Doing the Right Things?

john.loughney at john.loughney at
Mon Jun 2 12:03:32 CEST 2003

Hi Keith,

> 1. We need to define the discipline of Internet Protocol Engineering.
> By that, I mean we need to enumerate a series of steps that should
> normally be followed, more or less in order, when developing or modifying a
> protocol for use on the Internet.  It doesn't have to be a long or 
> complicated set of steps, and it doesn't have to be rigid.  The main thing
> is to establish that (for instance) you really do need to understand your
> threat model and choose a security technology *before* you design your
> protocol - or (for instance) the time to identify other parties that
> your protocol might effect and work out compromises about how to minimize
> adverse impact is *before* you do detailed protocol design or tweaking.
> And maybe it would include 'prototyping' as one of the steps to occur
> before standardizing.  (though this doesn't mean that the prototype has
> to implement all features of the standard)

I agree with you on this.  This almost seems like a roadmap.  I think in
the past, charters have served this function, in an informal way, but
I think having a loose, but more formal roadmap (for lack of a better
term) for the work we undertake in the IETF would be a good thing.

> 2. We need to change the methods by which working groups 
> conduct discussions.
> a. Mailing list discussions are often so chaotic and unstructured that
> it's impossible to keep track of what is going on, the volume can be
> overwhelming, it's hard to get a "sense of the room" about where the
> group stands with respect to an issue, and people get so frustrated that they
> resort to personal attacks (or they take the bait when offered...)
> Some groups have imposed some structure on their mailing list discussions,
> with varying degrees of success in raising the signal-to-noise ratio, 
> improving efficiency, and maintaining opennness and high technical quality.
> one thing that might be useful is to survey various groups and see what
> they've done, and get an assessment of how well it worked.
> Maybe we need a "rules of order" for mailing list discussions.  We might also
> consider using other tools - e.g. having meetings via instant messaging, "web
> voting", etc.
> Different working groups might need slightly different mechanisms depending
> on size, diversity of interests, and the variety of levels of 
> expertise.

Agreed.  Also, I think it is the WG chairs' job to be list moderators as well.
That means interveaning before the attacks get personal; summarizing the
discussions; etc.  When the mailing list becomes free-form & unstructured,
I doubt much can come from it.
> b. It's been repeatedly observed for several years that face-to-face meeting
> time isn't used effectively - it's often taken up almost entirely by
> presentations of material that could have been read in advance, leaving very
> little time for activities that really do need face-to-face interaction -
> like resolving tricky technical disagreements.  Persistent instructions from
> various ADs to WGs have had little effect.
> Powerpoint-style presentations (not that it really matters which tool is used)
> tend to lull people into passivity, if not sleep.  Video projectors can be
> great for high quality drawings, or very occasionally, animations to
> illustrate how something works - but using them to put up words (with fancy
> backgrounds) that are just repeated by the speaker is to make a really
> ineffective use of high-bandwidth meeting time.
> We need to understand why we are stuck in these ineffective modes, identify 
> changes that could get us out of this mode, and implement them for all
> working groups.  Even the way the room is arranged can make a difference in
> the effectiveness of a discussion, but right now it's impossible to get the
> room set up in anything other than theatre style seating which puts people
> to sleep.  Having lots of people in the room who aren't participating or even
> listening also has an undesirable effect.
> Maybe we need to ban laptops in the rooms.  Maybe we need to have separate
> orientation sessions for newcomers to the WG so that they don't use the
> normal meeting time getting up to speed.  Maybe we need to require 
> participants to pass a basic competency test before entering the meeting room.
> Maybe we need to get rid of video projectors and put up whiteboards.

How about better time management; better meeting management, etc? Stronger
leadership is needed & perhaps a stronger requirement for getting a WG
slot at an IETF meeting is needed.  The transport area is fairly strict
about IETF meeting time, by the way.

One real-life problem that I have in my working group is that we are coming
to the point where we need to start some protocol work.  I know there will
be a land-grab, where many people try to bring forward proposals.  In past
IETFs, I've noticed having 5 presentations on the same topic (but different
individual drafts) tend to be mind-numbing.  I've been toying with the idea
of having a group discussing (almost a roundtable) where the different
parties interested in the protocol work get together and have a common
discussion time at the IETF up front - highlighting similarities & differences
between the proposals & general open issues.

> I suggest that the WG identify what kinds of things need to take place in
> face-to-face meetings; that these things be given priority on meeting
> agendas, that ADs check the agendas to ensure that the WG is planning
> to use meeting time appropriately.  Also we should not assume that
> face-to-face meetings have to be narrowly focused on the WG; face-to-face
> meetings can also be good times to resolve differences with other WGs or other
> interests that aren't represented by WGs.

I definately agree.   


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