Re: Planned experiment: A new mailing list for last-call discussions

Barry Leiba <> Fri, 13 September 2019 13:56 UTC

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From: Barry Leiba <>
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2019 09:56:00 -0400
Message-ID: <>
Subject: Re: Planned experiment: A new mailing list for last-call discussions
To: John C Klensin <>
Cc: IETF discussion list <>
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Thanks, John, for the thoughtful response.

Just some brief responses from my personal point of view.

On point 1, I don't think the community request was prompted by one or
two (or three) discussions in particular, but by an overall busy IETF
list for quite some time.  And, stressing again, no one has said that
the discussions on the IETF list aren't useful or shouldn't happen...
simply that it would help to have separate lists so that people can
choose what they want to follow, and so that last-call discussions
don't get lost in the sea of other discussions that have been going on
-- and that we expect will continue to even after the three topics you
mention settle down.

On point 2, what we hope is that having the lists separated will make
it easier for people to follow the last-call discussions if that's
what they want to do.  Your argument seems to be that some people
(perhaps you, in the scenario you lay out) might decide that they want
to follow the IETF list but are not interested in being subscribed to
the last-call list, and we would thus lose last-call comments made by
someone who stumbled onto a last call that piqued her interest, but
which she would not have seen had it not been intermixed with the
other general chat.  That's possible, but I think vanishingly
uncommon.  I suspect that people such as you and I will remain
subscribed to both lists, and that it would be rare to have someone
who chooses to unsubscribe from the new list commenting on last calls
anyway.  And, yes, this will be admittedly hard to measure, though
we'll likely try a survey of some kind.

And certainly one benefit of separating the lists will be to make it
easier for people to filter the two types of discussion into separate
mailboxes -- something I already try to do by looking for "last call"
in the subject, but that isn't nearly as reliable.  (On the other
hand, Brian says he'll just filter them together into the same
mailbox, so there will be no apparent change for him.  À chacun, son

Your comment about the timing of the experiment is well taken, and we
will consider that after the feedback period.  My personal inclination
is not to wait, but we'll see what the IESG as a whole thinks after
all the comments are in.


On Thu, Sep 12, 2019 at 10:13 PM John C Klensin <> wrote:
> Barry,
> I want to suggest a slightly dissenting view, but only slightly.
> I have two quite separate concerns
> (1) I believe that part of what has prompted the discussion of a
> separate list and, I believe, the moves that led in the
> direction of this experiment, is that the IETF list has, in the
> several months, been more active and perhaps noisier than at any
> time since I first started watching the IETF ("perhaps" because
> one person's noise may be another person's really interesting
> discussion).  That appears to me to have been stimulated by a
> number of largely non-technical issues arising within a short
> time of each other and stimulating very active discussions and
> spin-offs of those discussions.  The RSE situation and Heather's
> announcement that she was making and earlier-than-expected exit,
> some actions by the SAAs that various people found concerning
> including questions of whether the SAA function was being
> weaponized to suppress unpopular questions and discussions,
> questions that have been discussed as "tone" but that ultimately
> may be about how we maximize form and content at the same time,
> and issues about whether people who do not attend most f2f
> meetings are really full members of the community (with the
> recall topic in particular), come to mind immediately, but I
> think the list is probably longer.   In normal times (whatever
> that means), we might see one of those issues and the subsequent
> long threads and branches once every six months or a year and
> then they die down for a while.
> I hope the situation of the last months, one that has given many
> of us a choice between trying to follow the discussion threads
> and getting any substantive IETF work done at all, is not our
> "new normal" and will settle down soon.   I assume the IESG
> shares that wish since the traffic level has to be hitting most
> or all of you as hard or harder than those of us who are just
> participants and who have much more flexibility about what to
> ignore.  So I would like to see the experiment initiated and run
> in "normal" times.  If you start it while the IETF list is this
> active and then it settles down, it will be impossible to
> evaluate whether the experiment had any useful effect.
> So, I think the experiment is worthwhile but that, if we expect
> to learn anything from it, I think it would be much wiser to
> initiate it only after the IETF list settles down (or the IESG
> makes an informed decision that we are in a new steady state and
> "settled down" is not going to happen).  If things settle down
> before the 1st of September (and I devoutly hope they will)
> then, by all means go for it (especially if you don't think the
> concern below is a problem) but, if not, I suggest thinking very
> carefully about start dates.
> (2) As I have talked with people in other standards bodies,
> people in procurement roles, regulators, and so on over the last
> many years, I've become convinced that the IETF's main source of
> strength and credibility has been effective cross-area review
> (as well as interoperability testing in years gone by).  It is
> not that we are so much smarter than everyone else, it is that
> we've been able to look at a specification that is proposed for
> the standards track from many different perspectives and do so
> in depth.  As you know, I'm concerned that the quality of those
> reviews has been deteriorating as am increasing fraction of the
> reviews outside the WG or Area of the document are by people
> with insufficient in-depth knowledge to understand the subject
> matter and comment on it in detail.  I may be atypical, but
> there have been many times I've ignored a Last Call announcement
> of a document that is within my area of competence but not of
> special interest, only to be lured in later by a Last Call
> discussion on the IETF list.   Now, if everyone who is
> interested in technical reviews of LC documents subscribes to
> the new list and stays on it, there will be no difference.  But
> I can easily imagine some number of IETF participants
> subscribing to the new list only when a Last Call of interest
> shows up on IETF-Announce and then unsubscribing when that Last
> Call is over.  If the number of such people, perhaps weighted by
> their depth and breath of technical knowledge, is trivial, then
> there is no concern.  But, if it isn't and that [further]
> weakens our ability to obtain in-depth cross-area reviews, it
> won't be doing the IETF and its future any favors.   If the
> experiment is run, I'm not sure that effect can be measured, but
> the possibility may be worth a little thoughts.
> best,
>    john
> --On Thursday, September 12, 2019 12:14 -0400 Barry Leiba
> <> wrote:
> > As we discussed in the plenary session at IETF 105 in
> > Montréal, some community members have suggested moving
> > document last-call discussions onto a dedicated "last-call"
> > mailing list, and off of the general <> list.
> > The latter is a high-volume list with a lot of varied
> > discussion, and some think that it would be useful to separate
> > the general discussion from the last-call discussion, to allow
> > people to choose which discussions (or both) to follow.  In
> > the IETF 105 plenary, support was expressed for that
> > separation.
> >
> > The IESG agrees, and wants to try an experiment to that end.
> > We propose to create <> and to direct
> > last-call comments and discussions there (the last-call
> > announcements would still go to <>rg>, with
> > "reply-to" set to the new list).  That list would be monitored
> > by volunteers recruited by the IETF Chair, and digressions
> > would be nudged back to <>rg>, while we would ask
> > people having last-call discussions on this list to please
> > move them to the new list.  We would get the tools team
> > involved so that the distribution lists for directorate and
> > review-team reviews would be updated appropriately.
> >
> > Our plan is to create the new list and pre-subscribe everyone
> > who is subscribed to <> at that time.  Of course,
> > anyone could unsubscribe to either or both lists immediately
> > or later, but we think that doing it this way would minimize
> > the likelihood that people would miss important stuff because
> > of the move, and folks can choose what they prefer from there.
> >
> > After six months, we would do an initial evaluation, including
> > getting feedback from the community, to see how the experiment
> > is working.  If it seems worth continuing we would do so, and
> > at a point that the community decides that the experiment is a
> > success (should it so decide), we would start an update to BCP
> > 45 to formally move the location for last-call discussions,
> > and we would update the 2007 IESG Statement on Last Call
> > Guidance.
> >
> > We invite comments, here, on this plan, by the end of
> > September. As I say above, we've heard support from the
> > community for the general idea, and we'd like to make sure
> > this direction is what the community wants.
> >
> > Barry, for the IESG
> >