Internet Engineering Task Force                                A. Farrel
Internet-Draft                                          Juniper Networks
Intended status: Informational                         February 21, 2017
Expires: August 25, 2017

  A Definition of the Term "Soon" for Use in Discussions with Working
                    Group Chairs and Area Directors


   Many discussions with IETF Area Directors and Working Group Chairs
   utilize the word "soon" to qualify a commitment to action.  This
   document attempts to provide a definition of that term so that common
   expectations may be realistically set.

Requirements Language

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [RFC2119].

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
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   This Internet-Draft will expire on August 25, 2017.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2017 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
   ( in effect on the date of

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   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.  We Are All Volunteers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  The Kompella Time-Dilation Effect . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   4.  Possible Interpretation of the Term 'Soon'  . . . . . . . . .   3
   5.  Optimism Is the Curse of the Drinking Man . . . . . . . . . .   4
   6.  Towards A Definitive Meaning  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
   7.  Guidance in the Use of This Term  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   8.  Boilerplate for Inclusion in All Communications . . . . . . .   5
   9.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   10. Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     10.1.  Privacy Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   11. Acknowledgements  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   12. References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     12.1.  Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     12.2.  Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7

1.  Introduction

   In everyday exchanges between IETF participants and those with IETF
   management roles (for example, Area Directors and Working Group
   Chairs) commitments are often made to deliver actions.

   For example, a Working Group Chair may say "I will issue a working
   group last call on this document," or an Area Director could say "I
   will process your publication request and review your document."
   Alternatively, a document author might say "I will produce a new
   revision of this document," and a participant sometimes says "I will
   provide more details / suggested text / a follow-up review."

   In all of these interactions it is common for the speaker to offer
   some expected completion time for the action.  Sometimes this is
   expressed in elapsed time (for example, "I will do this within the
   next two lunar cycles"), frequently it is stated with reference to an
   absolute point in time (such as, "I will do this by the third Sunday
   in Lent"), but usually the qualifier applied is "Soon."

   Frustration and disappointment are common currency in the modern
   world, but there is no need for the IETF to add to this state of

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   affairs.  Nor should the IETF be responsible for increasing cynicism
   and jaundiced pessimism.  Therefore, this document attempts to
   provide a definition of the term "Soon" so that common expectations
   may be realistically set.

2.  We Are All Volunteers

   It is a commonly held belief that in the IETF "we are all
   volunteers."  Even those of us who are paid to do our jobs are
   confident that we are only working out of the goodness of our hearts
   and that our salaries are poor recompense for our daily travails.

   And, of course, it is well known that you cannot induce a volunteer
   to do anything that might interfere with their otherwise compulsory
   activities of looking at pictures of cats, creating memes, or pipe-
   smoking.  Therefore, it is highly inappropriate for this document to
   make any attempt to constrain anyone into giving a meaningful
   delivery date for any action that they promise.  To that end it is
   expected that this document will be withdrawn and a fulsome apology
   issued soon.

3.  The Kompella Time-Dilation Effect

   When serving as co-chair of the CCAMP working Group, Kireeti Kompella
   was often called to account for not offering a completion date for
   tasks to which he committed.

   After wise consideration of this situation, Kireeti would offer an
   answer such as "I will do this before the end of June," and everyone
   would go away content.  It was only as July gave way to August that
   Kireeti would explain that he had failed to indicate to which year he
   was referring.

   In such cases of high residual KTDE, use of the term "Soon" would
   better set expectations, and Kireeti has given an undertaking to
   transition to this term by the end of the second quarter.

4.  Possible Interpretation of the Term 'Soon'

   Many learned articles have been written on possible interpretation of
   the term "Soon".  No doubt the author will add citations and
   references one day soon.

   Readers should note that "SOON" is also an FLA [RFC5513] although has
   not yet been registered as such by IANA.  This document has not
   (noticeably) been endorsed by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria.

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5.  Optimism Is the Curse of the Drinking Man

   The software industry is infamous for its inability to provide
   reliable estimates for development projects.  No-one is quite sure
   why this should be.  Is it because troops of evil mice come into the
   workshop late at night while the cobbler is asleep in his bed
   alongside his long-suffering wife and unpick the seams of carefully
   constructed function calls?  Is it because coders make it all up as
   they go along and have no idea what they are doing?  And is it a
   coincidence that sotware is so appropriately spelled?

   IETF working group milestones (or "millstones" as they are more
   correctly termed) are commonly held in disrepute.  They are certainly
   not dates that anyone had ever been held to, and inspection of most
   working group charters will show that either the chairs intend
   employing time travel or that no one pays any attention to the
   milestones.  It may be because Area Directors often say to working
   group chairs that "milestones are just a tool for you to manage the
   working group", or it may be because no one likes a bully.

   These two factors obviously contribute to an environment in which the
   term "soon" has little or no currency except as padding to fill an
   awkward gap between a promise and the full stop at the end of the

   None of which is intended to imply that:

   o  Women don't drink

   o  Women are less optimistic than men

   o  Women are more optimistic than men

6.  Towards A Definitive Meaning

   The purpose of this document is to provide a working definition of
   the term "soon" so that parsers of IETF communications may reasonably
   understand the meaning, and so that a degree of linguistic
   interoperability between speakers may be achieved.  The following
   definition applies:

      SOON   This word, or the adverb "SHORTLY", mean that an item is
      truly optional.  One IETF participant may choose to deliver the
      item because a particular marketplace requires it or because the
      participant feels that it enhances their reputation while another
      participant may omit to deliver the same item.  A participant who
      does not deliver a particular item MUST be prepared to continue to
      work with with another participant who does deliver the item,

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      though perhaps with reduced credulity.  In the same vein, a
      participant who does deliver a particular item MUST be prepared to
      continue to work with another participant who does not deliver the
      item, though perhaps with less respect (except, of course, for
      communications about the feature the item provides).

      TOO LATE   This phrase, and the phrase "NEVER MORE", mean that the
      optimality of an item has been pushed to its limit, and then
      slightly further.  For the benefit of everyone, once one of these
      phrases has been used in a communication, all work on the
      referenced deliverable SHOULD be halted and all further discussion
      SHOULD be transmitted as silence and MUST be ignored on receipt.
      Document authors MAY choose to ignore either of these terms, but
      they do so at the risk of their immortal souls.  Further guidance
      on this issue can be obtained from your moral guardian, your
      household gods, or from any member of the IMM (Internet Moral
      Majority) [RFC4041].

7.  Guidance in the Use of This Term

   Terms of the type defined in this memo must be used with care and
   sparingly.  In particular, they MUST only be used where it is
   actually required for explanation of when a deliverable will arrive
   or to limit behavior which has potential for causing harm (e.g.,
   limiting retransmissions of requests for action).  For example, they
   MUST NOT be used to try to impose a particular schedule on
   participants where the schedule is not required for anything other
   than vanity.

8.  Boilerplate for Inclusion in All Communications

   In many IETF communications a word is often used to signify the
   proximity of an event described in the communication.  This word is
   often capitalized.  This document defines this word as it should be
   interpreted in IETF communications.  Authors who follow these
   guidelines should incorporate this phrase near the beginning of their

      The key words "SOON", "SHORTLY", "TOO LATE", and "NEVER MORE" in
      this communication are to be interpreted as described in

   Contrary to the overweening pedantry of [I-D.leiba-rfc2119-update],
   words used in this document mean what they say regardless of what
   font they are in and notwithstanding the color in which thy are

   To quote from Through the Looking Class by Charles Dodgson:

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      "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone,
      "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

      "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so
      many different things."

      "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -
      that's all."

   Thus, the term "soon" is as meaningful when it is presented in
   "uppercase" as it is when found in "LOWERCASE".

9.  IANA Considerations

   This document makes no request for any IANA actions.

10.  Security Considerations

   Just say no!

   Further security consideration will be added to this document SOON.

10.1.  Privacy Considerations

   See "Author's Address" Section.

11.  Acknowledgements

   Kireeti Kompella reminded me of millstones and corrected my grammar.

   Thanks to John Scudder for his own overweening pedantry.

   Benoit Claise supplied comments NOT BEFORE TIME.

12.  References

12.1.  Normative References

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

12.2.  Informative References

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              Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", draft-leiba-rfc2119-update-01 (work in
              progress), February 2017.

   [RFC4041]  Farrel, A., "Requirements for Morality Sections in Routing
              Area Drafts", RFC 4041, DOI 10.17487/RFC4041, April 2005,

   [RFC5513]  Farrel, A., "IANA Considerations for Three Letter
              Acronyms", RFC 5513, DOI 10.17487/RFC5513, April 2009,

Author's Address

   Adrian Farrel
   Juniper Networks


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