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Versions: 00 02                                                         
Network Working Group                                        Mike O'Dell
Internet-Draft                                        UUNET Technologies
                                                           November 1995

         Some Thoughts on the Importance of Modesty and Decorum
                and the Need for an IETF Code of Conduct


Status of this Memo
   This document is an Internet-Draft. 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.''

   To learn the current status of any Internet-Draft, please check the
   1id-abstracts.txt listing contained in the Internet-Drafts Shadow
   Directories on ftp.is.co.za (Africa), nic.nordu.net (Europe),
   munnari.oz.au (Pacific Rim), ds.internic.net (US East Coast), or
   ftp.isi.edu (US West Coast).

   Because of the importance of the work done in the IETF, and because
   of the increasing cultural diversity of the participants, some of
   whom find our most-unrestrained "style" hard to accommodate, I
   believe the time has come for the IETF to adopt a Code of Conduct to
   govern our interactions.

1.0 Background
   The Internet Engineering Task Force is the unique, all-volunteer
   organization promulgating the standards which make the global
   Internet viable.  As such, the participants who do this critical work
   are very bright, usually quite passionate individuals, often with
   strong opinions which are equally strongly held.

   The IETF has a long tradition of evolving ideas forged in the fires
   of impassioned analysis which then go on to be tempered by
   confrontation with real-world operational deployment before they are
   deemed "a standard."

   The very nature of this process of vigorous debate and evaluation
   makes for the occasionally over-animated interchange between well-
   intentioned people.  A free-ranging exchange of ideas and viewpoints

O'Dell                                                          [Page 1]

Internet-Draft          An IETF Code of Conduct            November 1995

   is critical to the success of the process, but when it oversteps the
   bounds of modesty and decorum, it is to the detriment of the process.

2.0 Codes of Conduct
   Historically, many great deliberative bodies, attempting to wrestle
   with the conflicting demands of passion and reason, have established
   a "code of conduct" which serves to remind the deliberants of their
   obligations to their colleagues.  While the antiquarian honorifics
   such as "The Gentleman from Upper Lowerville" and "The Honorable
   Senator from East Noseblow" strike the modern ear with some humor,
   the underlying agreement to treat each other with a respectable level
   of civility is the critical matter.

   Such codes of conduct reinforce the tenets of honest debate and
   create a bond of honor which can and does get called when the heat of
   passion overtakes the machinery of reason.  This provides an agreed-
   upon obligation to pull back from the brink of personal insult and
   affront, allowing reason an opportunity to salvage honor.

3.0 The Need for a Code of Conduct in the IETF
   Because of the importance of the work done in the IETF, and because
   of the increasing cultural diversity of the participants, some of
   whom find our most-unrestrained "style" hard to accommodate, I
   believe the time has come for the IETF to adopt a Code of Conduct to
   govern our interactions.  It would apply to in-person interactions
   like those at the IETF Meetings, but also in Email exchanges as well,
   where the level of invective tends to escalate even faster than in
   face-to-face interactions.

   It has become clear that the IETF is missing opportunities to review
   some very important technology because the creators chose to go
   elsewhere to define these technologies.  We are also denied the
   expertise of smart people who could otherwise contribute
   significantly to what we do, but chose not to subject themselves to
   behavior we have previously excused as "unrefined advocacy."

   Note carefully that the goal is not to proscribe any particular
   behavior, but rather to affirm a commitment to a course of action and
   an attitude toward each other which will maximize the effectiveness
   of our deliberations.  Or said in a more IETF-oriented style:

           "Increase the light and reduce the heat."

4.0 Precepts of the IETF Code of Conduct.
   What follows is a list of precepts which form the IETF Code of
   Conduct.  Adherence to these in both action and spirit will promote
   the general welfare of the IETF community and promote more productive
   deliberations.  Variance from them should provoke a gentle reminder

O'Dell                                                          [Page 2]

Internet-Draft          An IETF Code of Conduct            November 1995

   of what they have been agreed upon, not provide grounds for

   (1a) The IETF is composed of many people from many cultures and does
      work having global scope and importance.
   (1b) An IETF Member honors the organization by extending his
      colleagues respect and honest courtesy at all times, especially
      when it is difficult to agree with them.  Seeing from another's
      point of view is often revealing, even if it fails to be

   (2a) The business of the IETF is the development and testing of
   (2b) An IETF Member disputes an idea with reasoned argument rather
      than the colleague proposing the idea.  Intimidation and Ad
      Homonym attack have no place in reasoned deliberations.
   (2c) Likewise, "witty repartee'" and rhetorical one-upsmanship have
      scant use in technical discussions.  While spirited word-play may
      be an emotionally satisfying diversion, and may occasionally
      provide much-needed comic relief, it is at best only a diversion
      and does not advance the real business of the IETF.  Worse, when
      done badly or to intentionally prickle another, it serves only to
      increase contentiousness and breed rancor.

   (3a) The goal of the IETF is a working, viable, scalable global
      Internet, and the concomitant problems are honestly very hard.
   (3b) An IETF Member always proceeds based on Right Reason and strives
      to be as intellectually honest as she knows how to be.  Further,
      she dedicates her intellect to solving the problems in the best
      way, not just the most expedient.
   (3c) An IETF Member strives to find the best solution for the whole
      Internet, not the best solution for any particular vendor,
      operator or user.

   (4a) "Best" is a very tricky concept, fluid and dynamic.
   (4b) An IETF Member understands change is one of the few certainties,
      and that without the exercise of supreme discipline, one can spend
      eternity working for unknowable perfection, while the real-world
      problems languish, denied adequate attention.

   (5a) An IETF Member strives at all times to abide by this code and
      the spirit it embodies.
   (5b) When someone suffers a lapse in adherence to this spirit, an
      IETF Member offers a gentle but forthright reminder of their
      agreement to honor this spirit.  Castigation and remonstration are
      inappropriate in all except the the most refractory situations,
      and even then, never cross the line into personal invective and

O'Dell                                                          [Page 3]

Internet-Draft          An IETF Code of Conduct            November 1995

   (5c) An IETF Member apologizes in private or in public for any
      offense caused to other members.

5.0 Conclusion
   By every IETF member adhering to this code of conduct, we can promote
   the vigorous but measured exchanges required for the work we pursue
   without unrequired incursions into the realm of personal invective.

6.0 Security Considerations
   Security (other than personal) is not addressed in this memo.

7.0 Author's Address

   Mike O'Dell
   UUNET Technologies, Inc.
   3060 Williams Drive
   Fairfax, VA 22030
   voice: 703-206-5890
   fax:   703-641-7704
   email: mo@uunet.uu.net

O'Dell                                                          [Page 4]