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Versions: 00                                                            
INTERNET-DRAFT                                              S. Moonesamy
Intended Status: Informational
Expires: April 10, 2014                                  October 7, 2013


                               Consensus
                      draft-moonesamy-consensus-00

Abstract

   Decision-making is difficult when there is a need to consider the
   interests of all of the affected parties and when it is important to
   gain widespread community consensus.  This document discusses about
   consensus.  It neither seeks to define consensus nor does it
   prescribe practices for the Internet Standards Process.

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), its areas, and its working groups.  Note that
   other groups may also distribute working documents as
   Internet-Drafts.

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   The list of current Internet-Drafts can be accessed at
   http://www.ietf.org/1id-abstracts.html

   The list of Internet-Draft Shadow Directories can be accessed at
   http://www.ietf.org/shadow.html

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



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   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.

1. Background

   The Internet Standards Process [RFC2026] was first documented in RFC
   1310 [RFC1310].  One of the goals for achieving Internet
   standardization was openness and fairness.  In July 1992, David Clark
   presented a vision of the future which covered the making of
   standards.  The sound bite that is remembered to this day is:

      "We reject: kings, presidents and voting.
       We believe in: rough consensus and running code."

   RFC 1602 [RFC1602] highlighted that the process was difficult as
   there was a need to consider the interests of all of the affected
   parties and the importance of establishing widespread community
   consensus.

1.1. Introduction

   In groups of animals only a small proportion of individuals may
   possess particular information, such as a migration route or the
   direction to a resource. Individuals may differ in preferred
   direction resulting in conflicts of interest and, therefore,
   consensus decisions may have to be made to prevent the group from
   splitting [CROWDS].

   This document discusses about consensus.  It neither seeks to define
   consensus nor does it prescribe practices for the Internet Standards
   Process.  There is a brief description of decision-making processes
   in Section 2.  Consensus and decision-making are discussed in Section
   3, with examples to illustrate the decisions.  The conclusion is that
   people determine consensus, and they do so based on their experience
   and judgement.

2. Decision-making

2.1. Benevolent dictatorship

   The benevolent dictatorship is where one person or a small group of
   persons have the power to take decisions.  There is a presumption of
   benevolence and wisdom.  The following would not be seen as fair:

     "All persons are equal... but some persons are more equal than
      others." [FARM]




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2.2. Voting

   The commonly-known decision-making procedure is simple majority rule
   where the decision is taken if more than one half of the group votes
   for it.  It can lead to the group splitting.  It is also against the
   goal of considering the interests of all the persons within the
   group.

2.3. Consensus

   A study showed that only a very small proportion of informed
   individuals is required in a group to achieve great accuracy in
   decision-making.  It was also demonstrated that groups can make
   consensus decisions, even though informed individuals do not know
   whether they are in a majority or minority [COUZIN].  Consensus can
   be seen as a conclusion which any other person would reach if he or
   she was taking the decision.

3. Consensus and Decision-Making

   Consensus on technical issues is a matter of weighing the technical
   opinions which have been expressed.  It is neither a vote nor a count
   of the number of persons who have stated a preference for or against
   a proposal.

   In the IETF, any attempt to determine consensus is more difficult if
   the issues are technical, economic and political. Impassioned
   discussion, with little technical content, leads to an impasse. It is
   up to the person making the determination to tease apart the points
   and find out how to reduce the amount people disagree on, find the
   bounds of the conversation, and separate out the technical issues.

3.1. Rough Consensus

   IETF Working Groups make decisions through a "rough consensus"
   process [RFC1603].  Consensus does not require that all participants
   agree although this is, of course, preferred.  Rough consensus is a
   subjective decision as determining the general sense of agreement is
   a matter of judgement.

3.1. Decision-Making

   Consensus decision-making is a process, i.e. there are steps which
   are carefully followed until everyone is agreeable with the choices
   which they are provided with.  People are given fair notice about the
   decision to be taken and how the decision will be decided.

3.1.1. Face-to-face sessions



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   RFC 1603 [RFC1603] mentioned that consensus can be determined by
   balloting, humming, or any other means on which the WG agrees (by
   rough consensus, of course).  During a face-to-face session
   [RFC2418], Working Groups sometimes resort to humming to find out how
   to reduce the amount people disagree on.  Humming allows each and
   every person in the room to express his or her opinion after
   listening or participating in the discussion about an issue.  The
   advantage of humming is that a person can express an opinion as an
   individual without being subject to negative consequences (e.g. the
   person can express an opinion which is contrary to the interests of
   his or her organization).  Humming is an effective way to gauge the
   "sense of the room".  For example, if, in a room for twenty persons,
   there is a choice between two colors, red and black, and the
   questions are:

      (a) Hmm if you prefer red

      (b) Hum if you prefer black

      (c) Hum if you do not have any opinion

   and there is a soft hum for (a), a mild hum for (b), and a loud hum
   for (c), the "sense of the room" is neither for red nor for black.

   During a face-to-face session a Working Group might decide to have a
   "show of hands" to determine a preference.  It is like having a vote
   which is not secret.  The disadvantage is that the opinion expressed
   by the person is not secret and there is a risk that the person might
   be coerced to express a particular opinion.  For example, if there is
   a choice between two colors, red and black, and the questions are:

      (i)   Raise your hand if you prefer red

      (ii)  Raise your hand if you prefer black

      (iii) Raise your hand if you do not have any opinion

   and two persons raised their hands for (i), four persons raised their
   hand for (ii), and nobody raised their hand for (iii), the decision
   is not clear.

   A decision can be undermined by people conforming to what other
   people in the group think.  It is important not to encourage the
   perception that the decision-maker is trying to change the result.
   It is better to only try once to ask a group of persons to express
   their preference about a set of alternatives.

   It is to be noted that the Working Group takes the decision on its



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   mailing list and not in a face-to-face meetings.  The preference
   stated during the face-to-face session is taken to the mailing list
   for confirmation and the decision is announced on the mailing list.

3.1.2. Mailing list discussions

   A significant problem for decision-making through a mailing list is
   that it is possible to bias the outcome as any person can express an
   opinion more than once.  The IETF side-stepped that problem by
   weighing opinions instead of counting opinions.  For example, if
   there is a choice between two colors, red and black, and the
   questions are:

      (1) Do you prefer red

      (2) Do you prefer black

      (3) Do you do have any opinion

   and two persons posted messages to vote for (1), four persons posted
   messages to vote for (2), and two persons stated that they did not
   have any opinion, it is not clear whether the vote is based on
   informed opinions or whether it is an attempt to bias the outcome.
   It is important to note that the choice is not a popularity contest;
   it is more about reaching the optimal rational decision.

   If the two persons who voted for (1) explained their preference while
   the four persons voting for (2) did not provide any explanation, the
   first opinion (1) can bear more weight than the other opinions.  In
   essence, it is about evaluating the different opinions which have
   been expressed.

3.2. Lazy Consensus

   It is easier for people to agree, by doing nothing, than it is to
   object.  This is referred to as lazy consensus.  It is doubtful
   whether a person can fairly say that there is consensus when nobody
   has expressed an opinion.

4. Security Considerations

   Some decisions can have an impact on security.  It is important that
   decisions are careful considered so as to reduce the risks.

5. Conclusion

   The IETF uses a consensus-driven process to reach a decision.  The
   process cannot be reduced to an algorithm; consensus is complex,



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   human and messy [DUSS].  The IETF chooses people to determine
   consensus, and they do so based on their experience and judgement.

   Consensus does not work well without accountability.  The person
   determining consensus should be able to explain the decision. It is
   entirely acceptable for a person to disagree with the decision.  It
   is up to the person to explain why he or she disagrees and what he or
   she disagrees to.  Consensus decision-making is not only a matter of
   listening to what people are are saying; it is also about of how they
   are saying it, and what they are not saying.

6. Acknowledgements

   The text about how to reduce the amount people disagree on was
   written by Ralph Droms.

7. IANA Considerations

   [RFC Editor: please remove this section]

8. References

8.1.  Informative References

   [RFC1310]  Chapin, L., "The Internet Standards Process", RFC 1310,
              March 1992.

   [RFC1602]  Internet Architecture Board and Internet Engineering
              Steering Group, "The Internet Standards Process --
              Revision 2", RFC 1602, March 1994.

   [RFC1603]  Huizer, E. and D. Crocker, "IETF Working Group Guidelines
              and Procedures", RFC 1603, March 1994.

   [RFC2026]  Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision
              3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996.

   [RFC2418]  Bradner, S., "IETF Working Group Guidelines and
              Procedures", BCP 25, RFC 2418, September 1998.


   [COUZIN]   Couzin, Iain D., Krause, Jens, Franks, Nigel R., Levin,
              Simon A., "Effective leadership and decision-making in
              animal groups on the move", November 2004,
              <http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature03236>

   [CROWDS]   John R.G. Dyer, Christos C. Ioannou, Lesley J. Morrell,
              Darren P. Croft, Iain D. Couzin, Dean A. Waters, Jens



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              Krause, "Consensus decision making in human crowds", May
              2007, <http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.05.010>

   [DUSS]     Dusseault, L., "Notes on IETF Rough Consensus", draft-
              dusseault-consensus-00, June, 2008.

   [FARM]     Orwell, G., "Animal Farm", ISBN 0140126708, 1945.

9. Author's Address


   S. Moonesamy
   76, Ylang Ylang Avenue
   Quatres Bornes
   Mauritius

   Email: sm+ietf@elandsys.com


































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