[rfc-i] Qualifications of the RFC Series Editor

Dave CROCKER dhc2 at dcrocker.net
Sat Nov 6 19:39:12 PDT 2010

(as long as I'm highlighting some issues...)

There might be some continuing debate about the specific responsibilities and 
authorities of the RSE, and this could affect what I'll offer, here.  But based 
on the tasks I see described so far:

The RSE needs 'executive' skills and needs publishing skills tailored for our 

"Executive" is typically distinguished from (mere) manager by virtue of 
initiative and scope.  They are tasked with thinking and acting strategically 
and on their own initiative.  Managers are more typically tactical.  (Obviously, 
organization vary in how they use these terms, but I'm reflecting what I 
understand to be the more typical usages.)  Initiative does not mean acting by 
fiat; it means starting efforts.  Some efforts can be performed entirely 
independently.  Others require collaboration and consent of other parts of the 

With respect to technical expertise:  As with any technical writer, they need to 
be comfortable working with technical material, but I do not see any task for 
them that requires their being technical themselves.

It is tempting to want to return to this very appealing aspect of Jon Postel's 
role, since he did it painfully well, but it no longer fits the reality of the 
RFC Editor's function. Each Stream now has its own review and approval mechanism.

Unless I've misunderstood what has been taking place in the RFC Editor's 
activities for more than 10 years, they do not participate in reviewing or 
modifying technical content anymore and they would get their organization hand 
slapped if they tried to change that.

In fact, it can easily be argued, having an RSE who is a technical expert will 
distract them for their primary duties.  (I earned my way through undergraduate 
school as a computer operator; my very savvy manager said he hired me /in spite 
of/ my knowing how to program, because programming was more interesting.  He 
was, quite right.)

And as I've heard someone else comment, requiring an RSE to be technical merely 
serves to /severely/ reduce the pool of candidates.  (This was apparently part 
of the problem with the first round of effort to get an RSE, last year...)

Let's make sure that the job requirements are tied to the actual duties to be 


   Dave Crocker
   Brandenburg InternetWorking

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