Sloppy Charters (was: Re: Discipline of Internet Protocol Engineering)

John C Klensin john-ietf at
Fri Jun 6 13:02:51 CEST 2003


I think those sorts of weak communications are a problem. 
Without knowing which WG you head, or which AD is involved, I'd 
suggest that, if you have a continuing poor-communication 
problem, you need to have some serious conversations with the AD 
and, if necessary, perhaps with the other AD in the area about a 
switch, or with the IETF Chair.  If those don't work, you need 
to think about conversations with Nomcoms or more dramatic 

But they aren't what I was talking about.  At one time or 
another, virtually every AD has had someone (or, more often, a 
group) approach him or her with some interest and a story about 
how IETF needs to move now or industry will pass us by, or we 
will be in disrepute, or the Internet will suffer in some 
horrible way.  There is always some truth in the story.  In the 
most extreme of these circumstances, decent charters are hard to 
develop -- the enthusiasts have either only the broadest of 
ideas what they really want/need to do, or some ideas that are 
frightfully overfocused and unlikely to work in an 
unconstrained, public-Internet environment.  Usually, after a 
BOF or two (between which the AD is accused of foot-dragging or 
being unresponsive), progress continues toward a charter amidst 
suspicions about bad faith (as in "they will agree to anything, 
then ignore it once the WG is chartered").  The WG is then 
authorized, sometimes out of general exhaustion and the AD's 
sense that there are far more important things to do than 
continue negotiating with a bunch of impossible people.  And 
then, in the worst cases and as predicted, the group goes 
wandering in the weeds, goes off-charter, or produces work that 
is significantly inferior.   If the AD pushes back, the WG 
complains that, having been chartered, they have the "right" to 
do their thing.  And it is further downhill from there.

That scenario has been described before.  My problem, in this 
context, isn't with the scenario itself.  It is with the fact 
that the ADs who do try to push back, hard and consistently, 
tend to get zero or negative support from the community for 
doing so.  And then we, sooner or later but inevitably, get the 
leadership, management,
and standards quality we deserve.


--On Friday, 06 June, 2003 17:56 +0300 "john.loughney at" 
<john.loughney at> wrote:

> John,
>> 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
> This sounds much more like a breakdown in the communication
> between the chair and the AD.  If the chair is not able to
> organize the WG / charter correctly, so that the AD has to
> step in, I am not suprised that the WG revolts.
> Currently, the chair - AD communication seems to be suffering.
> I am not so sure how it is in other areas, but I sense that
> ADs are not giving sufficient technical direction to their
> WGs.  I, for one, would be happy to have more discussions
> with the IESG on the future of my WG, in fact, I think I
> need more.
> John L.

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