[Internal-cg] IETF assessment

Milton L Mueller mueller at syr.edu
Sun Feb 1 23:41:30 UTC 2015

> -----Original Message-----
> From my perspective the
> assessments are primarily an internal tool for the ICG and may come from
> multiple people. There is an official result that the ICG needs to agree on, but
> it is the separate conclusion on whether we need to ask something from that
> community or not. Does this view of the process make sense, or do you want
> to do something else?

I agree that the assessments are for our internal use, primarily, but of course as they are exchanged on an open list others can see them, which is good. It would be good to have an accepted assessment for the ICG as a whole. In the IETF case I deliberately went into some detail describing the process issues because I wanted to set the bar a bit higher than others had done regarding how we assess the proposals. That does not mean there is a huge problem with the IETF proposal, only that we need to be very clear-eyed about what happened and how it happened. This is better than just  rubber stamping things. To answer your question directly, any decision to ask a community for something should be based on an agreed, mutual assessment by the ICG. However, I would think that sending questions to an operational community would not require full consensus - if a significant group within ICG wants a question answered, I think we should let them ask it even if we don't share the same concern.

> On the call on Wednesday I emphasised that the community opinion needs
> to direct what we do rather than an individual (e.g., someone who sends ICG
> a comment) getting to decide.

Sure. But as someone who studies politics and social activities for a living, I am always amazed at how very sophisticated technical people can be so simplistic regarding claims about "the community." The community is a collective entity and cannot speak, think or act. There must always be an individual or a group of individuals speaking for it, or a process (such as voting) for aggregating and expressing community opinion. So in the absence of recorded votes how does an external observer know who speaks for this "community" and who does not? Especially when "the community" is divided? That gap has been exploited by kings, politicians and dictators for ages. We cannot uncritically accept a random claim that "the community" (or "the people" or "the Volk" or the "working class") wants this or that. Accurately assessing community sentiment in the absence of an objective vote is not an insoluble problem, of course, but simply invoking "the community" doesn't work for me.

> But back to the IETF assessment. I don't want to go into details; suffice it to
> say that each item highlighted in the assessment has been extensively
> discussed and weighed in the community, and an informed decision was
> made.  And as noted, there will be further steps - I already promised to
> provide more useful information in one case, there might be some cases
> where alignment between different proposals leads to further work, and our
> legal counsel and other entities are working on contracts with the direction
> that the IETF community has given us.

I understand this. It would be best if this 'further work' can be incorporated into the ICG's final proposal.

> Please be very careful in setting the bar for open and inclusive processes

I think the IETF process was very open but struggled with inclusiveness. There is a distinction between the two. 

To illustrate the distinction, imagine a process that is open in principle but a large and vocal faction of old-timers tells newcomers that their opinions don't count. One could question the inclusiveness, not the openness. Or imagine an organization or process dominated by men that says, "we are open to participation by women" and does indeed let them in, but then uses various mechanisms to marginalize and exclude the woman who were brave enough to participate. Again one could question the inclusiveness, not the openness. I am making a conceptual point here, not a concrete accusation. ;-) 

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