Discussions have occurred on the Clojure Google group periodically about the Clojure contribution process, and why it is the way it is. This page attempts to give brief answers to some of the questions raised in those discussions.
Brief description of Clojure contribution process
Clojure, its contrib libraries, and ClojureScript, are distirbuted under the Eclipse Public License. Anyone can submit bug reports or enhancement requests by creating a ticket on JIRA (a list of tickets categorized by project is here), and attach a patch implementing the change if they desire. Only patches written by someone who has signed a Clojure Contributor Agreement (CA) will be considered for inclusion. Instructions for submitting a CA, and a list of the contributors are given here (over 500 contributors as of January 2013).
For the contrib libraries, the Project Lead decides what to do with all tickets and submitted patches. The Project Leads are listed on the project page above, given again here. For ClojureScript, David Nolen tends to be the de facto project lead, even though Rich Hickey is listed on that page.
For Clojure, there are about 5 to 10 contributors with the authorization to be Clojure screeners. They examine Clojure tickets and patches, deciding what to do with them. If they approve of a ticket with a patch, then Rich Hickey also examines the patch. If he also approves, then the patch is committed.
The project leads, Clojure screeners, and Rich Hickey all work on Clojure as volunteers, in their spare time, many of them since 2007 when Clojure was first released.
More details on how to create a patch, and about the screening process, are available on the JIRA workflow page here.
FAQs about the Clojure contribution process
Why does Clojure require that contributors first sign a contributor agreement (CA)?
Why does Clojure require that contributors submit a contributor agreement on paper?
The requirement to mail a signed CA on paper was set up in 2007 (TBD: verify if that is the correct year), before there were as many choices for electronic methods as exist today. It is the most easy to defend if there were ever a legal challenge to the copyright of any of the Clojure code. There has been some discussion in October 2012 on the Clojure Dev Google group about allowing electronic submission of CAs, too, but there is no process in place yet for that.
Link to Clojure Dev discussion thread
Other projects hosted on GitHub accept pull requests. Why not Clojure?
Rich Hickey prefers to evaluate patches attached to JIRA tickets. This is not to make it more difficult for contributors, or for legal reasons, but because of his work flow preferences. It is easier for him.
Link to Oct 2012 Clojure Google group message from Rich Hickey on this topic
But what about all of the people who won't contribute if you don't change your process to suit them?
If some people choose not to go through the necessary steps, that is unfortunate. The process of creating JIRA tickets and patches is documented and not terribly difficult. We understand that submitting a physical signed CA is slow and/or expensive from many parts of the world, and hopefully there will be an electronic method in place in the future.