CKI-001: CKI feedback mechanism

Description of the process behind the CKI feedback mechanism based on Requests for Comments (RFCs)
Michael Hofmann – cki-project/documentation!49

Abstract

This document specifies the process behind the feedback mechanism for the CKI project based on Request for Comments (RFCs). Each RFC documents a need, proposed solutions and links to the related discussions.

Motivation

The internal Red Hat #kernelci IRC channel is the place where nearly all CKI project communication happens. Unless a project member is online, logged into IRC and paying attention all the time, ad-hoc discussion of important topics might be missed. As a consequence, people might feel left out of the decision-making process, and proposed solutions might suffer from the lack of feedback.

Approach

A structured process for gathering feedback is introduced.

CKI RFCs (“Requests for Comments”) are markdown documents proposing to create or change something, and soliciting discussion and feedback. They live in the documentation repository and can be browsed at https://cki-project.org/docs/hacking/rfcs/. They are submitted and discussed via merge requests. Within the default time frame of one week, everyone is invited to give feedback on them.

Submitting RFCs is not required, but all CKI project members are encouraged to submit RFCs for proposals that affect the whole project, or where they want to gather feedback on how to proceed.

Submitting RFCs is not blocking the implementation. If possible, the implementation of the proposal should only be started after the feedback has been collected, but this is not mandatory.

Steps to submit a new RFC

  1. Fork and clone the documentation repository via

    # fork using the GitLab UI
    git clone https://gitlab.com/your-user-name/documentation
    git submodule update --init --recursive
    ./update-inventory.sh
    

    The README.md file contains instructions on how to preview the rendered documentation.

  2. Create a new RFC markdown document in content/docs/hacking/rfcs via

    cp content/docs/hacking/rfcs/cki-000-template.md content/docs/hacking/rfcs/cki-XXX-description.md
    

    Replace XXX by the next unused RFC number.

  3. Fill in the RFC document:

    • Motivation: Why is this RFC needed?
    • Approach: What is the proposed solution? Which steps are needed?
    • Benefits: What is the expected outcome?
    • Drawbacks: Why should we not do this?
    • Alternatives: Which alternative approaches are available?
  4. Prefix the commit description with [RFC]. Push it to a branch in your fork, and create a new merge request. Update the merge request number in the metadata of the document. Mark the merge request as Draft.

  5. When you are happy with the RFC draft, mark the merge request as ready by removing the Draft from the title.

  6. Assign required reviewers and ping all CKI project members by mentioning @cki-project in a comment.

  7. Everybody has one week from RFC submission to provide feedback and discuss the proposal in the merge request. If needed, this time frame can be extended. The authors incorporate the feedback into the proposal.

  8. The merge request is merged.

Benefits

The described feedback process has multiple benefits:

  • the RFC template helps the authors to explain their proposal in a structured way and makes giving feedback easier
  • it provides a clear way to discuss a proposal with all CKI project members
  • it allows to access more points of view and create awareness of the topic and proposal

The process will also improve the way the CKI project operates as an environment “where the best ideas win”. If the authors care about a topic enough to create an RFC document, they should be trusted to do the right thing.

On the one hand, with the feedback gathered via the described process, the authors should be able to continue further with the proposed or a modified solution, or abandon it. It is their decision. They don’t need to wait for everyone’s confirmation of their proposal.

On the other hand, authors will be held accountable. They have to follow up on their proposal and see it to completion. That does not mean that they will be blamed on failure.

Drawbacks

The described process is only able to gather feedback on a proposal. It is not suited to reach consensus on contentious topics.

Alternatives

Feedback could also be gathered via

  • ad-hoc Etherpads
  • dedicated time slots for discussions either on IRC or in-person
  • GitLab issues

All of the above would result in a less structured way for gathering feedback.

References

Last modified September 7, 2021: Replace meritocracy term (db381ac)