FFmpeg as SPI associated project

Ian Jackson ijackson at chiark.greenend.org.uk
Thu May 31 12:33:34 UTC 2012

Stefano Sabatini writes ("Re: FFmpeg as SPI associated project"):
> In data Friday 2012-05-25 08:29:11 +1000, Robert Brockway ha scritto:
> Yes I'm not an autocrat ;-). That said from my reading of the SPI
> associated project HOWTO i see no mention that the liaison must
> coincide with the project leader/maintainer/BDFL/whatever.

Yes, that's fine.

My problem is that the draft SPI resolution says:

  4. Stefano Sabatini is recognised by SPI as the authoritative decision
      maker and SPI liaison for FFmpeg.  [...]

"Authoritative decisionmaker" is a mealy-mouthed way of saying
"autocrat".  I should know: I wrote that wording for the benefit of a
project which was in fact run as an autocracy.  And if you are in any
doubt, please do consult a dictionary.  "The authoritative
decisionmaker for FFmpeg" is the person whose decisions about FFmpeg
are in themselves authoritative - ie, the autocrat.  Which FFmpeg
doesn't have.

This part of these project acceptance resolutions is not some kind of
template which needs to just have the project name and the liason name
plugged into it.  This clause is supposed to state what SPI's
understanding is of FFmpeg's governance structure.  It is obviously
important for SPI to know what FFmpeg's governance structure is so
that SPI can honour it.  (And that needs to be sorted out in advance
of any dispute arising, so just because things are all rosy now
doesn't mean it's not important.)  The purpose of putting this clause
in these accession resolutions is to make a clear public statement,
for review both by SPI and the proposed project, of what the common
understanding is.

So as I say since FFmpeg is not an autocracy, it is not correct to say
that "Stefano Sabatini is the authoritative decisionmaker for FFmpeg".
Rather, that is a false statement.  Therefore "SPI recognises that
Stefano is the authoritative decisionmaker" is also inappropriate.
SPI should not "recognise that {false statement}".

Hence my proposed alternative wording:

    Stefano Sabatini is recognised by SPI as the current liason for
    FFmpeg.  SPI expects him to inform us of decisions relating to SPI
    made by the FFmpeg project, and we will honour his requests in
    accordance with the Framework for Associated Projects.

    However FFmpeg does not currently have a formal governance
    structure.  Therefore in case of significant dispute, SPI will
    follow what appears to the SPI Board to be the rough consensus
    view of the FFmpeg project committers.

Is this a proper understanding and reflection of FFmpeg's governance
structure ?

> Some reasons for which we opted to have this power "division": first
> and foremost, avoid to charge the current project maintainer with more
> administrative burden, limit the power/harm/abuse of a single decision
> maker with regards to funds management (at the cost of a potential
> slow down of the decision process), and at the same time give more
> "legitimation" to the approved decision since it has to be approved by
> at least two persons.

That's entirely for FFmpeg to decide.

> (Currently we devised a mechanism where the liaison approves a
> request, and the project maintainer can veto it during a one week
> timeframe).

That's entirely for FFmpeg to decide.  

But to make this workable, we need to have a process from SPI's point
of view that relies on trusting the liason for day-to-day stuff.

That is, the point of having the liason is not that the liason's word
is definitive with respect to what SPI does.  The point is that the
liason is responsible for communicating decisions (however made) to
SPI.  So whenever some decision (eg a spending decision) is made by
FFmpeg (collectively, in whatever way is established for and by
FFmpeg), the liason communicates that to SPI by saying `we have
decided that we would like to spend $X on Y' and the SPI Treasurer
writes a cheque or whatever.

If the liason breaches FFmpeg's processes (for example by sending
unilateral requests to SPI for money to be spent, or whatever) they
would, in effect, be lying to SPI.

We hope that if that should happen, someone else from FFmpeg would
notice and bring it to SPI's attention.  Then SPI would consult the
accession resolution to see how to resolve the dispute.  So the
accession resolution needs to say what to do.

In this case Robert's wording would imply that the dispute would be
resolved by doing whatever Stefano Sabatini says.  (I know Robert
doesn't seem to think that, but I think that's what `authoritative
decisionmaker' means.  Even Robert should see that we need a wording
which is not subject to disputes about its meaning.)

In this case my wording would mean someone from SPI would have to
figure out who the current FFmpeg committers were, and ask them.

Would that be correct ?  If so, then we should IMO have my wording or
something like it.  If not then we need something different.


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