[bitcoin-dev] Reminder on the Purpose of BIPs

David A. Harding dave at dtrt.org
Mon Apr 26 19:43:09 UTC 2021


On Sun, Apr 25, 2021 at 05:31:50PM -0400, Matt Corallo via bitcoin-dev wrote:
> In general, I think its time we all agree the BIP process has simply failed
> and move on. Luckily its not really all that critical and proposed protocol
> documents can be placed nearly anywhere with the same effect.

I recommend:

1. We add additional BIP editors, starting with Kalle Alm (if there are
   no continuing significant objections).

2. We seek Luke Dashjr's resignation as BIPs editor.

3. We begin treating protocol documents outside the BIPs repository as
   first-class BIP documentation.

The first recommendation permits continued maintenance of existing BIPs
plus gives the additional maintainers an opportunity to rebuild the
credibility of the repository.

The second recommendation addresses the dissatisfaction of many BIP
authors and potential authors with the current editor, which I think
will discourage many of them from making additional significant
contributions to the repository.  It also seems to me to be a better use
of Luke's talents and interests for him to focus on protocol research
and review rather than procedurally checking whether a bunch of
documents are well formed.

The third recommendation provides an escape hatch for anyone, such as
Matt, who currently thinks the process has failed, or for anyone who
comes to that same conclusion in the future under a different editing
team.  My specific recommendations there are:

a. Anyone writing protocol documentation in the spirit of the BIP
   process can post their idea to this mailing list like we've always
   done and, when they've finished collecting initial feedback, they can
   assign themselves a unique decentralized identifier starting with
   "bip-".  They may also define a shorter alias that they encourage
   people to use in cases where the correct document can be inferred
   from context.  E.g.,

      bip-wuille-taproot (bip-taproot)
      bip-towns-versionbits-min-activation-height (bip-vbmah)
      bip-todd-harding-opt-in-replace-by-fee (bip-opt-in-rbf)

b. The author then publishes the document to any place they'd like, although
   they are strongly encouraged to make any document source available
   under an open license to ensure others can create their own
   modifications.

c. Implementations of BIPs, whether original repository BIPs or
   decentralized BIPs, link to the BIPs they implement to ensure
   researchers and developers can find the relevant protocol
   documentation.  E.g.,
   https://github.com/bitcoin/bitcoin/blob/fe5e495c31de47b0ec732b943db11fe345d874af/doc/bips.md

     (It may also be advisable for implementations to mirror copies of
     the BIPs they implement so later modifications to the document
     don't confuse anyone.  For this reason, extremely liberal
     licensing of BIP documents is encouraged.)

d. To help maintain quality and consistency between documentation, the
   BIP editors provide a BIP document template, guidelines similar to
   the existing BIP2, and an easy-to-run format linter.

I think this decentralized BIPs alternative also helps address some
longstanding problems with the BIPs system: that many casual Bitcoin
users and developers think of documents in the BIPs repo as
authoritative and that there are some development teams (such as for LN)
that have already abandoned the BIPs process because, in part, they want
complete control over their own documentation.  

The recommendations above were developed based on conversations I had
with a few stakeholders in the BIPs process, but I did not attempt a
comprehensive survey and I certainly don't claim to speak for anyone
else.  I hope the recommendations are satisfactory and I look forward to
your feedback.

Thanks,

-Dave
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