Announcing the FOSS Governance Collection

3 minute read

It’s happened so many times. I’ll be helping a company or community with their free/open source (FOSS) project and the dreaded question comes up, “Hey, how do other projects handle $thing?”

Inevitably this ends up with me spending hours doing the same sort of searches I did just a year or even months before, looking for information about voting, or steering committees, or privacy policies, or trademark policies, or codes of conduct, or whatever other $thing has come up this time.

These topics are all parts of the governance of FOSS projects. While things like CI/CD and cloud computing are parts of the technical infrastructure for a project, governance is the human infrastructure. Governance is often neglected by many FOSS projects, but not by all of them. The communities that recognise that the human infrastructure is at least as important to the functioning of the project as the technical, will take the time not only to figure out how the pieces of their governance work, they’ll also take the all-important step of documenting those pieces. This not only helps new community members to learn how to operate within the project, it also holds project leadership accountable by being very clear about what they should and should not be doing and how.

This step of figuring out how project governance should work is usually where the dreaded question raises its head. Just like there’s no reason for you to reinvent the wheel of, say, a random number generator or HTML parser, there’s also no reason for you to start your project governance documents from scratch. You can learn a lot from how other projects have tackled these human infrastructure questions, but as I mentioned above it can be rather time consuming to dig them up.

A screenshot of the front page of The last time I faced the dreaded question I decided I’d had enough. I was sick of doing the same sort of searches over and over again, and I was pretty sure that others were as well. Which is why I’m now happy to launch the FOSS Governance Collection.

The FOSS Governance Collection is, well, exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a collection of various governance documents from free/open source projects. The collection lives in Zotero, which means not only is the collection completely catalogued and indexed—making it much easier to find information—but also each entry in the catalog comes with a snapshot of the document so you can use the collection offline if you need. These snapshots also mean that you can search the contents of all of the governance docs at once. Yeah, Zotero’s pretty sweet, and it’s also Free Software. That’s a win-win situation. A screenshot of the FOSS Governance Collection on Zotero

Naturally, the FOSS Governance Collection is an open project, released under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) v4.0 license. The website and documentation all live on GitLab, and contributions are welcome!

The most useful form of contribution you can make right now is suggesting more documents to add to the collection. As I write this, the collection already contains 164 governance documents, but the more we add the more useful it becomes. To suggest a document to add to the collection, simply open an issue and select the Suggest a document issue template. I’ll take it from there.

If you find the collection useful, please let me know! I’m eager to hear how people use this information. You can either email me or open an issue with your stories and feedback.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the Getting Started post, then have a look at the FOSS Governance Collection and let me know what you think!