Because one of the fundamental aspects of accomplishing things within the Apache framework is doing so by consensus, there obviously needs to be a way to tell whether it has been reached. This is done by voting.

There are essentially three types of vote:

  1. Code modifications,

  2. Package releases

  3. Procedural

Votes on procedural issues follow the common format of majority rule unless otherwise stated. That is, if there are more favourable votes than unfavourable ones, the issue is considered to have passed -- regardless of the number of votes in each category. (If the number of votes seems too small to be representative of a community consensus, the issue is typically not pursued. However, see the description of lazy consensus for a modifying factor.)

Votes on code modifications follow a different model. In this scenario, a negative vote constitutes a veto , which cannot be overridden. Again, this model may be modified by a lazy consensus declaration when the request for a vote is raised, but the full-stop nature of a negative vote is unchanged. Under normal (non-lazy consensus) conditions, the proposal requires three positive votes and no negative ones in order to pass; if it fails to garner the requisite amount of support, it doesn't -- and typically is either withdrawn, modified, or simply allowed to languish as an open issue until someone gets around to removing it.

Votes on whether a package is ready to be released or not use yet a different mechanism: are there are least three binding votes in favour of the release? See more about this below.

Binding Votes

Who is permitted to vote is, to some extent, a community-specific thing. However, the basic rule is that only PMC members have binding votes, and all others are either discouraged from voting (to keep the noise down) or else have their votes considered of an indicative or advisory nature only.

That's the general rule. In actual fact, things tend to be a little looser, and procedural votes from developers and committers are sometimes considered binding if the voter has acquired enough merit and respect in the community. Only votes by PMC members are considered binding on code-modification issues, however.

Implications of Voting

In some cases and communities, the exercise of a vote carries some responsibilities that may not be immediately obvious. For example, in some cases a favourable vote carries the implied message 'I approve and I'm willing to help.' Also, an unfavourable vote may imply that 'I disapprove, but I have an alternative and will help with that alternative.'

The tacit implications of voting should be spelt out in the community's guidelines. However, in no case may someone's vote be considered invalid if the implied commitment doesn't appear to be met; a vote is a formal expression of opinion, not of commitment.

If the R-T-C policy is in effect, a positive vote carries the very strong implied message, 'I have tested this patch myself, and found it good.' Similarly, a negative vote usually means that the patch was tested and found to be not -good, although the veto (for such it is in this case) may be based on other technical grounds.

Expressing Votes: +1, 0, -1, and Fractions

The voting process in Apache may seem more than a little weird if you've never encountered it before. Votes are represented as numbers between -1 and +1, with '-1' meaning 'no' and '+1' meaning 'yes.'

The in-between values are indicative of how strongly the voting individual feels. Here are some examples of fractional votes and ways in which they might be intended and interpreted:

  • +0: 'I don't feel strongly about it, but I'm okay with this.'

  • -0: 'I won't get in the way, but I'd rather we didn't do this.'

  • -0.5: 'I don't like this idea, but I can't find any rational justification for my feelings.'

  • ++1: 'Wow! I like this! Let's do it!'

  • -0.9: 'I really don't like this, but I'm not going to stand in the way if everyone else wants to go ahead with it.'

  • +0.9: 'This is a cool idea and i like it, but I don't have time/the skills necessary to help out.'

Votes should generally be permitted to run for at least 72 hours to provide an opportunity for all concerned persons to participate regardless of their geographic locations.

Votes on Code Modification

For code-modification votes, +1 votes are in favour of the proposal, but -1 votes are vetos and kill the proposal dead until all vetoers withdraw their -1 votes.

Unless a vote has been declared as using lazy consensus , three +1 votes are required for a code-modification proposal to pass.

Whole numbers are recommended for this type of vote, as the opinion being expressed is Boolean: 'I approve/do not approve of this change.'

Procedural Votes or Opinion Polls

TBS

Votes on Package Releases

Votes on whether a package is ready to be released use majority approval -- i.e. at least three PMC members must vote affirmatively for release, and there must be more positive than negative votes. Releases may not be vetoed. Generally the community will cancel the release vote if anyone identifies serious problems, but in most cases the ultimate decision, lies with the individual serving as release manager. The specifics of the process may vary from project to project, but the 'minimum quorum of three +1 votes' rule is universal.

Vetos

A code-modification proposal may be stopped dead in its tracks by a -1 vote by a qualified voter. This constitutes a veto, and it cannot be overruled nor overridden by anyone. Vetos stand until and unless withdrawn by their casters.

To prevent vetos from being used capriciously, they must be accompanied by a technical justification showing why the change is bad (opens a security exposure, negatively affects performance, etc. ). A veto without a justification is invalid and has no weight.

Consensus Gauging through Silence

An alternative to voting that is sometimes used to measure the acceptability of something is the concept of lazy consensus.

Lazy consensus is simply an announcement of 'silence gives assent.' When
someone wants to determine the sense of the community this way, it might do
so with a mail message such as:

"The patch below fixes bug #8271847; if no-one objects within three days, I'll assume lazy consensus and commit it."

Lazy consensus cannot be applied to code changes when the review-then-commit policy is in effect.

Reasons for Votes

People tend to avoid conflict and thrash around looking for something to substitute - somebody in charge, a rule, a process, stagnation. None of these tend to be very good substitutes for doing the hard work of resolving the conflict.