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Second Report on the RFC 8989 Experiment
15 Mar 2023
This is a report on the results of the experiment to temporarily make the criteria for qualifying volunteers to participate in the IETF Nominating Committee (NomCom) more flexible in view of increasing remote participation in the IETF and a reduction in face-to-face meetings.
IESG Note: This report was written by the 2022-23 NomCom chair, Rich Salz. The IESG thanks Rich for writing this report; we are publishing it as required by RFC 8989 Section 2.
For background, please see last year's report. As a reminder, since February 2021, there have been three paths for someone to qualify to be a voting member of NomCom:
- Path 1: attendance A person has attended three out of the last five IETF meetings, including meetings held entirely online.
- Path 2: WG leadership A person has been a Working Group Chair or Secretary within the past three years.
- Path 3: authorship A person has been a listed author or editor of at least two IETF Stream RFCs (or IESG-approved Internet-Drafts in the RFC Editor queue) within the past five years.
This year, there were 266 qualified volunteers (or pool) for NomCom. Last year, the pool was 116; this year's number is a new high-water mark in the history of NomCom selection. It is unclear why the pool size was so large this year1, but looking at the breakdown it is clear that the alternate paths did not contribute significantly:
|Just Path 1||122|
|Path 1 and Path 2 (not Path 3)||34|
|Path 1 and Path 3 (not Path 2)||42|
|Path 1 and Path 2 and Path 3||60|
|Just Path 2||0|
|Path 2 and Path 3 (not Path 1)||1|
|Just Path 3||7|
It isn't surprising that none of the volunteers were qualified just with Path 2; Working Group (WG) leadership is hard to accomplish without attending meetings and doing it just via email. Path 2 could be removed without affecting the pool, but the RFC 8989-bis draft includes it, if only because there wasn't sufficient analysis to justify its removal.
Within the overall IETF community, there could have been 1438 qualified volunteers or just under 5.5 times as many who actually volunteered. The breakdown of the qualification paths is as follows:
|Just Path 1||767|
|Path 1 and Path 2 (not Path 3)||78|
|Path 1 and Path 3 (not Path 2)||161|
|Path 1 and Path 2 and Path 3||121|
|Just Path 2||14|
|Path 2 and Path 3 (not Path 1)||19|
|Just Path 3||278|
Many more people qualified under Path 2 or Path 3, but essentially none of them volunteered. At any rate, nearly 80% of the potential volunteer pool qualified under at least Path 1.
NomCom Pool Diversity
Given the minuscule increase of Path 2 and Path 3 in the volunteer pool, it is not surprising that this year's committee saw little change. For the ten voting volunteers in this year's committee, all qualified under Path 1, three would have qualified under Path 2, three would have qualified under Path 3 and two would have qualified under either Path 2 or Path 3 (that is, they met the criteria for both paths).
If the IETF community believes that potential Path 2 and Path 3 volunteers should be encouraged to volunteer for future NomComs, it might be worthwhile to find out why none of them did this year.
The overall conclusion is that by expanding Path 1 to include remote attendance, and making it possible to determine qualification automatically, all of the goals in Section 3 of RFC 8989 were met. Details can be found in the Appendix.
Based on the success of the experiment for the past two years, the IETF is finalizing issuance of a new RFC that codifies these methods into a BCP RFC that updates RFC 8713 and renders RFC 8989 obsolete.
Last year's report made a few suggestions that the 2022-23 NomCom Chair would like to comment on here.
- Send a personal invitation to all participants eligible under Path 2. Given the small number of such participants, and the inability to get that information in a timely manner, the NomCom Chair did not do this.
- Change the wording in the announcement to reflect the expected time commitment during November 2022 more accurately. Since any information is currently just anecdotal, passed down from Chair to Chair, this was not possible.
- Enable a person registering for IETF 114 (July 2022) to volunteer for NomCom at the time of registration. Due to human error, about a half-dozen "last minute" registrants were not added to the pool. The code to automate this for next time has already been written.
- Collect data on how many of the eligible participants and eventual volunteers are subscribed to any of the the mailing lists (ietf-announce, etc.) the Call for Volunteers is usually disseminated to, to see if there is any correlation between the eligible pool, volunteers, and list subscription. The NomCom Chair sent a brief note to all WG chairs asking them to consider forwarding information and many of them seem to have done so. In the opinion of the 2022-23 NomCom Chair, this seems sufficient to reach many (if not a majority of) active IETF members.
Appendix: Details on Goal Accomplishment
The goals behind the expanded NomCom eligibility in Section 3 of RFC 8989 are quoted below, followed by a discussion as to which degree they were achieved.
- Mitigate the issue of active remote (or, rarely, in-person) participants being disenfranchised in the NomCom and recall processes. The provision in Path 1 to count attendance in fully online meetings towards NomCom eligibility met this goal. No recall processes have been started, so no statement can be made as to RFC 8989’s effect on them.
- Enable the selection of a 2021-2022 NomCom, and possibly a 2022-2023 NomCom, when it is impossible for anyone to have attended 3 out of the last 5 IETF meetings in person. After the 2021-22 NomCom, and the recognition of further hybrid meetings, the experiment was continued for this year. The reasoning, as stated in last year's report, was that NomCom will (under Path 1) be determined by attendance to IETFs 109-113, where at least IETFs 109-112 will have happened fully online.
- Prepare for an era in which face-to-face plenary meetings are less frequent (thus extending the issue to many, perhaps a majority, of participants). The addition to Path 1 to count participation in fully online meetings towards NomCom eligibility seems to enable flexibility towards having fewer meetings with an in-person component.
- Ensure that those eligible have enough current understanding of IETF practices and people to make informed decisions. Obviously, nothing can be said about the current understanding of the entire pool. Since the members are a random sample of the volunteer pool, it could hence be argued that the pool of volunteers seems to have had the desired characteristics.
Of the ten voting members, only four have had no NomCom experience (either as a voting volunteer or a liaison). Of those four, half have been co-chairs of working groups, and the other half are co-authors of at least a dozen internet drafts. It was clear to the Chair that everyone on the committee was competent and well-informed about how the IETF works.
- Provide algorithmic criteria, so that the Secretariat can check them mechanically against available data. The secretariat was able to check the criteria defined in RFC 8989 mechanically, so this part of the experiment was a success.
1The NomCom chair credits himself, either because people like him or because they were concerned about what he might do. 😀