1. RFC 8874
Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                        M. Thomson
Request for Comments: 8874                                       Mozilla
Category: Informational                                         B. Stark
ISSN: 2070-1721                                                     AT&T
                                                             August 2020

                  Working Group GitHub Usage Guidance


   This document provides a set of guidelines for working groups that
   choose to use GitHub for their work.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Not all documents
   approved by the IESG are candidates for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 7841.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

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

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   (https://trustee.ietf.org/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
     1.1.  Distributed Version Control Systems
     1.2.  GitHub
     1.3.  Other Services
     1.4.  Document Goals
     1.5.  Notational Conventions
   2.  Administrative Policies
     2.1.  Organizations
     2.2.  Communicating Policies
   3.  Deciding to Use GitHub
     3.1.  What to Use GitHub For
     3.2.  Repositories
     3.3.  Editors and Contributors
     3.4.  Document Formats
   4.  Contribution Methods
     4.1.  Issue Tracker
       4.1.1.  Issue Labels
       4.1.2.  Closing Issues
       4.1.3.  Reopening Issues
     4.2.  Pull Requests
       4.2.1.  Discussion on Pull Requests
       4.2.2.  Merging Pull Requests
     4.3.  Monitoring Activity
   5.  Typical Working Group Policies
     5.1.  Document Management Mode
     5.2.  Issue Tracking Mode
     5.3.  Issue Discussion Mode
       5.3.1.  Early Design Phases
       5.3.2.  Managing Mature Documents
     5.4.  Issue Labeling Schemes
       5.4.1.  Editorial/Design Labeling
       5.4.2.  Decision Labeling
       5.4.3.  Component Labeling
       5.4.4.  Other Labels
   6.  Internet-Draft Publication
   7.  Assessing Consensus
   8.  Continuous Integration
   9.  Advice to Editors
   10. Security Considerations
   11. IANA Considerations
   12. References
     12.1.  Normative References
     12.2.  Informative References
   Authors' Addresses

1.  Introduction

   The IETF has an open and transparent process for developing
   standards.  The use of GitHub (https://github.com/) 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 a working
   group needs to produce documents and to improve the quality of the
   final result.

   The use of version control improves the 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 to provide guidelines for how a
   working group might integrate the capabilities provided by GitHub
   into their processes for developing Internet-Drafts.  Whether to use
   GitHub and whether to adopt these practices is left to the discretion
   of the working group.

   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, [RFC8875], describes administrative processes
   that support the practices described in this document.

   Although the operation of IRTF research groups can be similar in
   function to working groups, this document only directly addresses the
   needs of working groups.  However, other groups may draw inspiration
   for GitHub use from the contents herein.

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 (https://git-scm.com/) 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 <https://github.com/>.  GitHub
   provides centralized storage for Git repositories.  GitHub is freely
   accessible on the open Internet.

   GitHub provides a simplified and integrated interface to Git and 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 from use of the service is through increased numbers
   of reviews of the document and associated issues, along with other
   improvements that come from facilitating participation by a broader

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 as GitHub.  For instance, BitBucket (https://bitbucket.org/)
   and GitLab (https://about.gitlab.com/) 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.

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
   upon 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 a working group decides
   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.  A working group 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 key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
   BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

   This document uses a lot of terms related to Git and GitHub; see
   [GLOSSARY] for information on these terms.

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.
   The working group SHOULD create a new organization for its work.  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 [RFC8875].

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

   GitHub requires that each organization have at least one owner.  The
   owners for a working group repository MUST include responsible area
   directors and the IETF Secretariat.  Working group chairs SHOULD also
   be included as owners.  Area directors MAY also designate a delegate
   that becomes an owner, such as another area director from the same
   area.  An organization MUST have at least two owners.

   Within an organization, members can be grouped into teams.  A team
   with "Admin" access to repositories SHOULD be created for the working
   group chairs and any working group secretary.

   Details about creating organizations adhering to these guidelines can
   be found in [RFC8875].

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
   working group 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 working group charter page in the datatracker.
   Similarly, if there are additional resources, such as mailing lists,
   links to those resources could also be added.

   Repositories MUST include a copy of 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 (https://www.ietf.org/about/

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 for making a consensus call about
   whether the proposed policy and use is acceptable.

   Chairs SHOULD involve area directors in any decision to use GitHub,
   especially where substantive discussion of issues is permitted as
   described in Section 5.3.

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 the working
   group 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 can 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 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 are encouraged to 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
   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.

   Maintaining private repositories for working group products is not
   recommended without specific cause.  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 for working group documents MUST be made

   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).

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 make
   changes to working group documents without prior coordination with
   document editors.

   A working group 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 are 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
   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.

   Chairs communicate any process that specifically relates to the use
   of labels 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.  Moreover, there could be temptation to
   reopen contentious issues resolved with rough consensus.  Determining
   whether arguments presented in favor of reopening an issue represents
   new information might require some discussion in the working group.

   Chairs are empowered to exercise discretion in determining whether or
   not to reopen issues.  For more difficult matters, the chairs MAY
   insist that the working group reach consensus on whether an issue
   should be reopened.  Note, however, that any product of this process
   still needs to have the support of rough consensus in the working
   group, which could justify reopening issues.

4.2.  Pull Requests

   A pull request is a GitHub feature that allows a user to request a
   change 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 are encouraged to make pull requests for all substantial
   changes rather than committing directly to the "primary" 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.  Ideally, pull requests that
   address substantive issues mention the issue they address in the
   opening comment.  A working group policy could require that pull
   requests be used in this fashion.

      |  Note: This document assumes that there is a unified effort on a
      |  document, all concentrated on a single Git 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 presents some challenges.

   Comments in a review other than a summary are attached to specific
   lines of the proposed change.  Such comments can be hard or
   impossible to find if changes are subsequently made to the pull
   request.  This is problematic for contributors who do not track
   discussions 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

   A working group 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
   (https://github.com/dontcallmedom/github-notify-ml).  This tool has
   been used effectively in several working groups, though it requires
   server infrastructure.

   Additionally, clear reporting about the changes that were included in
   each revision of an Internet-Draft helps ensure that contributors can
   follow activity.  This might be achieved by requesting that editors
   provide a change log that captures substantive changes to the
   document in each revision.

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 is 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.

   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.  It is possible to use different
   processes for different documents in the working group.

   Working group chairs are responsible for confirming 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.

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, a record of the existence of substantive technical
   discussions is tracked using issues in the issue tracker.  However,
   discussion of any substantial matters is always conducted on mailing

   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 limited to recording the state
   of issues.  Only editorial matters can be resolved using the issue

   Chairs and editors are given discretion in determining what issues
   are substantive.  As documents mature, it is generally prudent to
   prefer consulting the mailing list where there is doubt.  As with
   other working group decisions, chairs are the arbiters in case of

   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.

   Retaining mailing lists as the primary venue for discussion of
   substantive matters ensures that this mode, along with the document
   management mode, is 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
   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 an initial set of
   resolutions arising from discussions on the issue tracker.

   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.

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.

   The primary reason to grant editors more discretionary power is to
   improve the speed with which changes can be made.  In many cases,
   documents that are adopted by a working group are already
   sufficiently mature, and a looser process is not beneficial.  A
   looser process increases the risk of missing issues that need working
   group consensus and integrating substantive changes based on
   decisions that don't reflect the consensus of the working group.

   Changes made by editors under this process do not lack options for
   identifying and correcting problems.  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.  Also, process checkpoints like Working Group
   Last Call (WGLC; Section 7.4 of [RFC2418]) provide additional
   safeguards against abuse.

   Working groups are advised against allowing editors this degree of
   flexibility for the entirety of a document life cycle.  Once a
   document is more stable and mature, it could be useful 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 MAY choose to manage the process of deciding which issues are
   substantive.  For instance, chairs might reserve the ability to use
   the "design" label for 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.

   Chairs can declare working group consensus regarding the resolution
   of issues in the abstract, allowing editors discretion on how to
   capture the decisions in documents.

   More mature documents require not only consensus, but consensus about
   specific text.  Ideally, substantive changes to documents that have
   passed WGLC are proposed as pull requests and MUST be discussed on
   the mailing list.  Having chairs explicitly confirm consensus on
   changes ensures that previous consensus decisions are not overturned
   without cause.  Chairs MAY institute this stricter process prior to

      |  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 Labeling 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
   in which the issue tracking capability is used.  A working group that
   only uses 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 Labeling

   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 documents.  For
   instance, a "design" issue for an Informational document might be
   raised to discuss possible changes to important concepts in the

5.4.2.  Decision Labeling

   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, the labeling of issues can be used
   to help manage 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 on 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 "future" 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 Labeling

   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.

   *  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 the
   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.

   Section 7.1 of [RFC2418] recommends that editors 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.  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.

   As described in [RFC2418], chairs consider input from all discussion
   venues when assessing consensus.  These include mailing lists, IETF
   meetings, and interim meetings in addition to discussion on GitHub.
   Each venue has different selection biases that might need to be

   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 confirmed through review within the
   working group and, ultimately, through Working Group Last Call; see
   Section 7.4 of [RFC2418].

   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 the XML source is
   syntactically correct.

   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
   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 tracked.

   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.

   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

   As specified in [RFC8875], backup copies of repositories and other
   important data SHOULD be maintained.

   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.

   A compromise of GitHub does not pose a significant threat to working
   group operations as it is expected that most data, aside from
   individual credentials, is made public.

   A compromise of credentials could mean loss of control for
   repositories an organizations.  All contributors, especially those
   with commit or admin privileges SHOULD use current best practices for
   protection of credentials, such as multi-factor authentication.

11.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

12.  References

12.1.  Normative References

   [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, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc2418>.

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8174>.

12.2.  Informative References

   [GLOSSARY] GitHub, "GitHub glossary", March 2020,

   [RFC7991]  Hoffman, P., "The "xml2rfc" Version 3 Vocabulary",
              RFC 7991, DOI 10.17487/RFC7991, December 2016,

   [RFC8875]  Cooper, A. and P. Hoffman, "Working Group GitHub
              Administration", RFC 8875, DOI 10.17487/RFC8875, August
              2020, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8875>.


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

Authors' Addresses

   Martin Thomson

   Email: mt@lowentropy.net

   Barbara Stark

   Email: barbara.stark@att.com
  1. RFC 8874