NixOS Foundation board: Giving power to the community

The community is more important than the product.
— Pieter Hintjens

Dear contributors to the Nix ecosystem, dear users,

We recognize that the Nix community keeps growing and changing, and its governance has not been adapting accordingly. While the foundation board was never intended to lead the community, we cannot deny that it is perceived to be in that role by many, and we therefore take full accountability. We acknowledge there’s been a series of recent crises in our community, which are related to issues with communication, leadership, moderation, representation, and decision making power. The purpose of this document is to take drastic steps: to announce a transition of power as a first step toward addressing those issues.

The foundation board and many members of the community have spent the past 10 days in close contact with each other, deliberating to understand the root causes and working together to define what to do about the situation. So, to you, it may have appeared that nothing was happening in the meantime. We wish we’d reached out publicly sooner, but we did not manage to, for the same reasons described in this statement.

Eelco steps down from the board

Eelco is the principal author of Nix and undoubtedly a central figure in the ecosystem that grew around it. We confirm that Eelco showed no intention to be perceived as or act like the BDFL of the Nix ecosystem, or the Nix code base. To commit to that in a timely manner, he has decided to formally step down from the board. This decision was made amicably and in mutual agreement with the board that this is the right thing to do. Our collaboration was always characterised by our deep respect for Eelco’s work and our awareness of his lasting impact on our lives.

We will ensure an orderly transition of responsibilities, which needs to happen in a thoughtful manner. We will coordinate the process on the foundation board’s issue tracker.

Community-based governance

We fully understand that at this scale, a healthy open source project is one where it is clear and transparent how decisions are made and how to participate in making them.

This isn’t how it works today. Right now, part of our role is to be arbiter in case of conflicts, which we assume, among many other reasons, creates the perception and effectively puts us in a position of ultimate decision-making power on community issues. We don’t want that to be the case, we’re not set up for it at the moment. We want to fix that and exercise our power, by explicitly giving it to you, the community.

We will appoint a constitutional assembly within the next 14 days. Its task will be to set up a new governance structure, run by the community, that is capable of serving the community’s needs. Once established, we will delegate our power to institutions within that new structure. This entire process will take place in a public space, such that it’s traceable for anyone concerned. We are committed to listening to everyone who may help with solving the problems the community is facing.

We envision that the new governance structure, which is to be created by the constitutional assembly, will be fully empowered to handle various issues including but not limited to:

  • Conflicts of interest policy
  • Sponsorship policy
  • Moderation
  • Protecting minorities

We will post more details on Discourse as we go.

How you can help

To discuss actionable, constructive suggestions on shaping the future of our community, please refer to the NixOS Foundation Discourse category.

We are also seeking input from people who have experience with open source community building, governance, or non-profits.


Furthermore, we want to thank the community members who have helped putting this together:


I’m so glad to see Nix take such a bold and strong step of fully embracing being a community-run project. I know Eelco has always wanted Nix to be community-governed, and am excited to see where this goes.


This is an excellent response, thank you for the countless hours and conversations this likely took. As well, for Eelco to step down is a large change for him and I would like to thank him directly for placing his trust in the Nix community that have rallied around his invention.

One concern I have for the coming process is how dealing with bad-faith actors will be managed. The specific events listed here are delicate and if they go the same way as prior Code of Conduct establishment attempts went then the community may not get to the point it needs to in order to remain healthy.


One concern I have for the coming process is how dealing with bad-faith actors will be managed.

I don’t think it possible to know that in advance for something that is as foundational as a constitutional assembly.

The truth is that one can be really sure how the next phase will turn out — getting community governance right will require great patience and optimism, which is rather a shift from the “enough is enough” mentality that was just as necessary to bring our long-boiling community disagreements to a head and force these conversations.

I can only hope that everyone can have a better, more relaxed next few days, and when we convene, we finally get this stuff right :).


Will Eelco continue to lead the Nix team?


@AshleyYakeley The Nix team, not the board, will provide a statement answering such questions soon.

It is my personal view as a Nix Team member that:

  • @edolstra should remain on the Nix team. There is nothing in my view he has done as a Nix team member to warrant his removal from the Nix team. The above documented pointed out that he is not is not interested in the administrativa that is the board’s job, but that he is interested in the engineering work that is co-maintaining the Nix code base. I would be sad and consider it unfair if he left the Nix team.

  • The website saying he is the “team lead” is effectively a mistake — the team operates in an egalitarian manner with no one member above the others. I am fine if Eelco remains the “ceremonial” team leader. I am equally fine if the team officially does not have a leader.

  • In some contexts Eelco may have been treated as the BFDL, against his wishes. In the Nix Team meetings, we have not made that mistake. We treated him as “just” another team member, and he never expressed any dissatisfaction with this agreement.


One concern I have is if any solutions to this issue will be used to shut down disagreement with the new power structure that gets put in place. The concept of bad-faith engagement, while valid, ultimately depends on assessing the internal mental state of the other person, what their intentions are, and disagreements make assuming pure hostility much more likely.


Since the new governance structure will be on top of the teams, they’ll actually be able to make arbitrary team changes, including removing members from it!

Regarding the “Nix team” title, I just opened a PR to fix the website: Fix Eelco's Nix team title by infinisil · Pull Request #1410 · NixOS/nixos-homepage · GitHub :slight_smile:


“Bad faith” is hard to qualify. But demonstrating that you are trying to be responsible for defusing and avoiding conflict, and trying to offer constructive dialogue is more feasible to qualify.


I did not consider Eelco to have a formally different position within the Nix team, and I believe the “Team lead” label might have been added to conform with the other team pages, and too little thought was put into that.

I’d like him to stay on the team, perhaps relevant here is my post about my perspective as a Nix team member last week.

EDIT: And of course I’ll respect what the community wants through the new governance structure.


Yes, that is true. The Nix team could vote to keep Eelco in all roles, and the new governance structure could vote to overrule the team on this.

As I stated above, I strongly hope this does not happen, but I do feel compelled to go on the record agreeing that is technically possible. Were the new governance structure to not have the capability of booting other teams’ members, it would not be strong body we intend it to be.


My advice for the Nix ecosystem would be to look to Kubernetes for examples in how to manage a project and its community. The operational structures required, the groups responsible for particular domains, and inter-group collaborations are all well defined and organized. Many, if not all, of these concepts map directly to Nix and can be adopted.


Is the “we” here is the current board? What will be the criteria used for selecting representatives?

Will the current moderation team be moderating the proceedings?


I don’t know the answer to the questions, nor would I expect anyone else to know them. The next 14 days exist to figure whatever needs to be figured out to get this process started.


Just a brief note here for context: The foundation board was in a meeting with community members for about 9 straight hours until 2:30 at night (for Europeans) to get to this point. I’d like to applaud such dedication by all involved towards making this important step in the community! :clap:

And with that, I’m gonna try to get some sleep! :heart:


26 posts were split to a new topic: NixOS Foundation board announcement: Moderation concerns

I do hope that @edolstra will remain part of the nix team.


While many of us haven’t had a weekend in a while. I’m personally moved by how much passion has gone into the Nix light shining brighter, there’s many folks around us here that put Nix before many other matters. That shouldn’t be taken for granted.
I just want to say that I personally feel thankful to have that here with us. So just sharing an immense amount of appreciation and virtual hugs to everyone here and for all the care. It shows. <3


Fwiw @endocrimes is part of the kubernetes governance (iirc) and was helping with getting this statement published.