rough consensus (was Re: "trouble maker")

Hallam-Baker, Phillip pbaker at
Wed Jun 25 12:31:20 CEST 2003

I think it also depends on what the stake the parties have.

If we have 20 people vote on an issue (lets call things by their names eh?
it is still a vote even if the supreme court decides not to count it).

Say people object because they want the spec to require implementations to
use some proprietary IP they own. Pretty easy call, could be 5 objectors or
15 there is something going on here that is an IETF-wide issue.

Say on the other hand you have an issue that is hard to implement. In that
case 5 objections from non-developers might carry much less weight than 5
from developers.

Or say again that you have a case where cost is involved. Objections from
five people who are unaffected by the cost issue might carry much less
weight than five objections from people directly affected.

But of course, nobody represents anything, nobody can speak from authority
except those the establishment choose to recognize. So we are back to raw

Going back to my case study (yes facts are sometimes unplesant things) the
objections to the spec did not come from people with a stake in the outcome
- except for those who had stated their objections were explicitly political
and wanted to use DNSSEC to force some sort of change in the ICANN

So what does the consensus process do except create inbuilt vetos in favor
of the status quo?

The fact that a spec has been undeployable for ten years is in my view and
that of most software vendors a comment on its quality.

As I said to Keith in private email, what you are doing here is projecting
on a massive scale. You are affraid that the big corporations will dominate
the process so you have rigged the rules so that they have zero influence -
even though you depend on their market influence to propagate standards. Now
you are surprised that we are abandoning the IETF in droves?

Compare the decline in IETF attendance with the rise in OASIS participation.
If the reason was the post dotcom boom recession then OASIS should have been
affected at least as baddly as IETF.

Contrary to the paranoid assumptions that many in this group appear to act
on corporations do not in general want to exclude the academic and
individual contributors from the standards process. But the way the IETF
rules are being applied are leaving little choice in the matter.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: James Seng [mailto:jseng at]
> Sent: Wednesday, June 25, 2003 2:11 PM
> To: Hallam-Baker, Phillip
> Cc: 'Thomas Narten'; problem-statement at
> Subject: rough consensus (was Re: "trouble maker")
> Maybe lets put this particular case aside and look at the 
> more general 
> problem:
> "What is rough consensus?" How rough is "rough"?
> Unfortunately, this was not particular well-defined even tho 
> it is one 
> of our core principle. Could we tag this as a problem in the 
> problem-statement?
> I remember I asked this questions before when I am a newbie 
> in IETF. The 
> general answer of "rough consensus" are super-super majority.
> The general figure is >75%-80% but bear in mind that we dont "vote", 
> absolute figures isnt the way to go. We also need to take 
> those who are 
> "neutral" into considering as "neutral but wont object" and 
> "no but wont 
> object strongly" are important swing factor.
> If we can get a rough consensus on what is "rough consensus", then 
> perhaps we could avoid a lot of misunderstanding.
> -James Seng
> Hallam-Baker, Phillip wrote:
> > Count the votes as 12:2 or 12:9 there was a clear majority 
> for OPT in and
> > the 7 who said no but were willing to stand asside for the 
> sake of forward
> > progress.
> > 
> > However you count them a clear majority of the group 
> believes that the
> > DNSSEC specs as currently defined are broken and are in 
> need of fixing. Why
> > then are ANY drafts being forwarded to the IESG?

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