Re: Making headway in the IETF [was Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF]

Keith Moore <> Tue, 23 February 2021 21:46 UTC

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Subject: Re: Making headway in the IETF [was Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF]
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From: Keith Moore <>
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Date: Tue, 23 Feb 2021 16:46:05 -0500
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On 2/23/21 3:20 PM, Brian E Carpenter wrote:

> I suggest up-levelling this sub-thread away from one specific WG to a more general point, which IMNSHO is not really about diversity or inclusiveness at all.
> Some newcomers to the IETF, even if they have many years of professional experience, find it hard to get started here, and a good fraction of them give up. (I dare say that we could actually measure that with a clever look at the statistics.) In particular, people with a specific goal (get WG X to do Y) are often disappointed.
> I don't think that has anything to do with diversity or inclusivity. It has to do with:
> a) The Internet is complicated. Problems that look simple turn out to be very hard. That can look like the IETF is being difficult.
> b) The IETF has learned the hard way that narrowly chartered WGs tend to succeed (or fail quickly). If WG X isn't chartered to do Y, it won't get done there.
> c) Yes, the process of building support for Y, and if necessary building support for a Y BOF and forming a Y WG, is complex both technically and sociologically. That's nothing to do with diversity or inclusiveness. It's just hard.
> d) Sometimes the IETF has actually taken a strategic decision that precludes Y. I'm not sure what aspects of privacy/encryption Dominique refers to, but there's no doubt that the IETF has long-standing consensuses in those areas and*of course*  that would be very hard to change. That doesn't excuse bad interpersonal behaviour, of course.

I mostly agree with the above, except that I do think that inclusivity 
(or lack thereof) is often a factor for reasons other than you cite 
above.   People /are/ discriminated against because of their employers 
(or who their employers aren't), the way they use the English language 
and whether that causes them difficulty, their cultural conventions and 
how well those conventions mesh with expectations of IETF participants, 
their technical backgrounds, whether they seem to "know their places" in 
others' eyes, and a great many other reasons.

(I do take some exception to (b).   IETF often fails to resolve 
fundamental tussles by making WGs that are narrowly focused, and this 
results in a kind of fragmentation of the Internet that encourages 
architectural dead ends.   But trying to resolve the tussle as a 
precondition for trying to make progress doesn't always work well either.)