Network Working Group                                      M. Kuehlewind
Internet-Draft                                                  Ericsson
Intended status: Informational                                   M. Duke
Expires: 13 May 2022                                   F5 Networks, Inc.
                                                         9 November 2021

        Guidelines for the Organization of Fully Online Meetings


   This document provides guidelines for the planning and organization
   of fully online meetings, regarding the number, length, and
   composition of sessions on the meeting agenda.  These guidelines are
   based on the experience after the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Discussion Venues

   This note is to be removed before publishing as an RFC.

   Discussion of this document takes place on the Stay Home Meet Only
   Online Working Group mailing list (, which is
   archived at

   Source for this draft and an issue tracker can be found at

Status of This Memo

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   This Internet-Draft will expire on 13 May 2022.

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Copyright Notice

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   document authors.  All rights reserved.

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Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Some History  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Guidelines for Online Meeting Planning  . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     3.1.  Time Zone Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
       3.1.1.  Rules for selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
     3.2.  Number of Days and Total Hours per Day  . . . . . . . . .   5
     3.3.  Session/Break Length  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     3.4.  Number of Parallel Tracks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   4.  Additional Considerations and Recommendations . . . . . . . .   7
     4.1.  Full vs. limited agenda (and interim meetings)  . . . . .   7
     4.2.  Flexibility of time usage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     4.3.  Chances for inclusivity and Lessons Learnt on
           socilizing  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     4.4.  Experiments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   5.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   6.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     6.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     6.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10

1.  Introduction

   In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the IETF to move all its
   plenary meetings to online-only events.  This document mainly records
   the experience gained by holding all three plenary meetings in 2020
   fully online
   and noting down the guidelines that have been followed since.  The
   aim of this document is to determine rough consensus of these
   guidelines in the sense that the most participants are sufficiently
   satisfied with the current organization of fully online events.
   These guidelines, however, document only one option of running fully
   online meetings.  But as the IETF has done for in-person meetings,

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   changes to the organization of the meetings and the meeting agenda
   should be experimented with in the process of establishing future
   meeting guidelines.

2.  Some History

   When the WHO declared a world-wide pandemic in March 2020, the IETF
   had to quickly cancel its plenary meeting and organize an online
   replacement instead (within less than two weeks).  At that point, for
   this first online-only meeting, the agenda was reduced to a set of
   sessions that benefitted most from cross-area participation, like
   BoFs, first-time meetings of a new working groups, or dispatch
   sessions, as well as the administrative plenary in order to organize
   the official hand-over procedures that occur at the March meeting.

   With such an reduced agenda, it was possible to organize the meeting
   within roughly 2 sessions (about 4 hours) a day and a maximum of two
   parallel tracks.  This was possible as all working group meetings
   were instead moved to interims which were then distributed over the
   coming six weeks.  However, this was often perceived as increased
   load over a longer time.  But at that point of time there was not
   necessarily an expectation that the situation would continue as long
   as it did.

   For the following meetings in 2020, the online schedule was retained
   in a fashion similar to an in-person meeting (1-2 hour slots and 8-9
   parallel tracks as described below), however, still with a reduced
   total length of initially 5 hours a day and then 6 hours with longer

   All fully online meetings in 2020 have followed the time zone of the
   planned in-person meeting location, but starting roughly around noon
   instead.  Some flexibility with the start time to be "around" noon
   has been used to mitigate the worse possible time slots, even though,
   given the distribution of participants it is not possible to avoid
   certain hours entirely.  The in-person meeting location follows the
   1-1-1 rule as documented in [RFC8719] to rotate between Asia, Europe,
   and North America.  While the exact time slot used had led to various
   discussions, following roughly the 1-1-1 rule to share the pain has/
   seems to have rough consensus.

3.  Guidelines for Online Meeting Planning

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3.1.  Time Zone Selection

   This time selection enables to have 2 out of 3 fully online IETF
   plenary meetings during the day from most participants.  Basically
   every full online meeting is for two regions of the three regions
   described in [RFC8179], roughly speaking, after sunrise or after
   dinner.  This has the tradeoff that it maps the third region in
   middle of night.  However, that also means for most participants only
   one remote meeting per year might require a significant change to
   sleep schedules.

   The times are also seasonally adjusted to leverage differentials in
   Daylight Savings Time.  These time slots are as follows, in UTC:

   | Name          | Times (Northern Summer) | Times (Northern         |
   |               |                         | Winter)                 |
   | North America | 0500-1100 UTC           | 0600-1200 UTC           |
   | Night         |                         |                         |
   | Asia Night    | 1300-1900 UTC           | 1400-2000 UTC           |
   | Europe Night  | 2200-0400 UTC           | 2200-0400 UTC           |

                                  Table 1

   The intent of rotating between these three slots is to scatter
   meetings throughout the course of the global day, to maximize the
   ease of participants to occasionally attend regardless of their
   location and what time of day is optimal for their schedule.

3.1.1.  Rules for selection

   The IETF will select a start time from these three choices based on
   the past three meetings.  The following table covers all permutations
   of previous meetings held in-person in Region A, B, or C; or remotely
   in the nights of one of those regions.

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   | 3 meetings ago | 2 meetings ago | Last Meeting | Online           |
   |                |                |              | Selection        |
   | Any            | Any            | In-Person A  | A Night          |
   | Any            | Online A Night | Online B     | C Night          |
   |                |                | Night        |                  |
   | Online A Night | In-Person B    | Online B     | C Night          |
   |                |                | Night        |                  |
   | In-Person A    | In-Person B    | Online B     | A Night          |
   |                |                | Night        |                  |
   | In-Person A    | In-Person A    | Online A     | see below        |
   |                |                | Night        |                  |
   | Online A Night | Online B Night | Online C     | A Night          |
   |                |                | Night        |                  |

                                  Table 2

   Basically this table follows two rules: 1) When ever a fully online
   meeting follows and in-person meeting, the online meeting time is
   used that disadvantages most the participants of the time zone where
   the in-person meeting was held. 2) If multiple fully online meetings
   follow each other, the time zone selection should be rotated based on
   the most recent time zones that the in-person meetings were held in.

   The final case occurs in the rare event that back-to-back in-person
   plenaries occur in the same region.  In this case, find the most
   recent meeting that was neither in 'A' (if in person) nor in 'A'
   night (if remote).  If this meeting was in-person in region 'B', then
   the next meeting will be in 'B' Night.  If it was remote in 'B'
   Night, the next meeting will be in 'C' Night.

   To initialize this algorithm, IETF 112 is considered as an 'Asia
   Night' remote meeting, and IETF 111 is a 'Europe Night' remote

3.2.  Number of Days and Total Hours per Day

   Online meetings have converged to run over 5 days with 6-hour meeting
   days, roughly.  Only, the administrative plenary, which concludes
   with multiple open mic sessions, is not necessarily time-bounded.

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   Based on the experience so far, 6 hours of online meetings, with two
   30 minutes breaks, appear to be potentially a natural limited of what
   is handleable for most participants.  Respectively, the meeting
   survey after IETF 109 has indicated a high satisfaction with the
   distribution of sessions over 5 days but only a medium satisfaction
   with the overall length of each day [

   While there is a possible trade-off between shorter but more days, a
   compact and potentially intense meeting was slightly prefer from the
   beginning by the community.  And, different than for in-person
   meetings, also utilize time during the weekend was never considered
   as a possible option.  So far, it was possible for all meetings to
   fit the requested number of sessions within 5 days, with the
   respective number of parallel tracks, see Section Section 3.4.

3.3.  Session/Break Length

   For fully online meetings there are typically less sessions per day,
   than for in-person meetings, in order to keep the overall meeting day
   to at roughly 6 hours.  The reduction of the number of sessions per
   day let to the practice of offering chairs only two options for
   session length (instead of three), in order to make session
   scheduling more practical.

   At IETF-108, based on an indicated preference of the community, 50
   and 100 minute slot were used, with only 10 minutes breaks, in order
   to keep the overall day length at 5 hours.  This resulted in many
   sessions going over time and thereby clearly indicated that only 10
   minutes for breaks are not practical.

   The survey after IETF-109 showed a high satisfaction with 60/120
   minute session lengths and 30 minute breaks, and a significant
   improvement in satisfaction over IETF-108.

   While the option to shorten the breaks was discussed during the later
   meetings, a saving of in total 10-20 minutes per day might not
   balance the need to use the breaks for recreation or at least some

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3.4.  Number of Parallel Tracks

   Fully online meetings are not limited in the number of parallel
   tracks by the physical restriction of a meeting venue aka the number
   of meeting rooms.  In order to reduce the number of possible
   conflicts, it is still desirable to minimise the number of parallel
   tracks by balancing the requested sessions mostly equally over the
   available slots.

   But if the total number of requested sessions exceeds the capacity of
   the usual 8 parallel tracks, it is possible for a fully online
   meeting to simply use more tracks.  This also means, if the number of
   meeting days is seen as fixed, this decision is implicitly made by
   the working group chairs requesting a certain number of sessions and

   As more parallel sessions usually also mean more conflicts, chairs
   are encouraged to request plenary meeting time carefully but also
   based on realistic planning to avoid running over time.  Use of
   interim meetings should be consider instead where possible and
   sensible, as discussed in Section Section 4.1.

4.  Additional Considerations and Recommendations

4.1.  Full vs. limited agenda (and interim meetings)

   The IETF-108 meeting survey asked about the structure of that meeting
   (full meeting) compared to that of IETF 107, which hosted only a
   limited set of session followed by interims in the weeks after.  The
   structure of IETF 108 was preferred by 82%
   [].  While the
   limited agenda of IETF-107 could have been a good one-time
   replacement, the value of cross-participation and high active
   meetings weeks has been recognised as important for continuous
   progress (and not only for newly initiated work).

   A highly concentrated meeting, in structure similar to the in-person
   plenary meeting, provides value for cross-participants.  Further a
   well defined meeting time, rather than spreading many interims over
   the whole year can make deconflicting with other non-IETF meetings

   While the time during an in-person meeting can be used very
   intensively, even a compact and full online schedule does often not
   prevent day-job duties to occur in parallel.  Therefore, allocating
   more time can also make it more difficult for people to join and as
   such needs to be balanced with the option to distribute load better
   over the entirely year by a more regular use of interim meetings.

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   Use of (more) online interim meetings can also help to reduce
   scheduling conflicts during an IETF week and allows for a more are
   optimal scheduled for the key participants.  Of course these interim
   meetings are less likely to attract people with casual interest but
   provide a good opportunity for the most active participants of a
   group to have detailed technical discussions and solve recorded
   issues efficiently.

4.2.  Flexibility of time usage

   This document recommends that new opportunities in the use and
   scheduling of online meeting time should be explored that can help to
   reduce conflicts during the plenary meeting.

   Online meetings provide an opportunity to use more time more
   flexibly.  While for an in-person meeting all sessions have to be
   fitted into the available time people are willing to travel at once
   (usually roughly a week), online meetings do not have that
   constraint.  Therefore for the planning of online meetings, there is
   a trade-off between the number of parallel tracks, where more
   parallel tracks mean more potential conflicts (as least of high-
   active participants), and the overall time in terms of hours per day
   or total days used.

   As one example, it would be possible to keep most regular working
   group sessions within the usually five main meeting days but have
   some of the more conflicted sessions in other dedicated time slots.
   As the Hackathon for online only meetings is usually held in the week
   before the online plenary meeting [I-D.ietf-shmoo-hackathon], that
   week is already a high active week for many IETF participants and
   might provide an opportunity to schedule a few selected sessions.  If
   only one session at a time needs to be scheduled, it easier to use a
   time slot that is well assessable for most people in the community in
   various time zones.  This might make especially sense for session
   that are of high interest for a large part of community, such as BoFs
   or dispatch meetings, and therefore hard to schedule during the main
   IETF week.

4.3.  Chances for inclusivity and Lessons Learnt on socilizing

   Participation at the most recent online only meetings was rather high
   and had a quite stable per-country distribution, even though time
   zones were rotated.  This indicates that online meetings support a
   more easy and therefore potentially broader participation than in-
   person meetings where participation is often fluctuating based on the

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   However, it has also been recognised that the online meeting does not
   provide an equivalent opportunity to socialize.  The observed slight
   decrease in submission of new (-00) drafts, while the overall number
   of draft submission and productivity seem to stay stable, might also
   be an indication of the dismiss of these interactions.  The increase
   in interim meetings potentially compensates for these missing
   interactions for continuous work (or may even increase productivity
   there), but seems to be less adequate to spark new ideas.

   None of the data observed so far can, however, be interpreted as
   showing a significant trend.  However, these factors should be
   consider for the organization of future online-only meetings in
   replacement or addition to in-person meetings.

4.4.  Experiments

   Similar as for in-person meetings, it is desirable to experiment with
   the meeting structure.  Often only practical experience can answer
   open questions.  It is recommended to not experiment with a larger
   number of different aspects at the same time, in order to be able to
   assess the outcome correctly.  It is further recommended to announce
   any such experiment in advance, so people adjust to changes and
   potentially provide feedback.

5.  Acknowledgments

6.  References

6.1.  Normative References

   [RFC8179]  Bradner, S. and J. Contreras, "Intellectual Property
              Rights in IETF Technology", BCP 79, RFC 8179,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8179, May 2017,

   [RFC8719]  Krishnan, S., "High-Level Guidance for the Meeting Policy
              of the IETF", BCP 226, RFC 8719, DOI 10.17487/RFC8719,
              February 2020, <>.

6.2.  Informative References

              Eckel, C., "Running an IETF Hackathon", Work in Progress,
              Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-shmoo-hackathon-01, 9 July
              2021, <

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Authors' Addresses

   Mirja Kuehlewind


   Martin Duke
   F5 Networks, Inc.


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