MAJOR ISSUE: "Concentration of power"

James Kempf kempf at
Fri Jun 20 11:16:26 CEST 2003


I believe that both phrasings, trust networks and class, are actually red
herrings. In my opinion, the real issue involves responsibility, authority,
and who gets to exercise both. Despite the "no kings and princes" slogan,
IETF is like any organization, in that it requires a collection of managers
to make sure the work gets done and that the work which does get done is of
sufficient quality and timeliness to be useful to the Internet community.
This function requires that these managers have the ability to exercise
power and authority appropriate to their responsibility, including the
assignment of people to positions of lesser power and authority. And, like
any human organization, these managers are going to depend on people they
know and trust for opinions about who to assign to actually perform the work
of the organization.

In the IETF, through circumstances and deliberate choice, we are now in a
situation where much of the responsibility for seeing that work gets done
lies with one group of lower level managers (the WG chairs), while much of
the authority for enforcing quality and timeliness and the ultimate power
for decision making lies with the top management (the IESG).  This kind of
situation is one in which power and authority is concentrated, while
responsibility is delegated. Most US corporations gave up on this model in
the 1980's, in favor of a model where lower level managers were empowered to
make decisions and enforce them commiserate with their responsibility. In
that sense, there is a concentration of power, but it has nothing to do with
class or trust networks.

In some sense, the reality of this situation is at odds with the IETF "press
release" (I mean this in a figurative sense as what we believe about
ourselves) that there really is no authority or power going on and
everybody's opinion is equal. That disconnect has led to phrasing of the
problem as involving class or trust networks.

My 0.02 euro.


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