such as those affecting the strategic direction or legal standing of the project must gain explicit approval in the form of a vote. Every member of the community is encouraged to express their opinions in all discussions and all votes. However, only project committers, industry working group members, and/or Core Team members (as defined above) have binding votes for the purposes of decision making. The CycloneDX Voting Process document describes in more detail how voting is conducted.