Date: Wed, 30 May 2001 08:20:26 -0400
I write about IETF-related topics for a number of publications and websites.
Most IETF participants are incredibly helpful and responsive when I ask them
questions about the work they are doing, particularly authors of RFCs and I-Ds.
However, there are (infrequent) exceptions, usually employees of large
companies who believe that their contracts forbid them from speaking to the
press, under any circumstances. These folks usually say something like, "My
company won't allow me to say anything about the RFC I wrote" and refer me to
their public relations staff.
I don't see anything in the IETF rules which requires participants to
give private press interviews. Certainly it is reasonable for anyone
to refuse to answer some questions about business plans and business
impact. But, for even the most technical question, there is no
requirement to answer private questions. Even for the most techncial
question posted to a working group mailing list, I don't see any rule
forcing anyone to answer such a technical question. It might be wise
for them to, to clarify or defend or attack a specification. And if
the question is important, it seems likely that if they don't, someone
else will try, and their will be some discussion. But I don't see that
ordinary IETF participants accept any obligation to answer questions,
especially ones asked privately.
RFC 2418, "IETF Working Group Guidelines and Procedures", states:
Participation is by individual technical contributors, rather than by
formal representatives of organizations.
I take that to mean that IETF activities are separate from employment
What does "sparate" mean? For many people, their IETF activities are
in the same techncial areas as their employment activities. As long as
their IETF activities express their personal opinion, I don't see a
problem. Many employers impose restrictions on their employees. If
those restrictions make it impossible for the employee to follow IETF
procedures (for example, prohibiting them from making IPR claims know
that relate to a standard under development), then they must withdraw
from the IETF or disobey their employer. The choice is theirs. But I
don't see any problem with an employer prohibiting press
interviews. (My employer has a general policy requiring Press
Relations participation in press interviews but has made an exception
for any interviews I have that relate solely to technical aspects of
Further, as an open organization, IETF activities are not supposed to come
under non-disclosure agreements or receive intellectual property protections.
So there should be no reason why an individual could not talk about what he or
she does within the IETF.
IETF activities are primarily the postings to the mailing lists which
are, of course, pubicly available. Your second sentence does not
follow from the first. "No reason" is pretty broad.
As IETF standards track specifications continue to gain importance to the
world at large, IETF participants need to understand their obligations and
rights to discuss these activities with outsiders--whether from the business
world, the academic world, or "the media".
I think I've always been cooperative with press interviews. And I
think that is usually a good thing. But I see no obligation.
As long as IETF participants think that participation is useful and as
long as a significant part of the output of the IETF is considered
useful by the world, then the IETF will continue, in my opinion, to be
a success. This requires not the slightest cooperation with those from
the business, academic, or media worlds who want to poke around in,
interogate, analyse, or duplicate the IETF.
The alternative, IMO, is to have IETF participants who are employed by
industry companies such as Cisco and Microsoft viewed as official
representatives of their companies rather than as individual (and independent)
| Pete Loshin http://www.loshin.com |
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