[rfc-i] Difficulties about roles and authority (was: Re: Comprehensive review of draft-iab-rfc-editor-model-v2-02)

John C Klensin john+rfc at jck.com
Fri Jul 15 12:16:38 PDT 2011

--On Friday, July 15, 2011 17:09 +0200 Olaf Kolkman
<olaf at NLnetLabs.nl> wrote:

> [No ticket]
>> (A.2) There is language in the document that can be
>> interpreted in rather different ways by people (who are
>> acting in good faith) within the community.  A statement like
>> "The IAB and IAOC maintain their chartered responsibility as
>> defined in [RFC2850] and [RFC4071]", while certainly true,
>> doesn't actually provide much information because, as we have
>> seen in other discussions, the community contains widely
>> different opinions about how far those responsibilities, and
>> the authority that is presumed to go with them, extend.  
>> As one particular example to which I'm personally sensitive,
>> many of us took the discussions leading up to the IASA as
>> requiring that the IAOC confine itself narrowly to
>> administrative and financial issues and that it _never_ make
>> policy.  At most, it might formulate policy proposals for
>> review and possible approval by the broader community, but it
>> was questionable whether it --as compared to, e.g., the IESG--
>> should even set itself up as a determiner of consensus.  When
>> one reads RFC 4071 through the lens of that history, the
>> "chartered responsibility" (and accompanying authority) of the
>> IAOC is extremely limited.  By contrast, in the last
>> half-dozen years, a number of people have taken the quite
>> reasonable position that the IAOC's responsibility for the
>> financial and administrative welfare of the extended IETF
>> community gives it sweeping authority, via the "power of the
>> purse", to create and impose policies and determine styles of
>> doing things.  Neither of those positions are inherently
>> wrong.  If they need to be resolved, this document is not the
>> right place to do it.  But, while using a statement like the
>> one quoted above may make both those who think the IAB is
>> ultimately in charge of the RFC Editor and those who think
>> the IAOC must control anything that costs money (including
>> the RFC Editor Function) happy because they read it as they
>> prefer, it sets up a future opportunity for disputes and may
>> scare off potential RSE candidates who don't want to get into
>> a "too many masters and a dispute between them about
>> boundaries" situation.
>> The difficulty with that particular "maintain their chartered
>> responsibility" statement could be reduced by adding a
>> sentence to the effect that this document provides
>> authoritative interpretations of those responsibilities
>> (i.e., that neither interpretations of the IETF Charter nor
>> of the IASA Structure documents take precedence over anything
>> this document actually does specify), but the general problem
>> remains... and you need to specify whatever is important, not
>> just assume that the statement provides significant
>> information because it does not.
> John, as you know I share this sentiment to a large degree.
> But I have read your text above several times and I am not
> sure how to turn it actionable. That is I do not know how to
> improve the document beyond the suggestion that you make in
> the last paragraph.
> That suggestion is probably not going to help very much as
> long as the tussle exists.

I agree.  Where this becomes complicated is that I do not
believe we should be moving forward significantly with the
search process until that tussle is somehow resolved.  Once it
is resolved, the text is probably the easy part.  But, as long
as the conflict exists, we essentially limit the pool of
candidates to three groups, the third of which won't apply.

	(i) Those who are too insensitive to these issues to
	notice them.
	(ii) Those who understand the issues but are convinced
	that they can do an effective job no matter how, or if,
	it gets sorted out.
	(iii) Those who understand the issues but will not apply
	for fear of setting foot in a swamp in which they are
	held responsible for many things but cannot accomplish
	anything without navigating an impossible path set by
	conflicting beliefs about authority and responsibility.

If we believe that the first group is unqualified or
inappropriate, that leaves us with the second.  At least some of
that group might be sufficiently naive about management and how
these things sometimes play out to be qualified.  And that
leaves a _very_ small pool of choices.

> Having thought about this a lot over the last few weeks I am
> starting to come to the conclusion that no-matter what the
> words say the tussles that we have experienced will probably
> continue to remain and we have to sort them out in practice.
> Being precise and describing the principles will help, but
> solutions only come from shared mindsets, wisdom and
> cooperation. I am not sure, except for the various concrete
> suggestions elsewhere, how to improve the document so that
> there are no misunderstandings in the future. I think that is
> to ambitious.

Under other circumstances, I would agree.  Unfortunately, I've
seen precisely these differences of opinion paralyze the RSOC
for extended periods of time.   I've also seen people exclude
themselves from the candidate pool with model-v1 because they
feared getting into a management situation in which it was
impossible to get anything done and we've had at least one
search firm warn us that this could easily be a job that someone
took and then left in six months or a year after concluding that
it was impossible or just too unpleasant.  So I believe that we
really need to struggle with the problem however difficult or
ambitious that may be.

> In other words, I believe that this comment serves as a
> warning, but is hard to make actionable.

It is certainly a warning in any event.  Perhaps it is a warning
that the community wants to ignore, but we should at least
understand the risks of doing so.


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