Re: Hum theatre

Pete Resnick <> Thu, 07 November 2013 17:41 UTC

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Date: Thu, 7 Nov 2013 09:41:37 -0800
From: Pete Resnick <>
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To: Richard Barnes <>
Subject: Re: Hum theatre
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On 11/7/13 1:36 AM, Richard Barnes wrote:
> Like Randy, I sense a fair degree of process omphaloskepsis here.

What process do you think is being over-contemplated here? The bit about 
the IAB judging consensus? Fine, ignore that bit. That's not the most 
important bit.

(Dismissing or belittling arguments by characterizing -- or caricaturing 
-- them, be it calling them "naive" or "overwrought" or 
"omphaloskepsis", is often effective, but inappropriate.)

> A wise person once told me that any consensus is judged at a point in 
> space and time, and this one sure was.

Consensus on *what* exactly in this case? Consensus that we should all 
be happy? Consensus that we should all have a pony?

It is true that consensus (rough or otherwise) is a state, and that 
state can always change. But consensus should be on a particular point 
and it must be relatively stable; it shouldn't be claimed on some broad 
platitude for which nobody knows the details, and it shouldn't change 
unless new information is brought into the mix.

> What you're saying is that it is impossible for the consensus of the 
> IETF to be estimated in plenary session and that it requires some 
> specially anointed person (not of the IAB) to judge that consensus.

No, I am absolutely not saying that. I disagree completely with all of 
the above statement.

After a discussion of issues, it is perfectly reasonable for someone 
(anyone) to *estimate* what the consensus of the IETF might be in 
plenary and state that. Sometimes that might even be a good thing.

A hum (or a show of hands, or an applause meter) can give you lots of 
information about the sentiment of the room and it might even give you 
an estimate of what the consensus of the room is. All fine.

But taking a hum, at the end, without discussion afterward, is not a 
reasonable way to *call* consensus. And that's exactly what some people 
heard was going on. And it's hard to interpret what Russ said otherwise.

(As for the "anointed" person: *Calling* consensus -- that is, making an 
IETF decision -- does take someone who the IETF has agreed is 
responsible to do that. Estimating consensus or guessing consensus or 
otherwise sticking one's finger into the wind and predicting consensus 
are all fine -- unless you're doing so to try to shove people into a 
particular position -- but making a final call *is* something that we 
leave for someone in particular. You'll not that when Ted asked for the 
hum, he asked Jari to do it. And again, none of this is the important 
point of my message.)

> Neither argument seems to me like it would really sway the outcome of 
> this decision...

Sorry: What decision exactly?

> These consensus calls seem to have captured the high-level consensus 
> of the IETF, as gathered in plenary at this meeting.  Yes, there was 
> argument about more specific details at the PERPASS meeting, but I 
> don't think that invalidates the more general agreement.

Don't get hung up on the details. This isn't about the details.

Have a hum and applause to make you feel good. Just don't  confuse 
people to think that it means the IETF has come to consensus.

Ask big fluffy political questions that state big fluffy political 
principles. Just don't  confuse people to think that it means the IETF 
has come to consensus.

I know people hate the idea that the IETF can't make grand political 
statements and that we're stuck doing technical work. Making grand 
political statements is fun and gets good press. Tough. Leave grand 
political statements to the IAB and ISOC. Let the IETF do its technical 
work and stop engaging in theatrics. Far less flashy, but significantly 
more useful.


> On Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 11:21 PM, Pete Resnick 
> < <>> wrote:
>     Some folks approached me after the plenary and asked me why I
>     objected so loudly to these "taking of hums". Tim's response
>     pretty well explains it:
>     On 11/6/13 6:58 PM, Randy Bush wrote:
>         On 11/6/13 6:50 PM, Tim Bray wrote:
>             You're entitled to your opinion, but I entirely disagree.
>             I thought each of those made an important point and
>             highlighted some areas where consensus is broadly held. I
>             appreciated Russ' composition of the issues and think he
>             deserves our thanks.
>         the feeling of those present was pretty clear.
>     Yes, the feeling of those present was pretty clear. And if Russ
>     had only asked for the feeling of those present, I probably
>     wouldn't have been torqued. I would have, like Dave described it,
>     thought it a bit of political theater, but otherwise said "Whatever".
>     But Russ didn't ask for a "feeling". Russ said that he was asking
>     about consensus, and Tim heard that the result of those hums
>     *were* the IETF coming to consensus. And that's just bogus. There
>     was no consensus, and some of this I think is really damaging to
>     the IETF.
>     Look at a couple of these:
>     On 11/6/13 12:41 PM, Russ Housley wrote:
>         1.  The IETF is willing to respond to the pervasive
>         surveillance attack?
>              Overwhelming YES.  Silence for NO.
>     This was "The IETF wants to save the lives of bunnies." Press
>     release nonsense. And surely so much mush as not to be consensus.
>     Just let's everybody applaud. OK, who cares, but not useful.
>         3. The IETF should include encryption, even outside
>         authentication, where practical.
>              Strong YES.  Silence for NO.
>     So if you sat in perpass, you'll know that the result of this hum
>     was rubbish. There were a bunch of people up at the mic in perpass
>     who objected strenuously to this. There was no IETF consensus on
>     this point. But if you took the result of the bogus hum as
>     consensus, you'd sure think so. And that happened because Russ
>     loaded the deck in the way he asked the question to make sure that
>     nobody would hum against it. He asked it at the end when it was
>     clear there would be no discussion of dissent, so that people who
>     might have objected felt comfortable that at least they'd have a
>     chance to explain themselves instead of looking like idiots
>     humming against motherhood and apple pie. Pure nonsense.
>     This wasn't about getting consensus. This was about everybody
>     feeling good about themselves and being able to applaud. And if
>     anyone tries to enforce any of these things as consensus of the
>     IETF (e.g., "Sorry; we had a hum and there was consensus that
>     we're doing encryption without authentication whether you'd like
>     to or not, so you're in the rough"), that should be appealed
>     immediately.
>     This is vote stuffing in the extreme. It's ignoring (heck, it's
>     actively suppressing) minority voices. It makes a joke of coming
>     to consensus at all.
>     And all that said, since when does the IAB judge the consensus of
>     the IETF? Not since 1992, as far as I remember.
>     I don't disagree with any of the statements per se. As Scott Brim
>     pointed out, the statements were incredibly general and left all
>     sorts of stuff undefined, so it's hard to know exactly what I'm
>     signing up to by agreeing with them. But again, it's motherhood
>     and apple pie for most of them. (The second might have been
>     interesting if it weren't buried in the middle of the rest.) And
>     it made for fine press. But IETF consensus? Bullpucky.
>     pr
>     -- 
>     Pete Resnick<
>     <>>
>     Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. - +1 (858)651-4478
>     <tel:%2B1%20%28858%29651-4478>

Pete Resnick<>
Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. - +1 (858)651-4478