"trouble maker"

Dave Crocker dcrocker at brandenburg.com
Tue Jun 24 11:39:58 CEST 2003

Please note that I've changed the Subject line, to purse the cited
topic. This note could easily be construed as making statements about a
particular contributor. Please avoid the inclination to interpret it
that way. I am citing that posting in order to demonstrate some choices
in how to evaluate an issue with making working group progress.

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

This sub-thread on "Trusting" has a focus on criticizing individuals and
re-visiting a number of topics that have been discussed at length.

Let's ask whether there is anything constructive that is likely to
come out of this sub-thread?  My own guess is that there is not.

How should we evaluate this sub-thread? What should a diligent
discussion participant do, in response to such a posting? What formal
mechanisms can work to reduce such postings, in favor of postings that
are more likely to be productive?

One possibility is to attack the originator of the thread as a
troublemaker and seek formal mechanisms for restricting their behaviors.
There are several dangerous problems with that approach. First is that
it keeps things personal, which is not what we are here to do, and which
is certain to keep things uproductive -- it always does. Second is that
the criteria for acceptable and unacceptable behavior cannot be subtle;
they need to be as objective as we can make them. This necessitates
their coming into effect only in the most extreme cases. Third is that
the current formal mechanisms are expensive and distracting. Using them
further delays making forward progress.

So, only extremely objectionable behaviors can reasonably be restricted,
formally. Unfortunately, that makes the formal mechanism applicable a
long time after productive exchanges have become impractical.

I believe that a major strength among IETF participants is also a major
weakness, namely the desire to press for mutual understanding -- or, at
least, convincing that one's own view is correct.  This means that we
tend to respond more often than we need to.  (Alas, I'm speaking from
too much expertise in committing this sin.)

If we view this kind of sub-thread as one example of going down an
unproductive path, then existing mechanisms are probably sufficient --
if we become more diligent at using them.

The two existing mechanisms that are most appropriate are a) the rest of
us need to simply ignore the posting; don't take the bait, and b) wg
chair management of the discussion can be invoked, in the same way as
Melinda (correctly) just pointed out that a separate thread needed to
be pursued elsewhere.

 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>

More information about the Problem-statement mailing list