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Bee RFCs

Bee RFC Book

This process is modelled after the approach taken by the Rust programming language, see Rust RFC repository for more information. Also see maidsafe's RFC process for another project into the crypto space. Our approach is taken and adapted from these.

To make more substantial changes to Bee, we ask for these to go through a more organized design process --- a RFC (request for comments) process. The goal is to organize work between the different developers affiliated with the IOTA Foundation, and the wider open source community. We want to vet the ideas early on, get and give feedback, and only then start the implementation once the biggest questions are taken care of.

What is substantial and when to follow this process

You need to follow this process if you intend to make substantial changes to Bee and any of its constituting subcrates.

  • Anything that constitutes a breaking change as understood in the context of semantic versioning.
  • Any semantic or syntactic change to the existing algorithms that is not a bug fix.
  • Any proposed additional functionality and feature.
  • Anything that reduces interoperability (e.g. changes to public interfaces, the wire protocol or data serialisation.)

Some changes do not require an RFC:

  • Rephrasing, reorganizing, refactoring, or otherwise "changing shape does not change meaning".
  • Additions that strictly improve objective, numerical quality criteria (warning removal, speedup, better platform coverage, more parallelism, trap more errors, etc.)
  • Internal additions, i.e. additions that are invisible to users of the public API, and which probably will be only noticed by developers of Bee.

If you submit a pull request to implement a new feature without going through the RFC process, it may be closed with a polite request to submit an RFC first.

The workflow of the RFC process

With both Rust and maidsafe being significantly larger projects, not all the steps below might be relevant to Bee's RFC process (for example, at the moment there are no dedicated subteams). However, to instill good open source governance we attempt to follow this process already now.

In short, to get a major feature added to Bee, one must first get the RFC merged into the RFC repository as a markdown file. At that point the RFC is "active" and may be implemented with the goal of eventual inclusion into Bee.

  • Fork the RFC repository
  • Copy to text/ (where "my-feature" is descriptive; don't assign an RFC number yet; extra documents such as graphics or diagrams go into the new folder).
  • Fill in the RFC. Put care into the details: RFCs that do not present convincing motivation, demonstrate lack of understanding of the design's impact, or are disingenuous about the drawbacks or alternatives tend to be poorly-received.
  • Submit a pull request. As a pull request the RFC will receive design feedback from the larger community, and the author should be prepared to revise it in response.
  • Each pull request will be labeled with the most relevant sub-team, which will lead to its being triaged by that team in a future meeting and assigned to a member of the subteam.
  • Build consensus and integrate feedback. RFCs that have broad support are much more likely to make progress than those that don't receive any comments. Feel free to reach out to the RFC assignee in particular to get help identifying stakeholders and obstacles.
  • The sub-team will discuss the RFC pull request, as much as possible in the comment thread of the pull request itself. Offline discussion will be summarized on the pull request comment thread.
  • RFCs rarely go through this process unchanged, especially as alternatives and drawbacks are shown. You can make edits, big and small, to the RFC to clarify or change the design, but make changes as new commits to the pull request, and leave a comment on the pull request explaining your changes. Specifically, do not squash or rebase commits after they are visible on the pull request.
  • At some point, a member of the subteam will propose a "motion for final comment period" (FCP), along with a disposition for the RFC (merge, close, or postpone).
    • This step is taken when enough of the tradeoffs have been discussed that the subteam is in a position to make a decision. That does not require consensus amongst all participants in the RFC thread (which is usually impossible). However, the argument supporting the disposition on the RFC needs to have already been clearly articulated, and there should not be a strong consensus against that position outside of the subteam. Subteam members use their best judgment in taking this step, and the FCP itself ensures there is ample time and notification for stakeholders to push back if it is made prematurely.
    • For RFCs with lengthy discussion, the motion to FCP is usually preceded by a summary comment trying to lay out the current state of the discussion and major tradeoffs/points of disagreement.
    • Before actually entering FCP, all members of the subteam must sign off; this is often the point at which many subteam members first review the RFC in full depth.
  • The FCP lasts ten calendar days, so that it is open for at least 5 business days. It is also advertised widely, e.g. on discord or in a blog post. This way all stakeholders have a chance to lodge any final objections before a decision is reached.
  • In most cases, the FCP period is quiet, and the RFC is either merged or closed. However, sometimes substantial new arguments or ideas are raised, the FCP is canceled, and the RFC goes back into development mode.

The RFC life-cycle

Once an RFC becomes active then authors may implement it and submit the feature as a pull request to the repo. Being "active" is not a rubber stamp and in particular still does not mean the feature will ultimately be merged. It does mean that in principle all the major stakeholders have agreed to the feature and are amenable to merging it.

Furthermore, the fact that a given RFC has been accepted and is "active" implies nothing about what priority is assigned to its implementation, nor does it imply anything about whether a developer has been assigned the task of implementing the feature. While it is not necessary that the author of the RFC also write the implementation, it is by far the most effective way to see an RFC through to completion. Authors should not expect that other project developers will take on responsibility for implementing their accepted feature.

Modifications to active RFCs can be done in follow up PRs. We strive to write each RFC in a manner that it will reflect the final design of the feature, however, the nature of the process means that we cannot expect every merged RFC to actually reflect what the end result will be at the time of the next major release. We therefore try to keep each RFC document somewhat in sync with the network feature as planned, tracking such changes via followup pull requests to the document.

An RFC that makes it through the entire process to implementation is considered "implemented" and is moved to the "implemented" folder. An RFC that fails after becoming active is "rejected" and moves to the "rejected" folder.

Reviewing RFCs

While the RFC pull request is up, the sub-team may schedule meetings with the author and/or relevant stakeholders to discuss the issues in greater detail, and in some cases the topic may be discussed at a sub-team meeting. In either case a summary from the meeting will be posted back to the RFC pull request.

A sub-team makes final decisions about RFCs after the benefits and drawbacks are well understood. These decisions can be made at any time, but the sub-team will regularly issue decisions. When a decision is made, the RFC pull request will either be merged or closed. In either case, if the reasoning is not clear from the discussion in thread, the sub-team will add a comment describing the rationale for the decision.

Implementing an RFC

Some accepted RFCs represent vital features that need to be implemented right away. Other accepted RFCs can represent features that can wait until some arbitrary developer feels like doing the work. Every accepted RFC has an associated issue tracking its implementation in the affected repositories. Therefore, the associated issue can be assigned a priority via the triage process that the team uses for all issues in the appropriate repositories.

The author of an RFC is not obligated to implement it. Of course, the RFC author (like any other developer) is welcome to post an implementation for review after the RFC has been accepted.

If you are interested in working on the implementation for an "active" RFC, but cannot determine if someone else is already working on it, feel free to ask (e.g. by leaving a comment on the associated issue).

RFC postponement

Some RFC pull requests are tagged with the "postponed" label when they are closed (as part of the rejection process). An RFC closed with "postponed" is marked as such because we want neither to think about evaluating the proposal nor about implementing the described feature until some time in the future, and we believe that we can afford to wait until then to do so. Historically, "postponed" was used to postpone features until after 1.0. Postponed pull requests may be re-opened when the time is right. We don't have any formal process for that, you should ask members of the relevant sub-team.

Usually an RFC pull request marked as "postponed" has already passed an informal first round of evaluation, namely the round of "do we think we would ever possibly consider making this change, as outlined in the RFC pull request, or some semi-obvious variation of it." (When the answer to the latter question is "no", then the appropriate response is to close the RFC, not postpone it.)

Help! This is all too informal

The process is intended to be as lightweight as reasonable for the present circumstances. As usual, we are trying to let the process be driven by consensus and community norms, not impose more structure than necessary.

Contributions, license, copyright

This project is licensed under Apache License, Version 2.0, (LICENSE-APACHE or Any contribution intentionally submitted for inclusion in the work by you, as defined in the Apache-2.0 license, shall be licensed as above, without any additional terms or conditions.

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