MAJOR ISSUE: "Concentration of power"

John C Klensin john-ietf at
Sun Jun 22 11:05:14 CEST 2003

--On Friday, 20 June, 2003 16:57 -0400 Thomas Narten 
<narten at> wrote:

>> - 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.
> I've never asked or expected my WG chairs to do the writeup. I
> guess partly this is for historical reasons (it wasn't done
> that way when I started). Also, I don't really see this as a
> place where offloading the chairs gets much bang for the buck.

Thomas, I think this is a matter of style, rather than any trust 
issues (except as in the second bullet below), but I have always 
felt that requiring WG chairs to do those writeups would be 
extremely useful (separately or as a component of a general 
"explicit checkoff" process).  Some reasons:

	* At least in the past, a lot of documents have appeared
	to be stalled between "WG thinks it is finished" and
	"IESG is processing" because the AD hasn't gotten around
	to doing the ballot writeup.  Pushing that
	responsibility toward the WG would appropriately shift
	the locus of the timing problems.
	* Having the WG chair responsible for the writeup also
	helps to educate that person, and the WG, as to the
	issues the IESG considers important.  And IESG
	understanding that there are people there who understand
	how to do a writeup, highlight important issues for the
	IESG to consider, etc., could be useful tools for
	leadership development and expansion of "trust networks"
	or whatever we are calling them today.

For those who don't know, the "general explicit checkoff" idea 
would be to expect a WG chair to prepare a writeup (or sign off 
on a check list) that identifies issues the WG has, and has not, 
discussed and what resolution was reached.   A draft writeup 
would probably be part of it.  Its origins lay in wanting to be 
sure that, e.g., a WG had considered whether a particular 
section was needed in a draft: the AD shouldn't need to run 
around trying to figure out whether the absence of an "IANA 
Considerations" sections is because the WG considered the 
question and decided it wasn't needed versus "it fell through 
the cracks".  But, at various times, the suggestion has expanded 
to include a WG summary of significant alternatives that were 
considered and rejected and shy -- the more the IESG understands 
about what the WG considered carefully, the more likely it is to 
trust WG consensus about the outcome.

Those are not solution proposals, just observations about the 
"who does the writeup" question and its broader implications 
some of which are, IMO, symptomatic of deeper problems of 
procedure and maybe attitude.

>> 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 think one would need to look at this on a case-by-case
> basis. And it's not just about "trust" in some good/bad sense,
> it also has to do with experience. Better writeups come with
> experience, not on the first try. And whether this is
> something that needs to be pushed down the chairs.

And, unless we push this stuff onto the chairs, we expect people 
to learn?  How?  A flash of revelation from on high upon being 
seated on the IESG?

Seriously, we make entries on the problem list that amount to

	* Not enough leadership development.
	* Poor mechanisms for getting into the IESG's trust
	* Too long startup time for new members of the IESG.
	* Too little visibility into how the IESG is actually
	thinking in the WGs.
	* Too little visibility by the IESG into what the WG
	actually considered carefully versus what it let slip by.
	* IESG overload

and so on.  And then we ignore a class of possibility that would 
probably help with all of those issues because, e.g., the WG 
Chairs don't already have the necessary experience.  That, to 
me, is a Problem.

> To me, it's not really about "trust". I'm just not sure why
> the WG chairs should be doing this (except maybe under the
> "offload as much work as possible" theory). In practice, doing
> the writeup doesn't take that much time and I suspect that if
> I asked the chairs to do it, I'd end up spending as much time
> in the end just in iterating on the text and going back and
> forth. Often (and this is _really_ an important point), there
> is no time for that, because I'm trying to get the writeup
> finished in time for a deadline in order to get the document
> on the agenda for the next telechat. In such cases, one may
> not have a few hours or days to iterate. For me, this just
> isn't a place where it seems to make sense to try and off load
> to the chairs that much. Others may feel differently.

But that pressure is, I think, artificial.   The WG chair has to 
write you a note to say "start processing this".  Until you get 
that note, presumably nothing happens (although, presumably, you 
have been following the WG's work all alone, identifying 
problems and discussing them).  If you require a writeup, or a 
checklist, or both, as part of that note, its impact on the IESG 
schedule and deadlines is zero.   Yes, if you don't find the 
writeup satisfactory and have to iterate on it, some time gets 
lost.  But the WG chair gets some education, you might find out 
things about the WG's perspective that you didn't appreciate, 
and the WG gets a better understanding about the issues you (and 
the IESG) are concerned about even before the document(s) go 
into the "ballot" process.


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