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Versions: 00 02                                                         
Network Working Group                                        Mike O'Dell
Internet-Draft                                        UUNET Technologies
                                                              March 1998

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

                  <draft-odell-code-of-conduct-01.txt>

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
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   To learn the current status of any Internet-Draft, please check the
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   ftp.isi.edu (US West Coast).

Abstract

   Because of the importance of the work done in the IETF, and because
   of the broad cultural diversity of the participants, some of whom
   find our most-unrestrained "style" of interaction rather foreign and
   uncomfortable, 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 technically 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."




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   The its very nature, 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
   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 have attempted to
   wrestle with the conflicting demands of passion and reason by
   establishing 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, providing an opportunity for reason 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 broad cultural diversity of the participants, some of whom find
   our most-unrestrained "style" of interaction hard rather foreign and
   uncomfortable, 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 to
   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 intent 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 improve the effectiveness of
   our deliberations.  Or said in a somewhat more IETF-like way:

           "Reduce the heat and increase the light."




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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 only provoke a gentle
   reminder, not provide grounds for flamewars.

   (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 when it fails to be
      compelling.

   (2a) The business of the IETF is the development and testing of
      Ideas.
   (2b) An IETF Member disputes an idea with reasoned argument rather
      than attacking the colleague proposing the idea.  Intimidation and
      Ad Homonym attack have no place in reasoned deliberations,
      especially so for casting aspersions upon a participant's
      motivations.
   (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 genuinely 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 merely the most expedient.
   (3c) An IETF Member understands that "Scaling is the Ultimate
      Problem" and that many ideas quite workable in the small fail this
      crucial test.
   (3d) An IETF Member strives to find the best solution for the whole
      Internet, not the best solution for any particular vendor,
      operator or user.  Few things are as unseemly as transparent axe-
      grinding.

   (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



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      eternity working for unknowable perfection while the real-world
      problems languish, denied adequate attention.  (4c) An IETF Member
      is keenly aware that solutions unfettered by consideration of
      global deployability are likely to be unproductive.

   (5a) An IETF Member strives at all times to abide by this code and
      the spirit it embodies.  This spirit is all-encompassing, and is
      especially applicable to electronic exchanges such as email and
      telephony as well as in-person interactions.
   (5b) When a colleague 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, it should never cross the line into personal
      invective and dishonor.
   (5c) An IETF Member apologizes appropriately 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.
   This should make the IETF a more pleasant experience for all.

6.0 Security Considerations and Other Matters

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

   Canon Law regarding the use of certain auxiliary verbs ("SHOULD",
   "MUST", etc) is deemed inapplicable.

7.0 Author's Address

   Mike O'Dell
   UUNET Technologies, Inc.
   3060 Williams Drive
   Fairfax, VA 22030
   voice: 703-206-5890
   fax:   703-206-5601
   email: mo@uu.net










O'Dell 2.1                                                      [Page 4]