Re: "why I quit writing internet standards"

Spencer Dawkins <> Wed, 16 April 2014 17:08 UTC

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Date: Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:07:56 -0500
From: Spencer Dawkins <>
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To: Carsten Bormann <>, Thomas Clausen <>
Subject: Re: "why I quit writing internet standards"
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I need to go read some drafts, but on one point ...

On 04/16/2014 11:08 AM, Carsten Bormann wrote:
> On 16 Apr 2014, at 16:19, Thomas Clausen <> wrote:
>> That "something" could conveniently be Experimental.
> Experimental means something different in the IETF, as in:
> “This is a finished specification, but we are really not sure this will work until we have run an experiment.
> Don’t base any plans on the assumption that this experiment will succeed.”
> Implementation draft means:
> “This is still subject to change, but we promise to be frugal in the changes we make from here on.
> We are pretty sure this will work, no major experiments required, just implementation experience to maybe tweak it some more.
> This will be done soon, so go ahead and build the products.”
> Conflating these two almost diametrally opposed sets of features into a single class of document increases confusion.

This was my point in mentioning The 
parts of my memory of the early 2000s that I haven't successfully 
blotted out lead me to think that we were consistently making two errors 
in those discussions.

We tried to figure out *the* right answer when there probably were right 
answers with (quoting Carsten) "diametrically opposed" characteristics, 
and since we couldn't stretch one right answer over all the problems, 
nothing happened.

And we had to get IETF consensus for one answer that didn't solve all 
the problems, with no actual experience with that answer.

The IETF approved BCP 93 to give people the possibility of experimenting 
with multiple answers, dropping the answers that don't work, and keeping 
the ones that do.

The IETF discussion list has seen a lot of spilled digital ink trying to 
solve problems like these. If people want to chat and move on, that's 
fine. If people want to try to put proposals together, that's fine 
(perhaps even more fine).

But please don't make the mistakes we made more than a decade ago.