On Consensus and Humming in the IETF
draft-resnick-on-consensus-01

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Document Type Active Internet-Draft (individual)
Author Pete Resnick 
Last updated 2013-02-13
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Internet Engineering Task Force                               P. Resnick
Internet-Draft                               Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
Intended status: Informational                         February 13, 2013
Expires: August 17, 2013

                  On Consensus and Humming in the IETF
                     draft-resnick-on-consensus-01

Abstract

   The IETF has had a long tradition of doing its technical work through
   a consensus process, taking into account the different views among
   IETF participants and coming to (at least rough) consensus on
   technical matters.  In particular, the IETF is supposed not to be run
   by a "majority rules" philosophy.  This is why we engage in rituals
   like "humming" instead of voting.  However, more and more of our
   actions are now indistinguishable from voting, and quite often we are
   letting the majority win the day.  This document is a collection of
   thoughts on what rough consensus is, how we have gotten away from it,
   and the things we can do in order to really achieve rough consensus.

      Note: This document contains the musings of an individual.  Right
      now, it is just some rough notes and has lots of holes that need
      to be filled in.  Even if those holes are filled, in its current
      form, it is not intended to be published as an RFC, let alone
      being a BCP for a change of IETF policy.  If it evolves into such
      a thing, great.  If it simply sparks discussion as an Internet
      Draft, that's a perfectly fine outcome.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
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   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
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   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on August 17, 2013.

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2013 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   (http://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Simplified BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of
   the Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as
   described in the Simplified BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Lack of disagreement is more important than agreement . . . .   3
   3.  Rough consensus is when all issues are addressed, but not
       necessarily accommodated  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   4.  Humming is the start of a conversation, not the end . . . . .   6
   5.  One Hundred people for and five people against might not be
       rough consensus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   6.  Five people for and one hundred people against might still be
       rough consensus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   7.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   8.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   Appendix A.  Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10

1.  Introduction

   Almost every IETF participant knows the aphorism from Dave Clark's
   1992 plenary presentation [Clark] regarding how we make decisions in
   the IETF:

      We reject: kings, presidents and voting.

      We believe in: rough consensus and running code.

   That is, we don't let a single individual make the decisions, nor do
   we let the majority dictate decisions, nor do we allow decisions to
   be made in a vacuum without practical experience.  Instead, decisions
   are made by (more or less) consent of all participants, and the
   actual products of engineering trump theoretical designs.  We don't
   require full consensus; that would allow a single intransigent person
   who simply keeps saying "No!"  to stop the process cold.  We only

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   require rough consensus: If the chair of a working group determines
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