edit

Extension Life cycle

This document describes the process of publishing extensions within the CiviCRM ecosystem.

Background

The CiviCRM ecosystem is built on the belief that non-profit organizations can serve themselves best by collaborating in development of their data-management applications. As staff, volunteers, and consultants for non-profit organizations, we can share our new enhancements and extensions — and build a richer whole for the entire ecosystem.

Of course, this collaboration means that we're all engaged in some give-and-take. We alternate between two roles:

  • Consumers: Sometimes we're the receivers. We want to quickly browse the available extensions, pick the ones which look best, and install them. We expect the extensions to work — both now and going forward (with future upgrades).
  • Developers: Sometimes we're the providers. We enjoy building great functionality, and want to invite people to use our products, but need to juggle the publishing tasks (like testing and maintenance releases) with the goals and resources provided by our bosses and clients.

With the extension life-cycle described here, we seek to build an ecosystem that balances the needs of both consumers and developers.

Definitions

Project Maturity

Should we expect this to work for most users? Should we expect it to work in 6 months?

Experimental
An experimental project offers zero support, stability, or maintenance. It may be useful for discussion, finding collaborators, or proving a concept.
Incubation
An incubation project offers some degree of support, stability, or maintenance. It's probably in use at multiple organizations. However, the levels are not guaranteed; some gaps and road bumps should be expected. A project may be "Incubation" for days or months or years.
Stable
A stable project has undertaken significant efforts to ensure that it works and continues working in the future. It has a strong quality-signal.
Deprecated
The project is no longer being maintained. It may work today; but it's liable to break tomorrow (unless someone steps up to manage it).

Stewardship

Who manages a project? Who decides whether the project is experimental? Or maintained? Or unmaintained?

Contributed
This project is managed by an individual or company in the ecosystem. All design, support, and maintenance are at discretion of the original author.
Official
The project is monitored as a community resource. Generally, the original author retains editorial control, but the project receives more strenuous reviews and follows stricter standards with feedback from others in the community.
Seeking Maintainer
This project does not have a person or organization responsible for it. If you think the project is useful, feel free to take responsibility for it.

Support Model

How do you submit questions and requests about issues?

Free
Submit questions and requests to an open bug-tracker.
Negotiated
Issues may be reported to open bug-tracker. If the author agrees it is critical or data-loss, they may address it. Otherwise, you need to negotiate a contract.
Pre-Paid
The author will not engage in any support discussions unless you have pre-paid for support.

Quality Signals

How do we know if an extension is any good?

Self-Assessment
An author makes a claim about the stability of their work. (This is a low-tech, low-touch process.)
Informal Discussion
One or more experts give gut reactions. (This is a low-tech, high-touch process.)
Formal Review
One or more experts assesses the quality, maintainability, best-practices, etc. using formal criteria. (This is a low-tech, high-touch process.)
Social Metrics
Data-points (such as #installations or average 5-star rating) is collected from many people. (This is a high-tech, low-touch process.)
Technical Metrics
Technical details (such as test-coverage, test-results, style-checks, or cyclomatic complexity) are checked by a bot. (This is a high-tech, low-touch process.)

Workflow

The database on civicrm.org publishes information about available extensions, including maturity and stewardship. This is significant because it affects authors (who publish the extension) and users (who download the extension) and determines access to communal resources on civicrm.org. The particulars are determined the maturity and stewardship of the project -- with a few basic rules of thumb:

  • The author always registers their extension on civicrm.org by creating an extension node.
  • Official extensions are subject to more scrutiny than Contributed extensions.
  • Experimental, Incubation, and Deprecated extensions have simple, open processes -- such as Self-Assessment or Informal Discussion.
  • Stable extensions require some kind of Formal Review.

Based on these rules, we can fill out a full table of the workflow:

Maturity Stewardship Primary Quality Signal How does an author get their extension designated as X? How does a user download an extension with X designation?
Experimental Contributed Self-Assessment In civicrm.org, the author creates an "extension" node and flags it as "Experimental". Locate the extension on the website. View a block which says, "Install Instructions", which includes drush/wp-cli commands.
Experimental Official Informal Discussion As above. Additionally The author announces to a high-visibility medium (such as blog or mailing-list). If discussion is persuasive, a senior member of core team flags the project as official. Locate the extension on the website. View a block which says, "Install Instructions", which includes drush/wp-cli commands.
Incubation Contributed Self-Assessment In civicrm.org, the author creates an "extension" node and flags it as "Incubation". Locate the extension on the website. View a block which says, "Install Instructions", which includes drush/wp-cli commands.
Incubation Official Informal Discussion As above. Additionally The author announces to a high-visibility medium (such as blog or mailing-list). If discussion is persuasive, a senior member of core team flags the project as official. Locate the extension on the website. View a block which says, "Install Instructions", which includes drush/wp-cli commands.
Stable Contributed Formal Review (light) In JIRA, the author requests a formal peer review. Once the reviewer is satisfied, they mark the node in civicrm.org as Stable. In app, go to "Add New" and choose the extension.
Stable Official Formal Review (heavy) As above. Additionally FormalReview criteria are more detailed. Announce to a high-visibility medium. At least one reviewer must be a senior member of the core team. In app, go to "Add New" and choose the extension.
Deprecated Contributed Self-Assessment In civicrm.org, the author marks the "extension" node as deprecated and announce to a high-visibility medium. Locate the extension on the website. View a block which says, "Install Instructions", which includes drush/wp-cli commands.
Deprecated Official Informal Discussion The author announces intent to deprecate in a high-visibility medium. If discussion is persuasive and no alternative maintainer comes forward, a senior member of core team flags the project as official. Locate the extension on the website. View a block which says, "Install Instructions", which includes drush/wp-cli commands.

Formal Review Process

Extensions must pass a Formal Review to become designated as Stable and made available for automated distribution through CiviCRM's in-app Extension management screen.

The review process assess several criteria, and as a rule of thumb, Contributed extensions are subject to a gentler review (fewer criteria), and Official extensions are subject to more stringent review (more criteria).

Who can review?

  • Contributed extensions must be reviewed by at least one peer/contributor.
  • Official extensions must be reviewed by at least one senior member of core team.

Becoming an extensions reviewer

To become an extensions reviewer, please take the following steps:

  1. Set up accounts on these sites (if you need help, reach out through the community resources)
    1. civicrm.org
    2. issues.civicrm.org - log in using your civicrm.org account
  2. Contact the CiviCRM Extension Ecosystem Working Group and ask to become an extension reviewer. You'll be notified when the necessary administrative steps have been completed.

Selecting an Extension for Review

  1. Choose one of these unassigned extension review requests.

    Consider the following criteria while choosing:

    • Readiness: The issue should contain a link to an extension node on civicrm.org. If no such link is provided, please request one in a comment on the issue, and move on to another issue.
    • Age of request: All else being equal, older review requests should be reviewed first.
    • Affinity/interest: Reviewers may wish to select an extension which relates to functionality in which they have an interest or with which they're especially familiar. On the other hand, there's no requirement to have any special knowledge of the extension's functionality if one is prepared to invest a little extra effort in the review.
    • Neutrality: Reviewers should not have been involved in the development of the extension. Employment or contracting relationships can introduce conflicts of interest. Reviews should be conducted by a neutral third party.
  2. To claim a review, assign the relevant "Extension Review Request" issue to yourself so that others know you're beginning the review. When you are ready to begin the review, update the issue status to "In Progress".

Tip

You can also browse all extension review requests, including assigned ones.

Conducting a Review

Reviewers should follow these steps to conduct an extension review for automated distribution:

  1. Review the extension on at least one supported CMS. (You don't need to test that it works on every CMS.)

    Tip

    Use Buildkit to create the CMS environment on-demand.

  2. Download and install the most recent release of the extension.

    Important

    If you clone the git repository of the extension, be sure to check out the tag for the most recent release. (Don't assume that the master branch is ready for review.)

  3. Observe that the extensions meets relevant criteria listed below.

    1. All criteria marked as "Required" must be met.
    2. At least some of the criteria marked as "Suggested" must be met.
  4. Try to make the extension misbehave in any potential edge cases that occur to you. Note any significant failures.

  5. Create a document to show the details of your review. It can be a google doc or .odt file or something similar.

    • Copy/paste the criteria table into your review document.

    • Add an additional column to the table for your comments.

    • Summarize all your tests and findings, positive or negative.

    • Attach or link to your review document in the "Extension Review Request" issue that you assigned to yourself.

    • Here is an example review documentbut don't copy-paste from this example document (use the criteria table below for the most up-to-date criteria).

  6. Use all of the information gained in the review to decide whether to approve the extension.

Criteria for passing a review

Category Criterion Required for
contributed
extensions?
Required for
official
extensions?
Admin Code is licensed under AGPLv3+, GPLv2+, LGPLv2+, MIT/X11, or BSD-2c Required Required
Admin Code is published on github.com Required Required
Admin Extension name uses "org.civicrm.*" namespace No Suggested
Admin Bus factor >= 2 No Suggested
Admin Access to project is granted to infra team No Suggested
Admin Release schedule is aligned with core No Suggested
Coding All code complies with civicrm-core style guidelines No Required
Coding Automated tests execute within 3 minutes (or less) No Suggested
Coding All dependencies are at similar stage (Ex: A stable project should not depend on an experimental project) No Required
Coding All strings are wrapped in ts() Suggested Required
Coding The project does not override PHP or TPL files from civicrm-core Required Required
Coding The project does not modify the SQL schema of a standard civicrm-core table Required Required
Coding The project does not conflict with other official projects Suggested Suggested
Distribution The project is packaged as a CiviCRM Extension, Drupal Module, Backdrop Module, Joomla Extension, or WordPress plugin Required Required
Distribution The project has a stable version (1.0+; not alpha or beta) Required Required
Distribution A demo site is provided Suggested Suggested
QA The project declares, on the in-app extension management screen, the nature of any changes it makes to existing data or functionality. Required Required
QA The project functions in all CMS's (for CiviCRM Extension) Suggested Suggested
QA An automated test suite is included Suggested Required
QA Project is periodically re-validated with newer versions of CiviCRM and compatibility updates are published No Required
QA All patches are subjected to peer review No Suggested
QA All patches are subjected automated tests No Required
Support Documentation is published Suggested Required
Support Issues are tracked in an open, public issue management system Suggested Required

Acting on review results

If the extension needs work

If a review indicates that the extension needs further improvement before it can be approved, the reviewer should take these steps:

  1. Edit the extension's node on civicrm.org to set the field "Reviewed and ready for automated distribution?" to "Needs work: This Extension Release has been reviewed and needs work from the developer before the review can continue".
  2. Add a comment to the issue to notify the issue reporter that the extension needs work; specifically mention the issues that prevent approval as well as other items which the developer may want to improve at their discretion.

Continue monitoring the issue for updates from the developer, and respond in a timely way to answer questions or to conduct a follow-up review after changes have been made.

If the extension is approved

If a review indicates that the extension should be approved, the reviewer should take these steps:

  1. Edit the extension's node on civicrm.org to set the field "Reviewed and ready for automated distribution?" to "Yes: This Extension Release has been reviewed and is ready for automated distribution."
  2. Add a comment to the issue to notify the issue reporter that the extension has been approved for automated distribution. Also mention any items which the developer may want to improve, even though they did not prevent the extension from being approved.
  3. Close the issue.
  4. Optionally: Mention the extension approval on Twitter or in the extensions channel at chat.civicrm.org.
  5. Congratulate yourself on your contribution to CiviCRM. Thank you!

Benefits

Based on a project's maturity and stewardship, it may be eligible to use resources from civicrm.org.

Action Type Benefit/Resource/Privilege Eligibility
Admin The project code may be stored in github.com/civicrm/civicrm-core.git. "Official" projects (regardless of stability)
Admin The project code may be stored in github.com/civicrm/ "Official" projects (regardless of stability)
Communication Direct discussions through chat.civicrm.org All projects
Communication Direct discussions through lists.civicrm.org All projects
Communication Direct discussions through wiki.civicrm.org All projects
Distribution Discovery on the in-app screen (ie. automated distribution) All projects ("Stable" or "Incubation") [where technically applicable]
Distribution Project may be bundled into the standard CiviCRM tarballs. "Official" projects ("Stable" or "Incubation")
Distribution The project is listed in http://civicrm.org/extensions All projects
Distribution Test and demo sites on civicrm.org include the extension. "Official" projects ("Stable" or "Incubation")
Marketing The project is included in official marketing literature about CiviCRM "Stable", "Official" projects
QA The civicrm.org build-bot runs extension tests for PRs (own repo) "Official" projects (regardless of stability)
QA The civicrm.org build-bot runs extension tests for PRs (civicrm-core repo) "Official" projects ("Stable" or "Incubation")
Support The project may have its own space or component on "issues.civicrm.org" (JIRA) "Official" projects (regardless of stability)