Policy for Unofficial and Unmaintained Projects

This policy describes a process where we take actions against unmaintained and unofficial forks of project documentation.

Tip

If you want to free up a project’s slug and gain access over it, please see Policy for Abandoned Projects.

Rationale

Documentation projects may be kept online indefinitely, even though a newer version of the same project exists elsewhere. There are many reasons this can happen, including forks, old official docs that are unmaintained, and many other situations.

The problem with old, outdated docs is that users will find them in search results, and get confused to the validity of them. Projects will then get support requests from people who are using an old and incorrect documentation version.

We have this policy to allow a reporter to request the delisting of forks that are old and outdated.

High level overview

The process at a high level looks like:

  • A reporter contacts us about a project they think is outdated and unofficial

  • A Read the Docs team member evaluates it to make sure it’s outdated and unofficial, according to this policy

  • We delist this project from search results and send an email to owners of the Read the Docs project

  • If a project owner objects, we evaluate their evidence and make a final decision

Definitions

Unofficial projects

A project is considered unofficial when it is not linked to or mentioned in any of these places:

  • Websites and domains associated with the project

  • The project’s primary repository – README files, repository description, or source code

Unmaintained projects

A project is considered unmaintained when any of the following are met:

  • The configured version control repository is unreadable. This can happen if the repository is deleted, credentials are broken or the Git host is permanently unresponsive.

  • The project is only serving content from releases and commits 6 months or older.

  • All builds have failed for more than 6 months.

Implementation

Requesting a project be delisted

You can request that we delist an outdated, unmaintained documentation by contacting our Site Support.

Please include the following information:

URL of unofficial and unmaintained documentation project: ...
URL of official documentation (if any): ...
URL of official project website (if any): ...
URL of official project repository (if any): ...

Describe attempts of reaching the owner(s) of the documentation project:
...

Delisting

Projects that are determined to be unmaintained and unofficial will have a robots.txt file added that removes them from all search results:

# robots.txt
User-agent: *
# This project is delisted according to the Policy for Unofficial and Unmaintanied Projects
# https://docs.readthedocs.io/en/stable/unofficial-projects.html
Disallow: /

Projects will be delisted if they meet all of the following criteria:

  • The person who submits the report of the unmaintained and unofficial project also demonstrates failed attempts to contact the existing owners.

  • The project has been determined unmaintained and unofficial by the rules described above.

  • The core team does not have any additional reservations.

The Read the Docs team will do the following actions when a project is delisted:

  • Notify the Read the Docs project owners via email about the delisting.

  • Add the robots.txt file to be served on the project domain.

If any of the project owners respond, their response will be taken into account, and the delisting might be reversed.

Thinking behind the policy

The main idea behind this policy is that Read the Docs serves the community. Every user is invited to upload content under Read the Docs Terms of Service, understanding that it is at the sole risk of the user.

While Read the Docs is not a backup service, the core team of Read the Docs does their best to keep content accessible indefinitely in its published form. However, in certain edge cases, the greater community’s needs might outweigh the individual’s expectation of continued publishing.

Prior art

This policy is inspired by our Policy for Abandoned Projects. The Python Package Index (PyPI) policy for claiming abandoned packages (PEP-0541) heavily influenced this policy.