Re: [Diversity] draft-arkko-ietf-trends-and-observations-00

Alia Atlas <> Tue, 26 April 2016 02:30 UTC

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Date: Mon, 25 Apr 2016 22:29:56 -0400
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From: Alia Atlas <>
To: S Moonesamy <>
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Cc: Benson Schliesser <>, Tobias Gondrom <>, Nalini Elkins <>, Olaf Kolkman <>, Avri Doria <>, "" <>, Jari Arkko <>, Steve Olshansky <>
Subject: Re: [Diversity] draft-arkko-ietf-trends-and-observations-00
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On Mon, Apr 25, 2016 at 3:11 AM, S Moonesamy <> wrote:

> Hello,
> At 08:57 23-04-2016, wrote:
>> The Impact of Diversity
>> ------------------------
>> Diversity and culture need much more discussion.  These are among the
>> most important issues facing us if we want to navigate this transition
>> gracefully.  I live in the United States in the State of California.  There
>> is no racial group that has over 50% in California.
>> In California, we are all minorities.  This is likely to be where the
>> IETF is going.
> Is California an adequate comparison or is it better to compare the IETF
> with the tech industry?  The figures for the tech industry do not reflect
> the distribution in California (
> ).
> So, what does this mean?
>> The IETF has a culture, which IMHO, works quite well to support
>> innovation.  Having said that, the IETF culture is redolent of the culture
>> of Berkeley in the 1970s (with some of the political correctness of
>> Northern California in 2016 thrown in for good measure!).   Some of us
>> (esp. those of us who live in Northern California) find that familiar and
>> feel quite comfortable in that culture.  Others, not so much.
> The following is one of the concluding thoughts of the authors: "As the
> IETF changes, improving its cultural diversity and seeing the motivation
> for participation increasingly based on business interests, it remains
> important that we as an organization and a community take steps toward
> maintaining some key cultural values".  The message says that the IETF has
> a culture which is close to the one of North California.  Is that one of
> the key cultural values which the authors of
> draft-arkko-ietf-trends-and-observations-00 would like to maintain?

Speaking personally, I think it is helpful to more clearly articulate what
we as a community feel are key cultural values that support and allow the
IETF to accomplish our mission of making the Internet work better with the
Internet Standards Process which has goals of " Technical excellence, Prior
implementation and testing, Clear, concise, and easily understood
documentation, Openness and fairness, and Timeliness."  [ ]

Personally, I think that how we accomplish these goals based on community
values - like using rough consensus to capture all technical concerns,
engineering practical solutions that consider operations to real problems,
participating as trustworthy individuals, being inclusive because we
understand that different perspectives find different technical issues and
solutions, encourage improving from experience based on early
implementations, and so on - is useful to talk about.

When and if we talk about what are community values are, I personally think
it is useful to confine ourselves to where we are likely to find common
ground to support the IETF's mission.  As I know we're all aware, IETFers
participate from many different cultures and perspectives - but we all care
about the Internet.

Personally, I don't think that we are talking about the culture of North
California or the limited diversity seen in Silicon Valley.  The IETF has
participants well beyond that tiny geography.

> We have much experience with issues of diversity in California.  Battles
>> over what language(s) will be spoken in schools, dress codes and other
>> issues are constantly on the ballots in local elections.  As is the
>> inevitable backlash over the sharing of power that is entailed.  Hence, the
>> Trump reality show disguised as a primary contest.
>> Obviously, this issue is not unique to California or the United States.
>>  Consider Germany with their generosity and kindness in taking many, many
>> refugees.   They are now dealing with the impacts of their generosity.
>> To truly deal with diversity, requires sensitivity and awareness as well
>> as having the right people be a part of that conversation.  Moving forth,
>> sensitivity about culture, language, food preferences, what is
>> "affordable", venue, etc, will become more and more important.   I would
>> submit that this actually requires a draft co-authored by a number of
>> people on how best to navigate these waters.
> According to the authors, "First, creating an environment that is good for
> diverse participants is the right thing to do".  Is there any institutional
> bias?  If so, how does creating an environment help to address that?  There
> is a draft from 2013 in which a change was proposed (
> ).
> There was a polite unfavorable response to the proposal even though the
> draft did not discuss about sensitive issues.

 I have read the recent more nuanced discussion about NomCom eligibility; I
don't think that is the only or major criteria for creating an environment
for diverse participants.  Having been through only a tiny bit of corporate
bias training, I expect that the IETF does have some institutional bias -
as do we all - particularly when busy juggling work and deciding whom to
listen to.  I know that I, personally, would very much like to figure out
how to encourage folks who have been active for a year or so and want to do
more - as well as encouraging folks to think about stepping forward to help
productively steer discussion and learn how to get things done in the IETF
process.  For instance, in Routing, we have about 15 new WG chairs in the
last 2 years - about 1/3 of the total WG chairs - and it is important that
we are growing people to be able to take over WG chair roles as well as
shepherding, leading design teams, and the like.

The impact of diversity is that it became a problem in the IETF when it
> turned into a problem for the tech industry in the United States.  The
> impact of diversity on the IETF is that it has a negative impact on the
> IETF brand as a body in which there is supposed to be equal opportunity.

Perhaps we remember different parts of the past differently, but I
certainly recall when there was lots of grumbling about the lack of
European participation in the IETF.  Now, we have significant European
participation and a noticeable amount of Asian participation.  For the
IETF, diversity matters in matters beyond those considered in the tech
industry.  For instance, it is really important to have folks participating
from different parts in the technology life-cycle, if you will, from
researchers, vendors, developers, operators, policy-influencers, and so on.
  Certainly, as the Internet has become critical to the lives of so many
people and the businesses and economies of so many places, there is also a
reasonable focus on how the IETF gets things done and who participates.

For IETF culture and environment, I would ask - what aspects of the IETF
must not change for the IETF to be able to stay true to our mission?


> S. Moonesamy