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Network Working Group                                           T. Hardie
Internet-Draft                                             Qualcomm, Inc.
                                                                May  2003


                  Alternative Decision Making Processes
               for Consensus-blocked Decisions in the IETF
                     draft-hardie-alt-consensus-00.txt

Status of this Memo

    This document is an Internet-Draft and is in full conformance with
    all provisions of Section 10 of RFC2026.

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Copyright Notice

    Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2003).  All Rights Reserved.

Abstract

    This document proposes alternative decision-making processes
    for use in IETF working groups.  There are a small number of cases
    in IETF working groups in which the group has come to consensus
    that a particular decision must be made but cannot come to consensus
    on the decision itself.  This document describes alternative mechanisms
    which can be used to come to a decision in those cases.

1. Introduction.

    Dave Clark's much-quoted credo for the IETF cites "rough consensus
    and running code" as the key criteria for decision making in the
    IETF.  Aside from a pleasing alliteration, these two touchstones
    provide a concise summary of the ideals which guide the IETF's
    decision making.  The first implies an open process in which any
    technical opinion will be heard and any participant's concerns
    addressed; the second implies a recognition that any decision must
    be grounded in solid engineering and the known characteristics of
    the network and its uses.  The aim of the IETF is to make the best
    possible engineering choices and protocol standards for the
    Internet as a whole, and these two statements guide it in making
    its choices and standards.

    In a small number of cases, working groups within the IETF cannot
    reach consensus on a technical decision which must be made in
    order to ensure that an interoperable mechanism or set of
    standards is available in some sphere.  In most of these cases,
    there are two or more competing proposals at approximately the
    same level of technical maturity, deployment, and specification.
    Choosing among these proposals can be especially difficult when
    each is optimized for slightly different use cases, as this
    implies that the working group's best choice depends on the
    participants' views of likely future use.  Further problems arise
    when different proposals assign costs in implementation,
    deployment, or use to different groups, as it is a normal human
    reaction to seek to prevent one's own ox being gored.


2.  Rough Consensus as a baseline approach.

    The Conflict Research Consortium at the University of Colorado
    outlines the pros and cons of consensus as:

        The advantage of consensus processes is that the resulting
        decision is one that meets the interests of all the parties
        and that everyone can support.Ê The disadvantage is that
        developing such a decision can be a very slow process,
        involving many people over a long period of time.Ê There is
        also a relatively high probability of failure. If a quick
        decision is needed, the consensus approach may not work.Ê
        Consensus rule processes also tend to favor those that oppose
        change and want to preserve the status quo. All these people
        have to do is refuse to support any consensus compromises and
        they will win (at least as long as they can delay
        change). (CONFLICT)

    Using "rough consensus" as a guideline limits some of
    disadvantages of consensus processes by ensuring that individuals
    or small factions cannot easily block a decision which has
    otherwise general support.  The second touchstone of "running
    code" can also limit the disadvantages of consensus processes by
    requiring that statements opposing particular proposals be
    technically grounded.

    These limitations do not change the core mechanisms of
    consensus-building, however, and the IETF process continues to
    require individual participants both to use their best engineering
    judgment to select among proposals and to balance their own
    interests with those of the Internet as a whole.  Active
    participation and a willingness to compromise, possibly on key
    points, are needed.  Historically, this has worked because a large
    majority of participants have recognized that the Internet's
    growth and enhancement are more important overall than any
    specific short-term advantage.

    In other words, the use of "rough consensus" is sufficient in most
    cases in the IETF to ensure that individuals or small groups are
    heard when they raise technical objections, but that they cannot
    block progress when a general agreement has been reached.  This
    document does not suggest changing the usual mechanisms for
    achieving forward progress; it proposes mechanisms for use when a
    working group has consensus that it must make a decision, but it
    cannot make that decision by the usual rules.


3. Conditions for use.

    In general, working groups should consider using alternate
    decision making processes when it is clear both that a choice must
    be made and that the choice cannot be made by continued
    discussion, refinement of specifications, and implementation
    experience.  A guideline for determining that these conditions
    have been met is included below.

3.1 There is a clear decision to be reached.

    There must be a clear statement of the decision to be reached.
    This may be in the working group's charter, in requirements
    documents, or in other documents developed by the working group.
    Prior to any invocation of an alternate decision making process,
    the Chair(s) should confirm with the working group that there is
    general agreement on the decision to be reached.

3.2 Proposals are available in draft form.

    Proposed solutions must be available as Internet drafts and must
    be sufficiently specified to cause the Chair(s) to believe that
    they could be, possibly with further refinement, published as an
    IETF specification.  If the Chair indicates to those proposing a
    solution that it is insufficiently specified, concrete problems to
    be resolved must be identified and a reasonable amount of time
    provided to resolve those problems.  Note that if one of the
    proposed solutions is "do nothing", an explicit draft to that
    effect must be available; it may, however, be produced when the
    group invokes an alternate decision making process.

3.3 The working group has discussed the issue without reaching resolution.

    Consensus-building requires significant amounts of discussion, and
    there is no general rule for indicating how much discussion a
    technical issue requires before a group should reach consensus.
    If there is any question about whether the discussion has been
    sufficient, the working group chair(s) should always err on the
    side of allowing discussion to continue.  Before using an
    alternate decision making process, the working group chair(s)
    should also make an explicit call for consensus, summarizing the
    technical issues and the choice to be made.  If new technical
    points are made during the call for consensus, discussion should
    continue.  If no new points are raised, but the group cannot come
    to consensus, the working group may consider using an alternate
    decision making process.  Under no circumstances is the working
    group required to use an alternate decision making process.

3.4 There is an explicit working group last call to use an alternate method.

    In item 3.3 above, it is noted that the Chair(s) should make an
    explicit call for consensus on the technical issues and should
    proceed only after that call has yielded no forward progress.  A
    different last call on the question of whether to use an alternate
    decision making method is required, with a stated period for
    comments by working group members.  This is both to indicate that
    the decision to use an alternate method should be taken at least
    as seriously as the decision to advance a document on the
    standards track and to provide a clear signal that this is a last
    moment for participants to reconsider their positions.  The
    decision to use an alternate decision requires the rough consensus
    of the working group, as determined by the Chair(s).  The choice
    of which alternate decision to use may be made in the last call or
    may the subject of separate discussions within the working group.
    If the group comes to consensus that an alternative method is
    required but does not come to consensus on the method to use, an
    external review team (c.f. section 4.1, below) will be formed.

4. Alternate methods.

    In setting up an alternate method, care must be given that the
    process by which the decision is reached remains open and remains
    focused on making the best technical choice for the Internet as a
    whole.  The steps set out below provide a straw proposal for four
    such mechanisms.  These are relatively heavy weight systems,
    partially to highlight the gravity of choosing to invoke these
    methods and partially to ensure that the IETF community as a whole
    is alerted to and kept informed of the process.  Note that
    alternate procedures have been used in the past; see RFC 3127
    (RFC3127) for a description of that used in the decision between
    two competing candidate protocols for Authentication,
    Authorization and Accounting.  By setting out these proposals,
    this document does not intend to limit working group choice, but
    to provide a set of well defined processes that obviate the need
    for reinvention in most cases.


4.1 Alternate method one; external review team formation.

    The working group notifies the IETF community that it intends to
    form an external review team by making a public announcement on
    the IETF-announce mailing list.  That announcement should include
    a summary of the issue to be decided and a list of the
    internet-drafts which contain the alternate proposals.  It should
    also include the name and location of an archived mailing list for
    the external review team's deliberations.

4.1.1 External review team membership.

    External review teams have five members who must meet the same
    eligibility requirements as those for a voting member of the
    NomCom.  Explicitly excluded from membership in review teams are
    all those who have contributed to the relevant working group
    mailing list within the previous 12 months, the IESG, the IAB, and
    the sitting NomCom.  Volunteers to serve on the review team send
    their names to the IETF executive director.  Should more than five
    volunteer, five are selected according to the process outlined in
    RFC2777(RFC2777).  Participants in the working group may actively
    solicit others to volunteer to serve on the review team but, as
    noted above, they may not serve themselves if they have commented
    on the list within the previous 12 months.


4.1.2 External review team deliberation.

    The external review team is alloted one month for deliberations
    and any member of the team may extend that allotment by two weeks
    by notifying the relevant working group Chair(s) that the
    extension will be required.

    The team commits to reading the summary provided during the IETF
    announcement and all of the relevant Internet drafts.  Members may
    also read the archived mailing list of the working group, and they
    may solicit clarifications from the document authors, the working
    group chairs, or any other technical experts they see fit.  All
    such solicitations and all deliberations among the review team of
    the proposals should take place on the archived mailing list
    mentioned in the IETF announcement.  The team members may, of
    course, have one-on-one discussions with relevant individuals by
    phone, email, or in person, but group deliberations should be on
    the archived list.


4.1.3. Decision statements.

    Each member of the external review team writes a short decision
    statement, limited to one page.  That decision statement contains
    a list of the proposals in preference order.  It may also contain
    a summary of the review team member's analysis of the problem and
    proposed solutions, but this is not required.  These decision
    statements are sent to the archived mailing list, the relevant
    working group chair(s), and the IESG.

4.1.4 Decision statement processing.

    The Decision statements will be tallied according to
    "instant-runoff voting" rules, also known as "preference voting"
    rules (VOTE).

4.2 Alternate method two; mixed review team.

    This mechanism allows for the working group to designate a review
    team that involves those outside the working group as well as
    those who have been involved in the process within the working
    group.  While it may appear that having a single representative of
    each proposal will have a null effect on the outcome, this
    unlikely to be the case except when there is a binary choice,
    because of the rules for decision statement processing (c.f. 4.2.4
    below).  As in 4.1, the working group notifies the IETF community
    that it intends to form a mixed review team by making a public
    announcement on the IETF-announce mailing list.  That announcement
    should include a summary of the issue to be decided and a list of
    the internet-drafts which contain the alternate proposals.  It
    should also include the name and location of an archived mailing
    list for the external review team's deliberations.

4.2.1 Mixed review team membership.

    Mixed review teams are composed of one designated representative
    of each of the proposals, typically the Internet draft's principal
    author, and six external members.  Five of the external members
    are selected as according 4.1.1. above.  The six is designated by
    the IESG as a chair of the group.  Though the primary role of the
    chair is to ensure that the process is followed, she or he may
    vote and engage in the deliberations.

4.2.2 Mixed review team deliberation.

    The review team is alloted one month for its deliberations and any
    member of the team may extend that allotment by two weeks by
    notifying the review team Chair that the extension will be
    required.

    The review team commits to reading the summary provided during the
    IETF announcement and all of the relevant Internet drafts.
    Members may also read the archived mailing list of the working
    group, and any other technical experts they see fit.  All such
    solicitations and all deliberations among the review team of the
    proposals should take place on the archived mailing list mentioned
    in the IETF announcement.

4.2.3 Decision statements.

    As in 4.1.3, above.

4.2.4 Decision statement processing.

    As in 4.1.4, above.

4.3 Alternate method three; short-straw selection.

    As in 4.1 and 4.2, the working group notifies the IETF community
    that it plans to use an alternate decision mechanism by making a
    public announcement on the IETF-announce mailing list.  That
    announcement should include a summary of the issue to be decided
    and a list of the Internet-drafts which contain the alternate
    proposals.

    In this method, a single working group participant is selected to
    make the decision.  Any individual who has contributed to the
    working group in the twelve months prior to the working group last
    call on the technical question (c.f. 3.3, above) may volunteer to
    serve as the decision maker.  Individuals may qualify as
    participants by having made a public statement on the working
    group mailing list, serving as an author for an Internet draft
    under consideration by the working group, or making a minuted
    comment in a public meeting of the working group.  The Chair(s)
    may not volunteer. Each qualified volunteer sends her or his name
    to the working group chair and the IETF Executive Director within
    3 weeks of the announcement sent to the IETF-announce mailing
    list.  The IETF Executive Director then uses the selection
    procedures described in RFC2777 to select a single volunteer from
    the list.  That volunteer decides the issue by naming the
    internet-draft containing the selected proposal in an email to the
    relevant working group chair, the working mailing list, and the
    IESG.


4.4 Alternate method four; random assignment.

    Among the small number of cases for which consensus in not an
    appropriate method of decision-making are a tiny minority for
    which the decision involves no technical points at all, but
    involves the need to select among options randomly.  The IDN
    working group, as an example, needed to designate a specific DNS
    prefix.  As the decision involved early access to a scarce
    resource, a random selection was required.  In such cases, a
    working group may ask IANA to make a random assignment from among
    a set of clearly delineated values.  Under such circumstances,
    IANA will be guided by RFC2777 in its selection procedures.  Under
    extraordinary circumstance, the working group may, with the
    approval of the IESG, ask IANA to select among a pool of Internet
    Drafts in this way.


5. Appeals.

    The technical decisions made by these processes may be appealed
    according to the same rules as any other working group decision,
    with the explicit caveat that the working group's consensus to use
    an alternate method stands in for the working group's consensus on
    the technical issue.

6. Security Considerations.

    The risk to moving to a system like this is that it shifts the
    basis of decision making within the IETF.  The hope in providing
    these mechanisms is that certain decisions which may be
    intractable under consensus rules may be tractable under the rules
    set out here.  The risk, of course, is that forcing the evaluation
    to occur under these rules may allow some set of individuals to
    game the system.

7. IANA Considerations.

   Section 4.3 may require the IANA to make random selections among a
   known set of alternates.


8. Normative References

Eastlake, Donald 3rd. "Publicly Verifiable Nomcom Random Selection", RFC2777.
    (RFC2727)

9. Non-Normative References

Mitton, D. et al. "Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting:
    Protocol Evaluation", RFC3127. (RFC3127)

Center for Democracy and Voting. "Frequently Asked Questions about IRV",
http://www.fairvote.org/irv/faq.htm . (VOTE)

International Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict,"Consensus Rule Processes",
    Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA.
    http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/treatment/consenpr.htm
    (CONFLICT)

10. Authors' Addresses

    Ted Hardie
    Qualcomm, Inc.
    675 Campbell Technology Parkway
    Suite 200
    Campbell, CA
    U.S.A.

    EMail: hardie@qualcomm.com


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