In 2015, a phabricator task [0] and RfC discussion on meta [1] were
started to create a process for determining when a tool has been
abandoned by it's original maintainer(s) and how to hand control of
the tool over to interested volunteers. The process stalled out
without resolution.

Our on-wiki communities are still highly dependent on volunteer
developed tools and vulnerable to disruption when the original
developers move on. I have drafted two straw dog [2] policies that
attempt to define fair and workable solutions to the general problem.
The proposals take two different but compatible approaches to solving
the problem of abandonment. The Tool Labs developer community could
choose to adopt either or both policies as protection for the
communities that they serve.

The first policy describes a *right to fork* for all Tool Labs hosted
software. This policy clarifies the existing Tool Labs Open Source and
Open Data requirements and defines a process for requesting access to
code and data that are not already published publicly.

The second policy is a more aggressive *abandoned tool policy* that
describes a process for adding new maintainers to a tool account
(adoption) with a future possibility of removing the original
maintainers (usurpation). This policy is based primarily on the
discussions that happened on Meta in 2015.

Both policies propose creating a new committee of volunteers to
evaluate requests and perform cleanup of sensitive data in the tool
before providing the source code or direct access to the tool account.
This provision is key actually implementing both proposals. Paid
administration and management does not scale any better than paid
editing. To continue to grow and thrive, the Tool Labs developer
community needs to become more active in enforcing and expanding their
own policies. Membership in the committees would require signing the
Wikimedia Foundation's Volunteer NDA [3] to ensure that sensitive data
is handled appropriately. If both polices are adopted the two
committees should be collapsed into a single group with authority to
handle both types of requests.

The straw dog policies are posted on Wikitech:

Discussion of the particulars of each proposal should happen on their
associated talk pages. As an example it would be appropriate to debate
whether the 14 day non-functional waiting period is too short or too
long on the Abandoned tool policy talk page. Discussion of the process
in general can happen on Meta [1].

I would like discussion to remain open through *2016-10-12* (3 weeks
from date of posting). Following the discussion period I hope to call
for an approval vote of some sort to make the policies official.
Wikitech and Tool Labs do not currently have well defined policies for
establishing consensus, but I'm sure we can collectively come up with
something reasonable.


Bryan Davis              Wikimedia Foundation    <>
[[m:User:BDavis_(WMF)]]  Sr Software Engineer            Boise, ID USA
irc: bd808                                        v:415.839.6885 x6855

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