OpenWDL: a public organization for WDL governance
TL;DR: We are handing over governance of WDL to an open community-based organization called OpenWDL that will ensure WDL development is driven by and for the research community.
When WDL was created a few years ago, our mission was ostensibly to produce a pipelining system for the Broad's internal needs. But we knew at the time it would have to be much more than just a Broad-specific tool, because we had already decided we would share our analysis pipelines as widely as possible. The most immediate consequence was that whatever pipelining solution we adopted needed to be portable across not only our method development and production environments, but also across a variety of systems used in the research community. The other was that the scripting language we used needed to be as user-friendly as possible, to be at the very least readable by e.g. biomedical scientists without formal computational training (which happens to be my own background, so I have an especially soft spot for that constituency). Those were huge factors that led to our decision to create a new engine (Cromwell) and domain language (WDL itself, obviously ) rather than adopt an existing system. It also motivated us to provide as much help (via the forum) and documentation as we could manage to anyone who expressed interest, whether they were Broadies or not.
Fast-forward to the present day, where we're starting to see individuals and organizations throughout the world adopt WDL (sometimes independently of Cromwell) for their own pipelining needs. This is a incredibly gratifying but also rather daunting, because that means we now bear some degree of responsibility in ensuring that the people who adopt WDL are empowered to be successful in their pipelining endeavors.
This realization kicked off a bit of a chain reaction. Figuring we were going to need help to understand what are the needs of that community, let alone satisfy them, we reached out to external people we know and trust who have been using WDL fairly intensively. We thought perhaps we could assemble a sampling of these power users to act as an advisory group, maybe a focus panel. We had some very illuminating conversations as a result -- in the sense that they told us not what we wanted to hear, but what we needed to hear: that our approach was all wrong. They told us that what would most benefit the WDL user community is not for us to make an effort to take directions, but to hand over the keys and let the community drive.
So, after we got our eyebrows back down from our hairlines, we did some soul-searching. Then we talked to the Broad's legal department. And to make a long story short, yeah, we're doing it.
In the next few days, you'll see the WDL repository on Github switch from the broadinstitute organization to a new org called OpenWDL. Within the next few weeks, a new landing page will be set up under the domain name openwdl.org, with more details about the new org, its governance model, and who is on the board of core members (Broad members will be a clear minority, by design). And at some point during the next few months the documentation website will migrate to the new domain as well.
To be clear, we still very much stand behind WDL as our preferred workflow language. We will continue to contribute to its development and to provide active, dedicated support to the WDL user community. The difference is that now a plurality of other voices will join in deciding where to take the language, and contribute to the documentation and support as well to the benefit of all.
They say if you love something, set it free.
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