Intersect Open-Source Glossary

The following list includes commonly used terminology within Intersect. The purpose of this page is to offer a single, reliable source for the definition and application of each term.

Apache Foundation

A nonprofit organization founded in 1999 that oversees development and hosting for hundreds of open-source projects, including Kafka, Hadoop, Apache Web Server, and more.

Blockchain developers

Larger projects developing applications on top of Cardano


A duplicate of a piece of code currently in version control allows changes to be made without affecting the main source code.

Catalyst Circle

A committee assembled by election to perform problem sensing and deliberate issues across multiple areas of the Catalyst ecosystem, including General ADA Holders, IOG, Toolmakers and Maintainers, Funded Proposers, Stake Pool Operators, Community Advisors, and Cardano Foundation.

Catalyst Circle Representative

A Representative who can be elected to The Catalyst Circle during an election. For example, a Catalyst community member can represent Community Advisors within the Catalyst Circle.

Catalyst Technical Council

A council of technical people will make decisions and deliberate on catalyst matters (Initially appointed by IOG).


A document used to describe a Project or Program in relation to Scope, Deliverables, Resources, and Costs

CIP Format: Abstract

A short (~200 words) description of the technical issue being addressed.

CIP Format: Backwards compatibility

All CIPs that introduce reverse incompatibilities must include a section describing these incompatibilities and their severity. The CIP must explain how the author proposes to deal with these incompatibilities.

CIP Format: Motivation

The motivation is critical for CIPs that want to change the Cardano protocol. It should clearly explain why the existing protocol is inadequate in addressing the problem that the CIP solves.

CIP Format: Path to Active

A reference implementation, observable metrics, or anything showing the acceptance of the proposal in the community. It must be completed before any CIP is given the status "Active," but it need not be completed before the CIP is accepted. It is better to finish the specification and rationale and reach a consensus before writing any code.

CIP Format: Preamble

Headers containing metadata about the CIP (see below).

CIP Format: Rationale

The rationale fleshes out the specification by describing what motivated the design and why particular design decisions were made. It should describe alternate designs that were considered and related work. The rationale should provide evidence of consensus within the community and discuss important objections or concerns raised during the discussion.

CIP Format: Specification

The technical specification should describe the syntax and semantics of any new feature. The specification should be detailed enough to allow competing, interoperable implementations for the current Cardano platforms.

CIP Status: Active

The proposal is deemed to have met all the appropriate criteria for being considered active.

CIP Status: Draft

The idea has been formally accepted in the repository and is being worked on by its authors.

CIP Status: Obsolete

The CIP was either retired or made obsolete by a newer CIP.

CIP Status: On Hold

The CIP author is currently working on something other than this effort.

CIP Status: Proposed

A working implementation and a clear plan highlighting what is required for this CIP to transition to "Active".

CIP Status: Rejected

Some issues with the CIP make it unacceptable.


A committee is usually a small group, usually assembled to discuss specific matters at hand. Committees represent larger bodies. A committee can be formed within a council.

Community Advisor (CAs)

Community Advisors help review proposals (non-incentivised)

Community Guidelines

A set of rules decided on by community moderators of an open-source project, usually related to how contributors add code or disallow negative treatment of other community members.

Community Leader

Members with large social following or formal leadership roles such as SPOCRA, Catalyst Circle, etc.

Community Members

ADA holders that are staking and voting can be large or small

Community Observers

ADA holders that are staking but not voting can be large or small


the different groups that make up the Cardano Ecosystem, e.g., Ada Holders


The fundamental law, written or unwritten, establishes the character of a government by defining the basic principles to which a society must conform, describing the organization of the government and regulation, distribution, and limitations on the functions of different government departments, and prescribing the extent and manner of the exercise of its sovereign powers.

Contribution License Agreement (CLA)

A contribution license agreement (CLA) is a legal document signed by any developer who contributes intellectual property to an open-source project. The CLA typically specifies the conditions under which developers can submit their contributions. Not all open-source projects use a CLA for that purpose. In many cases, the terms and conditions applicable are already specified by the project's open-source license.


Submit pull requests and complete any re-submissions requested by the Trusted Committers including supporting their contributions for a given period after merge as agreed in the LICENSE.MD - Choose a License file. These are the ‘guests’ within different code bases.


A council is a group of people or experts in their respective fields who come together to make decisions and deliberate.


Decentralization or decentralization is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision-making, are distributed or delegated away from a central, authoritative location or group

Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO)

A decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) is an emerging legal structure. With no central governing body, every member within a DAO typically shares a common goal and attempts to act in the entity's best interest. Popularized by cryptocurrency enthusiasts and blockchain technology, DAOs make decisions using a bottoms-up management approach.

Delegate Representative (DRep)

A Representative who votes on proposals on a user's behalf. I.e., a Catalyst community member can be a representative and vote on Catalyst proposals on behalf of several users (ADA Holders)


A formal and organized choice by a person's vote for a political office or other position. An election is how people can choose their candidate or preferences in a representative democracy or other form of government.


The act of putting something into action, especially making something law.


The act of making a public statement of your support for something or someone

Free Software

Free software is distributed free of charge, and users can modify and redistribute it without restrictions. Focused on access to the source code, the free software movement is as much a political organization as anything else. Under the free software licensing model, developers can even charge for software distribution. However, these broad rights are conditioned upon the users’ commitment to provide similar access to their code modifications and to never narrow the licensing rights as a condition of distribution.


Freeware is Shareware with no registration fee.

General Public License (GPL)

A copyleft software distribution license created by Richard Stallman that is a standard-use document for open source projects. The GPL currently comes in versions 2 and 3.


A version control system was created to track changes made to source code by multiple users.


A web application for hosting code that is version-controlled using Git.

GNU General Public License

A widely used software license, first used by the GNU operating system, makes it explicitly clear to the software's copyright holder that the software can be used and modified by anyone.


The process in which a business or team manages the adoption of open-source software into existing projects or workflows.

Governance Actions

A governance action is an on-chain event triggered by a transaction. It has a deadline after which it cannot be enacted.

Governance Keys

Used to make changes to the Cardano Mainnet

Governance Model

A governance model describes the roles that project participants can take on and the decision-making process within the project. It also describes the ground rules for participation in the project and the processes for communicating and sharing within the project team and community.

Governing Body

Composition of the highest governance body and its committees by: competencies relating to economic, environmental, and social topics; executive or non-executive; independence; tenure on the governance body; number of each individual's other significant positions and commitments, and the nature of the commitments; gender; membership of under-represented social groups; stakeholder representation.


Protection against interference or misuse of the powers available under the constitution

Hard Fork

A project that was originally based on another project. Users may fork a project if they want to modify it for their personal use or drastically change it.

InnerSource (IS)

InnerSource is about applying the best principles and practices from long-running and successful Open-Source projects and code bases to foster better contribution, collaboration, community, and culture regardless of the public/private status of the underlying repositories.

InnerSource Program Office (ISPO)

InnerSource Program Office. It oversees InnerSource compliance and many of the outreach programs involved with ISPO projects can also be a subset within an OSPO; rather than a separate function. Typically a specialized function within an OSPO, very similar just be specific to InnerSource initiatives.


Items that need resolution


It is the legal term for the legal authority granted to a legal entity to enact justice. In federations like the United States, areas of jurisdiction apply to local, state, and federal levels.


A declaration of how a piece of software is to be used. In open-source software, licenses often make it legally explicit that anyone can use or modify it.

Licensing Obligation

The responsibilities of the licensor and the licensee are included either expressly or implicitly in the license. One of the basic implicit expectations of licensors is that they provide working software with the appropriate tools to access it; an expectation of the licensee may be that they abide by a license's copyleft use agreement.


An open-source operating system built on the Linux kernel created by Linus Torvalds and components of the open-source GNU operating system. It is the leading operating system installed on servers and mainframes and the leading general-purpose OS due to the kernel's use in Android phones.

Liquid democracy

It is a form of delegative democracy whereby an electorate engages in collective decision-making through direct participation and dynamic representation.


The person who moderates, tracks, manages and organizes an open-source project.


Marketing and Communications (Usually external)

Master Keys

Over-arching keys that can issue governance keys

MBO (Member Based Organisation)

Any organization that allows individuals or entities to subscribe and often requires them to pay a membership or subscription fee


Refers to data, processes, or transactions not implemented and executed on the Cardano blockchain.


Refers to data that is stored or a process that is implemented and executed within the Cardano blockchain.

Open Source (OS)

Open source is a term that originally referred to open source software (OSS). Open source software is code designed to be publicly accessible—anyone can see, modify, and distribute the code as they see fit.

Open Source Governance Protocol

Open Source Program Office (OSO)

The OSO aims to become a rich soil for fostering ideas, best practices, and initiatives for InnerSource and its wider adoption throughout Cardano's ecosystem.

When a project or team decides to adopt the InnerSource way of working, the OSO should be the place where its collaborators can get help and advice.

Open Source Software

Software that is freely available to use and modify by anyone and is typically codified by an open-source license.

Product Owner

Agrees and contracts certain deliverables to reduce wastage and multiple people working on building the same things within a code base. They also ensure awareness of new features that could help other teams. They are skilled in the art of engagement and negotiation. This group can be called evangelists.

Proprietary Software

Proprietary Software is owned exclusively by an individual or company and is protected under copyright law. Heavy restrictions are usually established on its use, modification, and distribution, and the source code is typically kept secret.

Public Domain Software

Public domain software is similar to free software but less restrictive. It is source code that can be used, modified, or redistributed in any way. Users are free to make changes to the software and keep those changes proprietary. Developers can even charge for the original code or a derivative without providing access to the source code. In that way, anyone can use public domain software in any way without needing a lawyer.

Pull Requests

A notification from a committer that explains what changes have been made to source code, particularly as part of a GitHub repository.


A file is included in every open-source project. It contains information on what the project does, the goals, how it's used, how to get involved, who the maintainer is, and everything else you need to get started on the project.


General term for multiple types of representatives


Shareware is software distributed for free and may be passed on to others. Users of shareware products are honor-bound to pay the developer's registration fee, whatever it may be. A variant of this licensing scheme, termed crippleware, will only function fully once the registration fee is paid. The source code is typically not included.

Source Code

Code that is written by a programmer to be executed by a computer. All software is created by source code, but source code is not always included with software when it ships.

Special Voting Event (SVE)

An event that is not handled within the current Catalyst voting environment

Stake Pool Operators (SPOs)

Decentralized, autonomous nodes are the foundation of the network, and SPOs are directly affected by protocol changes; super users engaged with governance, communication hubs to voters

Technical Debt

Also called "code debt" or design debt," technical debt is extra work that builds up, usually when an easy, short-term programming solution is taken rather than a better, long-term solution, forcing the developer(s) to do more work later to fix it. Usually used in the context of refactoring. Taking the easy way out leads to technical debt, which must be "paid back" in the form of rework in the future.

Technical Representative

A Cardano technical expert, elected to a Council during elections, a representative who votes on technical matters related to Core Cardano.



Terms of Reference (TOR)

Set the rules for meetings and committees

Trusted Committer

Trusted committers control the quality of the product and interactions with contributors. It's their job to mentor contributions and equip them to provide contributions that make it across the finish line and actually get merged into production—this group tends to be the ‘hosts’ of a code base.

Veteran Community Advisor (VCAs)

Veteran Community Advisors help review proposals


The activity of choosing someone or something in an election

Voting Mechanism

Attributes that are captured in a vote to support Voting Methods and Voting systems. These attributes are captured on sidechains (Jörmungandr). Example: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down, Abstain

Voting Method

The Voting Method determines the outcome of an election. An example of the Voting Method is the “Plurality Rule.” Each voter selects one candidate (or none if voters can abstain), and the candidate(s) with the most votes win.

Voting System

The voting system is a set of rules about how people vote and how the votes are counted.

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