Non-Technical Trends Affecting the IETF

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This blog post is not about technology. A while ago I asked for volunteers to help us understand some of the non-technical changes around the IETF. Some of these changes may affect how we should run our operations: changing participation, changing forms of co-operation, changing landscapes in the area of standards organisations, open source, and so on.

My goal was to set up a design team. This effort was inspired by involvement in various decisions that the IETF leadership has to take part in. I find myself often wishing to be able to draw more on the understanding trends and their impact on the IETF.

Alia Atlas, Avri Doria, Tobias Gondrom, Olaf Kolkman, Steve Olshansky, Benson Schliesser, Robert Sparks, Russ White joined the team (thank you!) and the first result from the team is now available as an Internet Draft.

You can read the full draft here, but I have copied some words from the abstract below:

While most of the work in the IETF is technical, the IETF should and does regularly examine itself, including its processes and goals, to determine if the technical community is truly serving the larger network engineering community effectively. Changes in this area tend to be incremental, as is fitting for an organization with decades of experience and history in developing and managing the process of building technical specifications.

The rapid and ongoing changes in the world have recently caused a number of IETF participants to examine the current processes and operation of the IETF, particularly in the context of the culture of the IETF. This memo discusses some cultural and global trends in relation to the IETF’s operating environment, how these trends might affect the operation of the IETF, and notes some topics for further exploration.

This memo is also input for discussion that the IETF community should have.

The memo has no particular official standing, nor does it claim to represent more than the authors’ thinking at the time of writing.

But our opinion is just that — our opinion. What do you all in the IETF community think about this? What changes do you foresee? Please direct discussion about this topic to the ietf@ietf.org mailing list.

As a side note, if you are interested in the picture, it is of an IESG meeting in 2010, held in Second Life. The setup was pioneered by Lisa Dusseault. And at least for me, the experience far surpassed phone conferences, at least as good as today’s high-quality Internet conference calls can be. The IETF also had its own island in Second Life. Where can we take the IESG or the IETF in 2016?

Jari Arkko, IETF Chair