Re: [111attendees] Hybrid meetings (was: Re: test)

John C Klensin <john-ietf@jck.com> Mon, 26 July 2021 12:54 UTC

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Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2021 08:51:15 -0400
From: John C Klensin <john-ietf@jck.com>
To: Lars Eggert <lars@eggert.org>
cc: Toerless Eckert <tte@cs.fau.de>, Michael StJohns <msj@nthpermutation.com>, Randy Bush <randy@psg.com>, 111attendees@ietf.org, Carsten Bormann <cabo@tzi.org>, Vittorio Bertola <vittorio.bertola=40open-xchange.com@dmarc.ietf.org>
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Subject: Re: [111attendees] Hybrid meetings (was: Re: test)
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--On Monday, 26 July, 2021 10:38 +0300 Lars Eggert
<lars@eggert.org> wrote:

> Hi,
> 
> On 2021-7-23, at 20:30, John C Klensin <john-ietf@jck.com>
> wrote:
>> we should be putting
>> effort into figuring out how to do hybrid meetings well,
>> starting with figuring out what "hybrid" means for us.
> 
> effort has been put into this for some months now, via a small
> secretariat-led team made up of some secretariat and LLC
> staff, NOC members and some occasional IESG involvement.

Lars, I hope I misunderstand the combination of the above and
what you said earlier.  It sounds like you discouraged IETF
participants from digging into that issues, citing the SHMOO
charter, but are then telling us that another, mostly-secret,
team has been convened to discuss issues and work out details,
presumably so the community can be presented with either an
announcement or a detailed plan for ratification so we can
quibble over details but have no impact on the overall plan.

If that reading is correct, I certainly recognize the efficiency
of a focused group with special expertise relative to a large
group of people (i.e., the broader IETF participant community),
most of whom have strong opinions but little expertise.
However, with all respect to the secretariat and LLC staff and
NOC members, I am not aware of many of them being hired for
specific experience in the dynamics of such meetings.  I know
the IESG members were not.

And despite many comments recently --on this list and others--
about hybrid meetings, unless I have missed an announcement, I
think it is concerning that the existence of such a team has not
been announced before this and that its charter, membership, and
scope are not public, and so on.  I also gather from other
conversations that our colleagues at Meetecho have spent
considerable time thinking about these issues and that they
probably already have experience with them.  If so, it is
disappointing that they are not part of the team; I hope it does
not suggest that we are going down the "just another contractor"
path with them.

> As you can imagine, the added complexities of a hybrid meeting
> are substantial. 

I don't have to imagine.  I have experienced attempts at such
meetings, sometimes serial attempts by the same groups with some
learning by experience.  However, that is precisely my concern:
when we shifted to all-remote, there were no choices other than
for a small team whose composition was selected by the IESG
and/or LLC Leadership to meet quickly, make decisions, and tell
the community what was to be done.  Given that style of
decision-making, I think we have done remarkably well, learning
from each meeting and improving the next. I hope that this one
will show that we've got it right.   I do not, however, believe
that justifies waiting until we are "surprised" by a hybrid
meeting setup or opportunity and then unveiling plans that have
been made without community review and then instituting them
without time for the community to have input into more than the
details.

In addition, while others may disagree, I think the details of
how to do a hybrid meeting are intimately connected with the
broader questions of how many meeting we need a year, whether we
should be mixing hybrid meetings with all-remote ones, or what
the balance should be between WG "interim" meetings and more or
less full IETF ones.  Perhaps the IESG and the team are
discussing those issues too; if so, some transparency would be
in order.

> They remain so even if we disregard the
> required COVID measures for a moment, because of usefully
> supporting a (much) larger remotely participating community
> from a smaller in-person setup.

Actually, not necessarily.  From experience, I suggest it is
very likely that the worst-case scenario is around half the
participants remote and half present and about half the
leadership (including WG Chairs) present and half remote.    If
the planning is for small numbers present and most remote, there
is a chance that the wrong questions are being asked.

> Uncertainty about necessary
> COVID-related measures imposed by authorities at the place of
> the in-person meeting make matters significantly more
> difficult, not to mention the in-person community maybe
> desiring measures beyond what is required by the authorities.

Of course.  And those reasons and others make it likely that
those present will not be a representative sample of the broader
IETF community.  On the other hand, if we stick by the
principles that appear to me to be at the core of the current
criteria for holding meetings all-remote, then we would not hold
a meeting with a small number of people present and a "(much)
larger" remote participant community, especially if the first
group is not representative of the larger one.  Or perhaps we
are quibbling about the difference between "(much) larger" and
"overwhelming majority".  Or perhaps what you are discussing is
something that would be consistent with your remarks: a
leadership and operations team (mostly) in the same location
while almost all participants are remote.  That would be an
interesting idea, but is very different from my picture of a
hybrid meeting.

>> If the first case applies, spending time in SHMOO and/or in
>> consultations by the LLC fine-tuning criteria for going back
>> to in-person meetings or whether the "next" meeting will be in
>> person, is a waste of time and resource.
> 
> The uncertainties related to COVID require us to evaluate a
> wide range of options.

Of course.  But then the question is "who is is 'us'".    Even
with my personal focus on topic-related expertise --one on
which, judging from some supposedly unrelated discussions, I
seem to be in the rough-- there seems to be a transparency
problem relative to the way the IETF claims to work.

> The situation unfortunately remains
> very fluid, and so efforts that appeared relevant only a few
> weeks ago may seem like a waste of time and resources now -
> but at the same time, efforts that seemed irrelevant then are
> looking much more relevant now.
> 
> For example, several weeks ago, trend lines looked like a
> November meeting with a substantial in-person presence in
> Madrid might be viable, hence we've spent time and effort in
> this direction. But we're also spending time and effort on a
> more hybrid meeting (with a much larger remote participant
> set), and of course on a fully-online option (which is where
> SHMOO comes in); and it increasingly looks like we'll need to
> rely on the latter planning now.

And, again, as almost everyone who has worked with me in the
last 30 or 40 years knows, I'm very much in favor of contingency
planning, even for possibilities that seem to be low likelihood.
But, unless the "team", like a design team, is simply compiling
a list of options for community consideration, I don't see lack
of transparency about its existence, membership, and charter to
be necessary or desirable.  And that makes me wonder whether,
for example, consideration was given to adding some
non-leadership, non-staff members to that team to bring some
"from the trenches" perspectives to the questions.

>> Either way, it seems to me that, as IETF Chair and General
>> Area AD, it seems to me, if the SHMOO charter and work are no
>> longer a good match for the needs of the IETF, you have both
>> the authority and responsibility to make that determination
>> and to either shut things down or initiate a conversation
>> about adjusting the charter so that things get onto a more
>> useful track.  Or you could propose that people start working
>> on a charter for a SHMHybrid WG that would compete with SHMOO
>> for interested people, time, and resources (it is probably
>> clear that I don't think much of that idea, but it is
>> logically possible).
> 
> The main reason I brought up the SHMOO charter at all was to
> explain why the current SHMOO documents are not covering
> hybrid meetings, which some were wondering about. I didn't
> intend to imply that the community should not discuss hybrid
> meetings, and I apologize if I came across like that.

It did.  And thanks for the clarification.
 
> I'll also note that SHMOO has WG chairs, which are in charge
> of managing the group and can initiate steps to recharter. But
> I don't think a rechartered SHMOO or new WG on hybrid meetings
> is what should happen first (see below).

>> It seems to me however that, unless you have a plan about how
>> individual I-Ds --ones that the experience of the last 18
>> months suggests would be very controversial-- would reach
>> consensus without a WG structure and be processed, is sort of
>> missing the point.
 
> Before talking about how an I-D in this space may or may not
> reach consensus, and whether a rechartered SHMOO or new WG
> would or wouldn't help here, I think we all would actually
> like to see such I-Ds posted - namely, ones that outline what
> a hybrid meeting structure and experience should look like -
> in times of COVID and in a brighter future without.

That is, IMO, an entirely reasonable suggestion.  It is,
however, not clear to me (and that means "I don't know" not "I'm
convince it is wrong") that a closed team is that right way to
get to those drafts.  In addition, my experience in the IETF
suggests that, for issues in which community has little shared
experience or agreement on principles, asking for drafts
produces either nothing or a few highly-opinionated ones that
often lead to lengthy discussion of details that miss major
points.  

Constructive (I hope) suggestion, with apologies for the short
time frame: Could we get a short report from the current team,
focusing on their understanding of main issues rather than
details?  Could we get it Real Soon Now, either in writing or in
a plenary presentation, or both?  After we have that report,
could the IESG schedule a team-led open-participation
brainstorming session shortly thereafter for, say, an hour?  I'd
think about the 10:35-11:35 and/or 18:00-19:00 PDT/San Francisco
slots on Thurs and/or (despite the known problems with August) a
slot or two within the month following IETF 111.   In any case,
with recordings made available.  That would at least allow
enough open discussion to make focused and useful I-Ds much more
likely.

thanks,
   john