Re: Dispute process (Was: Resignation request)

Paul Wouters <paul@nohats.ca> Wed, 11 March 2020 13:48 UTC

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Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2020 09:48:29 -0400 (EDT)
From: Paul Wouters <paul@nohats.ca>
To: Pete Resnick <resnick@episteme.net>
cc: IETF <ietf@ietf.org>
Subject: Re: Dispute process (Was: Resignation request)
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On Tue, 10 Mar 2020, Pete Resnick wrote:

> This to me says that we've got to start dealing with the disputes earlier in 
> the process to avoid the "annoy and anger" part (though sometimes that will 
> be unavoidable). At the time of the WG decision, before anything goes to the 
> IESG, it's time to have a discussion with the chair. That's before 2026 6.5.1 
> imagines it, but I don't think that's a problem for the first steps.

In the examples mentioned, the chairs and ADs did try to do this.

>>  There's no easy way to challenge a consensus to drop a work item.  What
>>  are you gonna do, appeal asking the IAB to force a WG to take on a work
>>  item it doesn't want to?  A WG could even conclude out of spite if
>>  forced to do something it doesn't want to.
>
> You're right that forcing the WG to do work isn't feasible. But I could 
> imagine other choices. Not knowing the specifics, though, I don't want to 
> speculate on what might have worked.

The WG did take on the work, but most of the participants didn't much
care about the work. So when a conflict came up, after two face to face
meetings and a lively on-list discussion, most just wanted every player
in this discussion to go away. A side meeting was attempted by chairs and
AD, which initially seemed successfull but then didn't end up changing
anyway. I think the decision to take it out of the WG was probably
a good one, since the majority didn't seem to care and the technical
related humms made in this case were dangerous, as people were mostly
interested in this work item to never appear again, and hadn't really
thought about the issues or even read the related draft.

>>  So there was no question of appeal, really.  But I do feel that the
>>  chairs and responsible AD did not help enough ahead of the WG throwing
>>  its hands up in the air -- that might be an incorrect perception though,
>>  as maybe the chairs and AD were simply unable to get the strongest
>>  personalities on either side of the dispute to compromise, but, too, I
>>  think they could have called the consensus rather than wait till the WG
>>  threw in the towel on the work item.
>
> I think you're probably right. I know I've chaired in the past when I didn't 
> see the signs of bad things happening and failed to get out in front of it. 
> But the appeal, even if fruitless in the end, would have at least made the 
> chair, the AD, and IESG do a bit of post-mortem to figure out what went 
> wrong, so we should figure out some way to make them less painful (as per 
> your last paragraph).

In this case, going via the ISE is a fine solution, provided this path
isn't suddently blocked in the future before publication of the
document, and providing the ISE agrees to publish. I have no idea what
we would have to do procedurally, if the ISE path fails for some reason.
As we cannot really appeal the ISE decision, we'd have to go back to the
WG for an appeal, which also seems to not be the right place.

>>>  I have no doubt that this process is under-used (as a chair and an AD, I
>>>  had
>>
>>  I've reached out to chairs and ADs a number of times before, and that
>>  has worked, and can work where they're willing to.
>
> That's good to hear.

I think what I would do differently now looking back, is to actually get
chairs or AD's from outside the specific Area to help, so that the
process and the content are more strictly separated by a more neutral
arbitrator.

>>  The OP of this thread's parent thread clearly felt much more strongly
>>  about their case than anyone did about the TLS DNSSEC extension.  No one
>>  in the latter case felt so aggrieved as to post a "resignation request".

While I didn't feel that aggrieved, I did reduce my participation a lot
after these events, especially in certain WGs, so as to avoid any
further discussions with the same group of people. But also because I
just felt extremely demotivated.

> I did a little review some time ago of the appeals brought to the IESG. 
> Approximately half of them were perfectly well-reasoned appeals made by 
> serious people in the community, and as I remember in the majority of them 
> the IESG said, "Oh, yeah, that wasn't a good outcome; let's fix it."

That is good to know.

>>  Not sure how to make it better, except maybe thus: it should be possible
>>  to get a review of how a dispute was resolved not so much as an appeal,
>>  but as a way to remediate problems to help alleviate _next_ dispute.

Indeed. That would be good.

Paul