[rfc-i] draft-kowack-rfc-editor-model-v2-motivations-00.txt

Ted Hardie ted.ietf at gmail.com
Tue Dec 21 11:53:52 PST 2010

In the newspaper world "don't bury the lead" is said to be one of the
most repeated maxims.  I think this draft buries its lead pretty seriously,
because it comes for me on page 33, 6 paragraphs before the
IANA considerations.  There Glenn notes:

" the RFC Series Editor is actually the head of a publications department"

in this context:

     However, the incoming RSE must understand that their job is to
     lead the community in discovering, defining, prioritizing, and
     agreeing on changes, improvements and innovations, and then
     implementing them.  (This, in spite of the confusing terminology
     of the Editor: the RFC Editor is actually a publisher, the RFC
     Publisher is actually an archive and access server, and the RFC
     Series Editor is actually the head of a publications department in
     which there are four 'editors' not appointed by the Series Editor
     -- the four stream approvers.)

For me, this clarifies the model difference which we've discussed in
several different ways.  Glenn's experience and consultations have
led him to see the RSE job as that of a managing Publisher working with editors.
More, it has led him toward a relatively strong Publisher model in which the
Publisher is not simply responsible for putting out the titles but for
identifying their markets, establishing their audiences, and leading their
evolution.  To use a  hyperbolic example, he's looking for someone
to act as our Henry Luce, with a set  of RFC streams standing in for
Time, Life, Fortune, and Sports Illustrated.

I think the model expressed by RFC 5620 is actually for a weak publisher,
but a strong Executive Editor (also known as Editor-in-Chief).
Anyone familiar with that role in the newspaper world would not use
the phrase "merely a
senior editor", as they are responsible for ensuring that each individual
section--metro news, foreign desks, style, finance, editorial--contributes
to a coherent whole.  They  make sure that the paper itself has an identifiable
voice and place in the world.  To follow my first hyperbolic example,
I think the strong Executive Editor leads us to look for our own
Benjamin Bradlee: someone
who will make sure the RFC Series as whole "says something" whatever comes.

The line between an Executive Editor and a managing Publisher is pretty fluid,
and there are no doubt cases in which each one of the individual duties
we've specified has been done by someone holding either title.  But
the orientation of the roles is different, and I think we need to be
very clear here
which one we're really looking for, especially because the content of
the streams and
the identities of the stream approvers (the sub-editors, if you will)
will never be
determined by the RSE.

My own take is that we need to hire an Executive Editor, rather than
a managing Publisher.  This is partly because any Publisher hired would not
be able to start new streams or change the audience reached
by changing content.  This eliminates a great deal of the pre-editorial
work done by a Publisher.  While marketing and distribution could
be changed, these changes are strongly constrained by the needs
of the individual streams.  Changes are also strongly constrained by the
need to keep the series a single, coherent whole, despite the current
division of responsibilities.

More importantly, I feel that the Executive Editor side of the line fits
with what has worked in our history much more.  Jon and Joyce were
editors who worked both at copy editing and at maintaining the
series as a single conversation.   They were authors, line editors, and
executive editors.  They covered the ground from style guide to
ensuring that the loyal opposition had an outlet for its views.  Even
with the splitting out  of the ISE as a separate role, retaining as much as
possible of that model strikes me as important.  The working editors have
developed, over time, a serious amount of throw-weight within our system.  I
think that's in part because they took both a document-level view and
a global view.
That gives a kind of insight that the closer-to-pure management role of
managing Publisher does not have.  I think that will be valued by our community
and that it can work again. To me, that means hiring on the Editorial side of
that fluid line.

If others agree that this is the critical model difference, we can have
the conversation around  this question in a couple of different ways.
One is by pushing and pulling at the desirable aspects of the two
different slants, then seeing if we come to consensus.  The other is
by using a completely invented term for the role (the IESG once used "fleen",
and I've used "glick" and "fnork" before), laying out what we want done
with no reference to the two loaded terms.  Once we have consensus
on what we want done, we have a go at picking at term either in-house
or with the help of a search firm.  Based on the conversations I had
with Dave, I don't think we're that far off consensus on what we want
done.  My fear is really that we will end up squarely astraddle that
Editor/Publisher line when we end, and so we will need to go through
the first exercise in any case.

In either case, we need to make sure that the final terminology matches
reality.  If we're hiring a managing Publisher at the end of the day,
we need to say
so.  We'll get closer matches in our job search with that clarity, on whichever
side of the line we fall.


Ted Hardie

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