IETF members to discuss internal problems

The Internet Engineering Task Force will meet in San Francisco this week to discuss, among other things, problems within its internal structure that may be throwing hurdles in the way of protocol work.

At its last meeting in November, the IETF formed a working group dubbed "Problem" after hearing concerns from members that the standards-setting body was moving too slowly and not adequately responding to real-world issues. As a result, a mailing list was initiated for members to share concerns about IETF processes. In February a draft statement outlining those concerns was submitted. Among those concerns are:

- IETF does not have a common understanding of its mission.

- The IETF does not use effective engineering practices.

- IETF contributors appear to be less engaged than in earlier days.

- Authority and influence in the IETF are concentrated in too few hands.

- IETF decision-making processes are flawed.

- Participants and leaders are inadequately trained.

When the IETF convenes this week for its first meeting of the year Problem working group chairs Avri Doria and Melinda Shore will present the statement to members. The problem working group will meet on Friday, the final day of the week-long meeting to continue work on a final draft outlining problems in how the IETF operates. Doria and Shore point out that the Problem working group will not bring forward solutions; it will not recommend that certain working groups be disbanded or protocol work be thrown out, for example. Instead, the working group is charged with accurately describing problems that need to be addressed within the IETF structure and how best to address them. "We're quite concerned about making sure that the problems are well-understood and reasonably well-organized -- i.e., sorting out first-order problems from second-order problems, distinguishing cause and effect -- before the IETF makes any structural or process changes," Shore says.

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