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Working Group GitHub Usage Guidance

The information below is for an old version of the document.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft that was ultimately published as RFC 8874.
Authors Martin Thomson , Barbara Stark
Last updated 2020-03-03 (Latest revision 2020-02-16)
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
Stream WG state Submitted to IESG for Publication
Document shepherd Christopher A. Wood
Shepherd write-up Show Last changed 2020-01-20
IESG IESG state Became RFC 8874 (Informational)
Consensus boilerplate Yes
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD Alissa Cooper
Send notices to Christopher Wood <>
IANA IANA review state IANA OK - No Actions Needed
Network                                                       M. Thomson
Internet-Draft                                                   Mozilla
Intended status: Best Current Practice                          B. Stark
Expires: 19 August 2020                                             AT&T
                                                        16 February 2020

                  Working Group GitHub Usage Guidance


   This document describes best practices for Working Groups that use
   GitHub for their work.

Note to Readers

   Discussion of this document takes place on the GitHub@ietf mailing
   list (, which is archived at

   Source for this draft and an issue tracker can be found at (

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 19 August 2020.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2020 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Simplified BSD License text
   as described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     1.1.  Distributed Version Control Systems . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     1.2.  GitHub  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     1.3.  Other Services  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     1.4.  Document Goals  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     1.5.  Notational Conventions  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   2.  Administrative Policies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     2.1.  Organizations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
     2.2.  Communicating Policies  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   3.  Deciding to Use GitHub  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     3.1.  What to Use GitHub For  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     3.2.  Repositories  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     3.3.  Editors and Contributors  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     3.4.  Document Formats  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   4.  Contribution Methods  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     4.1.  Issue Tracker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
       4.1.1.  Issue Labels  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       4.1.2.  Closing Issues  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
       4.1.3.  Reopening Issues  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
     4.2.  Pull Requests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       4.2.1.  Discussion on Pull Requests . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
       4.2.2.  Merging Pull Requests . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     4.3.  Monitoring Activity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
   5.  Typical Working Group Policies  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
     5.1.  Document Management Mode  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     5.2.  Issue Tracking Mode . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  13
     5.3.  Issue Discussion Mode . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
       5.3.1.  Early Design Phases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
       5.3.2.  Managing Mature Documents . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
     5.4.  Issue Labelling Schemes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
       5.4.1.  Editorial/Design Labelling  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
       5.4.2.  Decision Labelling  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
       5.4.3.  Component Labelling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
       5.4.4.  Other Labels  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
   6.  Internet-Draft Publication  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   7.  Assessing Consensus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   8.  Continuous Integration  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19

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   9.  Advice to Editors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
   10. Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  20
   11. IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
   12. References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
     12.1.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
     12.2.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
   Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  22
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  22

1.  Introduction

   The IETF has an open and transparent process for developing
   standards.  The use of GitHub ( or similar tools,
   when used as part of this process, can have several objectives.
   GitHub provides tools that can be helpful in editing documents.  Use
   of this service has been found to reduce the time that Working Groups
   need to produce documents and to improve the quality of the final

   The use of version control improves traceability and visibility of
   changes.  Issue tracking can be used to manage open issues and
   provide a record of their resolution.  Pull requests allow for better
   engagement on technical and editorial changes, and encourage
   contributions from a larger set of contributors.  Using GitHub can
   also broaden the community of contributors for a specification.

   The main purpose of this document is providing guidelines for how
   Working Groups might integrate the capabilities provided by GitHub
   into their processes for developing Internet-Drafts.

   This document is meant as a supplement to existing Working Group
   practices.  It provides guidance to Working Group chairs and
   participants on how they can best use GitHub within the framework
   established by RFC 2418 [RFC2418].  This document aims to establish
   norms that reduce the variation in usage patterns between different
   Working Groups and to help avoid issues that have been encountered in
   the past.

   A companion document, [GH-CONFIG], describes administrative processes
   that support the practices described in this document.

   Although similar, guidance for IRTF Research Groups is out of scope
   for this document.  However, such groups may draw inspiration for
   GitHub use from the contents herein.

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1.1.  Distributed Version Control Systems

   Version control systems are a critical component of software
   engineering and are also quite useful for document editing.

   Git ( is a distributed version control system
   that can operate without a central service.  Each instance of a
   repository contains a number of revisions.  Each revision stores the
   complete state of a set of files.  Users are able to create new
   revisions in their copy of a repository and share revisions between
   copies of repositories.

1.2.  GitHub

   GitHub is a service operated at
   (  GitHub provides centralized storage for git
   repositories.  GitHub is freely accessible on the open Internet,
   albeit currently only via IPv4.

   GitHub provides a simplified and integrated interface to not only
   git, but also provides basic user management, an issue tracker,
   associated wikis, project hosting, and other features.

   There are a large number of projects at GitHub and a very large
   community of contributors.  One way in which some IETF Working Groups
   have benefited is through increased numbers of reviews and associated
   issues, along with other improvements that come from broader
   participation by facilitating those in the community to participate.

1.3.  Other Services

   Git is not the only version control system available, nor is GitHub
   the only possible choice for hosting.  There are other services that
   host revision control repositories and provide similar additional
   features to GitHub.  For instance, BitBucket (
   and GitLab ( provide similar feature sets.
   In addition to a hosted service, software for custom installations

   This document concentrates primarily on GitHub as it has a large and
   active community of contributors.  As a result, some content might
   not be applicable to other similar services.  A Working Group that
   decides to adopt an alternative tool or service can still benefit
   from the general guidance in this document.

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1.4.  Document Goals

   This document aims to describe how a Working Group might best apply
   GitHub to their work.  The intent is to allow each Working Group
   considerable flexibility in how they use GitHub.

   This document requires that policies for use of GitHub are agreed and
   clearly communicated within the Working Group (see Section 2).  The
   remainder of the document contains guidelines and advice on how to
   construct a workable policy.

   The requirements here apply to the case where Working Groups decide
   to use GitHub as a primary means of interaction.  Individuals can set
   their own policies when using GitHub for managing their own drafts,
   or for managing drafts that they edit on behalf of a Working Group
   that has not explicitly adopted GitHub.

   For both sets of users, this document aims to provide some amount of
   advice on practices that have been effective.

   This document only aims to address use of GitHub in developing
   documents.  Working Groups could choose to use the tool to aid in
   managing their charter or session materials such as agendas, minutes,
   and presentations.  Though the advice here might apply more broadly,
   using GitHub to manage other material is out of scope for this

1.5.  Notational Conventions

   The words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", and "MAY" are
   used in this document.  It's not shouting; when they are capitalized,
   they have the special meaning defined in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174].

2.  Administrative Policies

   The following administrative rules provide the necessary oversight
   and transparency.

2.1.  Organizations

   Organizations are a way of forming groups of contributors on GitHub.
   Each Working Group SHOULD create a new organization for the Working
   Group.  A Working Group organization SHOULD be named consistently so
   that it can be found.  For instance, the name could be ietf-
   wg-<wgname>, as recommended in [GH-CONFIG].

   A single organization SHOULD NOT be used for all IETF activity, or
   all activity within an area.  Large organizations create too much

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   overhead for general management tasks, particularly when there is a
   need to maintain membership.

   Each organization requires owners.  The owner team for a Working
   Group repository MUST include responsible Area Directors.  Area
   Directors MAY also designate a delegate that becomes an owner and
   Working Group chairs MAY also be owners.

   A team with administrator access SHOULD be created for the Working
   Group Chairs and any Working Group Secretary.  Administrator access
   is preferable, since this does not also include the ability to push
   to all repositories and ownership does not grant any other
   significant privileges.

   Details about creating organizations adhering to these guidelines can
   be found in [GH-CONFIG].

2.2.  Communicating Policies

   Each Working Group MAY set its own policy as to whether and how it
   uses GitHub.  It is important that occasional participants in the WG
   and others accustomed to IETF tools be able to determine this and
   easily find the policy and GitHub organization.

   A simple example of how to do this is to include a link to the GitHub
   organization on the WG Charter page in the datatracker.  Similarly,
   if there are multiple mailing list options, links to those mailing
   lists should be given.

   Repositories MUST include a copy or reference to the policy that
   applies to managing any documents they contain.  Updating the README
   or CONTRIBUTING file in the repository with details of the process
   ensures that the process is recorded in a stable location other than
   the mailing list archive.  This also makes Working Group policies
   available to casual contributors who might only interact with the
   GitHub repository.

   GitHub prominently links to the CONTRIBUTING file on certain pages.
   This file SHOULD be used in preference to the README for information
   that new contributors need.  The README SHOULD contain a link to the

   In addition to Working Group policies, notices on repositories MUST
   include citations for the IETF Note Well (

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3.  Deciding to Use GitHub

   Working Group Chairs are responsible for determining how to best
   accomplish the charter objectives in an open and transparent fashion.
   The Working Group Chairs are responsible for determining if there is
   interest in using GitHub and making a consensus call to determine if
   the proposed policy and use is acceptable.

   Chairs MUST involve Area Directors in any decision to use GitHub for
   anything more than managing drafts.

3.1.  What to Use GitHub For

   Working Group Chairs decide what GitHub features the Working Group
   will rely upon.  Section 4 contains a more thorough discussion on the
   different features that can be used.

   Working Group Chairs who decide to use GitHub MUST inform their
   Working Groups of their decision on the Working Group mailing list.
   An email detailing how the Working Group intends to use GitHub is
   sufficient, though it might be helpful to occasionally remind new
   contributors of these guidelines.

   Working Group Chairs are responsible for ensuring that any policy
   they adopt is enforced and maintained.

   The set of GitHub features (Section 4) that the Working Group relies
   upon need to be clearly documented in policies.  This document
   provides some guidance on potential policies and how those might be

   Features that the Working Group does not rely upon SHOULD be made
   available to document editors.  Editors are then able to use these
   features for their own purposes.  For example, though the Working
   Group might not formally use issues to track items that require
   further discussion in order to reach consensus, keeping the issue
   tracker available to editors can be valuable.

   Working Group policies need to be set with the goal of improving
   transparency, participation, and ultimately the quality of the
   consensus behind documents.  At times, it might be appropriate to
   impose some limitations on what document editors are able to do in
   order to serve these goals.  Chairs SHOULD periodically consult with
   document editors to ensure that policies are effective.

   A document editor can still use GitHub independently for documents
   that they edit, even if the Working Group does not expressly choose
   to use GitHub.  Any such public repository MUST follow the IETF Note

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   Well and bear notices; see Section 2.2.  This recognizes that editors
   have traditionally chosen their own methods for managing the
   documents they edit but preserves the need for contributors to
   understand their obligations with respect to IETF processes.

   Work done in GitHub has no special status.  The output of any
   activity using GitHub needs to be taken to the Working Group and is
   subject to approval, rejection, or modification by the Working Group
   as with any other input.

3.2.  Repositories

   New repositories can be created within the Working Group organization
   at the discretion of the chairs.  Chairs could decide to only create
   new repositories for adopted Working Group items, or they might
   create repositories for individual documents on request.

   All repositories for Working Group documents within the Working Group
   organization MUST be public.  Repositories for private documents MAY
   be kept private, but only where there is a specific reason for doing
   so.  For instance, a document that details a security vulnerability
   might be kept private prior to its initial publication as an
   Internet-Draft.  Once an Internet-Draft is published, repositories
   SHOULD be made public.

   The adoption status of any document MUST be clear from the contents
   of the repository.  This can be achieved by having the name of the
   document reflect status (that is, draft-ietf-<wgname>-... indicates
   that the document was adopted), or through a prominent notice (such
   as in the README).

   Experience has shown that maintaining separate repositories for
   independent documents is most manageable.  This allows the work in
   that repository to be focused on a single item.

   Closely related documents, such as those that together address a
   single milestone, might be placed in a single repository.  This
   allows editors to more easily manage changes and issues that affect
   multiple documents.

   Maintaining multiple documents in the same repository can add
   overhead that negatively affects individual documents.  For instance,
   issues might require additional markings to identify the document
   that they affect.  Also, because editors all have write access to the
   repository, managing the set of people with write access to a larger
   repository is more difficult (Section 3.3).

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3.3.  Editors and Contributors

   Working Group chairs MUST give document editors write access to
   document repositories.  This can be done by creating teams with write
   access and allocating editors to those teams, or by making editors
   collaborators on the repository.

   Working Group chairs MAY also grant other individuals write access
   for other reasons, such as maintaining supporting code or build
   configurations.  Working Group chairs, as administrators or owners of
   the organization might also have write access to repositories.  Users
   other than document editors, including chairs, SHOULD NOT write to
   Working Group documents without prior coordination with document

   Working Groups MAY create a team for regular contributors that is
   only given read access to a repository.  This does not confer
   additional privileges on these contributors, it instead allows for
   issues and pull requests to be assigned to those people.  This can be
   used to manage the assignment of editorial or review tasks to
   individuals outside of the editor team.

3.4.  Document Formats

   In addition to the canonical XML format [RFC7991], document editors
   might choose to use a different input form for editing documents,
   such as Markdown.  Markdown-based formats are more accessible for new
   contributors, though ultimately decisions about format is left to
   document editors.

   Formats that are not text-based SHOULD NOT be used, as these are ill-
   disposed to the sorts of interaction that revision control enables.

4.  Contribution Methods

   Contributions to documents come in many forms.  GitHub provides a
   range of options in addition to email.  Input on GitHub can take the
   form of new issues and pull requests, comments on issues and pull
   requests, and comments on commits.

4.1.  Issue Tracker

   The GitHub issue tracker can be an effective way of managing the set
   of open issues on a document.  Issues - both open and closed - can be
   a useful way of recording decisions made by a Working Group.

   Issues can be given arbitrary labels, assigned to contributors, and
   assembled into milestones.  The issue tracker is integrated into the

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   repository; an issue can be closed using a special marker in a commit

   When deciding to use GitHub, Working Group Chairs MUST decide how the
   GitHub issue tracker is used.  Use of the issue tracker could be
   limited to recording the existence of issues, or it might be used as
   the venue for substantial technical discussion between contributors.

   A Working Group policy MAY require that all substantive changes be
   tracked using issues.  Suggested policies for the use of the GitHub
   issue tracker are the primary subject of Section 5.

4.1.1.  Issue Labels

   A system of labeling issues can be effective in managing issues.  For
   instance, marking substantive issues separately from editorial can be
   helpful at guiding discussion.  Using labels can also be helpful in
   identifying issues for which consensus has been achieved, but that
   require editors to integrate the changes into a document.

   Labels can be used to identify particular categories of issues or to
   mark specific issues for discussion at an upcoming session.

   If labels are a core part of Working Group process, chairs MUST
   communicate any process to the Working Group.  This includes the
   semantics of labels, and who can apply and remove these labels.
   Section 5.4 describes some basic strategies that might be adopted to
   manage decision-making processes.

4.1.2.  Closing Issues

   Editors have write access to repositories, which also allows them to
   close issues.  The user that opens an issue is also able to close the
   issue.  Chairs MUST provide guidance on who is permitted to close an
   issue and under what conditions.

   Restrictions on who can close an issue and under what circumstances
   are generally not advisable until a document has reached a certain
   degree of maturity.

4.1.3.  Reopening Issues

   Issues that have reached a resolution that has Working Group
   consensus MUST NOT be reopened unless new information is presented.

   For long-running work items, new contributors often raise issues that
   have already been resolved.  Chairs need to assess whether the
   arguments offered represent new information or not.  This can require

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   some discussion to determine accurately.  Resolved issues MUST remain
   closed unless there is consensus to reopen an issue.

4.2.  Pull Requests

   Pull requests are the GitHub feature that allow users to request
   changes to a repository.  A user does not need to have write access
   to a repository to create a pull request.  A user can create a
   "fork", or copy, of any public repository.  The user has write access
   to their own fork, allowing them to make local changes.  A pull
   request asks the owner of a repository to merge a specific set of
   changes from a fork (or any branch) into their copy.

   Editors SHOULD make pull requests for all substantial changes rather
   than committing directly to the "master" branch of the repository.
   See Section 5.3.2 for discussion on what constitutes a substantial
   change.  A pull request creates an artifact that records the reasons
   for changes and provides other contributors with an opportunity to
   review the change.  Pull requests that address substantive issues
   SHOULD mention the issue they address in the opening comment.

   Note:  This document assumes that there is a unified effort on a
      document, all concentrated on a git "master" branch.  More
      advanced usage of git is not in the scope of this document.

   Pull requests have many of the same properties as issues, including
   the ability to host discussion and bear labels.  Critically, using
   pull requests creates a record of actions taken.

   For significant changes, leaving a pull request open until discussion
   of the issue within the Working Group concludes allows the pull
   request to track the discussion and properly capture the outcome of
   discussions.  Pull requests can be updated as discussions continue or
   in response to feedback.

   Groups of editors could adopt a practice of having one editor create
   a pull request and another merge it.  This ensures that changes are
   reviewed by editors.  Editors are given discretion in how they manage
   changes amongst themselves.

4.2.1.  Discussion on Pull Requests

   In addition to the features that pull requests share with issues,
   users can also review the changes in a pull request.  This is a
   valuable feature, but it has some issues.

   Comments in a review other than a summary are attached to specific
   lines of the proposed change.  Such comments can be hard or

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   impossible to find if changes are subsequently made to the pull
   request.  This is problematic for contributors who do not track
   discussion closely.

   For this reason, Working Group chairs SHOULD discourage the use of
   inline comments for substantial technical discussion of issues.

4.2.2.  Merging Pull Requests

   Working Groups MUST determine who is permitted to merge pull
   requests.  Document editors SHOULD be permitted to merge pull
   requests at their discretion.  This requires that editors exercise
   some judgment.  Working Group chairs MAY occasionally identify a pull
   request and request that editors withhold merging until Working Group
   consensus has been assessed.

   Note that the copy of a document that is maintained on GitHub does
   not need to be a perfect reflection of Working Group consensus at
   every point in time.  Document editors need some flexibility in how
   they manage a document.

4.3.  Monitoring Activity

   GitHub produces individualized email notifications of activity that
   each user can adjust to their preferences.  In addition to these,
   some Working Groups have created read-only mailing lists that receive
   notifications about activity on Working Group repositories.  The
   volume of information on these lists can be too high to monitor
   actively, but access to an archive of actions can be useful.

   An alternative is to rely on periodic email summaries of activity,
   such as those produced by a notification tool like github-notify-ml
   (  This tool has
   been used effectively in several Working Groups, though it requires
   server infrastructure.

5.  Typical Working Group Policies

   Current experience with use of GitHub suggests a few different
   approaches to greater use of the tool in Working Groups.

   This section describes some basic modes for interacting with GitHub,
   each progressively more involved.  This starts with a very
   lightweight interaction where document management is the only feature
   that is formally used, then progressively more intensive use of the
   GitHub issue tracking capabilities are described.  These approaches
   differ primarily in how discussion of substantive matters is managed.
   Most of the advice in this document applies equally to all models.

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   Working Groups can adjust these policies to suit their needs, but are
   advised to avoid gratuitous changes for the sake of consistency
   across the IETF as a whole.

5.1.  Document Management Mode

   In this mode of interaction, GitHub repositories are used to manage
   changes to documents, but the bulk of the work is conducted using
   email, face-to-face meetings, and other more traditional
   interactions.  The intent of this policy is to enable document and
   issue management using GitHub while minimizing the complexity of the

   In the version of this mode with the least interaction with GitHub, a
   repository is created for the purposes of document management by
   editors.  Editors might maintain issues and pull requests for their
   own benefit, but these have no formal standing in the Working Group

5.2.  Issue Tracking Mode

   In addition to managing documents, the Working Group might choose to
   use GitHub for tracking outstanding issues.  In this mode of
   interaction, all substantive technical discussions are tracked as
   issues in the issue tracker.  However, discussion of any substantial
   matters is always conducted on mailing lists.

   Under this mode, issues and pull requests can be opened by anyone,
   but anything deemed substantive MUST be resolved exclusively on the
   mailing list.  Discussion on GitHub is kept to a minimum.  Only
   editorial matters can be resolved using the issue tracker.

   Chairs and editors are given discretion in determining what issues
   are substantive.  As documents mature, it is generally prudent to err
   more toward consulting the mailing list where there is doubt.  As
   with other Working Group decisions, chairs are the arbiters in case
   of dispute.

   A recurrent problem with this mode of interaction is the tendency for
   discussions to spontaneously develop in the issue tracker.  This
   requires a degree of discipline from chairs and editors to ensure
   that any substantive matters are taken to the mailing list.

   As mailing lists remain the primary venue for discussion of
   substantive matters, this mode and the document management only modes
   remain those most compatible with existing work practices for Working
   Groups.  Participants in a Working Group that operates under either
   model can reasonably be expected to receive all relevant

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   communication about the work of the group from the Working Group
   mailing list.

   Though the mailing list is used for making decisions, the issue
   tracker can still be a useful record of the state of issues.  It is
   often useful if chairs or editors record details of decisions in
   issue comments when closing issues as resolved.

5.3.  Issue Discussion Mode

   This GitHub interaction mode differs from the other modes in that
   discussion relating to substantive technical matters is allowed to
   occur on GitHub issues.  Though decisions are always subject to
   confirmation on the mailing list, participants are permitted to
   conduct substantive discussions on the issue tracker.  In some cases,
   this can include making some decisions without involving the Working
   Group mailing list.

   A Working Group mailing list remains a critical venue for decision
   making, even where issue discussion occurs elsewhere.  Working Group
   mailing lists generally include a wider audience than those who
   follow issue discussion, so difficult issues always benefit from list

   Decisions about Working Group consensus MUST always be confirmed
   using the Working Group mailing list.  However, depending on the
   maturity of documents, this might be a more lightweight interaction,
   such as sending an email confirmation for a set of resolutions made
   using GitHub.

   Using the mailing list to resolve difficult or controversial issues
   is strongly encouraged.  In those cases, the issue tracker might be
   used to more fully develop an understanding of problems before
   initiating a discussion on the mailing list, along lines similar to
   the design team process (see Section 6.5 of [RFC2418]).

   As a more involved process, adopting this mode can require changes in
   policies as documents become more mature.  It is possible to use
   different processes for different documents in the Working Group.

   Working Group chairs SHOULD confirm that the Working Group has
   consensus to adopt any process.  In particular, the introduction of a
   more tightly-controlled process can have the effect of privileging
   positions already captured in documents, which might disadvantage
   alternative viewpoints.

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5.3.1.  Early Design Phases

   During early phases of the design of a protocol, chairs MAY allow
   editors to manage all aspects of issues.  Editors are permitted to
   make decisions about how to both identify and resolve technical
   issues, including making any changes that editors feel necessary.

   Chairs need to explicitly decide that this sort of process is needed
   and announce the decision to the Working Group.  In many cases,
   documents that are adopted by a Working Group are already
   sufficiently mature that a looser process is not beneficial.  The
   primary reason to grant editors more discretionary power is to
   improve the speed with which changes can be made.  The risk is that
   design changes might not always reflect the consensus of the Working

   Changes made by editors under this process do not completely lack
   oversight.  GitHub and git provide tools for ensuring that changes
   are tracked and can be audited.  Within the usual Working Group
   process it is expected that Internet-Drafts will receive regular
   review.  Finally, process checkpoints like Working Group Last Call
   (WGLC; Section 7.4 of [RFC2418]) provides additional safeguards
   against abuse.

   Working Groups are advised against allowing editors this degree of
   flexibility for the entirety of a document lifecycle.  Once a
   document is more stable and mature, it is likely appropriate to move
   to a more tightly controlled process.

5.3.2.  Managing Mature Documents

   As a document matures, it becomes more important to understand not
   just that the document as a whole retains the support of the Working
   Group, but that changes are not made without wider consultation.

   Chairs might choose to manage the process of deciding which issues
   are substantive.  For instance, chairs might reserve the ability to
   use the "design" label to new issues (see Section 5.4.1) and to close
   issues marked as "design".  Chairs should always allow document
   editors to identify and address editorial issues as they see fit.

   As documents mature further, explicit confirmation of technical
   decisions with the Working Group mailing list becomes more important.

   Gaining Working Group consensus about the resolution of issues can be
   done in the abstract, with editors being permitted to capture the
   outcome of discussions as they see fit.

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   More mature documents require not only consensus, but consensus about
   specific text.  All substantive changes to documents that have passed
   WGLC SHOULD be proposed as pull requests, and MUST be discussed on
   the mailing list, and MUST have chairs explicitly confirm consensus.
   Chairs MAY institute this stricter process prior to WGLC.

   Note:  It is generally sufficient to trust editors to manage
      adherence with these policies, aided by the transparency provided
      by the version control system.  There are tools that can be used
      to more tightly control access to repositories, but they can be
      overly constraining.

5.4.  Issue Labelling Schemes

   Several schemes for use of issue labels in managing issues have been
   used successfully.  This section outlines these strategies and how
   they might be applied.

   A design/editorial split (see Section 5.4.1) is useful in all cases
   that the issue tracking capability is used.  Working Groups that only
   use GitHub for issue tracking might find that distinction sufficient
   for their needs.

   Working Groups or editors might use additional labels as they choose.
   Any label that is used as part of a process requires that the process
   be documented and announced by Working Group chairs.  Editors SHOULD
   be permitted to use labels to manage issues without any formal
   process significance being attached to those issues.

5.4.1.  Editorial/Design Labelling

   The most important distinction about an issue is whether it is
   substantive.  The labels of "editorial" and "design" are used to
   represent this distinction.

   An issue labeled as "editorial" has no substantive effect on a
   document, except to the extent that addressing the issue might make
   understanding the specification easier.  Resolution of "editorial"
   issues can be left to the discretion of editors.

   An issue labeled as "design" has or might have a substantive effect
   on a document.  For protocol specifications, a "design" issue is one
   that might affect implementations or interoperability requirements.
   Addressing a "design" issue ultimately requires Working Group
   consensus, even if the resolution is to make no change.

   This distinction can be applied to all types of document.  For
   instance, a "design" issue for an Informational document might be

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   raised to discuss possible changes to important concepts in the

5.4.2.  Decision Labelling

   Labels can be used to manage processes.  As documents mature and
   issues become more numerous, labels can be used to clearly mark the
   status of issues.  In particular, labelling of issues can be used to
   help in managing Working Group decisions.

   For documents that are less mature, issues with resolutions but no
   specific proposals for changes to text might be marked "editor-ready"
   as a way of signaling that there is consensus about an approach, but
   no specific proposal.  Chairs might use this to signal that
   discussion is complete and that editors are to be given discretion in
   the construction of text.

   In contrast, if specific text is a prerequisite for resolving issues,
   as might be the case for more mature documents, a "proposal-ready"
   label might be used by editors to mark issues that they believe to
   have acceptable resolutions.

   For resolved issues, a "has-consensus" label might be used by chairs
   to mark issues for which formal Working Group decisions have been
   made (Section 6.1 of [RFC2418]).

   A "v2" or "next-version" label might be used to mark and thereby save
   issues for a future version of or extension to a protocol,
   particularly where a resolution is made to take no action.

5.4.3.  Component Labelling

   Repositories with multiple interrelated documents or a complex
   document with multiple logical components might benefit from labels
   that identify different aspects of the work.  The choice of
   appropriate labels for components will depend on the structure of
   specific documents.

5.4.4.  Other Labels

   Other labels can be used depending on the needs of editors and
   Working Group processes.  For example,

   *  An "invalid" label might be used for issues that were raised in

   *  A "blocked" label might indicate an issue is awaiting resolution
      of an external process or related issue.

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   *  A "parked" label might be used to indicate issues that do not
      require immediate Working Group attention.

6.  Internet-Draft Publication

   During the development of a document, individual revisions of a
   document can be built and formally submitted as an Internet-Draft.
   This creates a stable snapshot and makes the content of the in-
   progress document available to a wider audience.  Documents submitted
   as Internet-Drafts are not expected to address all open issues or
   merge outstanding pull requests.

   Editors SHOULD create a new Internet-Draft submission two weeks prior
   to every session, which includes IETF meetings, other in-person
   meetings, and telephone or video conferences (see Section 7.1 of
   [RFC2418]).  Though discussion could use the current version of a
   document from version control, participants in a session cannot be
   expected to monitor changes to documents in real-time; a published
   Internet-Draft ensures that there is a common, stable state that is
   known to all participants.

   Internet-Drafts that use a GitHub repository SHOULD include a notice
   that includes a reference to the repository.  This notice might also
   include information about where to discuss the draft.

   Revisions used to generate documents that are submitted as Internet-
   Drafts SHOULD be tagged in repositories to provide a record of

   Working Group chairs MAY request a revision of an Internet-Draft
   being managed on Github at any time, in consultation with document

7.  Assessing Consensus

   The work that occurs on GitHub could be part of the consensus
   process, but the ultimate decision on consensus regarding a document
   is made by the chairs [RFC2026].

   GitHub facilitates more involved interactions, which can result in a
   much higher level of activity than a typical Working Group mailing
   list.  Participants who wish to limit their time commitment might
   follow GitHub activity selectively, either by following only specific
   issues or by occasionally reviewing the state of the document.  Other
   participants might not use GitHub at all.  Chairs are reminded that
   assessing consensus based on GitHub content alone cannot be assumed
   to reach all interested participants.

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   Chairs MUST consider input from all discussion venues when assessing
   consensus including GitHub, mailing lists, interim meetings, and IETF
   meetings.  Each venue has different selection biases that might need
   to be considered.

   A Working Group chair MUST consult the Working Group mailing list for
   any issue that is potentially contentious.  Relying on input provided
   through GitHub alone might result in gaining input from a narrower
   set of participants.  This includes important milestones like Working
   Group Last-Call, where review from the widest possible audience
   ensures a higher quality document.

   If permitted, GitHub will be used for technical discussion and
   decisions, especially during early stages of development of a
   document.  Any decisions are ultimately confirmed through review, and
   ultimately, through Working Group Last Call (see Section 7.4 of

   The use of issues and labels has been effective in managing
   contentious issues.  Explicitly labeling closed issues to identify
   those with formal consensus means that there is no confusion about
   the status of issues.

8.  Continuous Integration

   Various third-party services offer the ability to run tests and other
   work when changes are made to a repository.

   One common practice is to use these continuous integration services
   to build a text or HTML version of a document.  This is then
   published to GitHub Pages, which allows users to view a version of
   the most recent revision of a document.  Including a prominent link
   to this version of the document (such as in the README) makes it
   easier for new contributors to find a readable copy of the most
   recent version of a draft.  In addition, including links to
   differences between this generated version and any published document
   helps contributors identify recent changes.

   Continuous integration can also validate pull requests and other
   changes for errors.  The most basic check is whether the source file
   can be transformed successfully into a valid Internet-Draft.  For
   example, this might include checking that XML source is syntactically

   For a document that uses formal languages as part of the
   specification, such as schema or source code, a continuous
   integration system might also be used to validate any formal language
   that the document contains.  Tests for any source code that the

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   document contains might be run, or examples might be checked for

9.  Advice to Editors

   Document editors are primarily responsible for maintaining documents.
   Taking on a few additional tasks can greatly improve the process for
   the Working Group.

   Using GitHub means that it is more likely that a contribution is made
   by users who are not very familiar with the work.  Pull requests from
   new contributors can contain errors or omissions.  Duplicate issues
   are commonplace.  Proposed changes might have grammatical errors or
   they might diverge from existing style.  If a change is generally
   sound, rather than rejecting the pull request or requesting changes,
   editors could instead accept the change and then make any necessary

   Editors SHOULD NOT close a pull request or issue without first
   understanding why the item was created.  Editors and chairs SHOULD
   try to explain every action clearly and concisely.  Even if a
   contributor seems rude, being courteous in response is always best.

   If a contributor makes a comment that raises a new issue, editors can
   create an issue or - if there is an obvious solution - a pull
   request.  It does not matter what venue the issue was raised in
   (e.g., email, issue discussion, a pull request review); capturing
   issues quickly ensures that problems become visible and can be

   This takes a little more effort, but these simple steps can help
   encourage contributions, which will ultimately improve the quality of

10.  Security Considerations

   Continuity of operations is always a consideration when taking a
   dependency on an external service.  If GitHub were to fail in some
   way, anyone relying upon its services would be seriously affected.

   Widespread use of git reduces the exposure to a system failure
   because the primary repository is replicated in multiple locations.
   This includes hosted web pages; the content of web pages is
   maintained as a branch in the main repository.  As specified in
   [GH-CONFIG], maintaining a mirror of a repository hosted on GitHub
   provides IETF-hosted backups for WG repositories.

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   However, other information maintained on GitHub is more vulnerable to
   loss.  This includes issues and discussion on those issues,
   discussion and reviews of commits and pull requests, and any content
   hosted on the wiki.  Tools exist for extracting this information for

   The potential for malicious actions by compromised or malcontent
   editors, chairs and area directors is relevant in maintaining the
   integrity of the content that GitHub hosts.  Backups allow for
   recovery of content, and regular submissions as Internet-Drafts
   ensure that work is not lost completely.

11.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

12.  References

12.1.  Normative References

              Cooper, A. and P. Hoffman, "Working Group GitHub
              Administration", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-
              ietf-git-github-wg-configuration-06, 13 February 2020,

   [RFC2026]  Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision
              3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, DOI 10.17487/RFC2026, October 1996,

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC2418]  Bradner, S., "IETF Working Group Guidelines and
              Procedures", BCP 25, RFC 2418, DOI 10.17487/RFC2418,
              September 1998, <>.

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

12.2.  Informative References

   [RFC7991]  Hoffman, P., "The "xml2rfc" Version 3 Vocabulary",

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              RFC 7991, DOI 10.17487/RFC7991, December 2016,


   This work would not have been possible without the hard work of those
   people who have trialled use of GitHub at the IETF.  Alia Atlas
   contributed significant text to an earlier version of this document.
   Tommy Pauly, Rich Salz, and Christopher Wood all provided significant

Authors' Addresses

   Martin Thomson


   Barbara Stark


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