[rfc-i] On Authors, Contributors, Editors, and overload.

Spencer Dawkins spencer at wonderhamster.org
Tue Sep 20 10:13:48 PDT 2011


Thank you for taking this on, and thank you for taking it on with a gentle 
hand as ARSE.

I have a couple of suggestions below. If they start to feel like policy 
changes, you can leave them for the RSE, of course.


> Dear Colleagues,
> There has been a lot of confusion about Authors, Editors and Contributors 
> lately. Up to the point where some documents stalled.
> As Acting RFC Series Editor I try not to touch policy whenever it is not 
> needed to keep documents moving. This is a case where I had to make a few 
> decisions that have set some precedent.
> Below you find the refinement/clarification of existent policies in line 
> with recent decisions. I have tried to keep the changes to the existing 
> policies to a minimum, all in the spirit of the role of the Acting RFC 
> Series Editor.
> I plan to publish this on the website under 
> http://www.rfc-editor.org/policy.html early october.
> The text below intends to replace:
> - http://www.rfc-editor.org/policy.html#policy.authlist and
> - http://www.rfc-editor.org/policy.html#policy.auth
> Your comments are welcome.
> Kind regards,
> --Olaf Kolkman
>  Acting RFC Series Editor
> ---------- Draft Text  -----------
> On Authors, Contributors, Editors, and overload.
> The specific policy is as follows:
> * Headers, Addresses section, AUTH48: the 1:1:1 mapping
>  A small set of names, with affiliations, may appear on the front
>  page header. These should be the lead author(s) or editors; those
>  who are most responsible for the actual text. Below we will refer to
>  these as "AUTHORS" and "EDITORS" (all caps)
>  The AUTHORS or EDITORS that appear on the front page header all need

I read this as saying that either you have AUTHORS, or you have EDITORS, on 
the front page header. My recollection is that having a mix is pretty common 
("these were the people who did most of the work, and Fred is now serving as 
EDITOR"). Perhaps "and". "and/or" would be more accurate for me, but perhaps 
not for everyone.

>  to sign-off during AUTH48 and are the primary contacts in case
>  follow-up is needed. Hence they are the ones that are listed in the
>  RFC metadata and the ones that are listed in the Authors' or
>  Editors' Addresses section. We call this the 1:1:1 mapping. It is

... and the same point (about the possibility of mixing AUTHORS and EDITORS) 
shows up multiple places in the document.

>  not subject to negotiation.
>  Also see: http://www.rfc-editor.org/policy.html#policy.authresp
>  If there are more than five AUTHORS or EDITORS stream-approval is
>  required.
>  The designation AUTHOR or EDITOR is one that is made by the
>  individuals themselves.
> * Contributing Authors
>  An RFC may include a Contributing Authors section, listing those
>  contributors who deserve significant credit for the document
>  contents.
>  The Contributing Authors section is intended to provide a level of
>  recognition greater than an acknowledgment and nearly equal to
>  listing on the front page.

I'm almost sure you need to leave what I'm about to say for the RSE, but 
just in case - I don't know what "nearly equal" means here. And you may have 
chosen the least confusing possible text.

>  The choice of either, both, or none of Contributing Authors and
>  Acknowledgment sections in a particular RFC depends upon the
>  circumstance. That choice is primarily an AUTHORS' or EDITORS'
>  decision.
>  The format and requirements of the Contributing Authors section are
>  the same as the Authors' Addresses.
>  If the Contributing Authors section is used, then it is likely that
>  AUTHORS are actually EDITORS. In that case the Authors' Addresses
>  section could be named Editors' Addresses. The RFC Editor does not
>  enforce such guidelines, but may ask for clarification.
>  If an EDITOR is also a contributing author, her name may appear in
>  the Contributing Authors section as well, without the 'editor'
>  designation.

Again, probably for the RSE, but most situations I've been involved in, 
whether as WG chair or as AUTHOR/EDITOR, have only listed names in one role. 
I get your point about names appearing in two places making more sense; I'm 
just saying that this isn't what I have seen people doing. And yes, that 
means that you can't tell the difference between an original author who 
became an editor and an editor who was selected after a document was, say, 
adopted by a working group.

> * Contributors
>  As an alternative to the strict-format "Contributing Authors"
>  section RFC writers may opt to use a Contributors section. The
>  Contributors section may contain free floating text and is also
>  intended to credit major contributors to the content.
> * Acknowledgements
>  The body of an RFC may include an Acknowledgements section. An
>  Acknowledgments section may explain scope and nature of
>  contributions. It may also specify affiliations.

I'm not pushing back as hard as Dave Crocker, but I AM seeing the full 
palate of AUTHOR, EDITOR, AUTHOR and EDITOR, contributing author, 
contributor, acknowledged participant as the IETF implementation of 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matryoshka_doll. I did see that you list 
Contributing Author and Contributor as alternatives which would not appear 
together in a single specification, but still. Sheesh.

And I'm not telling you that your text is wrong. Just leave my note on your 
chair when the RSE gets there.

What WOULD be helpful, if you could think about how to do this without 
creating policy where none exists, is if you could provide any guidance 
about how to handle the two common cases

- four or five authors on an individual draft, which then picks up an editor 
and at least one major contributor after it's adopted as a working group 
draft, and

- the same case, except this time, there are two or three individual drafts 
with maxed-out author lists, and then all of these drafts are combined into 
a single draft.

If not, leave this for the RSE, but it would be helpful.

> * Exceptions
>  The RFC Editor may grant exceptions to these guidelines upon a
>  specific request from the stream approval body (e.g. the IESG) or in
>  other exceptional circumstances.
> Background and motivation
> When the RFC Editor refers to 'AUTHORS' or 'EDITORS', we mean exactly
> the set of names listed on the first page of an RFC. These people are
> considered to be equally responsible for the contents of the
> document. AUTHORS will be asked to read and approve the RFC before

I think this might read better as "Each of these people is considered to be 
equally responsible ..."

In the next sentence, this should be "AUTHORS and/or EDITORS", should it 

> publication and will be the persons that have their contact addresses
> listed for clarification, comments, suggestions, or questions from 3rd
> parties e.g. on the validity of errata, or on the use of text
> fragments beyond that licensed by the IETF trust. This contact
> information will occur in the Author's Address (or Authors' Addresses)
> section at the end of an RFC.

Again, this should also include Editor'(s') Address(es), should it not?

> The IESG and IETF have ratified a policy of limiting the number of
> AUTHORS listed in the first page header of an RFC. Objections to huge
> author lists are both practical and ideological. The practical issues
> have to do with the long-existing RFC formatting conventions that do
> not comfortably handle large author lists. Ideological objections stem

It is also worth mentioning that large author lists mean large number of 
people who are involved at AUTH48 time, who can delay publication of a 
specification by suggesting a change that all the other persons on the 
author list must then agree to, and if the other people respond by 
suggesting another change, the AUTH48 process restarts AGAIN.

Aaron Falk and I lived through an AUTH48 for a document with seven authors, 
including one or two who hadn't been involved with the document for a couple 
of IETF meeting cycles, resulting from about 160 e-mails and about 18-20 
AUTH48 restarts due to proposed changes that cascaded into other proposed 
changes. I don't remember how long that took, but I remember it taking 
multiple months to converge.

Aaron was working at ISI at the time, down the hall from the RFC Editor 
folk - if an AUTH48 cascade could happen to him, it could happen to anyone!

> from the Internet community's tradition of individual rather than
> corporate action and responsibility. Some might see a list of 17
> authors on one RFC as motivated by a desire for corporate
> name-dropping, which would be inappropriate in the IETF/RFC context.

I might suggest "desire to indicate corporate backing for the specification, 
which would be inappropriate ...". This is consistent with the following 
sentence ...

... which, upon consideration, I actually find disturbing; if it's not 
appropriate for an individual-based SDO to indicate corporate backing, it's 
not appropriate whether that happens using a too-long author list, or using 
a different section in the RFC. Even if you're issuing this statement as 
ARSE because you see people doing this now, I can think of IETF participants 
who would see the following sentence in a formal statement as encouragement 
to gather up "supporters", who might even have read the document all the way 
through, and list them in an Acknowlegement section. Do you need to say 

> If there is a desire to demonstrate how many companies are interested
> in this spec, a simple acknowledgment section can accomplish the same
> thing, without Author Overload.
> The Internet community's conventions for RFC authors are one of the
> distinctive features of the IETF culture. Most standards bodies
> publish anonymous standards, whereas we attach the names of real
> people, who get both credit and blame, to our specifications. (This is
> probably a result of the historical beginnings of the IETF in the
> academic research community.) The person(s) who actually write a
> document take responsibility for it, even though there may be a large
> working group of several hundred people who potentially contributed to
> it. When there are a number of significant contributors, there is
> usually a single person tasked with integrating the results into a

" ... are usually one or two people tasked ...", as you describe in the 
following paragraph.

> single document; that person may be listed as "Editor", with
> acknowledgments for the other contributors.
> There is no rigid limit on the size of this set, but there is likely
> to be a discussion if the set exceeds five AUTHORS, in which case the

I might suggestion "likely to be questions". "A discussion" hash-collides 
with an IESG DISCUSS, for most people I know.

> right answer is probably to list one, or two, EDITORs.  For instance,
> when there are many contributors, the best choice will be to list the
> person or (few) persons who acted as document editor(s)
> (e.g.,"Tom Smith, Ed."). 

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