Excessive use of interim meetings

Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com> Sun, 16 February 2020 12:29 UTC

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Subject: Excessive use of interim meetings
To: ietf@ietf.org
References: <6E58094ECC8D8344914996DAD28F1CCD27D91338@dggemm526-mbx.china.huawei.com>
From: Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com>
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Date: Sun, 16 Feb 2020 07:29:43 -0500
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On 2/16/20 2:37 AM, Roni Even (A) wrote:

> My personal experience when trying to attend a QUIC WG Interim meeting in Japan was very bad.

Not to single out QUIC, but I've formed the opinion that some WGs are 
making excessive use of interim meetings (whether face-to-face or 
virtual) in preference to email.   Part of the purpose of using email 
for discussion (and insisting that consensus be reached over email) was 
to permit effective participation from anywhere, and thus, to encourage 
diversity among participants.   We recognize that occasional 
face-to-face meetings are very helpful, but interim face-to-face 
meetings thwart this long-established effort to encourage diversity.   
Even virtual interim meetings have this effect due to the difficult of 
participating from very remote time zones.

(Sure you have to deal with jet lag if you physically travel. But it's 
easier to deal with jet lag if you actually travel to the location 
because you are surrounded by people and services that reinforce the 
local time zone.)

I will freely admit that it has become more difficult over time to have 
effective discussions over email.   Part of the problem seems to be that 
so many people read email from mobile devices with small screens.   
Perhaps for this reason, it seems that email readers today often have 
short attention spans.   Another part of the problem seems to be that 
modern email user agents (including webmail user agents) are actually 
less effective at facilitating discussion of deep technical subjects 
than was the case 20 years ago.   In particular the reply style of 
quoting the subject message in the reply, with comments interspersed, 
which was once very effective at least for a few replies, seems to be 
discouraged by modern email user agents.

I don't claim to know what the best answer is but I am concerned that 
IETF is losing its center.   The fundamental means of participation in 
IETF used to be email.   Interim meetings have always been somewhat 
problematic if not used sparingly.  I've certainly seen them used as 
part of a deliberate effort to reduce diversity of participation.

Keith