Jacob Kaplan-Moss

Retiring as BDFLs

I wrote this post in 2014, more than 9 years ago. It may be very out of date, partially or totally incorrect. I may even no longer agree with this, or might approach things differently if I wrote this post today. I rarely edit posts after writing them, but if I have there'll be a note at the bottom about what I changed and why. If something in this post is actively harmful or dangerous please get in touch and I'll fix it.

Adrian broke the news: today, he and I are retiring as BDFLs, transitioning to a truly community-run project.

Adrian wrote a bit about the history of the BDFL term and our roles wearing that hat. Go check out his writing for that, and for some of his personal thoughts. Here, I’ll just add a few things of my own:

For me, this has been a long time coming – I’ve been thinking about this for at least a year. In many ways, I this is a similar to a lot of the changes we’ve made over the years: it’s a formalization, and a naming, of what’s already happened. It’s clear to me I don’t have the sort of day-to-day involvement that I once had, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve had to make the sort of dictatorial decisions that the title implies.

Further, one pattern I’ve noticed about myself in particular is that the more I step away from “management” roles, the healthier Django seems to get. When we started doing more voting and less fiat, we ended up adding a ton more committers and really reinvigorating development. The DSF got stronger when I stepped down as director, and it got stronger still when I left the board. In these and in other cases, I’ve seen that our community’s strongest when it doesn’t need to look to me for answers, and I want to continue that process.

Ultimately, our community seems to be at its strongest when we act as a community, operating on the Open Source defaults of “rough consensus and running code”. Interestingly, many people know the “rough consensus” quote, but few recall the actual, full line. It comes from Dave Clark, one of the founders of the IETF, and the full quote is:

We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code.

The Tao of the IETF

Kings, presidents, and BDFLs have their place, and there are models of community that are aided by having them. But the longer I observe the Django community, the more I realize that our community doesn’t need them.

Now, I’m not planning on going anywhere; I still love Django and love being involved, and I’m actually hoping shedding some responsibility will make me feel more free to commit in small ways. But it’s time for me to just be part of the community, not someone with any special title or powers.

I can’t wait to see where we go from here!