Draft meeting minutes

Melinda Shore mshore at cisco.com
Wed Aug 6 09:52:47 CEST 2003

I've attached a draft of the meeting minutes from Vienna -
many thanks to Spencer Dawkins and Bilel Jamoussi for their
detailed notes.  Because of the nature of the working group
I've erred on the side of too much detail.  I've also got an
audio recording of the meeting that I'm hoping to put up on
the web within the next few days.


Problem Statement Working Group Minutes, IETF 57

Reported by Spencer Dawkins, Bilel Jamoussi, and Melinda Shore

The Problem Statement working group met for one 2.5-hour
session in Vienna.  The topics covered during the meeting
were the two deliverables (problem description document and
process document), and moving those towards closure.  The
intention is to release a new version of the problem
description document after the IETF meeting and put that
into WG last call.

Problem Statement Document

We went through open issues and tried to come to closure on
them.  The first open issue was the discussion of timeliness
in section 2.1 of the draft.  Several problems that were
brought out included that we don't say whether we're talking
about "timeliness" refers to working group milestones or to
market needs (Margaret Wasserman).  The issue is the time
involved in moving from draft to proposed standard (Scott
Bradner), and that dependencies between documents can hold
things up even longer (Elwyn Davies).  Harald Alvestrand
said that section 2.3 of the draft captures the point well
and suggested that we add the word "timeliness" to it.  A
hum from the working group showed agreement with Harald's

The next open issue was the appeals process.  There are
questions about both informal mechanisms for resolving
processes as well as the formal ones (Margaret Wasserman).
It was suggested that the barriers to entry on formal
appeals include intimidation and that we need to find a
balance between accessibility and providing barriers to
frivolity (Dave Crocker).  Dave also pointed out that we've
never used the recall process and so we can't know if it's
useful in practice, and that any changes we make should be
based in experience.  Brian Carpenter asked that we consider
situations where the appeals process itself has failed, not
where people were unwilling to use the process.  Margaret
suggested the introduction of a less formal problem
resolution mechanism that could be the last step before a
formal appeal, such as an ombudsman.  Scott Bradner went
back to the recall discussion and pointed out that the lack
of recall attempts doesn't mean that there's never been a
case where someone thought that an individual should have
been recalled.  Recalls would take time, so there's no
incentive to start a recall within six months of a nomcom -
this has been an issue at least twice.  This issue needs
further discussion on the WG mailing list.

The next issue discussed was the size of protocol
specifications.  Joel Halpern said that he thought of it as
a slightly different question - that we want to be able to
solve smaller pieces and build from them rather than trying
to boil the ocean.  Charlie Perkins agreed and said that we
need to allow a natural progression through publication of
stable pieces and add as needed.  Spencer Dawkins pointed
out that we need both interface specifications and systems
specifications, not just one or the other.  Harald
Alvestrand said that the issue here isn't about
specifications that are too big, it's about complexity.
Charlie Perkins added that we need to be able to review the
documents, and smaller pieces are more manageable.  Elwyn
Davies asked that people contribute text if they feel that
what is currently in the document is inadequate.

The next question was whether or not it's a problem that we
have Area Directors who are also working group chairs.
Margaret Wasserman said that this was a tiny piece of a
larger problem, which is that all of our leaders have
multiple roles.  This is not inherently a problem except in
cases where there may be conflicting responsibilities, for
example when an AD is a document editor in a working group
in his/her own area and is consequently the chair's "boss."
This can blow the appeals chain.  Jim Seng said that this
causes problems around getting consensus, as well.  Dave
Crocker said that intimidation comes back into play in this
scenario, especially when the IETF has new participants.  A
hum was taken and there was agreement that section 2.6.6
actually covers this issue adequately.

We moved on to discuss whether or not the scope of the IETF
is a root cause of current problems.  Scott Bradner
disagreed that this was the right question to ask, and said
that the ITU-T says that the lack of defined scope is the
problem.  Elwyn agreed and said that it's already covered in
section 2.1.  A hum indicated that those present felt that
the scope question is currently covered sufficiently well in
the document.

The next question was whether or not there's a problem for
non-native English speakers in how the IETF executes its
work.  Elwyn said that the document currently covers
problems with our culture but not education about our
culture.  Margaret Wasserman said that she didn't think this
was a root cause problem, but that the real issue here is
whether or not we're successful at becoming a global
organization.  Raj Patel agreed.  James Seng said that this
isn't a big problem that prevents progress but it's a minor
problem that the IETF has been hostile to ESL participants,
especially with cultural differences.  Dave Crocker said
that he's starting to agree with Margaret about the what the
real issue is, and that we should think about what cultural
adjustments we're willing to make.  John Loughney described
differences in expectations of formality, levels of
aggressiveness, and so on.  Leslie Daigle's criterion was
that if you wave a magic wand and the problem goes away,
would we be more successful?  She thinks our quality would
improve.  A hum indicated that we need more text on this

We then moved on to discuss whether or not our current
document format is a problem.  Margaret Wasserman asked if
this was actually an RFC Editor problem, and Scott Bradner
answered that the IETF problem is repeated discussions of
the same issue.  We took a hum and the sense of the room was
that document format is not an issue.  

The next issue was that of complex problem resolution - how
we resolve cross-organizational issues.  Alastair Deering
said that the IETF has a good working group structure but an
opaque area structure and no idea where decisions are made.
There needs to be a hierarchy of consensus-making.  Working
groups are too small for this purpose, experts are too
split, and we consequently don't have a broad vision.  Scott
Bradner said that the issue we're talking about isn't
complexity but that decisions can't stay made, which is a
systemic issue.  Charlie Perkins asked that we start
documenting our decisions better.  For example, has there
ever been an RFC written on ASCII vs. something else?
Harald's perspective from the IESG is that community-wide
consensus is a big problem and paralyzes the IESG because
they don't know what the community wants.  Mike ??? said
that the W3C decided that they would document their
architecture as axiomatic principles, not open for
discussion.  It may be heavy-handed but right now the IETF
process for discovering decisions that are no longer open
for discussion stinks.

Closing: Elwyn will propose document changes on the mailing
list and try to get agreement on them, then fold them into
the next release of the document which will be put into WG
last call.

Process Document

This was our first opportunity to discuss the process
document at a meeting.  The first question was whether or
not we're ready to tackle the near-term recommendations.
Brian Carpenter suggested that many of these are actually
secretariat issues, such as updating milestones.  Dave
Crocker said that it's been a year since Yokohama and there
still haven't been changes.  Harald went back to Brian's
comment and said that the people who should be noticing that
there's a problem with milestone updates are the chairs and
ADs.  The mechanical part isn't the problem.  Margaret said
that there are things we can be working on right away, for
example posting pointers to appeals, providing a suggestion
box, and so on.  Joel Halpern said that his WG milestones
are wrong because changing the charter is political and
difficult, and there are a lot of issues about updating
charters.  Aaron Falk pointed out that there are a lot of
uses for charters.  It's a contract between the working
group and the AD, not advertising for the WG.  Joel asked
that we not spend all of our energy on attacking near-term
solutions.  We need to work on fixing structural problems
before the organization falls apart.  Dave Crocker disagreed
and said that the current processes work fine, just not
often enough.  Every time we've ever tried to tackle a big
problem in a big way we've messed it up.  Organizational
change is not our area of expertise, so that would be even

Allison Mankin really liked the process document and COACH
BOF.  She wondered why we don't regard the WG chairs as a
leadership cadre.  Alastair Deering said that other
standards bodies have disciplined themselves to stop trying
to modify IETF protocols themselves but it's come at the
cost of dependencies.  For example, 3GPP has a list of 67
dependencies on IETF work for their current release.  Avri
asked whether we need a short-term WG on liaisons - there
was no answer.  Bob Hinden said that there are no perfect
organizational structures and that we haven't changed ours
in a very long time.  It's time to change, and we should
give WG chairs more responsibility.  Ed Juscoviscious
addressed the question of charters as contracts and
suggested that WGs can't be accountable to dependencies
because they don't have control over their own destinies.

Scott Bradner said that the IETF has historically been a
bottom-up organization.  We trickle up, and the previous
speakers have been talking about an issue where this isn't
appropriate.  We don't even rely on outputs of other WGs
well.  We can't deal with dependencies if there is no way to
direct working groups to focus on certain strategic areas.
Jonne Soinenen said that there are so many 3GPP dependencies
on milestones that aren't met, and asked for reasonable and
realistic milestones.

Margaret asked that we get back on track to discussing the
process document.  Avri took a hum to see if those present
felt that the overall direction of the document is correct.
The hum was positive.  She next asked if there are incorrect
recommendations in the document, and the hum was negative.

The next question was whether or not we need to define a
process to identify a mission statement.  Margaret Wasserman
no longer thinks this is the right thing to do, that we
could end up in an eternal rat-hole.  It would be great to
figure it out but we shouldn't gate anything on it and
perhaps it shouldn't be done in a traditional working group.
Brian Carpenter said that we do need to do some of it, that
scope does matter.  He asked that if we do do it, not to use
a design team.  John Klensin said that we're running the
risk of generating process that becomes part of the problem.
We need to cut it down and streamline it, and not rely on
the IESG folowing detailed procedures.  We should work
through discussions, nomcom, or even recall petitions.  Joel
said that he thought those are great things to do but we
can't do them in a working group and we have to socialize
the results very widely.  Scott Bradner said that these
things aren't static and that writing them down is a huge
mistake.  A hum was taken on whether or not we need to
define a process to develop a mission statement, and the
room was evenly split.

We also took a hum on splitting phase 1 and phase 2 as
described in the 00 version of the process document, and
that was evenly split as well.

We next discussed the question of whether an organizational
change to our leadership structure is required.  Margaret
said that it was important to make a process recommendation
as part of the problem statement.  We could give our
leadership a mandate to solves these problems, or we could
give it to somebody else.  Graham Travers asked if we don't
make a recommendation, what will we have done?  Brian
Carpenter restated the question to being one of
organizational reform and leadership responsibility for
reform.  Joel Halpern said that we're going to need a fairly
major change and that if we don't think out-of-the-box it's
not going to happen.  Margaret agreed and said that our
lower-level problems need reorganization as a solution, and
that if we don't give that mandate to someone we haven't
done anything.  Scott disagreed and that we haven't proven
that we need to reorganize and we haven't proven that we
don't.  Our current process to accept change relies on the
leadership.  Leslie Daigle said that if we fail to make
process recommendations we won't have done "nothing" - 
documenting existing problems is a significant step.  If we
don't fix them in a year, call nomcom.  Charlie Perkins said
that the composition of the organization may be okay but not
the distribution of responsibility.  For example, make the
IAB responsible for enforcing architectural principles
instead of the IESG.  Getting away from adversarial
relationships is important.

We then moved to discussion three bullet items at once: 1)
changing the standards track, 2) whether or not the short-
term and long-term problems should be attacked in parallel,
and 3) if a working group should be chartered to address
long-term problems.  Elwyn said that problems with our
standards track are our most important problems.  What we
claim to do is not what we do, and since our Proposed
Standards haven't been through the implementation and
testing process they are paper specifications.  

Charlie Perkins said that we must change the standards-track
process because it doesn't fulfill internal or external
needs, that we should do things in parallel, and that a
working group will take too long.  He also said that he
couldn't think of a better approach than a working group.  

Scott Bradner said that the standards process has shifted
one stage to the left, and there's no energy to advance
specifications beyond what used to be an internet draft
level of sophistication and experience.  Harald said that
people design and working groups review, and therefore that
we shouldn't use a working group to create process
proposals.  Raj Patel agreed, particularly on problems with
working group timeliness.  Do small things quickly and use
design teams for more complex tasks. 

Alastair said that the IETF has become a laughingstock in
other standards bodies.  The ITU-T can go from wanting to do
a BOF to publishing a recommendation in less than nine

A hum was taken on moving forward.  When asked whether
solutions work should be started 1) when the problem
statement is approved, 2) when the process document is
approved, or 3) now, the hum was decidedly in favor of 3),

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