[rfc-i] Representation to the community and rest of the world

Paul Hoffman paul.hoffman at vpnc.org
Sat Nov 27 11:09:00 PST 2010

At 5:19 PM -0500 11/26/10, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
>Section 4.2 includes some responsibilities I think should not be
>included.  In particular, I don't get these two:
>   o  representation of the Series to the community, and
>   o  representation of the Series to the rest of the world.
>I think they should be removed.

We disagree here. I think both responsibilities are quite appropriate for the RSE. Where we might agree is that neither responsibility needs to take much time per month.

>On bullet 1, I think the only possible reason the RFC series is
>important is that people think it is useful.  Those people who think
>it is useful are the only people I think could possibly qualify as
>"the community" in the above.  So the series is tautologically
>represented to them. 

This argument assumes a static, non-growing community, and that's not at all what we have. New members come into the IETF all the time, often with little introduction to what already exists. Few newbies understand RFCs as anything other than a blunt "the end goal".

We have solid evidence that many people on the ietf-general mailing list do not understand the different RFC streams. Hell, some of them don't even know that there are four streams. Having the RSE tasked with being the focal point for education about RFCs (not about education about the contents of RFCs) seems reasonable, given that no one else is that focal point. This could consist of little more than the RSE writing some stream-specific articles that are edited by the stream maintainers and then published both on the RFC Editor's site *and* the stream sites, plus a bit of responding to the period threads on ietf-general.

>On bullet 2, the claim is either preposterous or false.  "The rest of
>the world" broadly construed is not a class of people needing the RFC
>series represented to them. 

There are a few very large communities that do not participate in the IETF at all that use RFCs, and they often do so blindly. Three come to mind immediately:

- Software and hardware implementers

- IT departments who rely on RFCs for conformance requirements in purchasing

- Other SDOs who deal with the Internet

>My mother does not care even a little bit
>about the RFC series. 

We all can be thankful for that.

>"The rest of the world" narrowly construed --
>i.e. people participating in areas touched on by the various input
>streams but not part of that input stream community -- should not have
>the RSE involved in their issues, either.  That's a responsibility of
>the relevant liasons to those other communities, I think. 

We have few significant liaisons to implementers. Note that I say that as the primary liaison to the IPsec implementation community. Way fewer than half of VPNC's members are in the least bit active in the IETF. The same is certainly true for many other areas of implementation. They are often genuinely surprised when a new RFC that directly impacts their products is issued.

The trade press used to be the liaison to the IT community, but it has mostly folded. The number of reporters who know diddly squat about IETF activities can be counted on one hand.

A few other SDOs are actively represented in the IETF, but the homegate BoF alone showed that many SDOs whose technologies rely on RFCs know anything about the RFC series or process.

Again, all these can be somewhat alleviated by the RSE spending some time reaching out to the RFC-using outside world to let them know how RFCs are produced, how that world can participate in the process, and how that world can keep up to date more easily. This, too, should not take a lot of time, but having a series that is as important to the world as the RFC series with no one doing any outreach feels like we only care about IETF-active users.

--Paul Hoffman, Director
--VPN Consortium

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