Sloppy Charters (was: Re: Discipline of Internet
John C Klensin
john-ietf at jck.com
Fri Jun 6 10:55:03 CEST 2003
--On Wednesday, 04 June, 2003 15:08 +0200 Brian E Carpenter
<brian at hursley.ibm.com> wrote:
> Indeed, scope and non-goals need to be in there too.
> The most useful section of diffserv's charter, from the
> viewpoint of discussion management, was the part starting:
> "The group will not work on: "
> I've always regarded the vetting of WG charters as the most
> important single thing that the IAB and IESG do. A good
> charter is the most effective tool an AD or WG Chair can have
> to maintain forward progress.
> So, "sloppy charters" needs to be on the problem list.
While I fully agree, I think that, in this area and several
others, we've set up the wrong incentive structure. When we
have tight charters, they are often, perhaps typically, not
enforced. When an AD enforces one --with regard to benchmarks,
scope, or procedure-- he or she usually becomes _really_
unpopular with the membership of the relevant WG... and most of
the rest of the community, at best, ignores the action.
Often, we end up with sloppy charters because some group
insists, very loudly, that _something_ must be done, and done
quickly, because of perceived market or timing pressures. ADs
who try to resist those pressures are criticized as unresponsive
and foot-dragging, and, in general, no one comes to their
We've had proposals whose effect would be to attach real costs
to sloppy charters and drifting WGs. While both of the recent
ones --PACT and the "WG ceiling" draft-- have their own serious
limitations and problems, they were not even discussed and
explored seriously (e.g., to look at the problems and figure out
how to work around them), presumably because people in the
community don't, in the last analysis, really want those
constraints on _their_ WGs, regardless of how they might feel
about those of others.
I'd like to see if, in Vienna and thereafter, we can get ADs to
report on the draft charters they have turned down, or forced
into major revisions, because they were sloppy and on the WGs
they have efficiently shut down for drifting off-charter (or
just plain drifting). And then I think we should loudly cheer
This is of a piece with part of "WGs produce poor-quality
work". Ultimately, poor quality work comes out because the
community tolerates poor quality work. The AD, or advisor, or
random WG participant, who pushes back (either when things are
under way or "late") is routinely reviled for holding things up,
causing delays, being opposed to the principle on which the work
is based, etc. At plenaries, on mailing lists and, when nomcom
time comes around, in whispering campaigns, we hear complaints
about someone who has "caused" a delay; we don't hear complaints
about those who quietly let garbage go through. That situation
requires a careful balance, but, whatever that balance is, we
clearly haven't found it: the community's position _in practice_
is pretty clear.
As an aside, if we do not somehow change this manifest community
attitude, it will eventually kill SIRS too. I'd predict that it
would work well for a while --almost any "change",
"improvement", or "new method" does-- but that, eventually, we
will find reviewers who push back on poor quality being abused
for holding things up that represent clear WG consensus... and
getting no support for trying to enforce quality. Some of the
good ones will decide that they didn't sign up for the abuse and
drop out, others will start adopting a more relaxed attitude and
letting things go through... just as many ADs have done.
I suggest that much of the problem here is that, in Pogo's
immortal words, "we have met the enemy and they are us". And
we had better figure out how to turn that around.
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