Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) M. Thomson
Request for Comments: 8874
Category: Informational B. Stark
ISSN: 2070-1721 AT&T
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 https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8874
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
) 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.
Distributed Version Control Systems 1.2.
Other Services 1.4.
Document Goals 1.5.
Notational Conventions 2.
Administrative Policies 2.1.
Communicating Policies 3.
Deciding to Use GitHub 3.1.
What to Use GitHub For 3.2.
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.
Normative References 12.2.
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
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
]. 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
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.
) 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.
GitHub is a service operated at <https://github.com/
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
", "SHALL NOT
", "SHOULD NOT
", "NOT RECOMMENDED
" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
BCP 14 [RFC2119
] 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
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
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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
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
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
changes to working group documents without prior coordination with
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
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
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
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
). This tool has
been used effectively in several working groups, though it requires
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
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
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.
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
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-
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
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
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.
12.1. Normative References
] Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision
3", BCP 9, RFC 2026
, DOI 10.17487/RFC2026
, October 1996,
] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119
, March 1997,
] 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
] 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,
] Hoffman, P., "The "xml2rfc" Version 3 Vocabulary", RFC 7991
, DOI 10.17487/RFC7991
, December 2016,
] Cooper, A. and P. Hoffman, "Working Group GitHub
Administration", RFC 8875
, DOI 10.17487/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