Re: "IETF work is done on the mailing lists"

John Leslie <> Tue, 27 November 2012 23:14 UTC

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Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2012 18:14:04 -0500
From: John Leslie <>
To: Barry Leiba <>
Subject: Re: "IETF work is done on the mailing lists"
Message-ID: <20121127231404.GC1941@verdi>
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Barry Leiba <> wrote:
> A number of times since I started in this position in March, documents
> have come to the IESG that prompted me (or another AD) to look into
> the document history for... to find that there's basically no history.
>  We see a string of versions posted, some with significant updates to
> the text, but *no* corresponding mailing list discussion.  Nothing at
> all.  The first we see of the document on the mailing list is a
> working group last call message, which gets somewhere between zero and
> two responses (which say "It's ready."), and then it's sent to the
> responsible AD requesting publication.

    I'm increasingly seeing a "paradigm" where the review happens _before_
adoption as a WG draft. After adoption, there's a great lull until the
deadline for the next IETF week. There tend to be a few, seemingly minor,
edits for a version to be discussed. The meeting time is taken up listing
changes, most of which get no discussion. Lather, rinse, repeat...

   After a few years, the WGCs tire of this, and issue a LastCall. Very
few WG participants reply, mostly being careful not to rock the boat.
The Document Editor, having other fish to fry by now, takes them under
consideration until the next IETF week. The document gets on the agenda,
but the story is pretty much indistinguishable from that of the previous

   Hearing no vocal objections, a WGC dutifully writes up a shepherding
report, saying "broad consensus". The document goes to IETF LastCall,
and gets some possibly less-gentle comments. Now it comes to the IESG

> When I ask the responsible AD or the document shepherd about that, the
> response is that, well, no one commented on the list, but it was
> discussed in the face-to-face meetings.  A look in the minutes of a
> few meetings shows that it was discussed, but, of course, the minutes
> show little or none of the discussion.

   ... which is an honest reply by an overworked WGC. The very thought
of re-opening discussion in the WG sends shivers up his/her spine!

> We accept that, and we review the document as usual, accepting the
> document shepherd's writeup that says that the document has "broad
> consensus of the working group."

   (with several large grains of salt!)

> So here's my question:
> Does the community want us to push back on those situations?

   Speaking for myself, I very much want IESG members to push back on
calling no-visible-discussion "broad consensus".

   But understand, WGCs _don't_ want you to push back. And generally,
neither do the Document Editors. They have followed the rules as they
understood them. And they can point to a long list of RFCs that have
followed essentially the same paradigm.

> Does the community believe that the real IETF work is done on the
> mailing lists, and not in the face-to-face meetings, to the extent
> that the community would want the IESG to refuse to publish documents
> whose process went as I've described above, on the basis that IETF
> process was not properly followed?

   Understanding the dynamics of this paradigm, I wouldn't ask for that.
But I do believe this is a bad way to run a railroad.

   There are WGs where the WGCs prepare status-of-drafts reports. I
think such reports deserve to be formally presented to the Responsible
AD; and that two cycles of no-significant-discussion on-list is a
strong indicator that a new Document Editor is needed. Too often, the
Document Editor is the author of the pre-adoption draft, and lacks any
drive to make significant changes. (This is not an abuse if the WGC
never calls consensus to change anything; but the Document Editors I
consider good don't wait for a WGC declaration.)

   My point, essentially, is that some push-back is good, but it won't
solve the problem: even WG LastCall is often too late to fix this.

John Leslie <>