Re: "why I quit writing internet standards"

Andy Bierman <> Mon, 14 April 2014 16:11 UTC

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Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2014 09:11:26 -0700
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Subject: Re: "why I quit writing internet standards"
From: Andy Bierman <>
To: "George, Wes" <>
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On Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 8:08 AM, George, Wes <>wrote;wrote:

>  I'm surprised that no one has sent this out yet:
>  "Summary: After contributing to standards organizations for more than
> seven years, engineer Vidya Narayanan decided it was time to move on.
> Although she still believes that these organizations make the Internet a
> better place, she wonders about the pace of change versus the pace of
> organizations."
>  My thoughts-
>  There are some nuggets of truth in what she says in this article, and in
> some of the comments. I think that the problems are real, so there's value
> in taking the criticism constructively, despite the fact that the author
> chose to focus on the problems without any suggestions of solutions.
>  "while the pace at which standards are written hasn't changed in many
> years, the pace at which the real world adopts software has become orders
> of magnitude faster."
> ...
I think this issue (used to be called "timeliness") is critical and
continues to be overlooked.
The charter milestones are just not that relevant to the process, and it
It takes a long time to go from individual I-D -00 to RFC.

IMO all WGs behind schedule should be taking steps to finish faster, like
monthly virtual interim meetings, real interim meetings, etc.  More remote
meeting and project management tools might help some.

"Running code and rough consensus, the motto of the IETF, used to be
> realizable at some point. ... In the name of consensus, we debate frivolous
> details forever. In the name of patents, we never finish."
> ...
>  "Unless these standards organizations make radical shifts towards
> practicality, their relevance will soon be questionable."
>   I don't have too many big ideas how to fix these problems, but I'll at
> least take a crack at it in order to spur discussion. My paraphrase of the
> problem and some discussion follows.
>  - We've lost sight of consensus and are too often derailed by a vocal
> minority of those willing to endlessly debate a point.
>  Part of the solution to that is reiterating what consensus is and is
> not, such as draft-resnick-on-consensus so that we don't confuse a need for
> consensus with a need for unanimity. Part of the solution is IETF
> leadership helping to identify when we have rough consensus encumbered by a
> debate that will never resolve itself, without quieting actual disagreement
> that needs continued discussion in order to find a compromise. I don't have
> good suggestions on how to make that second half better.
Consensus is the real commodity here.
Perhaps vendors are figuring out they can get a better outcome by
to corporate open-source projects instead of SDOs.
Customers just want software that works with their equipment.

Vendor engineers just want to work together to produce a solution
that meets the requirements for the specific upcoming release.
There is no way for "bad actors" who want to stall or delay the
effort to have any influence on the engineering.  There is no
tail-heavy review process to introduce extraordinary delays.

>  - We don't have nearly enough focus on running code as the thing that
> helps to ensure that we're using our limited cycles on getting the right
> things out expediently, and either getting the design right the first time,
> or failing quickly and iterating to improve
With the open-source approach to consensus, running code is the entire
This is a bug and a feature.  The documentation quality is much higher in
the IETF.

>  The solution here may be that we need to be much more aggressive at
> expecting any standards track documents to have running code much earlier
> in the process. The other part of that is to renew our focus on actual
> interop standards work, probably by charter or in-group feedback, shift
> focus away from BCP and info documents. Perhaps when considering whether to
> proceed with a given document, we need test as to whether it's actively
> helpful/needed and ensure that we know what audience would be looking at
> it, rather than simply ensuring that it is "not harmful" and mostly within
> the WG's chartered focus.
Generally it is very time-consuming to implement a protocol I-D in progress.
The draft will change so radically and so often before the final RFC is
that lots of code will get re-written in the effort.  People are told "too
bad, it's
just a work-in-progress", but that doesn't help promote early

The IETF needs to reduce the cost of consensus somehow.

> Wes George