Re: Wow, we're famous, was WG Review: Effective Terminology in IETF Documents (term)

Ofer Inbar <> Thu, 15 April 2021 16:34 UTC

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Date: Thu, 15 Apr 2021 12:34:23 -0400
From: Ofer Inbar <>
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Subject: Re: Wow, we're famous, was WG Review: Effective Terminology in IETF Documents (term)
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I'm not writing to express an opinion about what TERM should or should
not recommend; I'm writing to express frustration that people think the
NY Times comments section is applicable as a form of "lack of consensus".

I'm going to make three points, ordered from least to most important:

First of all, not only is the NY Times readership not representative
of the US population, but also the comments section is not
representative of NY Times readership - it is a small and
systematically different subset.  And, neither the US population nor
the NY Times readership is representative of potential IETF
participants or potential technologists who may use IETF documents.
So this population's relationship to the population we should care
about is vauge and indeterminate, which makes this inapplicable.
Even for the negative case.

Secondly, IETF consensus isn't based on the potential population as a
whole; it's supposed to be the consensus of the group that has spent
time working on and studying that specific issue and are very familiar
with all of the reasoning in various directions, and the pros and cons
of each decision.  It's their consensus we care about, not random
others - who may even be active IETF members - who just looked at a
brief summary and gave their opinion.  Those random others can give
very useful insights and if they make valid points we should consider
them, but they're not part of the consensus call, nor should they be.
I'm sure that there are many times when an IETF working group has come
to consensus even while plenty of less informed people leaned in a
different direction, and that's how the system is supposed to work,
for a reason.

Thirdly and most importantly, this discussion is blatantly conflating
"consensus" on completely different matters anyway.  I'll make an
analogy to usability testing to illustrate.

I once worked at social media web startup, before they launched, and I
instituted usability testing and organized the first several rounds.
We initially had a navigation bar down the left side plus another bar
on the right side that had some important links.  In one of my first
sessions, we brought six users in to try a series of simple tasks, at
least one of which called for using a feature whose link was on the
right.  4 of the users quickly clicked on the link, since its text
matched the task we asked them to do; 2 of the users searched around
the page for a while and gave up and said they couldn't figure out how
to do what we asked.  When shown the link by the tester (me) so we
could proceed, one said "oh I ignored all that section, it looked like
an ad" and the other wasn't sure why they didn't notice it, but they
had spent more than 60 seconds searching and mousing around the page.

If we went by the logic I've seen in this thread, I would have
concluded that there was no consensus that putting navigation links on
a colorful sidebar on the right was a problem, and in fact preponderance
of the evidence suggested it was not a problem because 4 out of 6
users had no trouble with it.

When it comes to what TERM is supposed to be doing, we are NOT looking
for "consensus" on whether you want terms changed or whether they're a
problem for you personally.  We're looking for the consensus of informed
people on whether changes in terminology can on balance make things
better, and that depends in part on whether existing terms are a
problem or barrier for *some* relevant people, as well as on other
things (such as what kinds of changes to recommend and the costs of
those recommendations), but absolutely does NOT require that any
particular terminology is a problem or barrier for a *majority* of
relevant people in order to recommend changes.

I leave it to the people in the group to spend the time to actually
study the issue and determine what the issues and tradeoffs are, in
the context of IETF documents.
  -- Cos