[python-committers] [PEP 8013] The External Council Governance Model

Steve Dower steve.dower at python.org
Tue Sep 25 11:24:13 EDT 2018

Here is the text of PEP 8013 for discussion and improvement (in 
isolation from the other proposals, of course -- we're not ready for the 
shoot-out yet.)

I'm keen to see the model be considered, but I don't feel the need to 
tightly control the specific content in the PEP, so feel free to send 
your own PRs if you have definitive improvements.

For the next few days I'm also going to have varying amounts of ability 
to read and respond to email. I'll try and catch up by the weekend or 
early next week.

Rendered version at: https://www.python.org/dev/peps/pep-8013/


PEP: 8013
Title: The External Council Governance Model
Author: Steve Dower <steve.dower at python.org>
Status: Draft
Type: Informational
Content-Type: text/x-rst
Created: 2018-09-14


This PEP proposes a new model of Python governance based on a Group
of Unbiased Independent Directors of Order (GUIDO) tasked with making
final decisions for the language.  It differs from PEP 8010 by
specifically not proposing a central singular leader, and from PEP
8011 by disallowing core committers from being council members. It
describes the size and role of the council, how the initial group of
council members will be chosen, any term limits of the council
members, and how successors will be elected.

It also spends significant time discussing the intended behaviour of
this model. By design, many processes are not specified here but are
left to the people involved. In order to select people who will make
the best decisions, it is important for those involved to understand
the expectations of GUIDO but it is equally important to allow GUIDO
the freedom to adjust process requirements for varying circumstances.
This only works when process is unspecified, but all participants have
similar expectations.

This PEP does *not* name the members of GUIDO. Should this model be
adopted, it will be codified in PEP 13 along with the names of all
officeholders described in this PEP.

Open Discussion Points

Some suggestions in this document are currently weak suggestions, and
are open to change during the discussion period. These include:

* We can change the name of the group. "Council of Auditors" is the
   suggested alternative, though "Python Inquisition" is very tempting
   if we believe we can be clear about the source of the name [1]_

* We can change voting procedures, timelines, and tie-breakage rules

The Importance of the Grey Area

In any actual decision-making process, there is going to be grey area.
This includes unexpected scenarios, and cases where there is no
"correct" answer.

Many process plans attempt to minimise grey area by defining processes
clearly enough that no flexibility is required.

This proposal deliberately goes the other way. The aim is to provide a
robust framework for choosing the best people to handle unexpected
situations, without defining how those people should handle those

Examples are provided of "good" responses to some situations as an
illustration. The hope is that the "best" people are the best because
they would live up to those examples. The process that is proposed has
been designed to minimise the damage that may be caused when those
people turn out not to be the best.

Grey area is guaranteed to exist. This proposal deliberately embraces
and works within that, rather than attempting to prevent it.

Model Overview

Key people and their functions

The Group of Unbiased Independent Directors of Order (GUIDO) is a
council of varying size, typically two to four people, who are elected
for the duration of a Python release. One member of GUIDO is
considered the President, who has some minor points of authority over
the other members.

GUIDO has responsibility for reviewing controversial decisions in the
form of PEPs written by members of the core development team. GUIDO
may choose to accept a PEP exactly as presented, or may request
clarification or changes. These changes may be of any form and for any
reason. This flexibility is intentional, and allows the process to
change over time as different members are elected to GUIDO. See the
later sections of this document for examples of the kinds of requests
that are expected.

GUIDO only pronounces on PEPs submitted to python-committers. There is
no expectation that GUIDO follows or participates on any other mailing
lists. (Note that this implies that only core developers may submit
PEPs. Non-core developers may write and discuss proposals on other
mailing lists, but without a core developer willing to support the
proposal by requesting pronouncement, it cannot proceed to acceptance.
This is essentially the same as the current system, but is made
explicit here to ensure that members of GUIDO are not expected to deal
with proposals that are not supported by at least one core developer.)

GUIDO may not delegate authority to individuals who have not been
elected by the core developer team. (One relevant case here is that
this changes the implementation of the existing BDFL-Delegate system,
though without necessarily changing the spirit of that system. See the
later sections for more discussion on this point.)

The Release Manager (RM) is also permitted the same ability to request
changes on any PEPs that specify the release they are responsible for.
After feature freeze, the RM retains this responsibility for their
release, while GUIDO rotates and begins to focus on the subsequent
release. This is no different from the current process. The process
for selection of a RM is not changed in this proposal.

Core developers are responsible for electing members of GUIDO, and
have the ability to call a "vote of no confidence" against a member of
GUIDO. The details of these votes are discussed in a later section.

Where discussions between core developers and members of GUIDO appear
to be ongoing but unfruitful, the President may step in to overrule
either party. Where the discussion involves the President, it should
be handled using a vote of no confidence.

Members of GUIDO may choose to resign at any point. If at least two
members of GUIDO remain, they may request a new election to refill the
group. If only one member remains, the election is triggered
automatically. (The scenario when the President resigns is described
in a later section.)

The intended balance of power is that the core developers will elect
members of GUIDO who reflect the direction and have the trust of the
development team, and also have the ability to remove members who do
not honour commitments made prior to election.

Regular decision process

Regular decisions continue to be made as at present.

For the sake of clarity, controversial decisions require a PEP, and
any decisions requiring a PEP are considered as controversial.

GUIDO may be asked to advise on whether a decision would be better
made using the controversial decision process, or individual members
of GUIDO may volunteer such a suggestion, but the core development
team is not bound by this advice.

Controversial decision process

Controversial decisions are always written up as PEPs, following the
existing process. The approver (formerly "BDFL-Delegate") is always
GUIDO, and can no longer be delegated. Note that this does not
prevent GUIDO from deciding to nominate a core developer to assess the
proposal and provide GUIDO with a recommendation, which is essentially
the same as the current delegation process.

GUIDO will pronounce on PEPs submitted to python-committers with a
request for pronouncement. Any member of GUIDO, or the current RM, may
request changes to a PEP for any reason, provided they include some
indication of what additional work is required to meet their
expectations. See later sections for examples of expected reasons.

When all members of GUIDO and the RM indicate that they have no
concerns with a PEP, it is formally accepted. When one or more members
of GUIDO fail to respond in a reasonable time, the President of GUIDO
may choose to interpret that as implied approval. Failure of the
President to respond should be handled using a vote of no confidence.

Election terms

Members of GUIDO are elected for the duration of a release. The
members are elected prior to feature freeze for the previous release,
and hold their position until feature freeze for their release.

Members may seek re-election as many times as they like. There are no
term limits. It is up to the core developers to prevent re-election of
GUIDO members where there is consensus that the individual should not
serve again.

Election voting process

The election process for each member of GUIDO proceeds as follows:

* a nomination email is sent to python-committers
* a seconding email is sent
* the nominee is temporarily added to python-committers for the
   purpose of introducing themselves and presenting their position
* voting opens two weeks prior to the scheduled feature freeze of the
   previous release
* votes are contributed by modifying a document in a private github
* each core developer may add +1 votes for as many candidates as they
* after seven days, voting closes
* the nominee with the most votes is elected as President of GUIDO
* the next three nominees with the most votes and also at least 50%
   the number of votes received by the President are elected as the
   other members of GUIDO
* where ties need to be resolved, the RM may apply one extra vote for
   their preferred candidates
* accepted nominees remain on python-committers; others are removed

No-confidence voting process

A vote of no confidence proceeds as follows:

* a vote of no confidence email is sent to python-committers, naming
   the affected member of GUIDO, justifying the nomination, and
   optionally listing accepted PEPs that the nominator believes should
   be reverted
* a seconding email is sent within seven days
* the nominated member of GUIDO is allowed seven days to respond,
   after which the nominator or the seconder may withdraw
* if no nominator or seconder is available, no further action is
* voting opens immediately
* each core developer may add a +1 vote (remove the GUIDO member) or
   a -1 vote (keep the GUIDO member) by modifying a document in a
   private github repository
* after seven days, voting closes
* if +1 votes exceed -1 votes, the GUIDO member is removed from
   python-committers and any nominated PEPs are reverted
* if requested by the remaining members of GUIDO, or if only one
   member of GUIDO remains, a new election to replace the removed
   member may be held following the usual process.
* in the case of removing the President of GUIDO, the candidate
   who originally received the second-most votes becomes President

Examples of intended behaviour

This section describes some examples of the kind of interactions that
we hope to see between GUIDO and the core developers. None of these
are binding descriptions, but are intended to achieve some consensus
on the types of processes we expect. GUIDO candidates may campaign
on the basis of whatever process they prefer, and core developers
should allocate votes on this basis.

Scenario 1 - The Case of the Vague PEP

Often in the past, initial proposals have lacked sufficient detail to
be implementable by anyone other than the proposer. To avoid this,
GUIDO should read proposals "fresh" when submitted, and without
inferring or using any implied context. Then, when an aspect of a PEP
is not clear, GUIDO can reject the proposal and request

Since the proposal is rejected, it must be modified and resubmitted in
order to be reviewed again. GUIDO will determine how much guidance to
provide when rejecting the PEP, as that will affect how many times it
will likely be resubmitted (and hence affect GUIDO's own workload).
This ensures that the final PEP text stands alone with all required

Scenario 2 - The Case of the Endless Discussion

 From time to time, a discussion between Python contributors may seem
to be no longer providing value. For example, when a large number of
emails are repeating points that have already been dealt with, or are
actively hostile towards others, there is no point continuing the

When such a discussion is occurring on python-committers as part of a
request for pronouncement, a member of GUIDO should simply declare the
thread over by rejecting the proposal. In most known cases, discussion
of this sort indicates that not all concerns have been sufficiently
addressed in the proposal and the author may need to enhance some

Alternatively, and in the absence of any rejection from the other
members of GUIDO, the President may declare the thread over by
accepting the proposal. Ideally this would occur after directly
confirming with the rest of GUIDO and the RM that there are no
concerns among them.

When such a discussion is occurring on another list, members of GUIDO
should be viewed as respected voices similar to other core developers
(particularly those core developers who are the named experts for the
subject area). While none have specific authority to end a thread,
preemptively stating an intent to block a proposal is a useful way to
defuse potentially useless discussions. Members of GUIDO who
voluntarily follow discussions other than on python-committers are
allowed to suggest the proposer withdraw, but can only actually
approve or reject a proposal that is formally submitted for

Scenario 3 - The Case of the Unconsidered Users

Some proposals in the past may be written up and submitted for
pronouncement without considering the impact on particular groups of
users. For example, a proposal that affects the dependencies required
to use Python on various machines may have an adverse impact on some
users, even if many are unaffected due to the dependencies being
typically available by default.

Where a proposal does not appear to consider all users, GUIDO might
choose to use their judgement and past experience to determine that
more users are affected by the change than described in the PEP, and
request that the PEP also address these users. They should identify
the group of users clearly enough that the proposer is able to also
identify these users, and either clarify how they were addressed, or
made amendments to the PEP to explicitly address them. (Note that this
does not involve evaluating the usefulness of the feature to various
user groups, but simply whether the PEP indicates that the usefulness
of the feature has been evaluated.)

Where a proposal appears to have used flawed logic or incorrect data
to come to a certain conclusion, GUIDO might choose to use other
sources of information (such as the prior discussion or a submission
from other core developers) to request reconsideration of certain
points. The proposer does not necessarily need to use the exact
information obtained by GUIDO to update their proposal, provided that
whatever amendments they make are satisfactory to GUIDO. For example,
a PEP may indicate that 30% of users would be affected, while GUIDO
may argue that 70% of users are affected. A successful amendment may
include a different but more reliable percentage, or may be rewritten
to no longer depend on the number of affected users.


.. [1] The Spanish Inquisition, `<https://youtu.be/Ixgc_FGam3s>`_


This document has been placed in the public domain.

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