Changes to our style process

At the MusicBrainz Summit last month in Copenhagen, one of the topics to
be discussed was the state of the style guidelines and style process.
One thing those present agreed on was that the process was in need of
reform, for several reasons: the complexity of the process,
inconsistency with other processes in the project, the high level of
individual commitment required to make changes, long-running discussions
without conclusion or followthrough, and ultimately the state of the
final product, the style guidelines themselves. The inaccessibility of
our existing process meant that many users, both new and old, avoided
the style process, and this hurts the project: style is part of what
makes MusicBrainz what it is, and low participation means our guidelines
have grown both internally inconsistent and out of sync with community
practice. Nor is the style process a new problem for MusicBrainz:
historically, it’s changed several times and some past style leaders
have vanished into thin air.  After all, it is a hard job, for a
volunteer, to convince many voices to come to a consensus.

To improve upon these issues, we’ve decided to make two major changes.

First: to designate our JIRA issue tracker at tickets.musicbrainz.org as
the central coordination point for style issues. This way, any issue, be
it style-related or code-related, is reported and discussed in the same
place (and should an issue be misfiled, it’s easily corrected). The
issue tracker can also collect links to other discussions, in edit
notes, the forums, IRC, etc., and store links to related issues such as
features in need of implementation.

Second: to promote our current Style Leader to Style Benevolent Dictator
For Life (Style BDFL). Nicolás Tamargo (reosarevok) will then be in
charge of considering tickets and implementing changes in the style
guidelines. This change shifts the burden of evaluating style issues
from the community to our newly appointed BDFL. For simple changes and
for simple improvements to consistency and writing style, the BDFL can
change things directly, without need for lengthy discussion. Of course,
his work won’t happen in a vacuum: for changes that are complex or
contentious, the role of the BDFL will be to gather feedback and
determine the next steps before making changes. To this end, he may
occasionally call for a non-binding vote on a particular topic, to
collect a snapshot of community opinion to augment existing discussion,
all in order to make a better informed decision.

We hope that this new process will make contribution to the creation of
style guidelines easier and less onerous a commitment for everyone, and
that the resulting style guidelines will be more up-to-date, more
consistent, and more clearly written and organized. To test it out,
we’re going to try this process for 6 months, and then review how things
have progressed and if the process needs further tweaking or even
complete replacement.

2 thoughts on “Changes to our style process

  1. Ulrich Klauer

    It’s possible to subscribe to a JIRA filter, as I learned recently, so you can get flooded with mail if you like to.

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