A SIP (Scala Improvement Process) is a process for submitting changes to the Scala language. Its main motivation is to become the primary mechanism to propose, discuss and implement language changes. In this process, all changes to the language go through design documents, called Scala Improvement Proposals (SIPs), which are openly discussed by a committee and only upon reaching a consensus are accepted to be merged into the Scala compiler.
The aim of the Scala Improvement Process is to apply the openness and collaboration that have shaped Scala’s documentation and implementation to the process of evolving the language. This document captures our guidelines, commitments and expectations regarding this process.
Why write a SIP?
SIPs are key to making Scala better for the good of everyone. If you decide to invest the time and effort of putting a SIP forward and seeing it through, your efforts and time will shape and improve the language, which means that your proposal may impact the life of a myriad of developers all over the world, including those on your own team. For many, this aspect alone can be quite worthwhile.
However, it’s important to note that seeing a SIP through to its conclusion is an involved task. On the one hand, it takes time to convince people that your suggestions are a worthwhile change for hundreds of thousands of developers to accept. Particularly given the sheer volume of developers that could be affected by your SIP, SIP acceptance is conservative and carefully thought through. Typically, this includes many rounds of discussion with core Scala maintainers and the overall community, several iterations on the design of the SIP, and some effort at prototyping the proposed change. Often, it takes months of discussion, re-design, and prototyping for a SIP to be accepted and included in the Scala compiler. It is, therefore important to note that seeing a SIP through to its conclusion can be time-consuming and not all SIPs may end up in the Scala compiler, although they may teach us all something!
If you’re motivated enough to go through this involved but rewarding process, go on with writing and keep on reading.
What’s the process for submitting a SIP?
There are four major steps in the SIP process:
- Initial informal discussion (2 weeks)
- Formal presentation (up to 1 month)
- Formal evaluation (up to 6 months)
Initial informal discussion (2 weeks)
Before submitting a SIP, it is required that you perform necessary preparations:
Discuss your idea on the Scala Contributors Page (currently, we suggest cross-posting on Scala Improvement Process and Language Design. This may change in the future.) Create a topic that starts with “Pre-SIP” and briefly describe what you would like to change and why you think it’s a good idea.
Proposing your ideas on the mailing list is not an optional step. For every change to the language, it is important to gauge interest from the compiler maintainers and the community. Use this step to promote your idea and gather early feedback on your informal proposal. It may happen that experts and community members may have tried something similar in the past and may offer valuable advice.
Within two weeks after your submission of the pre-SIP to the mailing list, the Process Lead will intervene and advise you whether your idea can be submitted as a SIP or needs more work.
After receiving the green light from the Process Lead, you can write up your idea and submit it as a SIP.
A SIP is a Markdown document written in conformance with the process template. It ought to contain a clear specification of the proposed changes. When such changes significantly alter the compiler internals, the author is invited to provide a proof of concept. Delivering a basic implementation can speed up the process dramatically. Even compiler hackers find very difficult to predict the interaction between the design and the implementation, so the sooner we have an evidence of a working prototype that interacts with all the features in Scala, the better. Otherwise, committee members may feel that the proposed changes are impossible and automatically dismiss them. If your changes are big or somewhat controversial, don’t let people hypothesize about them and show results upfront.
A SIP is submitted as a pull request against the official Scala website repo. Within a week of receiving the pull request, the Process Lead will acknowledge your submission, validate it and engage into some discussions with the author to improve the overall quality of the document (if necessary).
When you and the Process Lead agree on the final document, it is formally accepted for review: assigned a reviewer and scheduled for formal presentation.
Formal presentation (up to 1 month)
During the next available SIP Committee meeting, the appointed reviewer presents the SIP to the committee and kick starts the initial discussion.
If the committee agrees that following through the SIP is a good idea, then the following happens:
- The SIP is assigned a number.
- The SIP pull request is merged into the official Scala website repo, and the merged document becomes the official webpage of the proposal.
- An issue to discuss the SIP is opened at the official Scala website repo. Then, the reviewer submits the initial feedback from the committee.
- An implementation is requested (if not already present).
Otherwise, the SIP is rejected. The reviewer submits the collected feedback as a comment to the pull request, and the pull request is closed.
Formal evaluation (up to 6 iterations)
Evaluation of a SIP is done in iterations. The maximum number of iterations is six. These iterations take place in the SIP meetings and are usually monthly. However, they can last longer, in which case the author has more time to implement all the required changes.
The committee decides the duration of the next iteration depending upon the feedback and complexity of the SIP. Consequently, authors have more time to prepare all the changes. If they finish their revision before the scheduled iteration, the Process Lead will reschedule it for the next available meeting.
During every iteration, the appointed reviewer presents the changes (updated design document, progress with the implementation, etc) to the SIP Committee. Based on the feedback, the SIP is either:
- Accepted, in which case the committee asks the compiler maintainers to indicate the earliest version of Scala that can include the language change.
- Rejected, in which case the SIP is closed and no longer evaluated in the future.
- Under revision, in which case the author needs to continue the formal evaluation and address all the committee’s feedback. Thus, the follow-up discussion is scheduled for the next iteration.
- Postponed, in which case the committee does not evaluate the proposal anymore and sets it aside under some conditions are met. Then, the SIP will be resubmitted. This situation happens when proposals entirely depend on another pending proposals and need their admission. In such cases, the dependent proposal is postponed until the Committee votes on the other one.
If no changes have been made to a SIP in two iterations, it’s marked as dormant and both the PR and issue are closed. Dormant SIPs can be reopened by any person, be it the same or different authors, at which point it will start from the formal evaluation phase.
Merging the proposal
If the SIP is accepted, the committee will propose a release date to the compiler maintainers, where the role of the committee ends. (Compiler maintainers may choose to merge changes under a flag initially, for testing, or directly, as they deem appropriate, taking committee and community feedback into consideration.)
Structure of the process
The SIP process involves the following parties:
- The SIP Author(s)
- The Process Lead
- The SIP Committee
The SIP Author(s)
Authors are responsible for building consensus within the community and documenting dissenting opinions before the SIP is officially discussed by the SIP Committee. Their goal is to convince the committee that their proposal is useful and addresses pertinent problems in the language as well as interactions with already existing features. Authors can change over the life-cycle of the SIP.
The Process Lead
The Process Lead is the responsible of the smooth running of SIPs and SLIPs. He or she appoints the committee members, calls the meetings monthly, assigns new proposals to the members, and ensures that all of them are discussed within a short period of time.
The SIP Committee
The SIP Committee is an experienced group of people with knowledge of the compiler internals, responsible for the strategic direction of Scala. Members are tasked with (a) communicating with the community, (b) weighing in pros and cons of every proposal, and (c) accepting, postponing or rejecting the proposal.
Committee members should be either individuals responsible for a specific part of the Scala codebase, committers or contributors of the Scala compiler. Exceptionally, members may also be important representatives of the community with a high technical knowledge to understand the implications of every proposal and participate into the discussions. New members are elected by existing members of the SIP Committee, based on their expertise and involvement in the community.
The current committee members are:
- Martin Odersky (@odersky), EPFL
- Adriaan Moors (@adriaanm), Lightbend
- Guillaume Martres (@smarter), EPFL
- Heather Miller (@heathermiller), Carnegie Mellon University
- Iulian Dragos (@dragos), Triplequote
- Josh Suereth (@jsuereth), Google
- Miles Sabin (@milessabin), independent
- Seth Tisue (@SethTisue), Lightbend
- Sébastien Doeraene (@sjrd), Scala Center
The current Process Lead is:
- Darja Jovanovic (@darjutak), Scala Center
The Process Lead assigns every proposal to a member of the committee, who becomes the reviewer. The main tasks of the reviewer are the following:
- Discuss unclear points with the authors,
- Help them address their issues and questions,
- Provide them feedback from the discussions in the meetings, and
- Explain the latest progress in every meeting.
SIP meetings are scheduled monthly by the Process Lead, and require a quorum of two-thirds (2/3) of the committee members. If the quorum is not reached the meeting is rescheduled.
All SIP Committee members vote. They can either vote in the meeting or by casting their vote via email to the SIP Process Lead before the set deadline.
SIP Committee members can vote “in favor”, “against” or “abstain”.
For a SIP to be accepted, the following three requirements must be met:
- At least 50% of the committee members vote in favor.
- There are at least two-thirds “in favor” versus “against” votes.
- Martin Odersky does not veto it.
An alternative way to think of the two-thirds requirement is that the number of votes in favor must be at least twice the number of votes against. Abstentions are excluded in calculating a two-thirds vote.
Note that, when calculating the lower bound, numbers round up. Therefore for a committee of 9 members, at least 50% means at least 5 members.
The deadline to vote a proposal is decided on a case-by-case basis. The deadline will be decided by the committee members present at the last meeting and the SIP Process Lead, and will be made public right after the meeting.
Several voting situations are explained next.
All of them assume that there are 9 committee members. The 50% requirement requires at least 5 members to vote in favor. We also assume that Martin does not veto them.
|In favor||Against||Abstentions||Voting members||Result|
In the first situation, the proposal is accepted because 6 is both greater than the 50% (5) and more than twice the votes against (2). In the second situation, the proposal meets the 50% requirement but fails the two-thirds requirement since 5 is less than twice the number of votes against, 3, therefore the proposal is not accepted. In the third situation, the proposal is accepted because 5 is equal to 50% of all the committee members and is greater than twice the number of votes against (2).
Responsibilities of the members
- Review the proposals they are assigned to. The Process Lead will always notify them two weeks in advance, at minimum.
- Play a role in the discussions, learn in advance about the topic if needed, and make up their mind in the voting process.
- Decide which utilities should be inside the core module and are required by the compiler. The goal is to shrink it over time, and, where possible, move modules to the platform, that will be managed by the SLIP process.
Experts in some fields of the compiler may be invited to concrete meetings as guests when discussing related SIPs. Their input would be important to discuss the current state of the proposal, both its design and implementation.
The state of a proposal changes over time depending on the phase of the process and the decisions taken by the committee. A given proposal can be in one of several states:
- Validated: The Process Lead has validated the proposal and checked that meets all the formal requirements.
- Numbered: The committee agrees that the proposal is a valid document and it’s worth considering it. Then, the Process Lead gives it a number.
- Awaiting review: The proposal has been scheduled to be reviewed for a concrete date.
- Under review: Once the author has delivered a new version, the proposal will be under review until the next available SIP meeting takes place.
- Under revision: Authors are addressing the issues pinpointed by the committee or working on the implementation.
- Dormant: When a SIP has been under revision for more than two iterations and no progress has been made, the Process Lead will mark it as dormant (note that the committee does not have such privilege). This status means that the Process Lead will not assign its review in future meetings until authors provide the requested feedback or progress. Also, authors can also mark their proposals as dormant, and they are encouraged to do so if they think they will not have time for their update.
- Postponed: The SIP has been postponed under some concrete conditions. When these are met, the SIP can be resubmitted.
- Rejected: The SIP has been rejected with a clear and full explanation.
- Accepted: The SIP has been accepted and it’s waiting for the merge into the Scala compiler.
How do I submit?
The process to submit is simple:
- Fork the Scala documentation repository, https://github.com/scala/docs.scala-lang.
- Create a new SIP file in the
_sips/sips/. Use the S(L)IP template
- Create a link to your SIP in the “pending sips” section of
- Commit your changes to your forked repository
- Create a new pull request. This will notify the Scala SIP team.