[rfc-i] The RFC Series Manager

Jim Schaad ietf at augustcellars.com
Thu Jan 22 21:22:50 PST 2009

> -----Original Message-----
> From: rfc-interest-bounces at rfc-editor.org [mailto:rfc-interest-
> bounces at rfc-editor.org] On Behalf Of John C Klensin
> Sent: Thursday, January 22, 2009 5:13 PM
> To: rfc-interest at rfc-editor.org
> Subject: [rfc-i] The RFC Series Manager
> --On Wed, 21 Jan 2009 22:46:33 +0100 Olaf Kolkman
> <olaf at NLnetLabs.nl> wrote:
> >...
> > I think that everybody agrees that the RSE has a role in
> > coordinating,   identifying the issues where the noses need to
> > be set in the same   direction and then call upon the actors
> > to make progress to that   direction. The main question is in
> > the ultimate control the RSE has   doing this: can she hire or
> > fire?
> >
> > My approach route in this, and I think various others too, has
> > been:         - No authority to hire and fire.
> >...
> Olaf, the combination of your note and two other conversations
> I've had in the last 24 hours (at least one of which is largely
> unrelated), I think I have a different way to explain why I'm
> having a problem with this particular authority question.
> I do not believe that a "Board" --whether it is the IAB or
> IAOC-- can assume line management responsibility for anything.
> It just doesn't work.  It is especially unlikely to work when
> the membership of those Boards consist largely of volunteers who
> have to focus much of their attention elsewhere, whether to
> other activities/ responsibilities of the Boards or to "day job"
> activities.
> Ignoring, for the purposes of this note,  the independent
> submission side of the story --while the Model and RFI spend
> considerable text on it, it is really just a matter of how one
> of the streams is managed, no different in that regard from the
> other three streams-- the Model assumes that there are three
> elements of the process of getting a document from "approved by
> a stream" to "published".  While the Model omits them, there are
> all sorts of possible feedback and iteration loops among those
> three and between some of them and stream-approvers and/or
> authors and editors.  Unless you rewrite job and task
> descriptions to require far more subject matter expertise in the
> Production House than I read the documents as anticipating
> today, it is almost inevitable that the RSE will get drawn into
> those discussions of, e.g., whether a particular document is
> editorially coherent enough to be understandable technically or,
> put differently, what level of investment is appropriate to
> resolve perceived difficulties with a particular document.

Actually I think the case of the independent submission stream is even worse
as compared to the other streams.  Previous discussions on this list appear
to state that the Independent Stream Editor has the ability to rely on the
production house to do serious editing work on documents.  (It is assumed
that documents coming in from the other streams meet some level of
competence.)   This could easily lead to the production house complaining
that they are doing more work that was bargained for as the documents are
passed through the editorial process multiple times.


> Perhaps the IAB wants to guarantee its availability and
> responsiveness to deal with each such question as it arises, but
> I don't think that would be either a good use of the IAB's time
> or a good match to its skill-set.   If the IAB wants to stick to
> policy and broad oversight, then you are not going to be
> involved in anything on a document-by-document basis except in
> truly unusual situations.
> You can take the above paragraph and substitute "IAOC" for "IAB"
> for any administrative, formatting, presentation, or
> coordination issues.  The problem is much the same with regard
> to the difference between issues with individual documents and
> high-level policy/ strategy issues... and the community has a
> recent worked case about how rapidly the IAOC can respond to a
> crisis that convinces me, at least, that the IAOC should not
> ever be in the critical path of getting a given document out.
> I think that, given this, it is inevitable that there will be
> one function in the system that the Model doesn't really
> identify as such.   For consistency with other terminology in
> the Model and RFI, I'll refer to that function as the "RFC
> Series Manager" -- the individual or function who has the
> authority to resolve minor issues when the other parties
> disagree, to put pressure on contractual relationships, etc.
> You can attach whatever level of oversight to that position you
> like, but the bottom line is that the person holding it needs
> the authority to make and enforce decisions without, e.g.,
> waiting around for a couple of IAOC and/or IAB teleconferences
> with the risk that the publication process will grind to a halt
> during the wait.
> The question then becomes "who is the RFC Series Manager"?  In
> trying to sort out authority to match responsibilities and
> discussing terminology like "Executive Management
> Responsibility", many of us have assumed that it should be the
> RSE.  When I read your comments about hiring and firing, I think
> you have concluded that it should not be... although we may just
> be confusing each other with choices of terminology.
> Under any normal circumstances, the RSM role, no matter how and
> where it is assigned, depends far more on respect from all
> actors for the professional and technical knowledge and
> experience of the person holding the role than it does on the
> authority to exercise power.  That is another reason why some of
> us believe that the RSM and RSE roles should be bound together.
> At the same time, it is important, perhaps essential, that it is
> clear where the authority lies if the persuasion, mediation, and
> cat-herding, fail and that is a key element of the RSM role,
> again at least unless the IAB and/or IAOC are, as a group, going
> to take on line management responsibilities.
> However, if the RSE isn't also the RSM, then either:
> 	(1) You need to figure out how to appoint the RSM,
> 	presumably as an Executive Management position for which
> 	the appropriate mechanisms are formal searches and
> 	retained search firms, not an IAB appointment mechanism
> 	designed to find volunteers from the IETF community.
> 	(2) You decide that the IAB Chair is the RSM, with
> 	authority to act either independent of IAB consensus or
> 	with only the briefest of "if you object, speak up
> 	quickly" notifications to the IAB.
> 	(3) The RSM is, by default, the IAD.
> I won't comment (at least now) on either of the first two of
> these other than expressing some skepticism about both.  The
> third would, IMO, be a mistake.  If there is one thing that the
> discussions about the Model and other relationships here has
> illustrated, it is that even the Production House is not
> something that could be handed over to a collection of
> copy-editors with no technical subject-matter expertise and that
> the RSE role requires even more subject-matter knowledge about
> the Internet and its protocols and documents.  That requirement
> for greater or lesser amounts of subject matter expertise is
> very unlike, e.g., the Secretariat and the other sorts of
> administrative tasks anticipated by the IASA model.
> If you take the IAD -- whose job description and qualifications
> are very much tied to management oversight of those purely
> administrative functions -- and require that he or she also act
> as RSM and manage a complex and technical publication process,
> help the various elements of that process work smoothly together
> and take informed action when they don't...   well, we had all
> better pray that everything works smoothly all of the time,
> because, if it doesn't, the odds of informed action quickly and
> efficiently enough to prevent publication process disruptions
> are, IMO, fairly low.  Personally, I don't find prayer a
> particularly satisfactory mechanism for holding management
> arrangements together.  YMMD.
> Again, impose any level of strategic oversight on the RSM you
> like, and any set of restrictions you think appropriate on
> actions the RSM can take without seeking consent of the IAB
> and/or IAOC (but keep in mind that the choices you make may have
> an effect on who would be willing to take on the job).  But, if
> you don't assign the RSM authority and responsibilities to the
> RSE, please understand that the RSM role is going to happen
> somewhere... and that hand waving about what the IAB or IAOC
> will do (either in line responsibilities or in oversight) has to
> be weighed against the ability of those volunteer,
> infrequently-meeting, bodies to respond quickly to crisis and
> conflict situations that require immediate decisions if the flow
> of documents through the publication process is to continue
> without interruption.
> regards,
>          john
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