Re: Specific Questions about Registration details for IETF 108

John C Klensin <> Mon, 08 June 2020 19:12 UTC

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Date: Mon, 08 Jun 2020 15:11:56 -0400
From: John C Klensin <>
To: Lou Berger <>, IETF <>
Subject: Re: Specific Questions about Registration details for IETF 108
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--On Monday, June 8, 2020 10:22 -0400 Lou Berger
<> wrote:

> Hi,
> On 6/5/2020 11:01 PM, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
>>> (1) The IETF has had a practice (I'd claim a principle) that
>>> people are allowed to observe sessions in real time, without
>>> identifying themselves or paying a fee, since "observe" meant
>>> audio-only and multicast.
>> In this case, we may be running up against realities of
>> history and what was feasible.  I was certainly not around at
>> the time of the earliest IETFs (my first was 64), but are you
>> really asserting that the IETF_always_  allowed anyone to go
>> into any meeting without "joining" in some sense?
> FWIW I think the principle went beyond just observation.  I
> remember Phil Gross saying, when he was IETF Chair, that the
> IETF didn't check badges at meeting room doors since it was
> more important to have good technical contribution than to
> block those who couldn't pay.  Of course, this didn't mean
> allowing anonymous contributions or that those that payed
> weren't subsidizing those who didn't.

We of course blew that principle off when we had a few meetings
in which where badge checks at meeting room doors and we tried
experiments about badge readers at microphones.  And, IIR, we
instituted the former with a lot less discussion and fuss than
the current changes have caused.  I don't know, but I suspect,
that some of the difference is the sudden announcement of a fee
with very little lead time and no opportunity to have the
discussion we are having now.  Yes, as Andrew points out, the
sudden onset of the COVID-19 situation constrains the options
for discussion.  However, the possibility that we would need to
have more than one all-remote meeting was known, and discussed
on this list, even before the decision to convert IETF 107 to
all-remote was made.  And, while I might have misread things, I
thought that, when that decision was made, the message from the
community about planning and discussion was fairly clear.  I may
be repeating myself, but, given the compressed schedule around
the IETF 107 decision, the IESG, IRTF Chair, and the IETF LLC
Board coming together and making that decision seemed perfectly
reasonable to me.  Doing it that way again, and maybe again and
again, seems less so.[1]

Perhaps what concerns me most about the current situation is
that the pressure of time was, in March, a good reason for
making decisions in an ad hoc way and by an ad hoc collection of
people/bodies.  However, given that it was clear to  the
community that we _might_ have to hold additional all-remote
meetings this year (or even sometime), I'm concerned that we are
still proceeding in an ad hoc mode, with claims that the
COVID-19 emergency leaves no time for community input, three
months on.  Could we had today's discussions in late March or
early April?  Yes, I think so and, IIR, people were suggesting
it.  Is the IESG plus the LLC Board plus the IRTF Chair the
right group to be making these decisions?  Should the IAB be
involved other that via the crossover of Chairs and reciprocal
liaisons? Should, for example, the traditional but
self-constituted Thursday evening draft evaluation group be
consulted -- certainly their work is significantly impacted by a
shift to all-remote meetings?  No, I'm not serious about the
latter and maybe the current group is the right group to be
making these decisions, but, in the context of the IETF, a group
coming together and announcing that there is an emergency and
they have decided they are in charge should not turn them into a
permanent decision body without community discussion and

Similarly, the LLC Board, as I have understood it, is supposed
to be responsible for thinking about things strategically and to
be at least minimally accountable to the community for that
thinking.  We aren't seeing much evidence of strategic thinking
and planning that should have, IMO, been well underway in March.
Instead, we are seeing announcements of fees and associated
arrangements with the same "emergency", "we have decided", and
"no time to consult the community, even about principles"
discussion we saw in March.

Probably all of that, including the fee arrangements, are
irreversible (and unlikely to cause any permanent harm), but it
would be good for us to hear from the people and groups involved
about their plans to prevent this -- specifically the assertion
that decisions with potential impact on principles and/or the
standards process can and should be made by claiming an
emergency and time pressures that could not be anticipated--
from happening again.   The way that IETF 107 decisions were
made was a legitimate response to a crisis that could not have
been anticipated.  Maybe (although I obviously doubt it), so was
the decision about IETF 108.  But, if we end up having the same
process and discussion-making in October, that would have the
ring of top-down governance with, e.g., a Nomcom appointment
conveying "do what thou wilt" auth0rity.

> I personally see having documented fee waivers as consistent
> with this early un-published principle on not checking badges.

Really?  With an upper limit of 100 such waivers and a lottery?
Is that more fair than someone dropping a note to Phill or one
of his successors saying "I don't have funds to get to this
meeting, can you waive the registration fee"?  Probably.
Certainly more transparent and immune from claims of favoritism
or abuse.  And maybe only 96 people will ask and no one will be
deterred from asking because, while they can't afford the fee,
they either feel that it would be better to just not participate
than to ask or that they should not ask because someone in even
more difficult circumstances might be cut off?  Don't know.
Given those possibilities, would it have been better, if there
are 150 applicants, to announce that (at least to the
applicants) and give people a chance to voluntarily withdraw
their requests?   I don't know about that either, nor do I know
if that sort of option was considered; what I do know is  that
there as been zero opportunity for meaningful and effective
community discussion and input.

And, again, I'm less concerned with trying to second-guess the
decisions with registrations supposedly opening this week than I
am about making sure that we don't do things this way again.
And, in that regard, "Finally, please note that no decision has
been made on whether or not a fee for online participation is
needed when we return to in-person meetings." [2] is not
comforting.  I'm certain it is true and therefore that it is a
reasonable thing to say.  However, in the absence of mention of
any other process to revisit models or made decisions, it can
reasonably be interpreted as "the way we made these decisions is
the way we intend to do it in the future".   And, whether we
agree about the waiver plan as appropriate mitigation of a
suddenly-imposed fee, one agrees with Stephen and any myself
about whether the LLC has the authority to make the binary
"charge or no charge" decision about remote participants, or how
one feels about whether (as Andrew asked) observing in real time
is an important principle for all-remote meetings, I hope that
at least most of us can agree that those are legitimate
questions for us to expect the community to be able to address
[3] even if the dollar amounts of the fee structure are issues
that we have delegated to the LLC (and that should stay


[1] I am not ignoring the SHMO proposal.  But, "let's make a WG
and see if we discuss it there" would also have been reasonable
in March.  Instead, a mailing list was created to discuss the
relevant issues (fine plan) and now that mailing list is being
charged with designing a charter for that WG.  Under normal
circumstances, another fine plan.  But, unless there is a firm
commitment to accelerate things and a plan about doing that, the
IETF's "normal" in recent years would predict some time for
discussions, a BOF at IETF 108 if the discussions on manycouches
[4] converge in the next four days and otherwise at IETF 109,
creation of the actual WG, and...   I hope that Alissa's plan
(per her note on the 3rd) to move toward SHMO chartering this
week without a BOF will eliminate that potential problem but it
would be truly unfortunate if it got to be 2021 and we were
still making decisions on an ad hoc basis with the reason being
"waiting for the WG" rather than "emergency".  


[3] I note that Jay has pointed out, on-list, that the decision
and fee structure model used for IETF 108 could easily be
adapted for future meetings.  I took that as just a default (and
an obvious one) so have no problem with his pointing it out.
But, absent a statement about community review of principles or
a plan for asking for and getting community input, it would
appear that the decisions about principles are out of the
community's hands.

[4] Interestingly, the "manycouches" list does not appear on, perhaps because it was
announced as a design team effort rather that a discussion group
for potentially forming a WG.