MAJOR ISSUE: "Concentration of power"

Pete Resnick presnick at
Fri Jun 20 00:17:34 CEST 2003

On 6/19/03 at 6:43 PM -0700, Randy Bush wrote:

>On 6/19/03 at 9:13 PM -0400, Margaret Wasserman wrote:
>>At 05:57 PM 6/19/2003 -0700, Ted Hardie wrote:
>>>I think the heart of the matter, though, is that some significant 
>>>population that wants to participate in the IETF feels excluded.
>>I felt this way during my early IETF involvement.
>please find an example of some organization where you were a newbie 
>and did not have that problem.

I don't think it's just about being a newbie (or perhaps "newbieness" 
lasts longer in this organization than in others) and I don't think 
it's just about feeling excluded. I do think it's about trust, and I 
do think it's about a perceived difference between those in the I* 
and "everyone else" (and I'm even including WG chairs in the 
"everyone else"). Let me give two examples:

- My understanding is that in the IESG, a shepherding AD does a 
write-up of each document that is to come up for ballot. Some of the 
other ADs often just read the write-up, trusting it to be a fair 
evaluation of the document. ADs trust each other's opinions of the 
technical quality of the document, often voting "no objection" to a 
document that's out of their area of expertise because they trust 
that the shepherding AD or other ADs who are more familiar with the 
document. Assuming my perception is correct of how things work on the 
IESG, I think that's all good stuff. However, working group chairs 
are *not* routinely expected to do something like an AD write-up of a 
document. In fact, I've been directly told by some folks who've been 
on the IESG that the idea that a working group chair could do 
something like a good technical write-up that could be trusted by the 
IESG is absurd. (I have been told by some IESG folk that a chair 
write-up is a really good idea.) That means to me that the IESG does 
not, at least as a general rule, trust even working group chairs, not 
just random newbies. If the view that chairs cannot be trusted is 
widespread, that's a really bad thing.

- I've been in multiple working groups in which I've heard things 
from the chair like, "That's never going to get by the IESG." (When I 
was still young and impressionable, I've heard such words come out of 
my mouth.) Often, I don't think these words are used just to pass off 
blame onto the IESG for a technical issue that the chair thinks is a 
dog (although that's clearly one of the uses). I think the chair 
often means, "No matter how important we think this feature is, no 
matter how technically sound our argument is to have our protocol do 
this, the IESG (or some particular AD) is going to balk at this and 
it will take us forever to make them happy, so let's do it a 
different way that they won't complain about." That is, working group 
chairs do not feel like they and their working groups are trusted by 
the IESG to make good technical judgements, and they equally feel 
that they don't trust the IESG to listen open-mindedly to them.

Both kinds of distrust above are self-perpetuating: If the IESG never 
puts significant trust in chairs to direct their working groups 
appropriately, the chairs feel no responsibility to do so and the 
IESG ends up with work product that they must go through with a fine 
tooth comb because nobody will have done the proper vetting. That 
convinces the IESG that chairs cannot be trusted to produce good 
output, and round we go. If the working groups and chairs don't trust 
the IESG to listen to them, they will continue to use the IESG as a 
backstop, not evaluating problems on their own, and end up with 
crappy output that has to be dealt with late in the game. This then 
causes the IESG to push back late in the game, which the working 
groups perceive as arbitrary and capricious, and are therefore 
convinced that the IESG cannot be trusted, and round we go.

I don't know if you want to call that a "trust network" or a "class" 
problem, but either way, I don't think it's about newbies feeling 

Pete Resnick <mailto:presnick at>
QUALCOMM Incorporated - Direct phone: (858)651-4478, Fax: (858)651-1102

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