Re: Diversity of candidates was Re: NomCom 2020 Announcement of Selections

Fernando Gont <> Tue, 26 January 2021 02:52 UTC

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Subject: Re: Diversity of candidates was Re: NomCom 2020 Announcement of Selections
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From: Fernando Gont <>
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Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2021 23:52:23 -0300
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On 25/1/21 18:35, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
> Same disclaimer as before, but this time I'm definitely speaking only 
> for myself.
> On Mon, Jan 25, 2021 at 04:03:46PM -0500, Keith Moore wrote:
>> That sentence sounds more than a little bit hostile itself.
> I would appreciate knowing why you think so.
>> With respect to tooling, this should be a relatively easy test. Are 
>> the "bespoke" tools easier to use than whatever tools we might be 
>> using otherwise?
> "Easier" is surely a matter of where one stands.  The point that I was 
> making (and the only point I was trying to make) is that, if you want a 
> more-diverse set of people to join, making the barriers to engagement as 
> high as the IETF does through tools that are really foreign to a lot of 
> people will not help with that. 

As someone who is part of under-representing community (South America, 
on the "geography" axis),  I'd say that tooling is the least of the 
barriers when it comes to joining the IETF.

If I was asked about it, I'd say that IMHO the main barriers are (in no 
specific order):

1) Language

This one has not been an issue for myself, but I'm aware it *is* an 
issue for folks from our region (where most of us speak Spanish, or 
Portuguese). Usually, folks with the required technical skills for 
participating in the IETF won't have a lot of issues with written 
English. However, oral English can be quite a challenge -- particularly 
given the diversity of accents, and even more if/when folks use idioms, 
talk extremely fast, or in a way that's not very clear to "English as 
second language" participants.

2) Financial support

It is virtually impossible in our region to get support to attend IETF 
meetings. Among other reasons, because most organizations do not see an 
obvious "return of investment" from such participation. When you add on 
top of that that a lot of people make less than 1K USD/month, that gives 
you an idea of the extent to which organizations might fund their 
employees, or participants would be able to pay from their own pockets.

3) ROI for participants

Quite related to #2 above is that the kind of skills that you'd develope 
while participating in the IETF are not something that you could easily 
market in this region to make a living. Let me be quite blunt: a CCNA 
certification is way more likely to help you in the job market than e.g. 
having authored an RFC (whatever the topic or the quality of the RFC).

The past Internet Society's "IETF Fellowship" was of help -- however, I 
think there were a number of flaws in its implementation that 
essentially cause it to have a rather marginal effect. -- Although I'd 
have rather fixed the flaws than discontinued the program.

That said, other organizations from the region should probably do their 
bit here. Some "support" IETF participation, but do not tackle any of 
the obstacles I'm referring to in this email.

4) Participation from small organizations

While this varies a lot from one wg to another (and also depending on 
the specific topic in question) my impression is that while all folks 
participate as individuals, at times whether you are part of a large 
organization makes a big difference when it comes to your IETF 
experience. This can be a very discouraging factor for newcomers from 
the region (if not for all folks from the region, whether newcomers or 
not). In theory, this issue doesn't exist. In practice, it probably does.

5) Technical skills

As a result of #2-#4 above, it's not very usual for university program's 
or other courses to, say, fail to include networking fundamentals (e.g., 
ala Radia Perlman's "Interconnections...", John Day's "Patterns in 
Network Architecture..", etc.). For the most part, such programs cover 
some IETF standards as the "state of the art in networking" -- and I'd 
say that if your background is that what we currently have is the best 
we could possibly achieve (rather than realizing that at least a part of 
it has to do with historical events and electro-politics), it's harder 
to approach the topic in a way that you can help improve things.


* It's probably obvious and implied, but, nevertheless: I haven't been 
"elected" to "speak for the region". However, I've actively participated 
from South America for quite a while, and also speak regularly with the 
few other folks that participate from the region.

* Regarding tools:  Some, such as xml2rfc, are a kind of necessary evil 
(I edited my first document directly as TXT, and wouldn't do that again 
:-) ), and can be dealt with quite easily via the sample xml skeletons 
you'll see around.  Others, such as github, can at times get in the way 
of editing a document -- and I believe should be optional to authors 
(use them if you'll find them of help... but otherwise use whatever ools 
and workflow works best for you).

Just my two cents.

Fernando Gont
SI6 Networks
PGP Fingerprint: 6666 31C6 D484 63B2 8FB1 E3C4 AE25 0D55 1D4E 7492