FEP-a4ed: The Fediverse Enhancement Proposal Process

source: https://git.activitypub.dev/ActivityPubDev/Fediverse-Enhancement-Proposals/src/branch/main/feps/fep-a4ed.md


Hello Fediverse,

This is call for feedback and comments on the initial Fediverse Enhancement Proposal (FEP):

FEP-a4ed: The Fediverse Enhancement Proposal Process.

Summary:

A Fediverse Enhancement Proposal (FEP) is a document that provides information to the Fediverse community. The goal of a FEP is to improve interoperability and well-being of diverse services, applications and communities that form the Fediverse.

This document describes the scope, format and process of publishing Fediverse Enhancement Proposals.

This is something @lain, @cjs and myself worked on during the ActivityPubConf 2020 Hackathon (see Fediverse Enhancement Proposal (FEP)).

This initial FEP (FEP-a4ed) defines the format of a FEP and the process of publishing a FEP.

Community peer-review

The FEP publishing process is a peer-review system where you are the peers! Your comments are extremely valuable and an essential part of the process. If you have questions, comments or doubts please post. If you think this is a good idea, pleas also express your support.

Thanks!

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There is a newer draft of the IETF inclusive language document than the one mentioned. It is at https://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-knodel-terminology-04

Additionally there is a repo where input for future drafts are collected: https://github.com/ietf/terminology

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Thanks! I will update the reference.

It would be even better to reference a finalized and stable document. Do you know if/when this document will be finalized? Or an other document in similar spirit?

I PR’ed to the repo (dark patterns --> deception patterns) and contacted Mallory Knodel:

We shall see the eventual fate of this work, but for now we do keep it up to date at this link: https://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-knodel-terminology

It is now on version 4 and probably isn’t quite done evolving. Linked within the latest version is a github repository unofficially
maintained by the general area and chair of the IETF (for now).

That link redirects to latest draft. The repo README has a list of other references, but the IETF doc looks the most evolved.

The draft says “A Fediverse Enhancement Proposal can be submitted by individuals or groups of individuals (authors) by creating a pull request to the FEP repository.” without specifying what “the FEP repository” is. I assume it is https://git.activitypub.dev/ActivityPubDev/Fediverse-Enhancement-Proposals/ but that gitea instance does not allow creating accounts (OpenID may work, but I have no OpenID identity provider that I know of at the moment).

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@Claire I think for now it might be best just to make a new post on the forums with the text of the proposal?

I’ve opened up registration requiring e-mail confirmation. Emails should be sent by the server successfully now, but let me know if I need to manually activate the account for you.

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That is correct. It was left implicit as the exact location was not yet set when writing. I think it can be made explicit now.

:tada: Thanks @cjs!

@Claire, does that work for you and resolve the issue?

I’d prefer if the exact file containing the proposal would be submitted. Posting on this forum would require extracting the Markdown (and meta-data) which I don’t think can be reliably done.

FEPs should be as easy to submit as possible and I would be open to other means of submission. For example:

  • Mirror the FEP repository on a popular Git-thing (e.g. GitHub) and also accept submissions there. The list of “endorsed” mirrors where submissions are accepted could be kept in a MIRRORS file in the FEP repository.
  • Accept submission by e-mail.

What are thoughts on a GitHub mirror or accepting submissions by Mail? (CC: @cjs, @lain)

Yeah, that works, opened a PR!

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I don’t know if it is better, but this link also tracks the IETF terminology doc https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/draft-knodel-terminology/ (found via the W3C Internet Diversity CG which also has a Manual of Style with terminology suggestions).

A small update to FEP-a4ed just got merged. I hope this addresses the issues raised here. Quick summary:

  • Identifiers are now only 4 characters long (FEP-a4ed instead of FEP-a4edc7b). Slightly more memorable at a probably acceptable chance of collision.
  • Updated IETF Terminology draft to latest version (thanks @aschrijver)
  • Add a SUBMISSION_METHODS file to the root of the repository that includes the exact address of the repo and how to submit a proposal. This addressed the issue brought up by @Claire and at the same time allows the repo to be moved if ever necessary.

See the pull request for a diff: https://git.activitypub.dev/ActivityPubDev/Fediverse-Enhancement-Proposals/pulls/5

Some notes on the proposal status (as an illustration how submission process works):

  • It has been 46 days since FEP-a4ed was submitted (16th October 2020).
  • The initial draft period lasts for at least 60 days - until the 15th of December 2020.
  • On the 15th of December (or shortly after) I will request final comments on the proposal from you, the community. If there are no objections the propsoal will be finalized (receive status FINAL 14 days after - on the 29th of December)

The submission process takes a bit of time. The hope is that such a long time allows comments, suggestions and objections to be made without haste.

Personally, I am happy with the pace. The submission has not required constant attention from me and the work involved is reasonable.

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Nice work!

I think what’s still missing is what happens when things get FINAL. We have created something authoritative now, right? So that should be advertised on a prominent location preferably. I wonder about the current location being most suitable for that. I see git.activitypub.dev more as the workspace for FEP’s, and ideally, maybe FINAL FEB’s should be mentioned on activitypub.rocks landing page (though just linked to the repo with some info to it, that would be enough imho). Activitypub.rocks is #1 search result for ActivityPub and authoritative for the spec (besides the W3C, of course).

Also a topic with pointers and explainer might be permanently pinned to the top of this forum: “FEP’s: Wanna enhance the Fediverse? Here’s how the process works”

Edit: Oh, and imho the README should have a list or table of FEP’s in the repo, with link + brief description + status.

Some other feedback:

  • In Readme: “[After submission] you are now required to 
” and in FEP-a4ed “Authors are responsible 
”. I find the latter a better, more friendly description.
  • But what if someone started with good intention, FEP accepted, then slacks off in doing community outreach, asks for finalization, and after 2wks
 it becomes FINAL?

I am not familiar with FEP processes, but the last point may mean that hardly anyone noticed the FEP in the first place, and the FEP is of little value or detrimental to the quality of the process itself. Maybe there should be an additional step, where ‘the community’ feedback must be collected in the repo (e.g. as issue comments), even if to explicitly state “I stand behind this proposal” which is as valuable as discussions (especially when coming directly from fedi app maintainers).

Additionally either the FEP repo or activitypub.rocks or both might keep track of projects that have actually adopted / incorporated / implemented the FEP, which serves to demontrate its usefulness, and is both encouragement for others to adopt, as well as providing reference material (e.g. example code) for doing so.

Hello,

I created a new topic to host this discussion so it provides:

  1. a direct link to the repository entry
  2. a clean first post to host the future final version

I described the whole thing in About the Fediverse Enhancement Proposals.

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Absolutely. The idea was to first concentrate on the FEP documents itself and once it is in half-way decent form allow it to be presented in a nicer format. The document structure of FEPs was intentionally made easy to use from static-site generators. Some ideas on how and where to present FEPs in a nicer format:

  • library.activitypub.dev (cc @cjs)
  • activitypub.rocks: I’m all for adding FEPs there as well. I can submit a patch that makes haunt read FEPs and display them. However, who controls activitypub.rocks? Where and who hosts the site? Who decides what goes on there? And why not move git.activitypub.dev to git.activitypub.rocks? I think this should be forked to a topic for itself.

Props to @how for doing this.

This is something that can be very well be done by a static-site generator (or similar) and I am a bit reluctant to add it, as it does add considerable maintenance burden.

Ok, if we concentrate on doing this in a nice presentation of FEPs (e.g. library.activitypub.dev) and revisit index in README after?

:+1: done (https://git.activitypub.dev/ActivityPubDev/Fediverse-Enhancement-Proposals/pulls/6)

The default path is: DRAFT -> WITHDRAWN. And if interest in a proposal fades this is what would happen.

There is a lot of room for interpretation what is required for a proposal to be come final. FEP-a4ed says:

  - If there are no community objections within 14 days and the authors can show that they have initiated sufficient awareness and discussion of the proposal, an editor will set the status of the submission to `FINAL`.

The “burden-of-proof” lies with the author but what exactly is “sufficient awareness and discussion” is vague.

I hope a general understanding of what this means will develop naturally and we do not have to specify strictly the form and medium of discussion.

I’d suggest leaving it out of FEP-a4ed. In the future when we have tested the waters and seen what kind of discussions work, we might have a FEP-6c17: Best Practices for Initiating Discussion and Collecting Feedback on a FEP proposal. What do you think?

I invite you to consider yourself familiar with the process. :slight_smile:

There should not be much magic to it. The goal of FEP-a4ed is to understandably and correctly describe the process.

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Yes, that would also work if the README contains a clear reference to the list. Agreed.

Super idea.

Woot, thx   :partying_face:

Some remarks regarding FEP-f1d5: NodeInfo in Fediverse Software

The discussion of a possible security issue took place in a toot, and was followed-up on the forum, where - in this situation - it may be decided that this should not be documented in the FEP (as it is arguably a ‘security-by-obscurity’ issue that makes matters worse), BUT


The issue was a valid point that was brought up, and the decision not to include is possibly made somewhere deep in a long forum discussion thread. Not only should the original author be aware of it, but any other AP implementer should too.

Therefore 2 things may be part of the FEP document format:

  • A list of open issues, or rather decision points, where the outcome may be documented too e.g.: “We’ll avoid security-by-obscurity and include version information”
  • A link to the forum discussion topic / post where the decision was argumented and taken.

My personal vote is for the second option, for FEPs to link to:

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@cjs yes, that would be easiest maintenance-wise, and I think that this should be included in the FEP template, imho.

On the other point my experience is that discussion threads (such as this one with now 18 comments, or the Followers Sync FEP with 41 posts) are so easily TL;DR’ed, where they just respond to the most recent comment. You could say it is their fault then if they missed an open issue or decision in parsing the history of the thread. This saves the author some time, but shifts the burden to each and every reader.

The authors are probably most deeply aware of all ins and outs of the FEP, and are responsible for the collection of feedback already. Part of that might include providing this summary of open issues / decision points that allow readers to drill into the subject matter quickly.

Right now the issue tracker in the FEP repo is unused. The workflow might be that - as soon as an open issue pops up in discussion - someone (e.g. the author) creates a FEP-related issue, with an appropriate label, and maybe a user assignment indicating who is responsible for dealing with it. So for example:

FEP-f1d5: Include software.version in NodeInfo?   [decision]

Assigned to: @cjs
Discussion: https://socialhub.activitypub.rocks/t/fep-f1d5-nodeinfo-in-fediverse-software/1190/4

@macgirvin proposed to exclude software.version from NodeInfo because inclusion might pose a security issue.

The issue need not be larger than that. Discussion is on the forum. Once a clear agreement is reached the issue is updated with a [resolved] label and some text, then closed. Before the FEP enters finalization stage the Issues should be added to References section (or a separate section just for issues).

(Note that you could also create individual labels for each FEP, and then there’s no need to create a list, but instead you include the url to the filtered issues on that label in References section)

Sure, this would work. There should be an easy navigation from the static site to the markdown doc to PR to in the repo then.

I guess in my most recent comments above, it indicates there’s already a need for this, but in a slightly more specific and practical manner (if y’all agree with that feedback, that is).