Board Statement - Documentation Team Events

The Nix ecosystem is thriving. However, it would be nothing without the community that supports it.

As a community strongly rooted in open source, we should know that.

As a community built around the biggest open-source package collection in the world, we should know that even better: Nix would be nothing without Nixpkgs, and Nixpkgs would be nothing without the thousands of people who built it, from the most dedicated maintainer to the one-time contributor.

This community has incrementally organized itself over its twenty years of existence as it was growing from a small group of hobbyists to what it has become. People started taking some responsibilities and semi-official teams formed (infrastructure, security, RFC steering committee). In addition, the NixOS Foundation was created as a way to financially support the project. The first motivation for that was obviously to improve the efficiency of all that energy scattered around the community so that we could make Nix more awesome than ever. But it also has a more existential aspect: We believe that Nix is the future, and it is indeed getting more and more attention. This is obviously great, but also means that we must be careful to keep Nix a community project and not have it be swallowed by commercial interests. And the way towards that is by continuing to grow and strengthen the community while maintaining and keeping a culture of collaboration and openness with anyone interested in taking part.

Our priority for the past months that we’ve worked together has been to strengthen the existing movement towards fostering collaboration within the community. This materialized in particular with the different teams that were created in the past months (documentation, Nix maintenance, Nixpkgs architecture, etc.) or the organization of the last NixCon.

Recently we have seen how easy it is to negatively impact the community with avoidable conflicts. As a quick recap of the facts: Determinate Systems (a Nix startup heavily invested in the community, with employees on the foundation board and leading different community teams) released last month, an “unofficial, opinionated, gentle introduction to Nix”. This initiative was praised for the quality of the content, but also raised a number of concerns and prompted harsh criticism, some of which was on the fact that this website was to some at odds with some goals of the established documentation team (unify the scattered documentation on Nix into one comprehensive location) while Determinate Systems was also employing the lead of the documentation team, raising the question of conflict of interest.

Because of these criticisms and the heated discussions that followed, the documentation team lost half of its members.

As members of the NixOS Foundation Board we will be doing everything to prevent this kind of event from happening again in the future. Nix has an immense untapped potential, and our community is our greatest asset in unleashing that potential. We’re convinced that this can only happen by keeping it a strong community project. And only by doing so can we empower everyone – businesses and individuals alike – to leverage its full power, to build on top of it, and get successful.

To that end, we’ve conducted a retrospective and discussed with the involved parties to identify everything that could have been seen as a grey area in that instance, and we set out to make sure that this kind of unfortunate situation can’t happen again by clarifying these. In particular, we plan to:

  1. Reinforce the team structure. Set some clear guidelines and expectations for teams and team members in the most important parts of the ecosystem.
  2. Get a trademark for the Nix brand, negotiate clear rules how to use it, and enforce them.
  3. Foster a discussion on the rules we want to have as a community regarding potential conflicts of interest.

Eelco recused himself from the decision making on this statement.


Neutral control of trademarks is a key prerequisite for open source projects that operate under open governance. When trademarks of an open source project are owned by a single company within a community, there is an imbalance of control. The use of any trademark must be actively controlled by its owner or the owner will lose the right to control its use. The reservation of this exclusive right to exercise such control necessarily undermines the level playing field that is the basis for open governance. This is especially the case where the trademark is used in association with commercial products or solutions.

Can you please explain more about this trademark? The lack of explanation makes me feel anxious about the future of the governance of Nix.


It’s very unclear to me what was actually done here. How is the team structure reinforced? As a member of the documentation team I have not heard of anything like that being done. What are the rules about the Nix trademark? Where is this discussion about the rules regarding conflict of interest being held?


It’s very unclear to me what was actually done here.

I find myself thinking the same thing. Was the comment with respect to reinforcing the team structure meant as an intention going forward?

Regardless, I would have expected that any retrospective to understand how came to be would have involved all the members of the documentation team. To have @Infinisil querying what has actually happened does not instil confidence in the process.

If we want more people to help contribute to improving the documentation, as well as Nix in general, it can’t feel like that effort can be undermined or hijacked by commercial interests.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to see an ever increasing number of commercial ventures within the Nix sphere. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. But it becomes all that more important to put processes in place to help moderate the influence of any one venture.


@Infinisil @brianmcgee urgh sorry, utterly confusing wording on our side. We indeed haven’t done all that yet, we’ve merely set out to do it in a near future


Thank you for your dedication to serving the community. I am looking forward to our future.

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Thank you everybody who is trying to move things forward. I believe that people learned from mistakes and we can look forward.


What learnings did the board take regardings the board structure? As far as I can tell the board soley consists of members that are in for-profit regarding Nix. If you are spending your days on nixpkgs in contrast to nix you can get the impression that most of these people on the board aren’t a good representation of the crowd you interact with.

Would the board have made this post even if none of the board members had been invovled in this documentation issue? What if an documentation lead (that has no involvement with the foundation) would have launched zero-to-nix?

This documentation issue sounds really like an unfortunate event and IMO some people are drama queens.


The creation of the NixOS Foundation Board had sparked some hope in me for a constructive way forward. A glimmer of hope towards professional governance and servant leadership which will ultimately elevate Nix beyond the shortcomings it has been struggling with for way too long.

I had recently distanced myself from the community and deactivated my account here but this statement literally pushed me beyond the edge. It’s hard to fathom how the board arrived at the conclusion that this statement could be in the service and best interest of the community.
Best I can tell it’s a slap on the wrist for Determinate Systems for publishing A slap on the wrist by The Board minus Eelco, the president of the NixOS Foundation who “recused himself”. And just to make sure that we are all on the same page: Eelco didn’t sign this statement because he is working at Determinate Systems himself.

The statement condems the creation of a documentation and learning resource that exists outside of the work done by the “established documentation team”. This effort apparently has “raised a number of concerns” and “harsh criticism” - This couldn’t possibly be more vague. It’s quite the stretch to not read it as:

[someone] didn’t appreciate it for [reasons] and we the board (minus the president of the foundation, who was part of the effort) are here to tell you that this is bad and that you should stop doing it"

What exactly are the concerns? By whom? What is the criticism? Is it valid? How so? What exactly should the takeaway be here? Don’t create useful resources unless you are part of the Nix Documentation Team? Or does it only apply when we are talking about for-profit organisations? Or maybe only when the resources are actually really good and there’s a risk that they might be more useful than any “official” resource?

I am honestly just so confused.

And talking about confusion: I reckon is an official resource, sanctioned and accepted by the Documentation Team? The project exists under the NixOS organisation on Github, but why though does Domen own all of it? ( at dccbb6590519e27f79ca8a7fd027bb3be59b4215 · NixOS/ · GitHub). How is this no problem whatsoever?

I can’t help but think that you don’t always apply the same high level of “due diligence” with the yet-to-be codified policies on “trademark” and “rules” etc. How do you break rules and policies that haven’t yet been written? Who decides when those unwritten rules have been broken? For now, apparently the unelected members of the board, all of which are working in businesses that operate in the Nix space themselves.

I want to close with a constructive suggestion:

Dear board members, please follow the example of other boards/foundations (f.ex Haskell) and consider yourself as an initial, temporary board. Your raison d’être is to bootstrap a board of elected members. Members who are elected for a period of time. After which they can potentially be re-elected to their position.

I would also urge you to consider to exclude members who are working in a company whose core-business is around Nix.

I raised the question around the creation of an elected board with rules to adhere to in the last public session of the board. The response was mostly a shrug and that no thought has been put into this yet. I can only hope that this will be addressed soon.

This very post implies that the board desires to play some role in governing the community. I don’t mind this in principle, i think it’s in fact desirable. What I do mind is a board with members who - for all I know - are nominated for life, who all have commercial interests, and who act without any public rules, policies or guidelines.


Hey Tobias,

I want to address your points regarding our documentation efforts and the domain.

I understand that you may not have had the opportunity to closely follow the progress of our documentation team in the past year, as it can be a lot of work to read through all the meeting notes. We are currently looking into ways to improve communication and ensure better transparency in our documentation efforts.

Regarding the use of a Contributor License Agreement (CLA) and the ownership of our documentation through the domain, my intention was to pave the way for publishing a book about Nix in the future. I received advice early on that it’s better to obtain consent from contributors from the beginning rather than waiting until later.

There is an open issue on GitHub from last July (assign copyright to NixOS Foundation by fricklerhandwerk · Pull Request #262 · NixOS/ · GitHub) to transfer the copyright and domain ownership to the foundation. Unfortunately, we have not been able to resolve this issue yet due to the foundation being preoccupied with setting up its foundamentals. I take responsibility for not doing enough to address this issue, but I want to assure you that I remain committed to donating the domain and copyright to the foundation as promised.

Regarding the concerns, while we have a lot of work to establish guidelines, from Code of Conduct to transparency w.r.t of conflict of interests, it does not mean that currently anyone can do whatever they want - the rules are just implicit and that makes it harder to draw the lines.


Of course. Actually our intent is essentially in line with that link you sent. Trying to summarize the idea behind that: With the Nix community getting bigger, Nix is also starting to attract more and more commercial interest, and the Nix brand by itself starts being something valuable. Because of that, it’s important to:

  1. Protect it from any (malicious or not) take over;
  2. Collectively set some explicit rules, so that people willing to work (for profit or not) around Nix can know under which conditions they can use the Nix(OS) name or logo.

And it’s better to do that sooner than later, since this sort of rule is much easier to establish in quiet times than when there’s actually a conflict.

I gather that you’re also more personally concerned because of the name of your company. To be totally honest, I can’t say how this would impact you since the trademark policy doesn’t exist yet, and should be as much as possible something for the community as a whole to decide on. My a priori very personal take on the topic, and what I would push for, is that if existing established companies or products don’t fully comply (in good faith) with the future policy, then they should be given at the very least a substantial grace period.

Hope that answers your question :slight_smile:


I have not been there, but my guess is: the response is a shrug, because everyone who was following the events in details for the last ten years or so can predict how it will go. It can not be addressed soon for any value of soon you will consider reasonable. I see good faith effort of learning from previous experience, and shrugging when asked this specific question does show that some lessons have been learned. Good.

There are things happening right now — not focused on foundation, but involving many of the relevant people — that are at least a bit more limited in scope and might be (indirectly) more useful for Foundation positioning.


In good faith, here’s an example of how not to do trademarks in Open Source, and an example we should learn from before any attempt is made

Hosted by Flying Circus.