[rfc-i] The RFC Series Manager

Olaf Kolkman olaf at NLnetLabs.nl
Fri Jan 23 11:36:24 PST 2009


Again, a sincere and respectful thanks for providing yet another
perspective and explanation of your concerns.

Although I agree with significant parts of your concerns there is one
detail where I think we have to agree to disagree. More inline.

 > --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.

This is where I agree. Recently I  observed how a (liaison) situation
required quick coordination among IAB members, and that the IAB is not
particularly accustomed to operating in a fast-response mode.

 > 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.

I think that our difference in approach is the level on which these
feedback and iteration loops are described in contracts and agreements.

What we need to be satisfied of is that the Model describes sufficient
brush strokes to enter the bidding process. That the bidding
process describes sufficient detail to get a feel for the job and to
get the contract terms correct. I do not think that any of those
documents will be able to describe the culture that exists in an

I truly believe that if one engages in a business relation one engages
in a relation where one is prepared to commit to each-other and
prepared to work towards the best outcome possible (that is what I
expect professionals to do). I take a danger when using a metaphor:
Much like in a marriage, the details on who puts the kids to bed are
not spelled out in the wedding papers. And much like in a marriage
there might be arguments about doing the dishes or the toothpaste-
tube  cap. Taking the metaphor to an extreme there are marriages that
collapse on arguments about the toothpaste-tube cap. In order to not
have the same statistical failure rate as in marriages a contract
between business partners is more detailed, but not to the level of
all the various feedback loops that exists in relations.

I also think we differ in believing that one can manage with authority
without having the (ultimate) hire and fire capabilities. I believe
that the model and the RFI reflect that authority, and based on  
with others I don't think I am the only one with that believe.

 > 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.

I agree... the role of the IAB on a per document basis should be truly
unusual. I would assume a frequency and urgency as today with the
various appeals the IAB handles.

 > 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.

If you are referring to the 5378 mess then the IAOC has a very minor
role. In fact one could actually argue whether the Trust (same set of
people) has a role here (its only put in place to execute the IETFs
instructions). One could actually take this a step further and argue
that because there is a healthy business relation we are collectively
taking steps to create a workable situation. I understand that you
could also turn the argument around and say that there was/is no
central leadership and it is not clear who has the authority to deal
with the problem. We do not quibble about that situation, but we are
trying to find a workable solution, and we seem to be on the way.

 > 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.

Let me be clear: That managerial role is expected to be with the RSE,
expressing that more strongly in the model and the RFI is the main
point of the feedback we received.  And I hope that my recent text
modifications made that clearer than in version 3 of the document
(I'll post version 04 later today). Also based on the feedback the
RFI, that will also be posted today, intends to make that role more

The only thing where I think we differ the RSE has authority to hire
and fire. For all practical purposes: What is the difference between:
"You better do as I say or get sacked" and "You better do as I say or
I will strongly recommend you get sacked"? The difference is how much
that advice is taken at face value. It could well be that the RSE is not
functioning so escalating the 'ultimate' question is a good thing.

There is a detail here that I want to mention: there is a possibility  
the RSE and the Production Center are under one contract with key  
clauses in that case the RSE will de-facto have more authority.

 > 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.

I agree, this is how it should be.

 >  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.

And I think this is where we are diverting again on the same point
covered above.

 > 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.

This is a  strong argument for not having the RSE selected by the IAB
(the first argument I see for one particular choice)

 > 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.

I hope this response makes more clear where the model puts that "RSM"
responsibility. I believe that is reflected in the RFI and model
document that will be posted later today.

The model draft will not be submitted to the RFC editor quite yet. The
plan is to keep it at version 4 until after the RFI. If we develop  
insights during the RFI we can improve.

Have a nice weekend...

-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: PGP.sig
Type: application/pgp-signature
Size: 194 bytes
Desc: This is a digitally signed message part
Url : http://mailman.rfc-editor.org/pipermail/rfc-interest/attachments/20090123/64fc715a/PGP.bin

More information about the rfc-interest mailing list