Re: Thought experiment [Re: Quality of Directorate reviews]

Keith Moore <> Fri, 08 November 2019 01:43 UTC

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Subject: Re: Thought experiment [Re: Quality of Directorate reviews]
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From: Keith Moore <>
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Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2019 20:43:14 -0500
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On 11/7/19 8:03 PM, Michael Richardson wrote:

> Keith Moore <> wrote:
>      >> Would you consider if these new documents are *RFC*s or, would you consider
>      >> if we could make a new document series for these documents? I would suggest
>      >> that it become the*Proposed Standard*  series.  That is, we'd change our
>      >> first step to not be an*RFC*.
>      > At first glance I find this idea appealing.   I'd like to see it explored.
>      > At lot depends on other factors - e.g. when, relative to interop testing, do
>      > we look for potential harm to other interests?
> When do we do that now?  At IESG review, which is what causes such
> significant delays.

I'm frankly not sure that cross-area review causes significant delays or 
even that IESG review causes significant delays.   I could argue instead 
that what causes those delays is working groups producing documents that 
are not suitable for the intended status.   When WGs produce broken 
documents that are hard to fix, this can be very time consuming for 
IESG.   In practice, IESG is expected to find some path to approving 
such documents. Sometimes there's just no good fix, and even poor fixes 
can be quite time consuming to come up with.

In my experience, well-written, thorough specifications are generally 
relatively easy to review; the documents that are overly long or poorly 
written (so it's hard to tell what is really intended, or whether the 
protocol will work reliably) or that seem to be potentially harmful are 
much harder and more time consuming to review.   So people shouldn't 
automatically assume that "delays in IESG" are IESG's fault.

But I will certainly agree that by the time a document gets to Last Call 
and after, it's usually too late to fix fundamental design flaws - and I 
would count failure to research and consider interests that might be 
harmed as a design flaw.    And yet, I don't think narrowly-focused WGs 
can be entrusted to consider a broad spectrum of interests - that really 
has to be an IETF-wide review.

> That's just too late in the game for an *RFC*, which we can never really take
> back.  The property that you like about internet-drafts is that they are
> in principal ephermeral, or more to the point, version NN replaces NN-1,
> and we can revise them.  That's the property you are looking for, I think.

Close but maybe not quite.   Fundamentally, a specification that's being 
interoperability tested _should_ be an ephemeral version.   The whole 
purpose in doing the testing is the realization that it will likely need 
to be changed based on implementation and testing.   And the whole 
approval and RFC process takes too long to wait for it to be done before 
testing - it would basically cause a pipeline stall if people did it 
that way.   Testing at PS might have made sense long ago when there were 
fewer interests at stake, fewer procedures to follow, and the 
publication process was lightweight - but even then I don't think the 
testing that was anticipated between PS and DS happened very often.   
Also, external conditions have changed a lot since 2026 was written.  
Testing over the public Internet, or setting up a private testing VPN, 
are more practical than they used to be. Group collaboration tools can 
be used effectively to coordinate tests today whereas face-to-face 
meetings were once considered a practical necessity.    Computers are 
faster, have more memory, languages are better, and cloud resources can 
be used to simulate load.     And the general expectation is that 
product iteration cycles are much tighter than was once the case.   It 
makes sense to adapt IETF processes to suit these new realities.

Implementation concurrent with specification development, and testing 
_before_ IESG review make a LOT of sense, IMO.   I think it would shake 
out bugs that are difficult for IESG to see, and favorable testing 
results would give IESG more reason to have confidence that the protocol 
actually works.

To me it looks like that with a judicious reordering of constraints, we 
should be able to make time-to-completion more predictable AND produce 
higher quality documents.

>      > (though maybe we don't need a new document series - maybe we just need a way
>      > of designating certain Internet-Drafts as being suitable for interop testing
>      > and/or limited deployment)
> That was proposed a few months ago. See:

The devil is in the details.   I read that proposal as subtly different 
but in an important way.   Marking a draft as "stable" is to me a very 
different thing than marking it as "here's a version we're going to 
subject to interoperability tests".   It's perfectly reasonable in my 
mind to test portions of a protocol that there's general agreement on, 
even while knowing that some new features will need to be added before 
the protocol is ready for Last Call.

> I prefer that we create a new series.  Maybe it shouldn't be hosted on *RFC-EDITOR.ORG*,
> but I'd want the identical infrastructure used.

I'm not sure we actually disagree on this aspect, but just in case we 
do:  I don't see why a process as heavyweight as RFC publication is 
needed for this.   It seems to me that except for the minor change of 
being able to mark internet-drafts with a few specific attributes, and 
the ability of the tools to search for such drafts by those attributes 
(maybe a few automatically generated pages), the existing I-D 
publication process is about right.   But I'd be interested in hearing 
specific reasons why this isn't the case.