Network Working Group                                          L. Eggert
Internet-Draft                                                     Nokia
Intended status: Informational                            March 25, 2010
Expires: September 26, 2010

         Considerations for Having a Successful Bar BOF Session


   During recent IETF meetings, bar BOF ("birds of a feather") sessions
   have increasingly become indistinguishable from official IETF BOFs or
   sometimes even IETF working group meetings.  This document argues
   that this recent trend is not helpful in reaching the ultimate goal
   of many of these bar BOFs (i.e., to eventually initiate new IETF
   work).  It encourages the organizers of bar BOFs to consider the
   benefits of holding such get-togethers in much less formal settings.

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1.  Introduction

   A typical IETF meeting is full of sessions of different kinds; bar
   BOF ("birds of a feather") sessions being one such kind.  [RFC4677]
   characterizes a bar BOF as

      "(...) an unofficial get-together, usually in the late evening,
      during which a lot of work gets done over drinks.  Bar BOFs spring
      up in many different places around an IETF meeting, such as
      restaurants, coffee shops, and (if we are so lucky) pools."

   During recent IETF meetings, bar BOFs have increasingly become
   indistinguishable from official IETF BOFs or sometimes even IETF
   working group meetings.  This is especially true for bar BOFs that
   are held to encourage new IETF work on a specific topic.  The
   symptoms of this trend are bar BOFs that are held in regular IETF
   meeting rooms with classroom-style seating, agendas with lengthy
   slide presentations, use of microphone lines, and even formal
   consensus calls.  And, perhaps most importantly, a distinct lack of

   This document argues that this recent trend is not helpful in
   reaching the ultimate goal of many of these bar BOFs (i.e., to
   eventually initiate new IETF work).  It encourages the organizers of
   bar BOFs to consider the benefits of holding such get-togethers in
   much less formal settings.

2.  How to Invite

   A good rule of thumb is that a bar BOF should include the necessary
   participants to achieve its purpose, and no more.  Smaller meetings
   are usually more successful than larger meetings.

   Hence, it is often useful to limit attendance carefully.
   Broadcasting a bar BOF announcement is therefore not usually a good
   method of inviting the desired set of participants.

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   One reason is that if the announcement happens to attract a large
   response, the logistics of organizing a get-together for larger
   groups becomes very difficult.  Small groups fit comfortably around a
   table at a bar or a restaurant, or can find a quite corner in an IETF
   hallway for a discussion.  Larger groups require dedicated meeting
   facilities, which are limited during IETF meetings, and they
   generally require much more careful planning.

   A second reason for limiting attendance is group interactions.
   Experience shows that discussions among groups of more than, say, a
   dozen folks tend to start requiring explicit moderation, especially
   when the participants are unfamiliar with one another.  This adds
   cumbersome overheads that lengthen the duration of the session,
   making it consume more of the most valuable commodity of many IETF
   attendees - time.

   Often, it is not even possible for the organizers to determine how
   large the resulting get-together will be, forcing them to over-
   provision for the "best" case of a substantial attendance, even in
   cases where this turns out to be not necessary.  And even when a
   large group comes together, it oftentimes mostly consists of
   "tourists" who do not usefully participate in the get-together but do
   require finding larger rooms and whose attendance can make the
   interactions for active participants more cumbersome, e.g., because
   microphones need to be used in larger rooms.

   Even bar BOFs that intend to drum up interest in new IETF work can
   benefit from controlling attendance.  In their initial stages, these
   efforts benefit tremendously from direct, high-bandwidth feedback
   from IETF participants experienced in related areas, which is easier
   to receive and discuss in a smaller setting.  Secondly, a badly run
   large meeting can sometimes "poison the waters" for a while for the
   proposed idea by convincing the broader community that it should not
   progress, where a smaller, more concentrated meeting may have been

3.  Where to Meet

   As the name "bar BOF" implies, such get-togethers were traditionally
   held in bars or restaurants.  Recently, there has been a distinct
   shift towards holding such meetings in regular IETF meeting rooms.

   One reason for this trend has been discussed in Section 2; namely,
   that an uncontrolled broadcast announcement requires over-
   provisioning of facilities.

   A likely second reason for this trend is that the booking of an IETF

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   room requires Area Director approval.  This approval of the room
   request has been known to sometimes be reported as Area Director
   "support" for the topic of the meeting to the community or to
   employers.  No such support is expressed or implied when Area
   Directors approve room requests; many routinely say "yes" to every
   incoming request as long as there are meeting rooms available.

   Holding bar BOFs in IETF meeting rooms does not make them any more
   official or valid than bar BOFs that happen in other places.  And
   IETF meeting rooms often do not provide the most supportive
   environments for a successful bar BOF.

   One reason is that the classroom-style seating often present in IETF
   meeting rooms tends to spread people out in rows, all facing towards
   a front presenter: good for presentations, bad for discussion.
   Because IETF meeting rooms tend to be large, and people have a
   natural tendency to spread out, holding a meeting there often
   requires microphone use, which is cumbersome and slows a discussion

   Another reason is more pragmatic.  Because the organizers of bar BOFs
   can only use IETF meeting rooms during times when they are not
   otherwise in use, bar BOFs often happen during lunch slots, dinner
   time, or later in the evening.  This prolongs the time during which
   IETF participants are stuck in the same rooms they're stuck in for
   the rest of the day, and it prevents them from having a regular and
   at least somewhat relaxed meal.  Anecdotal evidence exists that at
   least one Area Director has not been able to set foot outside the
   IETF hotel for a stretch of several days during IETF-77.  It is
   unlikely that bar BOF participants in the consequential mental and
   bodily state will make productive contributions to a bar BOF or, in
   the case of Area Directors, will be extremely receptive towards new
   work proposals.

   Food, drink and a relaxed atmosphere in which to have a discussion
   are an essential part of a successful bar BOF.  IETF meeting rooms
   offer neither.

4.  How to Meet

   Several of the recent bar BOFs that were held in IETF meeting rooms
   emulated official IETF meetings to a degree that made them
   indistinguishable from a regular working group meeting for the
   average IETF attendee.  This includes detailed agendas, lengthy
   presentations, organizers who refer to themselves as "bar BOF
   chairs", emulating blue sheets, and even hums and other consensus

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   It is not clear as to why this has been happening.  One attempt at an
   explanation may be that holding a get-together in an IETF room and
   having the organizers behave like chairs behave during regular IETF
   sessions is causing a Pavlovian stimulus in the bar BOF attendees.
   Another explanation attempt is that an IETF meeting room simply
   doesn't allow many other forms of discussion.

   Whatever the reason for this development is, it is reasonably obvious
   that running a bar BOF in a way that emulates running a working group
   session is not very productive.  Because the reasons for organizing
   such a get-together are diverse, this section is not making more
   specific suggestions, other than to note that meeting outside of a
   IETF meeting room is likely going to shift the dynamics sufficiently
   so that better interactions and results become possible.

5.  Conclusions

   Bar BOF organizers are encouraged to rekindle the original spirit
   behind bar BOFs and organize them outside IETF meeting rooms, at
   venues with food and drink, for smaller groups and in a way that does
   not needlessly mimic the way official IETF sessions are conducted.

6.  IANA Considerations

   This document raises no IANA considerations.

   [Note to the RFC Editor: Please remove this section upon

7.  Security Considerations

   This document has no known security implications.

   [Note to the RFC Editor: Please remove this section upon

8.  Acknowledgments

   The name and title of this document have been chosen to resemble
   those used by Thomas Narten for his guidelines document on holding a
   successful BOF [RFC5434], as a sign of appreciation for a document
   that has proven to be invaluable many times over.

   Lars Eggert is partly funded by [TRILOGY], a research project

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   supported by the European Commission under its Seventh Framework

9.  Informative References

   [RFC4677]  Hoffman, P. and S. Harris, "The Tao of IETF - A Novice's
              Guide to the Internet Engineering Task Force", RFC 4677,
              September 2006.

   [RFC5434]  Narten, T., "Considerations for Having a Successful Birds-
              of-a-Feather (BOF) Session", RFC 5434, February 2009.

   [TRILOGY]  "Trilogy Project",

Author's Address

   Lars Eggert
   Nokia Research Center
   P.O. Box 407
   Nokia Group  00045

   Phone: +358 50 48 24461

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