[rfc-i] insufficient engagement on draft-iab-rfc-editor-model-00

Aaron Falk falk at bbn.com
Sun Oct 19 15:28:37 PDT 2008

On Oct 17, 2008, at 3:48 PM, John C Klensin wrote:

>> While the model is being implemented we will gain more experience  
>> based on feedback on the RFIs, the detailed work on the statements  
>> of work and during contract negotioations.
>> Even after the selections have been made and people have been  
>> appointed, and contracts have been signed we may learn that those  
>> who assume the roles will define to some extend how things work  
>> out. Maybe not so much that they lead to significant changes in the  
>> model.
> So you expect people to sign contracts, presumably for fixed
> amounts of money and with performance/delivery criteria, to
> perform tasks that will be defined as they go along, possibly
> for a collection of management and approval chains that are also
> not defined when the contracts are signed?  Good luck.

[Full disclosure: I was part of the RFC Editor from 2003-2007, have  
been on the RFC Editorial Board since 2007, and, in my role as IRTF  
chair, have been an ex-officio member of the IAB since 2005.]

I have a confession to make.  I've been lazy addressing this topic.   
Like many folks on this list, I am very busy with a day job that  
demands a lot of my attention.  But decisions are being made here and  
even though I can't contribute enough time to make a constructive  
counter-proposal, I feel compelled to speak up.

I've been watching this thread with interest and concern.  I'm in  
general agreement with John Klensin's critiques and am developing the  
opinion that a) this new RFC Editor model is too vaguely defined,  
possibly with fatal flaws; b) the community (including the IAB other  
than Olaf) is not engaged in serious consideration of implications of  
the changes on the table and the possible damage that can be done; and  
c) that the timeline to get to contracting this year will force action  
before a) and b) can be fixed.

Clearly, ISI not the only organization who could do the RFC Editor  
job.  But moving away the knowledge & judgement contained in the  
current team should be done carefully.  By partitioning the internal  
functions of the RFC Editor we are changing the lines of authority and  
responsibility in a substantial way while at the same time opening the  
door to performers (or even those selecting them) who may not have  
sufficient knowledge to 'do the right thing' within this vaguely  
defined model.  The risk here is that we won't have an 'orderly  
succession of the RFC Editor' or 'maintain the continuity of the  

While it has diminished over recent years, the RFC Editor continues to  
exercise has a great deal of autonomy and the continuity of the series  
depends on the good judgement of those doing the job.  Two examples  
include handling the relationship between standards documents (a  
complex matter) and selecting who to consult when process anomalies  
occur (which was often in my experience).  The IESG is the primary  
correspondent on these topics and maintaining this good judgement and  
knowledge of history is critical given the turnover of area directors.

But my biggest concern is that I sense insufficient engagement.   
Perhaps, as someone mentioned to me recently, the community is still  
burned out from AdminRest.  Nevertheless, if this were a working group  
polling for consensus on a major decision and I was the chair, I'd say  
there was not enough active engagement to assert there was an informed  
consensus.  This initiative should not move forward until that exists.


ps. While the contract duration hasn't been discussed yet, I don't  
know if or when there will be an opportunity to provide input.  So,  
let me add that IMO re-competing the contract every two years is just  
insane. I think it will take at least that long for any new performer  
to learn how to do the job well.  So, we should be prepared to live  
with the results of this process for some time.

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