"trouble maker"

Dave Crocker dcrocker at brandenburg.com
Mon Jun 23 23:03:17 CEST 2003


KM> Many working groups have had trouble making forward progerss in the
KM> presence of strident objections ...The majority may believe these are
KM> ... the minority individuals may see them as ...

The thread's exploration of this difficult a topic has been heartening.

There *are* obstructionist folk that damage working group activities,
sometimes.  We all know this and suffer from it.  But we will be vastly
ahead of the game if we can find a way to deal with it that is more
basic -- that is, more generally useful.

I think the sequence leading to Keith's proposed text goes in the right
direction, namely focusing on the need to make forward progress and
(forcefully) manage the working group to achieve it.

Sometimes, a working group is stalled by obstructionist folk. Sometimes,
a working group is stalled by poor focus, or the like, including poor
understanding of goals or just plain bad discussion management. So, I
wonder whether there is an essential difference between the two? My
guess is that both are solved through the same techniques.

Problematic working groups often suffer from a poor understanding of
their goal -- what is to be solved? -- or poor discipline at discussing
them. This usually leads to endless cycling over the same topics, with
no convergence.  Frankly I think this is not much different from the
individual who constantly harangues the other participants.

Well-managed groups have real discussion structure and real enforcement
of it, including bringing topics to a close and not revisiting them
without a *very* good reason.

   Clearly the key to this is the working group chair, but the piece
   that I think is easy to miss is that working group's must actively
   support such active management. This means that the working group
   must show rough consensus to empower the chair to enforce the

Separately, we need to make sure that there are enough rules and support
for enforcement for those special folk who really are disruptive,
through personal attack and other offensive behavior. However I believe
we are in pretty good shape, in that regard, except possibly for making
sure that working group chair use the power they have. Suspending
posting priviledges is getting solid, defensible rules and process. And
wg chairs have always had the authority to refuse the floor to folks at
meetings. (How many wg chairs know this, is another matter.)

Rather, perhaps we can focus on the unfocused and undisciplined working
groups, and find that we have dealt with overly "tenacious" contributors
along the way?

With that in mind, let me suggest revision to Keith's text:

Working groups can have trouble making forward progress, due to a lack
of firm discussion management. This can be due to poor chair management,
general lack of working group focus, or problematic participants.
Section 3.3, "Session management", of RFC 2418, "IETF Working Group
Guidelines and Procedures" provides a useful framework for managing this
issue. Regardless of motivation or point-of-view, the failure of wg
chairs and participants to work actively to to maintain productive focus
and to move past specific topics appears to cause significant delays in
working group output, and to harm the quality of the output.

 Dave Crocker <mailto:dcrocker at brandenburg.com>
 Brandenburg InternetWorking <http://www.brandenburg.com>
 Sunnyvale, CA  USA <tel:+1.408.246.8253>, <fax:+1.866.358.5301>

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