Re: Agenda experiment for IETF 103 in November in Bangkok

John C Klensin <> Wed, 16 May 2018 21:26 UTC

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Date: Wed, 16 May 2018 17:26:27 -0400
From: John C Klensin <>
To: Ted Hardie <>
cc: Stewart Bryant <>, IETF Chair <>, ietf <>
Subject: Re: Agenda experiment for IETF 103 in November in Bangkok
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--On Wednesday, May 16, 2018 10:12 -0700 Ted Hardie
<> wrote:

> Howdy,
> One of the difficulties with English is that it sometimes hard
> to tell whether a conjunction is meant to gather things into a
> set or distinguish them from each other.  In your comment
> above you say "Hackathons and convention-like activities".
> I'm hoping that in this case you meant to distinguish them
> from each other.

I did indeed and my apologies for any confusion.

> Hackathons are, at least in my opinion, about as far from
> convention-like exhibitions as you can get while sharing the
> same hotel food.  We are hosting them in part because we want
> to see decisions shift on who gets support for attendance, so
> that folks who are writing the code that implements and
> informs our specifications get to come.  We don't want to do
> that to disfavor any current attendee, of course, but to
> broaden the base of participation in a way that is
> particularly useful to producing good standards.
> I hope you concur with that goal.

I do but only up to a point and with two concerns:

(1) Organizations with "you get to use X hours or days a well
doing things you think are worthwhile and we will pay you or
otherwise support you doing that time" policies notwithstanding,
suppose I'm a manager or equivalent responsible party in a more
traditional organization.  Suppose someone (or several people)
for whom I'm responsible are really good implementers.  Suppose
they come to me and say something that I hear as "we would like
to go to IETF a day or two early, incur additional costs for
hotels and the like that we expect you to pay for, and spend the
time doing programming on their work rather than yours/ the
company's".   I wouldn't predict good results, at least unless I
hear the request as including "if you don't let me do this, I'm
likely to start looking for another job" and, of course, that
might or might not work.

The concern is closely related to concerns you have heard me
express about "professional standardizers": for any particular
organization, to the extent to which IETF participation and the
time and resources it takes are seen as competing with, rather
than complementing, "day job" objectives and responsibilities,
the people who are likely to end up attending are those who are
not more valuable in other ways.  The IETF is not special in
that regard -- every standards body seems to develop some
version of it, at least once the initial versions of the truly
fundamental core standards are complete.  In some respects, we
have been either lucky or smart that it has not happened sooner
and with more impact.

(2) I've said this before, but we need to keep in mind that
there is a fundamental cultural conflict between the idea of
FOSS software that people take and modify to reflect their
personal ideas and preferences -- i.e., a situation in which
regular forking of specs is the norm rather than the exception
(even to the point of sometimes being considered as a goal) and
standards that put a high premium on interoperability, the
ability to substitute one implementation for others, and the
stability both require.    I don't believe there are problems
caused by that difference that are insurmountable if people are
aware of the tension and willing to work together, but awareness
of the difference in perspectives is very important.   Of
course, for the particular case of the software and systems that
support the IETF (as contrasted with systems and approaches we
expect to standardize for others), those concerns are probably