Re: [Recentattendees] Background on Singapore go/no go for IETF 100

Michael StJohns <mstjohns@comcast.net> Fri, 27 May 2016 17:46 UTC

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Subject: Re: [Recentattendees] Background on Singapore go/no go for IETF 100
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From: Michael StJohns <mstjohns@comcast.net>
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Date: Fri, 27 May 2016 13:46:32 -0400
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On 5/27/2016 1:12 PM, Rich Kulawiec wrote:
> On Fri, May 27, 2016 at 11:34:53AM -0400, John C Klensin wrote:
>> It seems to me that, if the IETF does nothing, it could provide
>> critics of the IETF community to assert that the IETF is
>> insensitive to issues of diversity and that its role and work
>> should be discounted because they represent only privileged
>> "majority" interests.
> I have reluctantly levelled this criticism because I believe it to
> be true: the IETF's fixation on physical meetings means that only the
> privileged few can attend: this mechanism selects for those with time
> (their own or their employer's), money (their own or their employer's),
> the ability to travel, the willingness to travel, the freedom to travel
> (e.g., ability to leave family and work and other responsibilities),
> the willingness to undertake all the risks associated with travel (legal
> or otherwise, see current discussion thread), and so on.
>
> If all the time, money, and effort that has gone into this discussion
> and this meeting had been applied to virtualizing meetings, it would
> have done much more to broaden participation not just geographically
> but demographically.  And it would alleviate the need to ever have
> this conversation again -- instead of necessitating it repeatedly,
> something I'm sad to say that I think may become more rather than
> less likely as political/legal conditions shift in various countries.
>
> ---rsk
>
The above comes under the heading of ignoring most of the evidence in 
favor of a specific conclusion.

The IETF, as compared to almost every other standards and technical body 
in existence, has a VERY, VERY, VERY low barrier to entry.  There are no 
user fees, and the only technology you really need is email to get 
involved.  We have 1000s of people (10s of 1000s?) that have actively 
contributed to the IETF over the 30 or so years we've been in existence 
without ever setting foot in an IETF face to face meeting.   So trying 
to conflate "participation" (your second paragraph) with "attendance" is 
just not supported by the evidence.

The face to face meetings provide higher bandwidth interactions - 
bandwidth that is STILL not available through any conceivable 
virtualization technology, and may still be 10 or 20 years out. (And 
yes, I'm talking holograms and true virtual environments). We - the IETF 
- can neither buy this technology nor magically wish it into existence.  
The "state of the art" technology right now seems to be closer to Webex 
and its ilk.  That technology barely supports a meeting of 3 people, let 
alone 1500 (or the magical 10000 participants that might show up if 
we're virtual).

There continues to be benefit to the organization to hold face to face 
meetings.  One of them is economic: fees from the meeting attendees 
generally defray a substantial portion of the costs of all of the 
"virtual" attendees participation.  So complaining about them being the 
"privileged few" and trying to eliminate them will mostly be shooting 
the virtual attendees in the foot, unless we start charging the virtual 
attendees for the meeting as well.

I would expect that we as an organization will continue to meet in 
person for probably the life of the organization.  We as humans are a 
social species, and, even with all the sturm und drang that's been on 
the various mailing list with respect to the meeting venue topics - at 
the end we will find more benefit than not to meet in person.

Mike