Do we need extension change policies?

During the FoswikiSummit09MeetingMinutes there was some discussion on the impact that a change policy on extensions has on the marketing of Foswiki. The contention was that these policies discourage the broader community from making changes to these extensions. The debate is fuelled by (tm)wiki watering down these policies to try to encourage participation.

In ContactAuthorFirst, it says:
Changes (such as bugfixes) to an extension that don't change the features of the extension can often be handled by raising a task in the tasks web. If you don't have checkin rights then just attach a patch.

For changes to the features of the extension, the author has requested that you try to contact them first. The best way to do that is to raise a feature proposal .You can also contact the author directly by email. If the author does not respond within a reasonable time (say 2 weeks) and there are no protests raised against your feature proposal, then you should proceed with a checkin. This seems like a long time to wait, but experience shows that authors are often out of contact for extended periods.

Please note that the purpose of the "contact author first" policy is to make sure that the original author can remain involved with the evolution of their work. It is not meant to indicate exclusive check-in rights to the extension. Anyone is welcome contribute.

The very fact that the discussion was opened suggests that people are put off by the titles of the policies, rather than the actually definitions. However this raised the general question "do we need extension change policies?" and what is their impact on participation / marketing Foswiki?

Comments? Questions? Observations?

I wrote the original policy descriptions, so the text reflects my view. I like to remain engaged with my extensions; my name is on them, so my reputation is pegged to them. If someone breaks them, makes an incorrect change to documentation etc, then I want to be able to manage that.

-- CrawfordCurrie - 30 Nov 2009

Maybe "CoordinateWithAuthor" is friendlier? Although I have no idea if that makes a big difference at all...

-- CarloSchulz - 30 Nov 2009

Contacting extension authors or maintainers first is the normal modus operandi of open source. A shared software repository does not replace talking to each other first. That's why wikis are great to facilitate that.

Could be that we need a different name for the same concept.

CoordinateWithAuthor is a good suggestion, Carlo.

Here's another one: "CoordinateFirst" (though it sounds a bit silly / self-evident)

-- MichaelDaum - 30 Nov 2009

the answer to "do we need extension change policies?" is a clear yes. i think CoordinateWithAuthor is indeed friendlier; i support changing this label (but not the policy).

-- WillNorris - 30 Nov 2009

I agree that it would be good to rename it to something more representative of the intent. We don't need to water down the meaning to attempt to increase participation, but encouraging collaboration even more than we already do can only be a net positive.

for eg, there are a large number of my plugins that have this setting, specifically because I'd like to know, and would prefer to guide the implementation to be inline with my longer term goals

It looks like in Foswiki, this has been more successful - quite a number of very helpful people have asked if they could help out, and then have done so.

as someone that was not at the summit, I don't see enough of a reason to change anything from this topic. I am assuming there's more to this discussion than meets the eye.

-- SvenDowideit - 01 Dec 2009

Could it somehow be possible to make direct contact data of the author "easily" available on the Extensions documentation page where the policy is set? Or if that isn't possible due to personal data infringement, maybe we can shortly describe the suggested ways how to find out real contact data (look at the authors page at, go to irc and ask author directly, check foswiki list mails for the address of the author or as I just saw on the page from Michael follow the link to the consulting page and look up contact data there). But as you see, it may be required, especially for new people to do some kind of (small) search to find the contact data and I believe this shouldn't be a barrier at all.

Personally I'd say looking at the authors page on should provide contact data and a link to that page should be part of the table where the policy is set.

-- IngoKappler - 01 Dec 2009

Sven, yes, during the discussion on marketing this was raised, I guess as an example of how we don't market ourselves very effectively. I guess this was somewhat motivated by actions on the other project.

Ingo, that's a rather good idea. If "CoordinateWithAuthor" were accompanied with a mailto link, that would make it all the easier. I'd like to do that with the WysiwygPlugin, for example, but rather than contacting just me, it should contact the relevant task team.

-- CrawfordCurrie - 04 Dec 2009

OK, the lack of further comment means I'm going to make an executive decision and change it, as Carlo suggests.

-- CrawfordCurrie - 09 Dec 2009

Good move. Thanks for this initiative and for going through with it

-- KennethLavrsen - 09 Dec 2009

Correction; it was Carlo who suggested CoordinateWithAuthor, not Ingo as i originally wrote.

-- CrawfordCurrie - 10 Dec 2009

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Topic revision: r10 - 10 Dec 2009, CrawfordCurrie
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