Re: IETF areas re-organisation steps

Robert Sparks <> Tue, 13 January 2015 20:50 UTC

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Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2015 14:50:43 -0600
From: Robert Sparks <>
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To: Alissa Cooper <>
Subject: Re: IETF areas re-organisation steps
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Thanks for the response, Alissa. Some comments inline.

On 1/12/15 5:50 PM, Alissa Cooper wrote:
> Robert,
> I’d like to share a few thoughts on the proposal to merge the upper layer areas and then respond to your note below.
>  From my perspective, there are three issues that the merger helps to resolve:
> 1) Declining amount of work in the current APP area
> 2) Increasing amount of web-related work in the RAI area
> 3) Ongoing difficulty in finding multiple willing candidates to serve as TSV AD for the last 5 years at least
> To my mind fixing that third item in particular should be a key goal of the re-org, and is the reason why leaving the areas largely as they are now, or just merging APP and RAI without changing anything about TSV, is not a good enough solution.
> Furthermore, I think folks might be reading more into the three-merged-areas proposal than is really there. The main benefits I see from an organizational standpoint are threefold. First, in any given year we can ask the nomcom to help us fill in the expertise gaps that exist on the IESG without being stuck into rigid RAI/APP/TSV buckets. IMO, across those three areas there are certain areas of expertise that absolutely must be represented on the IESG (or where at least one AD has enough clue to appropriately leverage a directorate), e.g., congestion control, internationalization, web protocols, and job descriptions could be tailored to make sure those areas were always represented while being more flexible about what other expertise to seek out or accept.
So it's just a matter of circumstance that you're not throwing SEC into 
the bucket. Nothing special about TSV other than "it's been hard to 
recruit ADs for that area"?
> Second, the ADs in the merged area can share WG responsibilities according to their areas of expertise (just like the out-of-area AD proposal, except confined to the three areas). There are plenty of groups in all three areas that could be just as capably shepherded by any of the other five currently seated ADs — why create artificial barriers to that?
That seems to argue for no areas at all, more than it does this 
particular subsetting.
> And it’s not obvious to me that this will require much more inter-AD conference calls or coordination as has been suggested elsewhere on the thread. Granted I’ve only been serving for less than a year, but as far as I can tell excessive inter-AD coordination is only necessary when some crisis arises, not on any sort of regular basis.
> Finally, the AD job can possibly obtain more appeal as something employers want to support because the job has a slightly more general purview. An AD mostly focused on transport might be able to pick up a web-focused group or two, making the time commitment easier to justify and more appealing to an employer.
Again, that seems to be an argument for getting rid of the areas, and 
isn't specific to this particular subset of areas.
> All of these benefits concern the role of the AD vis a vis the area, not the other aspects of “areaness” (scheduling, directorates, DISPATCH/TSVWG/APPSAWG, etc.). That’s why I don’t think these other aspects need to fundamentally change.
> More below.
> On Jan 6, 2015, at 1:15 PM, Robert Sparks <> wrote:
>> I'd like to focus for a moment on another part of Jari's original message.
>> On 12/25/14 1:16 PM, Jari Arkko wrote:
>>> Dear Community:
>>> In October, we let you know that we would be coming up with some proposals
>> <trim/>
>> <trim/>
>>> would continue to function much as they currently do.
>> I see this as problematic.
>> RAI is currently operating following RFC 5727, where dispatch is defined. It is a consensus document describing how the area decided to behave. It does not seem right to say _parts_ of the new combined area will follow that consensus. How are you planning to avoid "well, that's the APPs part of <newareaname> and we do things like this over there”?
> Will it really be so much harder to avoid than it already is?
It will be different. I can't say "so much harder", but I can say that 
you're trading one established set of ways for structuring discussions 
off for some you'll have to invent. It may well be you find better ones.
> We haven’t merged the areas yet, and yet we just went through this exact debate with webpush. DISPATCH is the mechanism we use for dispatching real-time application work — I don’t see the need to change that. There is fuzziness at the edges now, and there will be with a merged area too. Nothing we do organizationally will rid us of the fuzziness.
>> If you're not planning to avoid that, then it's not really clear what problem the organization is really going to solve - the resulting ADs will have to behave the same regardless of their label.
I wish you had focused some of your response right here. I think the 
essence of your response is that it will make recruiting ADs easier, but 
that you don't believe it will appreciably change what they ADs actually 
do. Did I get that right?
>> The arguments in the past about whether a group belonged in transport or RAI, while occasionally silly, were _usually_ helpful in clarifying the problem that the proposed group was starting to circle around. Some of the comments from active TSV members have touched on aspects of this already. As proposed, we will lose that tension, and I think we'll end up with muddier charters as a result. (There are other ways to preserve that tension, of course, but we would need to explicitly put them in place).
> I have not personally found the “which area will this group live in?” discussions to be useful.
Where I remember it being useful most recently wrt RAI and TSV was in 
the _very_ early discussions working out the scope for the group that 
ended up being rmcat.
> And honestly there are lots of existing groups where the rationale for having them in their current areas is just as weak/strong as the rationale for having them in other areas.
That's not an argument for or against the proposal is it? (But it is 
something that the IESG might poke more at - perhaps just moving some 
groups between areas would have had just as much effect as assigning an 
out-of-area AD?)
>   We’ll end up with muddier charters if the people involved in the chartering let them become muddy, not if they have different area labels on them.
>> If the thought of developing something like dispatch-related parts of RFC 5727 to describe how a new combined area (whatever its ingredients) plans to operate seems onerous, or too heavyweight, I'd take it as a warning that we're headed for something unpleasant, or that has no real effect on organization, improving the efficiency of making standards, making recruiting ADs easier, or reducing AD load.
> It’s not that it’s too onerous or heavyweight, it’s that it’s unnecessary. DISPATCH works well now. The three items I listed above are not working well now, or could be improved. The merger proposal tries to fix the things that are broken and leave the things that are working in their current state.
I'm sorry, but I lose you at this point.

I don't see anything being fixed, given this argument, beyond perhaps 
being able to recruit more ADs (and I find that questionable, but I 
agree that it won't make it harder to recruit folks).

I do see you introducing an opportunity to make it more confusing for 
people wanting to get protocol work done (which process in the new area 
should they engage?).

I see it making it _harder_ for the ADs of that area (hopefully only a 
little) as they work through that confusion.

Maybe there's easier on the other side of that, but it's not obvious 
that it will be _significantly_ easier.

It occurs to me that one thing that might help add clarity to this 
discussion is to see the description of the new area (as would be handed 
to the nomcom for filling positions) written down. Has someone tried 
that yet?

Until this message, I've been asking questions and pointing to potential 
ramifications that it's not clear the IESG considered. I haven't been 
trying to say "I support" or "I don't support" the proposal. I think 
there's a way to combine the three areas that can work, but I think 
you'll need to do more as part of that combination for it to not be 
_more_ work for the IESG, even in the long run.

If the IESG proceeds with the proposal as currently written, the only 
place I see it having a chance of really improving things is with the 
possibility of attracting more ADs. I haven't seen anything in the 
proposal that reduces AD workload (have I missed something?), which 
makes the chances of attracting a bigger pool of candidates smaller. You 
write above that "An AD mostly focused on transport might be able to 
pick up a web-focused group or two, making the time commitment easier to 
justify and more appealing to an employer." The hitch in that is that 
this AD will be doing _more work_ than they would have done just as a 
transport AD. The argument seems to be counting on the "web-focused 
group or two" work being so much more valuable that these sponsors would 
be willing to pay the TSV-time tax.

So, to be explicit - I don't oppose the reorganization, but I think you 
need to do more work or the result will be somewhere between "no 
difference" and "a little more work for the ADs than we have right now". 
I'd again encourage writing down the area description as a good step.

> Alissa
>> Rather than that, I hope we could fairly quickly come up with a good description of how such a combined area would behave, and I hope that's not "just like the pieces do now".
>> RjS