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Versions: 00

GENDISPATCH                                                M. Nottingham
Internet-Draft                                           August 17, 2020
Updates: 3005 (if approved)
Intended status: Informational
Expires: February 18, 2021

                 Rechartering the IETF Discussion List


   This document updates RFC3005, the charter of the IETF discussion

Note to Readers

   _RFC EDITOR: please remove this section before publication_

   The issues list for this draft can be found at
   https://github.com/mnot/I-D/labels/discussion-recharter [1].

   The most recent (often, unpublished) draft is at
   https://mnot.github.io/I-D/discussion-recharter/ [2].

   Recent changes are listed at https://github.com/mnot/I-D/commits/gh-
   pages/discussion-recharter [3].

   See also the draft's current status in the IETF datatracker, at
   recharter/ [4].

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at https://datatracker.ietf.org/drafts/current/.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on February 18, 2021.

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2020 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   (https://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
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   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
     1.1.  The IETF discussion list is not representative  . . . . .   3
     1.2.  The IETF discussion list is unproductive  . . . . . . . .   4
   2.  Re-Scoping the IETF discussion list . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   3.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   4.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     4.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     4.2.  URIs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6

1.  Introduction

   The IETF discussion list was chartered to '[further] the development
   and specification of Internet technology through discussion of
   technical issues, and [host] discussions of IETF direction, policy,
   meetings and procedures.'[RFC3005] It is thus considered the primary
   venue where the operation of the IETF is discussed, as well as the
   default home for technical discussions that don't have a more focused

   Over time, it has become the favoured venue for the IESG to 'take the
   temperature' of the IETF as a whole, especially for proposals that
   affect many either administratively or technically.  Support on the
   list is taken as a sign that there is support within the IETF
   overall; objections on the list can stop a proposal from being

   This draft contends that the IETF discussion list is not an
   appropriate venue for that, because it is not representative of the
   IETF community Section 1.1, and because it is not productive

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   Section 1.2.  Section 2 recommends re-scoping the charter of the IETF
   discussion list to reflect this.

1.1.  The IETF discussion list is not representative

   The IETF discussion list is often said to be the place where the IETF
   community comes together.  Discussion there often influences
   decisions made about the direction of the organisation, as well as
   specific technology choices.  However, measuring how representative
   it is of the IETF community is difficult.

   One way to approximate is to compare its membership with other IETF
   lists.  Although this has many limitations (e.g., some may use
   different addresses; some may have subscribed and then disabled
   delivery rather than unsubscribing; subscription to a mailing list is
   only a weak proxy for participation in the IETF), it is nevertheless

   As of writing, the IETF discussion list has 1,751 members who have
   made their e-mail address public; 29 members have not made their
   addresses public.

   Comparing its membership to a sample of other IETF mailing lists, we
   find that there are typically many members that are not taking part
   on the IETF discussion list:

           | List        | Members | Overlap | % on IETF list |
           | 6MAN        | 1,698   | 246     | 14.5%          |
           | DISPATCH    | 436     | 111     | 25.5%          |
           | DNSOP       | 1,041   | 204     | 19.6%          |
           | GENDISPATCH | 54      | 37      | 68.5%          |
           | OPSAWG      | 423     | 100     | 23.6%          |
           | QUIC        | 853     | 121     | 14.2%          |
           | RTGWG       | 610     | 119     | 19.5%          |
           | SECDISPATCH | 153     | 50      | 32.7%          |
           | TLS         | 1,257   | 134     | 10.7%          |
           | WEBTRANS    | 110     | 39      | 35.5%          |
           | WPACK       | 98      | 24      | 24.5%          |

   When combined, the lists above have 5,355 unique addresses
   subscribed; only 628 (11.7%) of them are on the IETF discussion list.

   The proportion of subscribed RFC authors is another lens to examine
   the IETF discussion list with.  Again, this has many shortcomings,

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   but can nevertheless help us to understand how representative the
   IETF discussion list is.

   As of 11 August 2020, the RFC Editor queue contained 167 drafts,
   which had 352 unique author addresses.  Of that group, 83 (23.6%) are
   also members of the IETF discussion list.

   Using these two imperfect measurements, we can conclude that the
   entire IETF community is definitely not represented on the IETF
   discussion list; roughly, only 20-30% of both groups cross-
   participate.  It's more difficult to draw other conclusions (such as
   what an acceptable level of representation should be, or why IETF
   participants choose not to subscribe to the IETF discussion list).

   That said, discussion on the IETF discussion list does not imply
   knowledge or consent by the IETF community as a whole.

1.2.  The IETF discussion list is unproductive

   [RFC3005] also specifies that 'considerable latitude is allowed' in
   what is considered acceptable on this mailing list.

   This latitude has helped to make it difficult for the community to
   come to an agreement about the boundaries of discussion.  [RFC3005]
   empowers the IETF Chair, the IETF Executive Director or a sergeant-
   at-arms (SAA) appointed by the Chair to 'restrict posting by a
   person, or of a thread, when the content is inappropriate and
   represents a pattern of abuse.'

   Subsequently, the SAA developed a Standard Operating Procedure (SoP)
   in consultation with the community, in an effort to assure that the
   community understood how this power would be used, that it was used
   in a fair and non-discriminatory fashion, and so that participants
   had more confidence about what was appropriate for the list.

   When that power was recently exercised, there was considerable
   pushback within the community about its use, and the IETF Chair
   directed the SAA to rescind the restriction.

   Without examining the issue as to whether it was appropriate for the
   SAA to use their power to restrict posting in that instance, this
   incident has made it clear that the tools available to the SAA to
   guide the nature of the discussion - even once it's declared to be
   off-topic - are blunt.

   The mechanisms in [RFC3005] are not adequate to reasonably guide
   discussion on this list to be productive, and as a result anecdotal

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   evidence suggests that several participants are choosing to leave it,
   thereby making it even less representative of the IETF community.

2.  Re-Scoping the IETF discussion list

   This document updates [RFC3005] by recommending that:

   1.  Discussion of IETF Last Calls continue to take place on the last-
       calls mailing list.

   2.  The IESG should not consider the IETF discussion list as an
       appropriate venue for notifying IETF participants of its actions
       or items under consideration.  More suitable channels include the
       IETF Announcements list and the GENDISPATCH Working Group,
       depending on the notification.

   3.  The IESG should not consider the IETF discussion list as
       representative of the broader IETF community.  As noted above,
       many participants are not active there, and some of those who are
       amplify their positions to distort a 'reading of the room.'

   4.  IETF participants who wish to make proposals about or discuss the
       IETF's direction, policy, meetings and procedures should do so in
       GENDISPATCH or other Working Group, if one more specific to that
       topic should exist.

   5.  IETF participants who wish to make proposals about or discuss
       technical issues should do so in the most appropriate Working
       Group or Area mailing list to the topic - ideally publishing an
       Internet-Draft to further that discussion as appropriate.  Topics
       without an obvious home and cross-area topics have been proven to
       be well-handled by the DISPATCH-style Working Groups.

   6.  Cross-area review should continue using a combination of review
       directorates, cross-participation, AD oversight and the Last Call
       discussion list.

   7.  There should be no explicit or implicit requirement for IETF
       leadership or any other person to be subscribed to the IETF
       discussion list.

   8.  Operational documents (such as
       https://www.ietf.org/about/participate/tao/ [5],
       https://www.ietf.org/how/lists/ [6] and
       https://www.ietf.org/how/lists/discussion/ [7]) should be
       rewritten to reflect this understanding of the role of the IETF
       discussion list.  In particular, newcomers to the IETF should not
       be steered towards subscribing to the IETF discussion list.

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       Likewise, presentations to new IETF participants should be

   9.  Operational documents should be updated to explain the role of
       the DISPATCH groups more clearly to newcomers.

3.  Security Considerations

   The security of the Internet had better not depend upon the IETF
   discussion list.

4.  References

4.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC3005]  Harris, S., "IETF Discussion List Charter", BCP 45,
              RFC 3005, DOI 10.17487/RFC3005, November 2000,

4.2.  URIs

   [1] https://github.com/mnot/I-D/labels/discussion-recharter

   [2] https://mnot.github.io/I-D/discussion-recharter/

   [3] https://github.com/mnot/I-D/commits/gh-pages/discussion-recharter

   [4] https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/draft-nottingham-discussion-

   [5] https://www.ietf.org/about/participate/tao/

   [6] https://www.ietf.org/how/lists/

   [7] https://www.ietf.org/how/lists/discussion/

Author's Address

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   Mark Nottingham
   made in
   Prahran, VIC

   Email: mnot@mnot.net
   URI:   https://www.mnot.net/

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