[Internal-cg] Handling process complaints

Daniel Karrenberg daniel.karrenberg at ripe.net
Sat Jan 31 11:20:42 UTC 2015

Manal, colleagues,

thank you for your thoughts. What you drafted is much less of a 
'complaints procedure' than what I expected based on the discussion at 
our call. I am still not convinced that we actually need this. I will 
comment on the draft in a separate message.

<addressing Milton and Kavouss more than Manal>
For the sake of our discussion I make absolutely clear that I am not 
implying that the OC processes will be flawless. I fully expect comments 
to that effect. In fact we have already observed such comments. I have 
said explicitly that we absolutely need to address those comments if 
they raise issues which, in our judgement, will make our document 
unacceptable. My intention is definitely not to avoid such decisions, to 
the contrary.

I strongly object to use the word "complaint" because of its meaning as 
an initial step in a formal procedure or in litigation. By talking about 
complaints we are raising expectations about a formal process and an 
obligation to respond and to take specific actions. We are raising these 
expectations whether we intend to or not. This is why we should not use 
the word when communicating about process comments.
</addressing Milton and Kavouss more than Manal>

I repeat that we should avoid making procedures unless we absolutely 
need to. In my experience, even small and seemingly benign "procedures" 
create the risk of abuse and the potential to grow into bureaucratic 
monsters before we realise it. NB: I am not an anarchist: if we are 
really convinced of the necessity of a procedure, we should decide to 
implement one. I argue against doing it without being 100% clear about 
the need. I am not convinced of the need in this case.

Now for the in-line stuff: ;-)

On 29.01.15 21:40 , Manal Ismail wrote:
> Many thanks Daniel for your thorough email ..
> To make sure I address all the points you've raised, please find my responses inline below ..
> Thanks Patrik for your reply, which I've also responded to, inline below ..
> Kind Regards
> --Manal
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Patrik Fältström [mailto:paf at frobbit.se]
> Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2015 2:16 PM
> To: Daniel Karrenberg
> Cc: Manal Ismail; internal-cg at icann.org
> Subject: Re: [Internal-cg] Handling process complaints
> This makes to me a lot of sense.
> Our job is to produce an acceptable document.
> [MI]: Agree ..
> Not fall into the trap of responding to questions that should in reality have been sent to each one of the operational communities.
> [MI]: I don't think anyone suggested that the ICG respond to comments submitted .. The suggestion was forwarding them to the relevant operational communities which I thought to be non-controversial, and consider their response ..
> In most cases it is probably the case that the question in reality already have been taken care of, according to whatever process that specific operational community have. Including appeals (or similar arrangements).
> [MI]: Fair enough .. this would be an equally informative response to receive from the relevant operational community ..

Of course we will observe what the OCs do with comments about the 
substance of their responses or their procedures. If we determine that 
action by an OC is needed we can decide to request it, via our normal 

> We should stay by following our process and do our work and answer questions on our process.
> [MI]: Fair enough .. but our process allowed for receiving comments .. and we should agree to either forward all, or forward none, or if we are to forward some then at least this has to be based on some agreed criteria .. If I recall correctly, we have already forwarded one ..

We should point out the forum to the OCs and the world. We should not 
respond to or forward any comments via an automatic procedure. We should 
read all the comments. We should take action on the substance from 
comments that we consider relevant for producing an acceptable document. 
Each one of us can raise substance from a comment. We take action based 
on our process. We do not need a new procedure for that.

>     Patrik
>> On 29 Jan 2015, at 12:15, Daniel Karrenberg <daniel.karrenberg at ripe.net> wrote:
>> Manal, colleagues,
>> let me explain why I believe we should not define detailed procedures for dealing with comments, and please let us not call them complaints and let us also not limit our discussion to comments about the processes used to create input to our process.
> [MI]: Just to note that I agree .. we should not complicate things, but the suggestions was agreeing on few steps to be followed for EVERY comment received .. Also your valid point regarding complaints have been noted and corrected in the shared draft ..
>> This is somewhat longer than usual, because I take a substantially different position from what I sense our general "mood" is. All that I ask is that each of us hears this argument before we proceed with what may feel comfortable now but could be quite unpleasant in the long run.
>> Principles:
>> Our single task is to produce a proposal document. The one requirement for this document is that it will be acceptable to the Internet community and in particular to NTIA and the operational communities. In other words: we need to come up with a document that has sufficient support to get implemented. NB: All other properties of the document, such as that it results in a working arrangement etc. etc. derive from the acceptability.
>> Our task is not to respond to all, or even to any, comments made to us. Our task is not to treat everyone equally. Our task is not to be an appeals body for community processes, nor is it to arbitrate in conflicts arising from the process of providing input to us.
>> Again: Our task is to compose a document that will be acceptable to NTIA, the operational communities, others directly involved and the community at large in that order of priority.
> [MI]: Please refer to my reply to Patrik .. In addition, although "Our task is not to treat everyone equally" yet it is important that we ensure a trustworthy and credible process .. Frankly, I wouldn't prioritize acceptance of the document and glad the NTIA indicated that "the transition proposal must have broad community support" ..

We have to produce a document that is acceptable to all relevant parties. I
>> Requirements & Process:
>> We have derived a number of requirements from the principles in order to receive input that will enable us to produce a document that is acceptable. We are currently executing a process that checks whether these requirements are met by the input we have received up to now from two operational communities. During this process we receive comments via a variety of channels. The only important thing about processing these comments is that we deal with all those that point out reasons why our final document may not be acceptable or how it can be made more acceptable. Anything else is a distraction from our task.
> [MI]: I agree that we may need to deal with certain comments and that why I included this " unless the ICG decides that there is need for further communication with the sender and/or the relevant operational community. " but was suggesting that anything else should still be forwarded to the relevant operational community ,,
>> We have also agreed and stated forcefully that input on both substance and process for the community proposals should be treated within the respective community process. We have further agreed and stated that we will refer comments made to us to the respective community. There are a couple of good reasons for this and we should change that position.
> [MI]: Agree .. no change in position ..
>> Again: we need to address as a group all those comments that in our judgement raise a point that needs to be addressed in order to make our document acceptable to NTIA, the operational communities, other directly involved parties and the Internet community at large. We do not need to address any other comments, or even respond to any comment.
> [MI]: Again, the suggestion is not for the ICG to address all comments but for the ICG to forward all comments to the relevant operational communities ..

We do not need a procedure for that. We do not even need to forward the 
comments. We just need to point out the forum. If any of us gets the 
impression that an OC is ignoring a relevant comment, they can 
informally tell the OC. If there is still no action and the ICG decides 
that the substance is relevant, the ICG can decide to request action 
from the OC.

>> Making detailed procedures bears the significant risk of wasting time and energy in meta-discussions that are not needed because we do not need the procedures in the first place. More importantly it bears the risk that these procedures will be abused against us or that we loose credibility by running afoul of them unintentionally or even only allegedly.
> [MI]: no complex procedure .. only a few straightforward steps (not sure I understand the last sentence)

Sorry, that sentence is not really plain English. I sometimes still 
write for my very British English teacher instead of the intended 
audience. ;-) Let me try to say it more clearly:

If we make a procedure we have to stick to it, absolutely. An adversary 
can abuse this because they know what we are going to do. If we make a 
mistake, even an innocent one, our credibility suffers: "They are not 
even following their own procedures." That claim can even be made if we 
did not in fact make any mistakes as long as the adversary can create 
the perception that we did. All these risks come from the existence of 
the procedure. No procedure, no such risks.

I agree with the remainder of your comments *if* we decide that we 
really have to forward comments to the OCs and that we need to have a 
procedure for that.

>> Beyond these my personal experience suggests that the mere existence of a comment procedure encourages comments that would otherwise not be made because there was no guaranteed attention resulting from them.
> [MI]: Agree but we've already allowed for providing comments on the ICG forum ..
>> What we should do:
>> 1) We should point out our forum to the operational communities and other directly involved parties and ask them to participate with their particular responsibility in mind. We should point out that comments in this forum have no special properties and each participant should treat them according to their own judgement and procedures.
> [MI]: I tried to cover this by the footnote, which by the way could be moved to the beginning of the document ..
>> 2) We should direct comments that we receive via other means to that forum as much as possible in order to have them on the public record and subject to reaction for others.
> [MI]: Agree
>> 3) If any on us considers that the substance of a comment needs to be addressed by the ICG in order to ensure that our document will be acceptable, they should raise that substance in our deliberations and suggest an action we should take. Possible actions I can imagine are: amend a draft of our document, ask an operational community to consider the question and amend their input to us, ask an operational community to respond to a comment about their process, respond to a comment about the ICG process.
> [MI]: Agree .. and this is the reason for this sentence "unless the ICG decides that there is need for further communication with the sender and/or the relevant operational community. "
>> 3a) This means it will take one of us to raise a question from a comment for us to address it. No comments will be automatically addressed. There will be no "due process" other than our normal ICG process. It also means that all comments are treated absolutely equal.
> [MI]: Nothing automatically addressed but all automatically forwarded ..
>> 3b) If we remain concerned that we might miss comments that may lead to our document not being acceptable, we can delegate some of us to specifically watch the forum and bring questions that might affect the ultimate acceptability of our document to us.
> [MI]: No problem .. although I'm always in favor of having as many ICG members as possible participating to any task ..
>> What we should not do:
>> We should not define a process for dealing with comments. We should rely on our existing process and on our individual judgement to raise relevant questions and our collective judgement to address them.
> [MI]: Maybe process was not the right word at the first place .. forwarding comments is not mutually exclusive with " rely on our existing process and on our individual judgement to raise relevant questions and our collective judgement to address them "
> [MI]: Sorry for the long email but I just felt obliged to respond to all points in your message and like you said just to hear each other's arguments before we proceed ..

No need to apologise. I started the long message thread.


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