[rfc-i] Requested follow-up from last night's plenary

Ted Hardie ted.ietf at gmail.com
Mon Nov 8 15:53:06 PST 2010

Good morning Dave,

Thanks for the early point-by-point review.

Some replies in-line; I've tried to mark anyplace
I snipped, but I've still not caffeinated, so please
feel free to restore any context I've deleted.

On Tue, Nov 9, 2010 at 6:56 AM, Dave CROCKER <dhc2 at dcrocker.net> wrote:
> Ted,
> On 11/9/2010 5:29 AM, Ted Hardie wrote:
> Perhaps you missed the word 'official'.  It's usage is not a matter of
> grandiosity but merely a (correct) assertion of formal role.

The Internet technical community is broader even within the IETF
than you could judge by looking at the author list of the RFC
series.  And it is far broader outside it.  Claiming to be the
official communication medium for that whole community
does seem to claim too much.

As I noted below, I think it is plenty to describe the series as the
output specific groups and processes.  This may be anemic,
but it is closer, at least in my opinion, to correct.

>> If the bodies above have a document series by which they
>> communicate, it is the internet-draft series, which is fully open
>> and allows anyone to post a draft as a statement in any ongoing
> Perhaps you missed the stated role of Internet Drafts.
>   <http://www.ietf.org/id-info/>

I did not.  But as I have noted elsewhere, I think one of the
consistent problems with how we've analyzed this space
is thinking of the RFC series in isolation from that input series.


>> As written, this declares the RFC Editor to be the lead of this
>> activity,
> And you think this deviates from RFC 5620???
> Perhaps you missed its own statements:
>     "1.  Identifying appropriate steps for RFC Series continuity;
>      2.  Exercising executive-level management over the implementation
>          of policies, processes, and procedures established
>          ...
>      3.  Taking proposed changes to the community,
>          ...
>      4.  ...participating in reviews of the RFC Publisher, RFC
>          Production Center,..."
> If that does not sound like a/the leader of the RFC Editor, exactly how
> would you describe the aggregation of these duties?

The text you quote above says "executive-level management
over the *implementation* of policies...".  This document
raises that to be the executive lead over the whole activity.
Yes, I do see that as different.

>language between 5620 and 4844 must be
> taken to have 4844 provide controlling text and that we should not actually
> fix ambiguities, conflicts and impracticalities in either of those
> documents?

Nope, but I think the contrast is important.

> 2. Are you saying that someone hired to suggest changes to the RFC Model and
> changes to the related job descriptions is somehow constrained from making
> particular recommendations?

Nope, but I think where it shifts things from 4844 is
an important place to look at the real impact of the
changes.  The document is "modest" in its claims
of the impact of the changes proposed.

> 3.  Are you saying that RFC 4844's own language:
>     "...As such, the
>   RFC Editor is the implementer handling the editorial management
>   of the RFC Series"
> does not describe a person who is the 'lead'?

I'm a fan of implementation-led design, but I don't think the
language you quote above represents the same kind of
executive management this document lays out.

>>       This
>> document moves this to the general lead of this activity, a change
>> I cannot agree is modest.
> You think that the two, previous people who held the job comparable to the
> RSE were not leaders of the RFC Editor?  Really?
> You might want to review what role Postel and Braden played with respect to
> the RFC Editor...

The base model has shifted since then, something the document
is pretty clear on.  From the time the I* successfully claimed the
right to re-bid the contract, things have been different.

>> The document states that this leadership would be "as it is
>> practiced in a typical not-for-profit organization" along with
>> specific community driven practices (seek input, foster volunteers,
>> supervise according to procedures).  This is not the correct model
>> for a document series 90 per cent of whose output is standards
>> documents representing hard-won consensus.  Those have to be led by
>> the communities producing the documents.
> Apparently you have missed the distinction between leadership and work with
> respect to content, versus leadership and work with respect to the
> publication activity.  I had thought that this distinction had been drawn
> vigorously and often.  They are quite different.
> I thought Glenn had been making that quite clear in each of his document and
> his presentation.

I think his presentation was far better at this than the document.

> I do not recall having anyone outside of the RFC Editor leading its work.
>> The document also describes a change to the RSAG model, which it
>> describes as "marginally expanded".  In fact,the RSAG in this
>> document has a major change, buried in Appendix A, section 2.
>> Where the body of the document and RFC 5620 state that the RSAG is
>> not responsible for hiring the RSE, this gives the constituents of
>> the "search and selection committee", which includes 2 members of
>> the RSAG.
> So your concern is not with the proposal for the hiring process or with RSAG
> providing some of the voting members to that process?  Your objection is to
> the word "marginally"?  You are merely offering technical editing input to
> Glenn's proposal?

This is a very substantive role change.  I wish to highlight that this is
not a marginal expansion and to note that I personally think that
the role change should not go forward.  Having a body which is
self/RSE selected have an equal voice in the selection of the
RSE to the voice of the managers of the streams which rely
on the RFC-Editor's work does not make sense to me.

>> This methodology, in which the role of the IAB is to formally
>> appoint rather than select and vet is, in fact, a major change; it
> Perhaps you missed the previous effort to hire an RSE and then to actually
> hire the TRSE.  In broad strokes, it largely conformed to what Glenn has
> described in the language you quote.

I did not miss it.  My understanding of the root issues may differ from

> As for being a major change, well yeah, the processes for 'hiring' Postel
> and then Braden were certainly different from this.
> But again, you do not offer comment about the actual process being proposed.
> Presumably that lack of comment means you do not take exception to the
> proposed process.

I thought I did at the bottom the mail; a much simpler model in which
the RSE reported to the IAB implied for me that the IAB did that
selection.  I assume that they would do so by involving others,
but I think this is their hire.

>> moves the RSAG from being an oversight body to being one which is
>> advisory only.
> The RSAG has never been an oversight body.  It has always been a frankly
> informal advisory group.
> If only that had been made clear, such as by adding the word "advisory" to
> the name of the RSAG...

And if only in the current model it only advised.

>> ... as has the overall reporting structure for the RSE, who
>> now appears to report to three bodies but to be fully responsible
>> to no one.
> It's a shame that the above text was a throw-away line in your review,
> buried in the midst of what is really an entirely unrelated line of
> criticism, since it's one of the key problems in the current situation for
> the RSE.

I am glad you caught it then.

>>        the
>> actual mechanism by which an RSE would be managed is unclear:
>>   o report to the IAB for general matters and to the IAOC for RSE
>>      contract requirements while following community direction.
>> This frankly seems to be deliberate, part of the document's effort
>> to support the RSE acting with very significant autonomy.
> You think that "report to the IAB for general matters" defines "significant
> autonomy"?  Please explain.

I believe splitting the two weakens the oversight very considerably.

> As for the current proposal's having too little clarity about lines of
> authority over the RSE, that is certainly correct.  However the real issue
> there is a lingering ambiguity about this, among the IAB and IAOC.  It's
> lingering because there are competing, reasonable views.
> This does need to be wrestled into clarity and pragmatic utility, but
> frankly at this point, I've come to believe that that is not something that
> the TRSE can resolve.
> It needs to be resolved by the IAB and IAOC.  And it needs to be resolved by
> them, IMO, rather than their hired consultatnt because they have strongly
> competing views, predating his hiring and still providing some tension.
>  Worse, each of the views has some justification...

And it is my turn to wish this comment was not buried in a
a response to my comment.

>> First, I personally felt that the critical piece of independence
>> being maintained from our historical model was an independent
>> stream and an independent stream editor.
> You might want to review that actual history of the RFC Editor and the
> repeated references to its autonomy.  Those references were not merely
> limited to what we are now calling the Independent Stream.  It referred to
> the entire operation of the RFC Editor.
>> In the plenary
>> discussion, it was made clear that the RFC Editor stream was seen
>> as important because it allowed the RFC Editor to publish documents
>> about the series without the review and approval of any of the
>> independent streams.  That makes no sense to me.  The RFC Editor
>> function reports to the IAB, which controls one of the streams; if
>> the RSE does not have the agreement of the IAB for a proposed
>> document, it does not have the level of community support that
> Oh.  You want the RSE to gain the approval of the IAB for publication of the
> April 1st RFCs?

The TRSE and Independent stream editor were approved last February.
Had I had any available humorous RFC candidate, I would have sent it
Neville.  Would it have been sent on from him to Glenn?

> For a style manual?  For xml2rfc documentation?  You really
> want to add that sort of review and approval to the IAB's load?  Please
> explain how that is a) necessary, and b) productive.

I don't think the number of documents in "style manual" and
"xml2rfc docs" is going to break the IAB.  And they can organize
a review team if they feel it needs more than a cursory review;
if they choose to just publish what the RSE sends them on
topics like that, I think it is fine.  But instituting a new stream
and not providing the opportunity does strike me as wrong.

>> The document further considers the RSE to have executive authority
>> over matters relating to "internal" issues of the overall RFC
>> editor function.
> ...
>> Given that the RFC Editor function is split, an internal matter
>> might, in fact, be management related to the work of the
>> publication group; this is a seriously different model than where
>> we started with this.
> Really?  You mean that Postel and Braden did not have direct management
> authority for the equivalent functions of the RFC Editor?  I'd be interested
> in hearing the basis for your claim, since it deviates so massively from my
> own understanding.

Postel and Braden worked under a substantially different model
than this one, as noted above.  The equivalent functions of
the RFC editor were under their direct or contract control.  Had
either delegated to a bright graduate student the selection of
independent-stream RFCs, they could have taken the same
delegation back.  No RSE can do that now, as we have a
separate ISE.  The publication house relationship has also

>>    A much
>> simpler model in which the reporting structure is clearly from the
>> RSE to the IAB and in which the role is much more clearly
>> coordination among the streams is needed.
> There is certainly a principled line of argument for that particular
> definition of the RSE job.
> What it does, however, is to leave a collection of strategic management,
> marketing and enhancement tasks for the RFC Editor office unassigned.

The problem is actually that it assigns responsibility for considering
change without granting the authority to institute the change.  That's
not an easy position to be in, but granting the authority to an RSE,
however "tempered" by consultation is not better.  The RSE has to
get at least the IAB on with changes, as they are the root-level
stuckee here.

> Given the role of the RFC series as a strategic Internet resource, who will
> perform these strategic tasks that are a natural part for any publication
> service?
>> This
>> attempts to recreate that authority at the executive level,
>> presumably as a check on the authority of the bodies the running
>> the individual streams.
> Huh?  A check on the authority of the streams?
> Perhaps you missed the rather forceful distinction that has been made
> between the content of the RFCs and the publication operation?

No, I did not.  But we've gone from someone who needs to make sure
no stream goes down some crazy path (like choose Flash as an output
format) without bringing the others along to something with much more
considerable autonomy, including the publication of its own stream.

My personal 2fen are that this is too much.

Thanks again for the review, and now off for coffee,


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