[rfc-i] RSE and RAOC: IAB state, developing consensus, and strawman.

Ted Hardie ted.ietf at gmail.com
Sat Jan 22 10:14:15 PST 2011


Thanks for taking the time to reflect the state of play and to ask these
questions.  I've made major cuts to the statements below, to focus on
one issue; for those areas cut I largely agree.

On Fri, Jan 21, 2011 at 3:34 PM, Olaf Kolkman <olaf at nlnetlabs.nl> wrote:

> C) The roles of an RSE
> The discussion about the role of the RSE is one that we have cast in
> terms of a scale. That is to say, the role of the RSE is not a
> black/white type of definition.
> At the left of the scale we place a type of editor that has a strong
> background in the IETF engineering community. A person that knows
> about RFC production, understands the processes and conventions in the
> larger Internet community environment. The role concentrates towards
> managing priorities and peculiarities between the different streams.
> At the right side we place a type of editor that has a strong
> background in technical publishing, possibly in the field of technical
> standards publication. Somebody who understands how to develop a
> technical series, has experience with the editorial issues that come
> with the development of a style guide for a technical document
> series. Somebody that understands the issues that come with
> maintaining a reasonable level of comprehensiveness in documents
> written by non-native English speakers. Or, understands the issues
> that come with translation from English (by native and non-native
> speakers of English) into other languages. The role concentrates
> towards managing stream agnostic issues.

I agree with Dave's comment that this isn't a continuum per se, but
I think this reflects the discussion to date on the balance of characteristics
that impacts the choice of where to focus recruiting.

> Within the IAB there is a general consensus that a mature RSE that
> would ideally perform the job roughly in the middle of these two
> extremes. There is also a general IAB consensus that looking for an
> IETF person with significant publication experience, or a person with
> publication background with significant IETF experience will get us
> nowhere. In fact, wanting the best of both worlds is what got us in
> the situation. (While it does not get us closer to a solution it would
> be good to know whether these 2 IAB consensus positions resonate with
> the community. think the IAB is making a fundamental mistake it would
> be good to let us know.)

I'm not sure that wanting the best of both worlds is what got us to where
we are; it seems we still want the best of both worlds, but we have adapted
our sense of how long it will take to get to a mature, fully functioning RSE.

> So while it is clear that we should be focusing our search to a person
> that is either to the right or to the left of the spectrum we have not
> developed a consensus on which role that should be. (Glenn's
> recommendation's are strongly leaning to the right hand side of the
> scale.)
> The right vs left discussion easily slips into a debate on the RFC
> Series as an IETF brand or the RFC Series as a more or less
> stand-alone entity in the larger Internet community. That discussion
> has taken place a number of times over the last years and those
> discussions have concluded with maintaining that the series' nature is
> more towards being a stand-alone entity in the larger Internet
> community. That discussion is out of scope.
> On the other hand, the IAB has no explicitly documented strategy for
> the development of the RFC series that could help us to answer the
> question of a right vs left type role for the RSE (RFC4844 is very
> explicit in building a framework but never elaborates on 'where the
> series should be in 20 years', it doesn't address the 'editorial
> vision' so to say).
> The above summarizes the IAB discussion so far.
> In order to get this resolved I want to put forward a straw-man.  My
> goal is whether we can answer the left-right question and move forward
> while dodging a time consuming agenda.
> The strawman is close to Glenn's recommendation except that it defines
> a few concrete goals for the first RSE.
> We seek a person on the right hand side of the spectrum i.e.  somebody
> with technical publication background.
> The first assignment, documented in the SOW, is to develop a vision
> for the RFC series that takes into account that:

Sadly, I don't think this works.  We've had repeated comments that
hiring people
without clear lines of authority and accountability results in
frustration, and this amounts
to hiring someone without clear accountability.  It is a very tempting
idea, but the way it is described sounds like a series of steps:

1) Develop connection to community (6-9 months)
2) Develop vision of what job entails (order of months?)
3) Do job.

But the reality is every job evolves as it goes, and all three items go on
concurrently in all jobs.  We have to hire someone with a focus on
"Do job" in a way that makes them understand that 1 & 2 are ongoing
parts of the job and that the focus of "develop of vision of what job
entails" here maps almost exactly to "develop vision of how series
can evolve".

What I'm thinking of isn't hugely different from what you write, but I think
it makes a crucial difference.  If we write a statement of work that starts
from "create documentation and structures that allows continuity
for the production house function" and "coordinate discussion
among streams on Series evolution" we have a job description
that includes "what to do" on the ground day one.  We can go on
to say that 1 & 2 are fundamental, ongoing parts of the job and
that we expect the job to evolve as the discussion of Series evolution
produces new requirements and desiderata.

But delegating the initial job description to the person we hire, especially
as job one seems to me like a mistake.  It's going to skew our applicant
pool to people who are good at writing job descriptions, rather than people
who can create documentation and structures/coordinate discussion.
And it runs the risk of frustrating our new incumbent if the new vision
doesn't fit with what we've already developed as consensus in this space.

I think we've actually made a lot of progress  in understanding the
relationship of REOC to RSE and to getting agreement on where
we want the final balance of  activity to be.  Let's use that progress
to write the job description, knowing it will evolve with both
the new incumbent and the community.

best regards,

Ted Hardie

> - the series is an evolving technical specification series,
>  historically by engineers for engineers;
> - the landscape is slowly changing in terms of publication and
>  archiving techniques;
> - the community that depends on RFCs (in production and consumption)
>  is slowly changing into a multi-lingual non-native English
>  population;
> That vision is developed in close cooperation with the community.
> Another key task the SOW is to create documentation and structures
> that allows continuity for the production house function;
> (there are probably a few more considerations).
> The first RSE is _not_ interim, and is tasked with bringing
> Publication experience to the community. This is significantly
> different than the role we envisioned for the TSRE, who was tasked to
> focus on management analysis.
> Within the current model there is a lot of room for cooperation with
> the community through the RAOC. The RAOC should take the
> responsibility to work with the RSE to make sure the vision is
> developed in cooperation with the community.
> The benefit of this model is that an experienced Publication person
> can most probably bring clarity on the technical aspects that are
> needed to be in place for long term production continuity. Such a
> person would also be able to bring a number of publication aspects to
> the table that are relevant for the series that the community has thus
> far not considered.
> When a left side person would be hired the same responsibilities could
> be in the SOW, but it is more likely that the focus may be less on
> developing an Editorial vision and more on the pragmatics of
> developing the style manual and the processes for cross-stream
> coordination. Obviously our mileage may vary.
> What is important is that we allow this system (RSE+RAOC) to develop
> towards the middle of the scale. If we can make that happen in a few years
> (which is realistically the timescale on which an editor from right or
> left would develop). I believe that the current model has sufficient
> checks to prevent an RSE to go rogue so there is little to lose.
> The effect on the line-item on the IAOC budget for a right vs left
> person is hard to assess. Both come with 'hidden costs' in terms of
> volunteer cycles and continuity risks. I wouldn't want to speculate
> at this point.
> I appreciate your thoughts on this.
> --Olaf Kolkman
>  IAB chair and moderator.
> PS: there is no need to crosspost to the IAB list for replies. The discussion on
> RFC-interest is being tracked.
> ________________________________________________________
> Olaf M. Kolkman                        NLnet Labs
>                                       Science Park 140,
> http://www.nlnetlabs.nl/               1098 XG Amsterdam
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