Trusting the IESG to manage the reform process (was: Re: Doing t he Right Things?)

hardie at hardie at
Tue Jun 24 10:53:39 CEST 2003

At 8:30 PM -0700 6/23/03, Hallam-Baker, Phillip wrote:
>It would also explain the generation gap problem. The simple fact is that no
>matter what anyone under 40 does in the IETF they are never going to get
>accepted into the inner circle.

This means that a good portion of the current IESG and IAB are not in the
inner circle.  It certainly may be true that some of the younger folk are
not part of the same affinity groups as some of the more experienced,
but the mesh does include lots of folks under 40.

The IETF *does* have a problem with integrating the efforts of new folks into
the existing mesh of affinity groups.  I personally don't believe 
that age is the
critical factor, but that other barriers (lack of shared experience, etc.) make
age look more salient than it is.

In draft-hardie-12-2-1-00.txt, I put my own take on this problem this way:

     The author believes that the IETF has traditionally been
     integrated in two different ways, one formal and one informal.
     The formal integration relates to the steps of the standards
     process and the precursor steps of working group formation and
     chartering.  The informal integration is an overlapping set of
     personal relationships that allows participants to identify
     skills, perspectives, or energy needed to complete the efforts
     identified in the formal processes.  During a period of rapid
     growth and a follow-on period of contraction, the second system has
     been strained to the point of failure.  Though the IETF retains a
     large pool of skilled professionals with energy and needed
     perspectives, the overlap in personal networks is now not
     sufficient to associate those with the efforts the IETF has taken
     on.  This has led to delay, lowered quality, and frustration, both
     among those whose skills and perspectives are not appropriately
     connected to salient efforts and among those whose efforts have
     stalled for lack of energy or early input by those with relevant

The solution-space aspect of that was:

     One path forward for the IETF is to retain much or all of its
     current formal process, but take the traditionally informal lines
     of integration and to increase its efforts to create and support
     them.  It may also have to shift some of those lines of
     integration from the informal to the formal.  The SIR proposal,
     and especially its color-coded variant (SIRS), provides one
     example of how the IETF might create a formal mechanism
     (opportunity for early review by those outside an area) to replace
     the informal mechanism of passing work back and forth among one's

     Beyond that are a host of possible mechanisms.  Having an
     identifiable group of committed participants may create an esprit
     de corps among those actively participating in a particular
     working group that will carry on beyond the group's tasks.
     Initial training sessions can create lines of contact both among a
     cohort trained together and between those trained and the
     trainers.  That can be extended by fostering round table
     discussions among participants from different groups, document
     authors, and chairs.  Cross-area and cross-working group
     integration can be improved by setting up liaison roles.
     Mentoring programs and peer review systems can be used to create
     new lines of communication.  The connection provided by
     directorates can also be extended, both by having open-membership
     directorates for some specific topics and by increasing the amount
     of inter and intra-group communication expected.

     None of the changes described above is a magic bullet, and none,
     at first glance, creates much structural change in the IETF.  Each
     mechanism is, after all, an elaboration of something we already
     do.  It is, instead, a cultural change that suggests the real
     strength of the IETF is that it brings together folks from
     substantially different backgrounds who still share a common goal.
     More importantly, it suggests that to retain that strength the
     IETF needs to foster mechanisms that brings those folks together
     early and often.  It also presumes that with renewed strength in
     this core area that the quality problems, delay, and frustration
     can be addressed within the framework already established.

(By the way, I really wish I had said that they will not magically go away
and had reinforced the idea that it simply gives the core strength
enough to tackle the problems in the existing framework.  Unfortunately,
I was close enough to the -00 deadline that reissuing a 01 is an
unfair burden)

     There is a long-held belief by some that the real work of any
     organization gets done in hallways.  For the IETF, the right
     response to that may be to make sure that the networks of folks in
     those hallways is vibrant, active, and just as open to new
     membership and participation as its formal processes have always
     been.  That may mean moving some of those meetings out of the
     hallway and into meeting rooms and mailing lists, but the
     trade-off might be worth it.

There is a real, fundamental question raised by organizational work
(the Tipping Point and its more scholarly colleagues)--whether any
effort that relies on building networks of this type (formal or informal)
can grow past a certain point.  I believe it can if it relies on overlapping
networks rather than networks with a single focus and if it blends some
formalism with the informal networks.  But, clearly, there are other ways
forward; they may be better. This is simply my view.
				Ted Hardie

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