[rfc-i] Some questions about the RFC Editor restructuring plan

Olaf Kolkman olaf at NLnetLabs.nl
Thu Aug 7 03:20:32 PDT 2008


First a few answers to your questions, then a few words on what I  
picked up in the hallways.

On Jul 31, 2008, at 4:44 PM, Bob Braden wrote:
> * Please give a concise summary of how this restructuring model  
> differs
> from the current model.  Note that the proposed model is so general  
> that it includes as
> one case the current ISOC contract with ISI for RFC Editor services.

This is the _first_ model of the RFC editor function. Under the  
current contract ISI performs almost all of the functions indicated in  
the diagram. The notable exception is that some early copy editing is  
done under direct contract under contract with ISOC, managed by the  
IAOC [1].

> * What will be the lengths of tenure of the independent submissions
> supervisor and of  the RFC Editor?  Also, what length of time will  
> the contract with
> the  Production  House cover?  This is relevant to stability,  
> continuity, and staff
> morale  under  the restructured organization.

Currently the contracts that the IETF maintains with its vendors (ISI  
and AMS) are for 2 years with a possible extension of 1 year.

My personal view on this is that the choice for contract terms is an  
IAOC matter. The trade-offs include stability, continuity and morale  
during the time that contracts are up for re-bid, the costs for the  
IETF (not only monetary) to have to change vendor, and allowing for a  
competitive proposition.

> * Clearly indicate whether the positions described will be funded by  
> ISOC, or will get only travel and similar "administrative" expenses  
> reimbursed.

Actually, this is one of the open questions in the model. There are  
two alternatives for the selection of the persons/institutions filling  
the role of Independent Stream Approver and the RFC Editor functions:  
Through a nomcom like process or trhough RFP-ing. Also the funding of  
those roles are subject to guidance from the community. Clearly, the  
selection and payment are tightly bound.

> * The (new) RFC Editor position is implied to be a manager and have
>   responsibilities, yet this position has no authority.   
> Responsibility
>   without authority is a well-known "bog".

I realize that there is a risk that my answer will start a debate  
about semantics.

Within the IETF community there are a number of positions (ADs, WG- 
chairs, IAB membership, Nomcom membership) where by taking  
responsibility folk are being granted authority. And although folk in  
those positions have a small toolkit if it comes to the available  
carrots and sticks this all seems to work to some extend.

It is up to the parties involved in the model, including the IAB and  
IAOC, to grant the authority to the RFC editor. I hear you pointing  
out that there are risks that that may fail.


Some feedback I got in the hallway. Paraphrasing various folk, without  
giving attribution. Mainly because I forgot who said what and I may  
actually misquote them.

1. The Independent Stream Approver job title

The Independent Stream Approver is an unattractive name for the  
function. It sounds like an accountant/auditing function not as the  
"Chief Editor" of a important and relevant publication stream.

Personally I think that this is a fair point. Suggestions for another  
title that is more attractive are welcome.

2. Coupling of production house and the RFC Editor role.

A few folks mentioned that it is probably not a good idea to separate  
the RFC Editor role from the Production house role.

Here we have to make a distinction between the model and its  
implementation. The model currently separates the roles while it  
allows for an implementation that awards the responsibilities to  
separate persons/institutions. The model also allows an implementation  
that bundles those roles (and the others) and award them in a single  
contract. The last point that Bob made above argues to bundle the roles.

However, the question is wether on the long term there are benefits  
for maintaining a distinction between the roles. It occurs that  
maintaining the rfc-editor and production house as seperate roles from  
a model that describes the production and its processes allows for  
some flexibility in the future.

I hope that with this mail more comments and feedback are triggered.

--Olaf (wearing no particular hats)

[1] For the benefit of folk not familiar with this: an example of such  
contract can be found at http://iaoc.ietf.org/documents/CopyEdit_Contract.pdf
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