[Python-ideas] PEPs: Theory of operation [was: Moving to another forum system ...]

Wes Turner wes.turner at gmail.com
Sat Sep 22 05:59:29 EDT 2018

On Saturday, September 22, 2018, Wes Turner <wes.turner at gmail.com> wrote:

> It seems like everything's fine, but I would have no idea, BTW

Would project boards be helpful for coordinating proposal status
information, or extra process for something that's already working just



TBH, I like Waffle.io boards, but core team may be more comfortable with GH
projects with swimlanes?

> [] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorum_call
> On Saturday, September 22, 2018, Stephen J. Turnbull <
> turnbull.stephen.fw at u.tsukuba.ac.jp> wrote:
>> Executive summary:  Writing a PEP is an inherently uncertain process.
>> Achieving "community consensus" is the goal of the process, not a
>> precondition.
>> Anders Hovmöller writes:
>>  >  In general pep1 is frustratingly vague. Terms like “community
>>  >  consensus” without defining community or what numbers would
>>  >  constitute a consensus are not fun to read as someone who doesn’t
>>  >  personally know anyone of the core devs. Further references to
>>  >  Guido are even more frustrating now that he’s bowed out.
>> These terms have little to do with what a new PEP's proponent needs to
>> think about, though.  A PEP-able proposal by definition involves
>> uncertainty.  Nobody, not even Guido, can tell you in advance whether
>> a PEP will be accepted (for implementation).  The PEP process is
>> rigorous enough that by the time you get close to needing consensus to
>> proceed, you'll know what it means.
>> "Community consensus" is not a condition for *anything* in the PEP
>> process, except final acceptance.  It is the *goal* of the process.
>> PEPs are approved (for publication) by default; the only requirement
>> is editorial completeness.  PEPs are needed for two reasons: (1) to
>> get the input of the community, both highly competent engineers for
>> implementation and a variety of users for requirements, to refine a
>> complex proposal or one with far-reaching implications for the
>> language, and/or (2) to build a consensus for implementation.  Either
>> way, by definition the outcome is unclear at the beginning.
>> If your concern about "consensus" is that you want to know whether
>> you're likely to get to consensus, and an accepted PEP, ask somebody
>> who seems sympathetic and experienced enough to know about what it
>> looks like on the list when a PEP is going to succeed.  Anything
>> PEP-able is sufficiently unclear that rules can't be given in PEP 1.
>> It is possible only to say that Python is now very mature, and there's
>> a strong conservative bias against change.  That doesn't mean there
>> aren't changes: Python attracts a lot of feature proposals, so the
>> rate of change isn't slowing although the acceptance rate is declining
>> gradually.
>> "Consensus" is never defined by numbers in the English language, and
>> it does not mean "unanimity".  In PEP 1, it means that some people
>> agree, most people don't disagree, and even if a senior person
>> disagrees, they're willing to go along with the "sense of the
>> community".  As that adjective "senior" implies, some people count
>> more to the consensus than others.  Usually when I write "senior" I'm
>> referring to core developers (committers), but here there
>> people who are "senior" enough despite not having commit bits.[1]
>> "The community" is not well defined, and it can't be, short of a
>> doctoral dissertation in anthropology.  The relevant channels are
>> open-participation, some people speak for themselves, some people are
>> "official" representatives of important constituencies such as the
>> leaders of large independent projects or alternative implementations,
>> and some people have acquired sufficient reputation to be considered
>> representative of a group of people (especially when other members of
>> the group rarely participate in the dev lists but for some reason are
>> considered important to the community -- I'm thinking in particular of
>> sysadmins and devops, and the problems we can cause them by messing
>> with packaging and installation).
>> References to the BDFL are, of course, in limbo.  AFAIK we don't have
>> one at the moment.  Until we do, any PEPs will presumably be accepted
>> either by a self-nominated BDFL-Delegate acceptable to the core devs,
>> or by an ad hoc committee of interested core devs, and that part of
>> PEP 1 can't be usefully updated yet.  This is not a weakness of the
>> Python project, IMO.  Rather, the fact that, despite a sort of
>> constitutional crisis, the whole process is continuing pretty much as
>> usual shows its strength.
>> This is possible because the BDFL is not, and has not been for many
>> years, a "hands-on" manager.  It's true that where a proposal affects
>> his own "development *in* Python", he's likely to work closely with a
>> proponent, off- and on-list, or even *be* the proponent.  Of course
>> such proposals are more likely to be approved, and a few community
>> members have pushed back on that because it appears undemocratic.  But
>> the general reaction is "maybe 'Although that way may not be obvious
>> at first unless you're Dutch' applies to me in such cases!"  For most
>> proposals, he's "just" a very senior developer whose comments are
>> important because he's a great developer, but he is easily swayed by
>> the sense of the community.  Bottom line: except in the rare case
>> where your proposal directly affects the BDFL's own coding, the BDFL's
>> now-traditional role is to declare that consensus has been achieved,
>> postpone the PEP because it's clear that consensus is not forming, or
>> in rare cases, make a choice despite the lack of consensus.
>> But none of this is really of importance to a PEP proponent
>> ("champion" in the terminology of PEP 1).  PEP 1 is quite specific
>> about the required components of the document, and many points of
>> formatting and style.  Accept the uncertainty, and do what you need to
>> do to meet those requirements, that's all there is to it.  If the
>> community wants more, or wants changes, it will tell you, either as a
>> demand about style or missing content from an editor or as a technical
>> comment on the list.  Whether you accept those technical comments is
>> up to you, but your star will rise far more rapidly if you are very
>> sensitive to claims that "this change to the PEP will a big
>> improvement for some significant consituency in the community".  If
>> you want advice on whether the chance of acceptance is high enough to
>> be worth putting in more work, ask the BDFL-Delegate (or the BDFL if
>> she/he has "claimed" the PEP) where the proposal has an official
>> adjudicator, and if not, a senior core developer.
>> If one doesn't know who the senior developers are yet, she should think
>> twice about whether she's ready to PEP anything.  That's not a litmus
>> test; some PEPs have eventually succeeded though the proponent was new
>> to the project development process.[2]  But it's a lot less painful if
>> you can tell who's likely to be able to sway the whole project one way
>> or the other.  And as a matter of improving your proposal, who surely
>> does know more about what your proposal implies for the implementation
>> than you do, so you should strongly consider whether *you* are the one
>> who's missing something when you disagree with them.
>> Footnotes:
>> [1]  They are familiar to some of the core developers as drivers of
>> important projects developing *in* Python.
>> [2]  The ones I can think of involve the same kind of person as
>> footnote 1, and a co-proponent who was a core developer.
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