Re: [urn] listed authors

SM <sm@resistor.net> Wed, 04 July 2012 16:30 UTC

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Date: Wed, 04 Jul 2012 09:13:52 -0700
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Cc: Barry Leiba <barryleiba@computer.org>, ietf@ietf.org
Subject: Re: [urn] listed authors
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Hi Barry,

[Cc to ietf@ as the question is pertinent to other working groups too]

At 06:47 04-07-2012, Barry Leiba wrote:
>Well, yes and no -- it's not that simple.

Agreed.

>First, I agree that the complete removal of the name of someone who
>contributed substantially to a document in any phase of its life
>(including a prior edition) would, indeed, be disrespectful... and
>unethical.

There was a message from Fred Baker on December 12, 2011 to ietf@ 
about a similar question:

  "Checking the acknowledgements, you'll see that I listed Warren and his
   professor as co-authors, although to be honest they at most made a few
   comments on the actual paper. Why? It is a variation on his original idea,
   and I'm giving him full credit for the idea. Tim and his student get
   mentioned as making a suggestion, because they did some work and it was a
   good suggestion. Others are listed as commenting, because they did."

We could diff a -bis document to determine whether the change is 
substantial or not.  That's more of a measure than an assessment of 
an idea.  Long-standing authors tend to "give credit where credit is 
due" whereas new authors tend to look at it in terms of lines of text provided.

>But:
>
>1. 2141bis (for example) is a product of the urnbis working group, and
>the chairs have complete control over who is listed at the top of the
>document.  They can remove someone's name for any defensible reason
>(subject, of course, to appeal), including that the person is no
>longer participating in the document's development.

There is a subtlety here.  The chairs have complete control on the 
selection of the document editor.  The document editor has editorial 
discretion.  I'll argue that the individual also has a say in keeping 
the name of the author of the previous version of the document.

>2. Everyone who appears at the top of the document has to be reachable
>and responsive during AUTH48.  An AD can override that, but we prefer
>to avoid that and to list only those who we *do* expect to handle the
>AUTH48 process promptly.

Yes.

>3. An "Authors" section can and should be added to recognize the
>contributions of those who are or were authors of some version of the
>document, but who are no longer listed at the top.  This is where we
>can give due respect to a former author who is no longer active.

You may have meant "Contributors" here.  There are RFC Editor 
guidelines about that ( http://www.rfc-editor.org/policy.html ).

>Of course, as Juha says, it would be reasonable to ask the authors of
>prior versions how they would like to be recognized (and, I'll add,
>whether they will be available to review the final version and sign
>off during AUTH48).  That can certainly be input to the chairs'
>decision.  And anyway, if contacting a former author might bring more
>experienced eyes on the document and get more reviews and input,
>that's a good thing.  If we specifically think a former author will
>disapprove of where we've gone, that is NOT a reason to exclude him...
>in fact, it's that much more of a reason to get the input for
>consideration.

The IETF has formal processes for listed authors due to IPR.  Given 
that I will not be provided any assistance when things go wrong, I 
prefer to follow the cautious path where I only add a person's name 
with their agreement.  There was a case where a listed author asked 
to have his name removed as author.  This may come as a surprise to 
some participants; some people prefer not to have their name attached 
to a bad idea as they consider that as more important than having a 
name on a RFC.

It's up to each and anyone to see whether it is worthwhile to make 
that good faith effort to contact the former author and have them 
involved in the work to update a specification.  It's better to do 
that early instead of having a "fait accompli" where the former 
author is not given much latitude to disapprove.

It is up to the author to assess whether getting more review and 
input is important.  Having a working group does not mean that the 
work will get adequate review.  Soliciting comments does not 
necessarily make it happen.  If everyone is listed as author, the 
question that comes to mind is who is going to review the work.

Regards,
-sm