Re: [vmeet] Supporting interim meetings (was Re: Duties of WG Chairs)

Thomas Narten <> Tue, 12 May 2009 12:41 UTC

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Comments: In-reply-to Dave CROCKER <> message dated "Mon, 11 May 2009 17:01:00 -0700."
Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 08:42:49 -0400
From: Thomas Narten <>
Subject: Re: [vmeet] Supporting interim meetings (was Re: Duties of WG Chairs)
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Some random thoughts/reaction to your note...

Dave CROCKER <> writes:

> I've been thinking about the experiences, so far, in looking at
> tools, and I'm suspecting that the two, immediate, areas of
> potential benefit are the IETF management meetings (IESG, IAB, IAOC)
> and interim meetings.

We should note that some WGs are already having interim meetings, and
it is not clear that any of them are on this list (not good). I sat in
on an IPSecME meeting a week or two ago, and it worked fine. It was a
smallish meeting (20 people), with a clear agenda, and seemed like an
excellent thing for WGs to be doing (nothing like a meeting as a
forcing function to get people to deliver and focus).

They used TeamSpeak. I thought it worked well overall. Certainly got
the job done.

> By contrast, an interim meeting could require good Internet access
> for participants and, therefore, limit voice to VOIP.  But content
> display and meeting management tools probably become more important.

Actually, I don't agree with this (necessarily). The absolute
requirements to participate in an interim meeting are more
modest. Think about the critical things:

 - audio bridge (could be VoIP, or POTS, that is a detail)
 - access to charts
 - IM capability as a side channel

The above would in practice cover 90% of what WGs really do in
practice during interim meetings. You do not need "good" Internet
access for IM. Just good enough. (You presumably need a lot better
connectivity for whiteboards, etc.)

Sure, there are other nice-to-haves, but I think most of those are not
requirements in the vast majority of cases.

> Based on this view -- and folks are encouraged to comment -- I think
> that a good near-term goal is to try to find a tool to enable easy,
> virtual interim meetings.

Don't underestimate the power of 1) a phone bridge and 2) advance
availability of charts, 3) best practices about how do
teleconferences (e.g., when changing slides, telling everyone which
slide you are on).

I suspect that many of us have lots of experience with the above.

> We should try to converge on the statement of functions and scaling that we 
> think are essential for an interim meeting.

>  From the ealier discussions, one of the milestones was stated as:

>  > MG-C:  Individual virtual session, small scale (30?)

> Henning offered these items in response:

>  > - Ability to render PowerPoint and PDF MUST, OpenOffice SHOULD.
>  >
>  > - For audio, allow VoIP and PSTN dial-in (800# is MAY).
>  >
>  > - Ability to mute remote participants (e.g., to deal with someone's
>  >   music-on-hold system)
>  >
>  > - Audio recording

I might add IM for a back-channel. This is good for things like: "I
want to speak now", asking short questions (clearly), telling people
which chart we are on, etc.

>      I think we could get away with a relatively modest initial
> requirement.  Say, 30 people?  That will limit applicability for the
> larger and more active working groups.

I agree that most meetings are small.

>      I guess the real question is what participation numbers there
> have been for interim meetings over the last couple of years?  We
> might still settle on a small initial number, but we should try to
> know beforehand.

Careful about predicting future participation based on the past,
especially if travel issues are now motivating more to stay at home.

> 1.  Meeting management -

>      a)  Ability to queue up participants, as if at a microphone

>          For meetings of a group that can easily be 20-40 people,
> with relatively little history of group collaboration, the job of
> meeting management is vastly easier when there is some functional
> help for coordinating who wants to speak next.

It may also be necessary for basic fairness. Folk can get mighty
unhappy if it seems to them that they are being treated as second
class citizens in the microphone queue relative to others.

>      b)  Ability to shift who is presenting

>          This is the equivalent of having different folk come up to
> the front of the room and plug in their laptop.  I suspect that a
> failure to support this mode of participation would seriously hamper
> the convenience -- and possibly effectiveness -- of meetings.

While I agree this is necessary, I am not sure that we require tools
to support this. Charts in advance work pretty well in practice. But
not at the expense of limiting participation if the bandwidth
requirements are too high.

> 3.  Shared slide presentation

>      Shipping powerpoint files around is tolerable only for special
> cases, I believe.

I disagree. I think shipping charts around in advance has benefits
too. Doing everythig at the very last second (especially for a meeting
that is schedule far out in advance) does not necessarily result in
good meetings and/or good presentations. And it can actually be quite
useful to skim a presentation in advance before a talk begins.

And I believe that in most cases, we are taking about presenting
static charts, not whiteboard sessions.

> Since we are talking about broad-based, regular use, we should make
> presenting slides as comfortable as it is in a room.  A major
> benefit of integrated slide presentation and control is that there
> is then no need to worry about people's knowing what slide is
> showing.

We should strive to make it easier to follow a presentation without
the requirement for such tools, since they don't help when playing
back an audio recording...

> 4.  Shared white board

>      My gut says that this really is an extremely useful feature for
> many meetings.  And since it's available in a number of products, it
> seems to make sense that we require it.

Useful, but not necessary in the vast majority of WG sessions I've