--On Thursday, 31 May, 2007 14:33 -0500 Spencer Dawkins
So, for reasons that both John and Lakshminath identified,
we've been asking WG chairs to encourage participants to
engage in public discussions, but to be receptive to private
requests for assistance on how to carry out those discussions.
The alternative - a WG chair who tells the working group that
the apparent WG consensus on the mailing list is being
overruled because of anonymous objections that the WG chair
cannot share with the WG, or because of private objections
that the WG chair is "channeling" from a back room - would
make voting seem reasonable (or, to use Mark Allman's
characterization in another thread, "seem charming").
But we have mechanisms for dealing with those kinds of problems.
As an example, I would assume that, if someone challenged an
assertion of consensus based on undisclosed comments, the first
thing a competent AD or IETF Chair would do would be to ask for
names or other ways to validate the input. The comments don't
need to be public in order to be verified and, in an operation
like the IETF, there is (or ought to be) a difference between
the expectation of not needing to be associated with a
particular position in public and anonymity when making those
If a WG Chair makes a decision based on private input and cannot
readily demonstrate that the input actually occurred in whatever
numbers are implied (on appeal if necessary), then that WG Chair
should be removed.
If I were a participant in a controversial WG --and I don't buy
the story that one cannot predict or diagnose controversy and
hence must treat everything that way-- I'd expect to see
relatively independent co-chairs and/or an AD who was clearly
independent of the chair. I'd expect that, if I felt a need to
make a comment "in private", I'd write up the comment and copy
both co-chairs and the AD, not try to whisper into someone's ear
in a dark hall somewhere.
I think that is just good sense (and, yes, Spencer, "good sense"
belongs in front of "flexibility" if one must impute an order.
It is very clear that we have a system that is open to attack if
there are sufficiently many parties with sufficient malice.
Until and unless we start seeing lots of such attacks, it seems
to me that expecting good behavior and having ways to detect and
fix bad behavior should it occur is a much better path than
trying to invent rules that, inevitably, will be addressing the
last attack and not the next one and that will bog us down
further. I do believe that, if a decision is made that claims
to be based on consensus, but the consensus is not obvious from
public comments, the person making that decision has some
obligation to explain the decision and, clearly, "lots of people
whispered to me" should not be accepted as an explanation. I
also believe that, if that doesn't occur, appeals should be
initiated and upheld. But I'm having trouble seeing a real,
rather than theoretical, problem here that justifies new rules
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