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Re: Confirming vs. second-guessing

2008-03-18 11:08:44
On Tue, Mar 18, 2008 at 08:24:39AM -0700, Dave Crocker wrote:

This wasn't about careful wording or reporters getting ahold of the story.  
This was about a premature and preemptive decision by the IAB.

I quoted Christian's story because it was the kindest towards the IAB.
There were of course far uglier spins on the IAB that were running
around, and the truth is somewhere between the two, I think.  It's not
really that important.  I quoted it becuase I thought it might be
useful to consider the history around the creation of the Nomcom.

A phrase like "serious reorganization" leads folk to miss how small the 
changes were, structurally.  The existing structure of the IETF was 
retained.  From the standpoint of organization structure, the changes were 
minimal, although of course they had huge impact.

There were only two changes:

 1.  Decisions previously made by the IAB would now be made by the IESG

 2.  A formal and independent selection process for the IAB and IESG would 
be instituted.

The IAB was retained but careful to avoid anything that looked like an 
attempt to exercise power.  Over time, if found very useful tasks for 

We can dispute how small the changes actually were, but the key point
was that IAB had nearly all of its power stripped from it, aside from
the power to make recommendations and, and that was moved to the IESG.
That was a pretty earth-shaking change to the power hierarchy, even if
it was only executed using a few small changes.  (As we all know,
changing even a few lines of code can make a huge difference in how a
program functions.)

I suspect, but am not 100% sure, that the very early NOMCOM's, in
1993-1996, probably had their decisions close to rubber-stamped, given
how badly the IAB had been slapped down by the events of the July,
1992.  Eight years later, right after the turn of the century, it
seemed they were exerting themselves more (and I think that was
appropriate), and it seems to me that more recently, the pendulum has
swung even further to the right.  So perhaps it's not surprising that
we're all over the map, since if you look at past practice over time
we've been all over the map as well.

The question, today, seems to be whether it is moving too far into an 
exercise of powers it ought not to have.  This isn't anything like the 
Boston Tea Party situation -- the organizational change was made at the 
IETF in Danville, whereas the offending decision was made in Kobe Japan -- 
since it is incremental and is clearly being reviewed as things change.

I agree that it's nothing like what happened in July, 1992, and we
*are* having this discussion.  The question indeed is what is the
right level of powers is most appropriate for the IAB; ranging from
nearly all powers stripped from it in 1993, to now where it is
requesting access to substantially more documents than it had
historically, and where a few are aruging that the trust boundary for
the Nomcom and the confirming bodies should be the same (i.e., that
the confirming bodies get to see all or nearly all of what the Nomcom
gets to see.)

Right.  The current discussion should try to specify what exactly the 
boundaries and requirements for a confirming body are and what input is 
reasonable for them to have.

And furthermore, give more clarifications about when a confirming body
should try to act.  I believe, for example, that if a confirming body
were to say, "yes, we believe that Person A would do an adequate job,
but Person B will do the job 10% better, and we will reject the slate
until you select person B", that this would be an abuse of the
confirming body's powers.

If instead the feedback is, "we believe this person is totally
unqualified", or "if you select this person half of the volunteer IETF
members in the area will walk off in a huff", that's a very different,
and appropriate feedback from the confirming body.

In between these two areas, of couse, is a rather large grey area...

                                         - Ted
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