Re: [Diversity] 'Paywall, ' IETF self-sufficiency, increasing participation (was Re: Remote participation fees)

John C Klensin <> Sun, 01 March 2015 13:44 UTC

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Date: Sun, 01 Mar 2015 08:43:51 -0500
From: John C Klensin <>
To: Pranesh Prakash <>
Subject: Re: [Diversity] 'Paywall, ' IETF self-sufficiency, increasing participation (was Re: Remote participation fees)
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--On Sunday, March 01, 2015 07:20 +0530 Pranesh Prakash
<> wrote:

>>> It seems like a fiction because it is a fiction.
>> Please be careful about over-generalizing.
> The negation of "all IETF participants are individuals" is
> "not all IETF participants are individuals".
> Where is the generalization?

The implication of "it is a fiction" is that the statement is
not partially true, but untrue.  And it is falsified by the
presence of a single person who participates as an individual.
There are such people regardless of how you define

I dislike the form of Nico's statement that triggered your
comment ("...but all IETF participants are individuals", but it
is true regardless of one's definition of "participates" and
"individual" (see below) because no one is taken seriously in
the IETF if they respond to an issue or initiate a conversation
with "BigCompany believes...".  

In a way, that is a disadvantage because, when someone is
actually advocating a company or other organizational position
--and I have no doubt that it happens-- I'd rather the community
be fully informed about that connection.   However, the culture
generally don't allow such statements and very few people make
them.  Randy's comment about the filling of rice bowls is
relevant to that part of the issue.

--On Sunday, March 01, 2015 07:43 +0530 Pranesh Prakash
<> wrote:

> Andrew Sullivan <> [2015-02-28 21:07:56
> -0500]:
>> So, if you prefer to say that I'm still not acting "in my
>> personal capacity", very well; but I'd like to know what the
>> difference is (in operationalized terms, please).
> As you seem to have noted, I believe funding to take part in
> IETF proceedings (and physical meetings) is the key.
> Not because it "influences" the views you put forward at the
> IETF.  (It may or may not do so.)

> But because it enables you to participate more steadily in the
> IETF than someone who is not similarly funded.  That ability
> to participate has all manners of implications, including the
> ability to be chair of WGs, etc.

Often it does.  Often it doesn't.   Certainly it is easier to
participate steadily if one has a regular and guaranteed source
of support.   For a number of reasons, that has led in recent
years to an increase in the fraction of participants who are
dedicated to standards in their day jobs rather than having
primary research, design, development, implementation, or
operations roles.  I personally think that is bad, but it isn't
because of who is paying the bills.  Speaking personally, I've
had, not only WG Chair roles, but have been an IESG and IAB
member when I had no corporate or other external support for
IETF work.   I have no such support now, so you can assume that
I'm responding to your notes only because I think it is
important (I assure you it is not because I'm suffering from an
excess of spare time).

We have, by the way, had people who are funded by their
organizations to participate in IETF stand up and say things
like "our products do X, but I think our experience with that
approach indicates that is dumb, so the IETF should standardize
Y instead".    I've seen similar statements in SDOs in which
people actually represent organizations, but such positions are
then typically a huge corporate deal, with a perceived need to
inform customers that the company believes it is shipping a
broken product -- where people are even nominally speaking as
individuals rather than on behalf of companies, it gets a lot

As Andrew partially points out, even among those with
organizational support, we've seen a very large range of models
from "organization allows the work but won't support it and will
require the participant to take umpaid leave while doing it", to
"organization supports the work as a public good but has no
particular positions", to "organization thinks it is sending
people to advocate for its positions".   I've talked with and
observed people whose organizations are happy to have them
participate in IETF and  to fund meeting attendance, but on
condition that the person involved _never_ take on a document
editor, WG Chair, or other "leadership" role (usually because of
fear that doing so would interfere with the day job) -- the
exact opposite of your idea that organizational support makes it
easier to take such positions.  My objection to your
generalizations is that it lumps those categories (and others)
together and thereby loses a lot of information.

We also, I think, disagree: I think the key issues really are
who is influencing whom, and why, and on whose behalf and agenda
the work is being done and statements made.    I think that many
factors, including the "enables.. more steadily" (or with less
pain) one you identify are making the IETF review and
decision-making processes less healthy than they used to be.  I
think when, for whatever reasons, a very significant fraction of
our leadership is sufficiently supported by organizational
resources that they lose sight of the implications of increasing
costs (money or time), vacation destinations, etc., to those
with less lavish support or more need to justify support on a
meeting by meeting basis to skeptical managers, it lowers IETF
technical diversity and, often, quality of results.

This would all be nit-picking, except that the tensions those
different positions and support models allow are really critical
to effective functioning of the IETF.    Generalization about
who is or is not an individual or about the support being more
important than the positions taken distract from whatever
efforts might be focused on those more important problems.