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Network Working Group                                       B. Carpenter
Internet-Draft                                         Univ. of Auckland
Intended status: Informational                         September 8, 2018
Expires: March 12, 2019

               Some Thoughts on IETF Community Leadership


   This is a personal view of what the IETF community might expect of
   its members who serve in leadership positions such as Area Directors
   and IAB members.  It is intended as personal input to the Nominating
   Committee, but posted as a draft since there is nothing private about

Status of This Memo

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on March 12, 2019.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2018 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Expectations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   4.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   Appendix A.  Change log . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5

1.  Introduction

   The IETF has a relatively open but not exactly democratic way of
   choosing those who serve the community as Area Directors, members of
   the Internet Architecture Board, and as IETF Chair.  Job descriptions
   are open and candidate lists are open.  Feedback on individuals is
   intentionally confidential to the NomCom, which in my opinion is
   correct.  We shouldn't be in the business of naming and shaming those
   who are willing to serve us.  As a community, we must not hesitate to
   make a fuss about decisions we don't like, or to insist when we see a
   technical error going uncorrected.  We do have a formal appeals
   mechanism, we do have the opportunity to send frank feedback to the
   NomCom every year, and we do in theory have the ultimate weapon of a
   recall procedure.

   However, there's a gap in the above mechanisms.  The job descriptions
   mentioned above are written by the body where there is a vacancy: by
   the IESG for Area Directors and the IETF Chair, and by the IAB for
   its own membership.  That's logical as far as it goes, but it doesn't
   give the community as a whole the chance to say what we think we
   expect of those who serve in leadership positions, beyond their
   obligations to the IETF process rules and their technical expertise.
   Also, even with the best of intentions, those bodies write job
   descriptions to replicate themselves and what they see as a smooth-
   running operation.  There is little scope in the job descriptions for
   describing desirable changes in the status quo.

   To some extent this gap is filled by the formal documents that
   describe the IETF process, in the IESG and IAB charters, and in the
   Tao of the IETF.  But there is little explicit description of how the
   leadership is expected to behave.  This draft is a personal version
   of a more explicit approach.  It's by no means definitive and has no
   authority.  Discussion (on ietf@ietf.org?) is welcome.

   A personal note: I have served in the past on the IAB (including a
   spell as Chair), and on the IESG as IETF Chair.  I'm quite sure that
   I didn't live up to the expectations that follow.  The people who

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   serve on the IESG and IAB are fallible humans.  But it seems
   reasonable to tell them, and the NomCom, what we'd like.

   The NomCom also has responsibilities to select members of the future
   IETF Administration LLC Board and of the IETF Trust.  Most of the
   considerations below apply also to those positions, even though the
   emphasis here is on the IESG and IAB.  My request to the NomCom is to
   consider the issues below when evaluating all candidates.

2.  Expectations

   First, we expect leadership.  Although the IETF is basically an
   organisation of equals, we need Area Directors, the IESG as a whole,
   the IETF Chair, and the IAB to set directions and gently ensure that
   we make progress in those directions.  (Yes, the IETF has to move in
   multiple directions at once.)  So whatever else happens, we need the
   ADs, the IAB members, and the IETF Chair to behave as leaders.  In
   this draft, I'll refer to them as "leaders" from now on.  However, as
   leaders, they are servants of the community, not autocrats.

   But at the same time, the IETF is based on rough consensus.  So we
   expect the leaders to listen carefully to the community, and not just
   to the loudest or most articulate voices in the community.  We expect
   them to be assiduous in seeking consensus, and in understanding the
   reasons for dissent.  In fact, we expect them to enquire carefully
   into the reasons for dissent, and to treat dissenters respectfully.
   Specifically, consensus in the IESG (or IAB) is not the same thing as
   consensus in the IETF.  We do expect the leaders to take decisions,
   but only when it's time to do so: after the facts are in and the
   community consensus is clear.  Decisiveness is good.  Arbitrary or
   rushed decisions are bad.

   Precisely because dissent is healthy and consensus is usually rough
   rather than complete, we expect discussions among the leaders to be
   as public, transparent and documented as much as is reasonably

   We expect the leaders to question the way the IETF does business and
   to change it if appropriate, subject of course to community debate
   and consensus.

   We naturally expect the leaders to leave their company and personal
   loyalties at the door.  More difficult, we expect them to set aside
   their own technical biases and preferences.  This is tricky, because
   we need their technical expertise.  But arbitrary decisions are bad.

   We expect the leaders to remember that a much wider technical
   community looks to the IETF (and to the IRTF, the IANA service, and

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   the RFC series) to serve and protect the technical future of the
   Internet.  So listening to the community is more than just listening
   to the IETF.

   The IAB and the IESG both have important responsibilities in
   appointing community members to various positions, such as WG chairs,
   specific oversight committees, and the like.  We expect them to make
   these appointments based on the good of the community as a whole, not
   on their own preferences or biases.

   We need our technical leaders to be patient with those who don't
   understand.  This isn't so much about technical issues, which we all
   presumably know how to deal with, but about the reasons why some part
   of IETF process is the way it is, or why a BOF proposal was refused,
   or why a WG wasn't chartered, or why a topic belongs in the IRTF, or
   why some work has been redirected to the Independent Stream, or
   whatever.  It's all very obvious to people who've been in the IETF
   for years.  Not so obvious to the rest of the world.

   We expect the leaders not to work too hard.  The IESG in particular
   works just as hard as it makes itself work.  More precisely, today's
   IESG defines the work load for its successors, by approving WG
   charters.  If fewer WGs are approved or renewed today, there will be
   fewer drafts to process in two years' time.  We expect the IESG to
   say "no" quite often.  In the case of BOFs and workshops, we also
   expect the IAB to recommend "no" quite often.  Of course, the "no"
   should be clearly explained, and rooted in community consensus and
   technical evaluations

   Of course, the leaders will follow IETF process rules and IETF
   etiquette.  But we also expect them to use common sense when the
   rules turn out to be stupid, or simply inapplicable to a particular
   situation.  Either suggest a change in the rules, or make an
   exception, while telling the community what's going on and asking for
   feedback.  (One of the historical strengths of the IETF relative to
   competing bodies is our ability to put good sense over over-specific

   Finally, there is a well-known and very human side effect of serving
   in a leadership position: hubris.  The modern definition is
   "excessive pride or self-confidence" but the ancient Greeks had a
   more dramatic version: "excessive pride towards or defiance of the
   gods, leading to nemesis."  Whichever version you choose, it's bad.
   We expect the leaders to remember that they are fallible and that,
   after a few years, they will be ordinary members of the IETF
   community again.

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3.  Security Considerations

   Security considerations are not discussed in this memo.

4.  IANA Considerations

   This document makes no request of the IANA.

5.  Acknowledgements

   I decided to write this based, not only on my own observations, but
   also on comments and suggestions from several members of the
   community over the years.  Of course I am solely responsible for the
   current text.

Appendix A.  Change log

   draft-carpenter-community-leaders-00, 2018-09-08:

   Initial version

Author's Address

   Brian Carpenter
   Department of Computer Science
   University of Auckland
   PB 92019
   Auckland  1142
   New Zealand

   Email: brian.e.carpenter@gmail.com

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