[rfc-i] Some questions on the model and the motivations

Glenn Kowack glenn at riveronce.com
Mon Jan 3 00:29:41 PST 2011


All,
  my replies below assume the reader has reviewed both the Recommendations document
and the Motivations document. If you have not already read both, please do so before
proceeding with this mail.

On Dec 21, 2010, at 3:32 PM, Olaf Kolkman wrote:
> Glenn, Colleagues,
> 
> The hallway discussion that I am aware of seems mostly be about the scope of responsibility and the level of responsibility that an RSE need to have.

The hallway discussion is right on the beam: those are two of the three key distinctions made in my
recommendations:
- the scope of authority and responsibility of the RSE, and
- the (resultant) skills and experience required for the RSE to do that job.
The third key distinction regards
- the structure of oversight for the RFC Editor.

> That discussion made me read the motivations document with a specific point of view. With the caveat that I've read the motivations document only once after first seeing it last week here are a few are a few questions for which I did not manage to extract a crisp answer. These questions are mostly for Glenn, to get some documentation on where he is coming from. It may be that others have specific ideas here too. 
> 
> I've tried to provide some context by introducing some of my thoughts and observations, followed by some concrete questions. I am hoping for concise answers to those questions. 
> 
> 1) Much of the discussion is about the scope of authority and the role of the RSE. What follows are some questions that I believe have some implicit answers in the motivations document but of which I would benefit getting a more explicit answer on.

The answers are indeed implicitly in the two documents, but generally stated in the positive ("we
should do X") rather than in the negative ("Y will happen if we don't do X"). I make them explicit here,
but reading the documents is still necessary.

> 1.a) Suppose we would not be able to find an RSE. What would the effect on the series and what would the community notice in weeks, months, and years?

- continuing limited accessibility for the series, in direct proportion to how 'distant' the end-user
  is (that is, the extent to which they are not IETF 'insiders'), including some end-users not finding
  the series at all,
- failure to improve the efficiency of document production by both authors and editorial staff,
- failure to provide new and more efficient ways to use RFCs,
- very limited ability to handle disruptions in editorial service (continuity risk), including the possibility
  of a disastrous disruption in service,
- increasing structural and operational dependence on current contractors, including increasing risk
  of undue influence and capture (however unintentional this may be),
- little or no production progress on editorial tools including the style and procedures manual, and
  limited innovations if and when they are produced,
- limited ability to handle transients (e.g., serious author complaints that require a performance
  review),
- limited clarity about contractor performance,
- opportunity cost (lost time) due to not having someone leading and advancing the Editor and
  the series, and
- likely continuing rancorous (and distracting) debate about the future of the series.

> 1.b) Suppose we would redesign the model to get rid of the RSE, what responsibilities would need to be assigned ownership, where would you assign those responsibilities in the current 'greater IETF'?

I do not believe this would be wise and do not have a recommendation for doing so.  If I had been
able  to find a way to do this without an RSE I would have recommended. Since this is contrary to
the way the Editor has operated for the last 40 years, we are entering unknown, and potentially risky,
territory.

> 2) Model V2 and the observations document argue strongly for the RSE being independent from the production center and Publisher. In the overview document (secion 2) you postulate a design choice that the RSE must maintain a balance between demands of RFC production and Series development.
> 
> 2.a) what are the tools to achieve that balance?

1) a skilled, experienced, confident, incoming RSE
2) a knowledgeable, experienced (members of the) RFC Series Oversight Committee,
3) solid transparency and representation of the Editor and Series to the Community, largely through
    evaluating productive capacity and future opportunities,
4) classic management and planning techniques, including:
	4a) evaluation of long-term productive capacity,
	4b) evaluation of time and resource requirements of proposed initiatives, and
4) close cooperation with RFC Production Center staff.

> 2.b) Does this involve Production and Publishing resources?

Yes, in the sense that everything the Editor and RSE do involves such resources.   I expect that
volunteers will continue be able to do a significant proportion of the work.  Details beyond that will
depend on what sorts of initiatives are agreed through the community discussion process.

> And how are those resources negotiated?

See immediately above.  My recommendations do not go beyond finding ways to facilitate community
interaction and to determine community interest.

> 3) You argue for an editor with a strong editorial background. On the other hand (apologies, this is a bit of a hyperbole) one could argue that Postel, Reynolds, and Braden did not have such editorial background when they started the job.

One could, but each had many, many years in which to learn the environment and the job, and
the job and the environment were far simpler.  The work, processes, tools and techniques, and
quality standards have evolved enormously since Jon Postel first started editing, and under Bob
Braden - in the last 10 years - there has been an enormous amount of evolution and "raising the
bar" on quality and consistency.  In short, it's a very different world today.

> Besides, for the case (3.4.2) which you use to argue there is a need for person with publication background (the ISSN) the observation that the ISSN was not available was not made by the RSE but by involved community members. The value add, as I read from the observations, was that the RSE had a librarian friend in the rolodex.

Hmmm...the "friend in the library" point was different.  My intention was to argue for someone who
was responsible for making sense of the "big picture" and "driving activities to completion".  Today,
the big picture includes looking at the series from the point of view of people who are not IETF
insiders; this is the sort of perspective that persons with publications backgrounds bring to the table.

> I also observe that although you yourself have some background in 'our community' you are not what people call a 'grey beard' IETF-er and have had to go, and are probably still going, through the learning curve of dealing with this community. That to me seems to be an important piece of running code.
> 
> 3.a) How long would it take somebody without any background on the IETF but with solid publication experience to get used to us? v.s. How long would it take somebody from our community to get to understand the publication aspects?  (Substitute "How long" with "How likely" or "How difficult", I know this is going to be a very subjective and hard to quantify answer).

Publications professional:
  It took me ~6 months to get my feet under me re the particulars of how the community works.
Although many people were very helpful, I did not have the advantage of an explicit orientation;
providing that would radically improve the speed at which a publications professional could come
up to speed.  Further, the debates we are now holding are clarifying what the RSE does and how;
resolving these will drastically reduce the up-to speed time.  The (outgoing) RSAG and the REOC
will provide a ready pool of 'greybeards' who can provide all manner of community and historical
orientation.
Net: 4-6 months.

Community expert but publications novice:
  As you suggest above, this is not an apples and apples comparison.  A large part of my recommendation
is to have someone who can bring an "outside view".  Someone from the community will implicitly have
difficultly doing this.  Further, they will also not bring to us a wealth of outside publications perspective.
It's not clear to me they will easily be able to bring a fresh view. However, there are very many exceedingly
smart people in this community, so in time they may be able to approximate a fresh view.  That is, they will
have to learn as they go, but they won't have the benefit
of being surrounded by other publications professionals.
Net: years.

> 3.c) Are there any methods by which the job can be made attractive for a relatively senior professional from our community?

The same principles apply for anyone taking the job:
1) clearly define what the job is about and what it is not about
2) provide the candidate with a chance to have real impact and make a difference
3) let them use their skills, and
4) make sure the fit between job, applicant, and community expectations is solid.
Other than that, I think a 'sweetener' would actually be counterproductive (I say this only for
completeness; I didn't hear you suggest one).

> 4) Initially the model was created to make sure we (the community, through the IAB and the IAOC) could control cost and continuity of the series. Continuity has been established mainly because our competent folk from ISI moved to AMS when AMS won the production center bid. While that removes the immediate angles and continuity risks there I don't think that model v2 has taken a very different stance on how continuity is provided. That is, in version 2 of the model providing continuity is still centered around building a style manual and a production handbook and that sort of operational documentation. 

That is correct.  I also call out the need for the RSE to be expert in the application of the content
of the style manual and procedures manual.  This is not a change per se, but an emphasis.

> 4.a) What are the biggest continuity risks going forward with the RFC Series and does the model address those?

I clarified 'continuity' by explicitly giving it two sides: editorial continuity (e.g., slow and steady
'evolutionary' change to style) and operational continuity ("keeping the documents moving").
These are the two risks, and the latter is potentially more spectacular.  My recommendations
identify those risks and put in place mechanisms to ensure they are acceptably managed.

> 4.b) What are the concepts in the model that, if not achieved or implemented successfully, endanger the series, and why?

The fundamental requirement for the success of the series, and for maximum benefit for the
greater IETF, the community, and the Internet, is that the series (and how it is produced) must
make sense overall.  That in turn requires, as there has been for 40 years, someone responsible
for keeping the big picture in their sights, maintaining the series and the Editor, and making
changes as required for benefit or to keep abreast of changing circumstances.  Not doing so
puts the Series at risk.  Everything follows from this one element.

I look forward to additional discussion on these points.

best regards,
Glenn
___

> That's it for now...
> --Olaf (no hats)
> 
> ________________________________________________________ 
> 
> Olaf M. Kolkman                        NLnet Labs
> Science Park 140, 			1098 XG Amsterdam
> http://www.nlnetlabs.nl/               
> ___________________________________


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