OpenTelemetry Governance Committee Explained

This article describes the functions and responsibilities of the OpenTelemetry Governance Committee, based on the charter document found here. It is an opinion, not the formal definition. The primary role of the Governance Committee is not to centralize power, but to enable and empower the broader community by establishing processes. Let me explain.

Watering can

The main objective of the OpenTelemetry project is to make robust, portable telemetry a built-in feature of cloud-native software. The most effective way to do it is to build a community of passionate people, from existing ecosystem with the diverse expertise and experience. This community will build a project that is attractive to users, who will use it to instrument their software, as well as telemetry vendors, who will build solutions that work with the open standards.

In other words, success of our project depends on building community — welcoming contributions from small to large. Making sure that contributions go towards contributor’s interests while keeping balance with the interests of other community members.

As we strive to keep a lean governance, the most scalable approach to represent contributors’ interests is to allow self-governance of individual special interest groups. So these groups will be self-formed and autonomous. Maintainers of special interest groups make final calls on technical questions related to the group. The Governance Committee defines a clear way to become a maintainer through continuous contributions.

With self-governance of special interest groups (SIGs), a big part of a Governance Committee’s job is to keep project spirit and maintain its direction through defining, evolving, and upholding the vision, values and scope of the project. The main instrument of a Governance Committee is advocacy and building relationships with contributors.

That said, the Governance Committee members are not project or product managers in an industry understanding of these roles. Governance Committee members have no power over day-to-day work of the SIGs (it is typical that active SIG members are members of Governance Committee and keep making decisions in this SIG). The Governance Committee delegates responsibility for technical alignment across all special interest groups to a Technical Committee. Members of this Technical Committee make sure that SIG maintainers are aligned with the overall project goals, specifications and design principles defined by Technical Committee.

Where Governance Committee is limited in size and elected only once a year, Technical Committee membership is more agile. It allows more diverse set of people, representing various interests, to participate in defining project goals and writing specifications.

The Governance Committee, alongside the CNCF, also holds keys for project resources and assets like artifact repositories, build and test infrastructure, web sites and their domains, blogs, social-media accounts, etc. It is also responsible for ensuring that releases of components and artifacts are aligned with the OpenTelemetry agenda, and with the project’s advocacy and marketing needs.

The Governance Committee meets once a month in a public forum, and privately when needed. Now that you have a better idea of what the Governance Committee does, I hope you feel informed about which questions you can bring to Governance Committee attention.

Come meet the new members of Governance Committee November 14th 10:00 PT and ask your questions!

Thanks Sarah Novotny for review and feedback!

A version of this article was originally posted on