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Versions: 00                                                            
shmoo                                                          M. Knodel
Internet-Draft                                                       CDT
Intended status: Informational                                K. Novotny
Expires: May 6, 2021          Association for Progressive Communications
                                                       November 02, 2020

               Meeting asynchronously with mailing lists


   For when we can't meet in person, when there's interim work to be
   done, or just because the task calls for it, an asynchronous text-
   based meeting can sometimes be perfectly productive and useful.
   Given how much the IETF uses email already [RFC3934] this document
   aims to create additional guidance for co-chairs and meeting
   facilitators who might want to host a meeting asynchronously with
   mailing lists.  Drawing from decades of facilitation experience in
   global networks, the document also treats unique considerations for
   facilitators that are introduced by this meeting methodology.

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).  Note that other groups may also distribute
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   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
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   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on May 6, 2021.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2020 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
   (https://trustee.ietf.org/license-info) in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents

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   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: Why?  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  How . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.1.  Before: Meeting preparation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
     2.2.  During: Facilitating and participating  . . . . . . . . .   4
       2.2.1.  Welcome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
       2.2.2.  Mixed methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       2.2.3.  Polling and reaching consensus  . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       2.2.4.  Threading and subject lines . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
       2.2.5.  Social/AOB  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     2.3.  After: The destination  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       2.3.1.  Closing threads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       2.3.2.  Meeting reports . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
       2.3.3.  Meeting feedback  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   3.  Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     3.1.  Defining participation  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     3.2.  Translation and accessibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
     3.3.  Netiquette and participant instructions . . . . . . . . .   7
     3.4.  Compliance  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   4.  Annexes and examples  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     4.1.  Guidance from "Closer Than Ever"  . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
     4.2.  Sample welcome message and agenda . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
   5.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   6.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   7.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10
   Authors' Addresses  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  10

1.  Introduction: Why?

   Meeting online introduces new and novel challenges to in-person
   meetings.  Getting people online in a synchronous meeting is
   generally difficult and demanding on everyone.  High costs include
   logistics and The difficulty grows exponentially with the number and
   diversity of desired participants.  If the meeting participants cut
   accross different timezones, participation to such a meeting requires
   a real committment and sacrifice from many participants.  Although
   the synchronous voice/video meetings imitate face-to-face meetings,
   they fall short in terms of productivity in serious ways.
   Particularly when meetings are large, synchronous discussion at scale
   is usually questionable, and the real outputs rarely justify the
   investment needed from everyone in orser to participate.

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   By contrast, well-structured asynchronous meetings have pacing and
   mixed-methods that gives participants an opportunity to participate
   in the ways which work for them, and when they can.  Especially
   during a global crisis, but really whenever one is expected to
   participate in remote work, asynchronous meetings are more compatible
   with individuals' limitations because they can adapt their
   participation to their realities - removing the liklihood of the
   clashes, which are seemingly ever present in synchronous meetings.

   Since email is ubiquitous, mailing list software can be the
   centerpiece of an asynchronous meeting toolchain.  This is
   particularly smooth for IETF participants given the established and
   discplined use of mailing lists for IETF work.  Throughout the 2020
   pandemic arrangements for virtual IETF meetings there has been a
   noticable persistence in "taking it to the list" when co-chairs seek
   to build consensus, even though in theory there are a reduced number
   of barriers for an engaged IETF participant to join an online
   meeting.  This indicates that even during synchronous, online IETF
   meetings that activity on mailing lists is still important.

2.  How

   This document outlines how to, over a time-bound period, cultivate
   productive mailing list activity, in order to rely less on
   synchronous moments, or not at all.

2.1.  Before: Meeting preparation

   Preparation for any meeting is key.  However there are particular
   opportunities with an asynchronous meeting in which chairs can take
   extra care to ensure productivity for the group, but also efficiency
   for their work as facilitators during the meeting itself.

   First, set up an organising space.  Perhaps the datatracker is enough
   for IETF meetings, but perhaps with the addition of a wiki space, or
   creative use of Meeting Materials.  Participants will be switching
   their attention radars on and off in different moments - that's the
   point!  But they won't be present when you ask them to, or when you
   email key information.  The ongoing flow of participants and
   presenters asking for clarifying details need to be gently directed
   to one place with all of the meeting instructions and resources to
   all these details somewhere visible (header or footer of all messages
   during the meeting, etc).

   Next, determine distinct discussion topics.  It will not be enough to
   have each presenter or document author write to the mailing list to
   start a discussion about their work.  Chairs will need to create a
   structured agenda, with threads for each topic (see next section)

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   opened with a clear message detailing the topic's purpose, objective
   and process.  This implies that "agenda review" needs to happen well
   in advance of the beginning of the asynchronous meeting.

   For each topic it is critical to agree ahead of time on this topic-
   opening message, ideally with the presenter(s) and author(s).  The
   message should contain enough background and context such that all
   participants start with clarity on prior discussion, recent
   decisions, and most importantly the "POP" of the thread, or
   asynchronous discussion, itself.  What is the purpose of getting
   everyone's focussed attention on this threaded discussion for the
   next few days?  What's the objective- perhaps a set of decisions- for
   the chairs, and possibly the author(s)?  Each thread needs its own
   process, too, explained- eg watch the presentation, read the draft,
   compare versions, look at the open issues, take a poll, etc.  Make
   sure materials are managed: drafts should be listed on the meeting
   materials page, presentations uploaded, and if other videos or
   resources are needed that they are clearly linked from the same

   Plan to give participants a social outlet during the meeting.
   Advanced planning could help the chairs facilitate moments throughout
   the meeting that happen spontaneously in an in-person meeting, and
   even sometimes in online conferencing.  The chitchat about current
   events, our private lives, or something everyone cares about.
   Creating space for this on an agreed agenda will set the expectation
   for participants that the meeting will be interesting and include
   moments of humanity and levity.

2.2.  During: Facilitating and participating

2.2.1.  Welcome

   An opening welcome message is very important and should be the first
   thread opened.  It should list the purpose and objective of the
   welcome message, which is to start the meeting and ensure everyone
   knows the agenda and how to participate.  It's the place where
   compliance, bluesheets and other information is shared for the first
   time.  The details outlined in the welcome message should be
   available in the meeting space as the agenda, or reference materials,
   for easy reference.

   It's recommended that basic instructions to participants include
   being present some fixed number of hours for the duration of the
   meeting, eg plan to set aisde 10-15 minutes per day for a week to
   engage in this meeting.

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2.2.2.  Mixed methods

   An agenda item might require a mixed method, for example a
   presentation about a draft delivered by the draft's author.  In each
   topic thread, the process should be clear for all participants, eg
   watch the presentation and reply to the topic thread with questions
   (like a mic line).  It may well be that a synchronous moment is
   needed, over voice, video conference, jabber, etc.  For these
   moments, and for the benefit of meeting participants unable to
   attend, both record the session and create notes immediately and use
   them as the basis for the continuation of the thread.  Mixed method
   can be powerful, but hard to get right.  You don't want to keep
   participants unable to participate synchronously waiting 2-3 days for
   a readout on what happened.

2.2.3.  Polling and reaching consensus

   The first step to reaching a destination is knowing where you're
   going.  Facilitators and chairs will have an easier time building
   consensus from the list if from the beginning it's clear what is
   being built.  Perhaps employing silence procedure is wise given list
   subscription sizes.[Silence]

   There may be innovations beyond a simple polling tool to substitute
   humming that others in the shmoo WG may be keen to adopt and that
   would be appropriate in an asynchronous space.

2.2.4.  Threading and subject lines

   As mentioned in the above section on meeting preparation, allocating
   each agenda item to a topic thread allows the facilitator to open
   distinct discussions on the mailing list with clarity of purpose,
   objective and process.  A clear subject line should be used for each
   threaded topic.  Forking discussion topic threads by pre-pending can
   be a useful way to identify sub-topic areas, but chairs might
   consider whether they would like to be in control of those changes or
   allow spontaneous forking by any participant during the time-bound

   It is generally assumed that the mailing list be used only for the
   meeting during the meeting dates, eg no other threads should be
   opened without checking with the chair.  Likewise, when the meeting
   has ended, that no one should reply to, eg continue discussion of,
   meeting topic threads.

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2.2.5.  Social/AOB

   Chairs can facilitate social exchange during the meeting, emmulating
   the in-person experience to some small degree.  That includes
   allocating separately a welcome and agenda message, so that the
   welcome message can give participants a chance to "check in" on
   others, offer up personal annecdotes, or share links.  There may be a
   current event that has its own topic thread, but is only tangentially
   related to the meeting that would compell meeting participants to
   check in on the meeting.

   Any other business is often part of an IETF WG/RG meeting agenda, and
   creating a topic thread can allow for asynchronous proposals for
   other topics to discuss from participants themselves, though as
   mentioned in the meeting preparation section above, agenda review
   should ideally be done well in advance of the first day of the

2.3.  After: The destination

   After the closing message ends the meeting, it's a useful and helpful
   thing to take a few extra steps to ensure all objectives of the
   meeting were achieved, that leaders and authors are clear on their
   next steps, and that participants know they shouldn't reply to
   meeting threads anymore.

2.3.1.  Closing threads

   While notetaking isn't really necessary, since the list archive
   itself is a verbatim account of the meeting, having a summary of each
   thread will be useful.  Especially since each thread should already
   have outlined a clear purpose and objective, the summary should
   easily address whether or not those were fulfilled.

   Participants should be given a chance to correct the closing thread
   summary for inaccuracies only.

2.3.2.  Meeting reports

   A meeting report might be a compendium of all closing threads, and
   constitute the official notes for the meeting that appear in the data
   tracker.  It might also helpfully include statistics on

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2.3.3.  Meeting feedback

   In all cases, but especially with new methodologies like MAML, it's
   recommended to conduct a short post-meeting evaluation with all
   participants that can help facilitators determine what worked, what
   didn't and to collect any other meta views that participants might
   want to share.  Rather than an open thread, meeting evaluations are
   best conducted with anonymous surveys.

3.  Considerations

3.1.  Defining participation

   There are yet unexplored models for how to host a full IETF meeting
   held only on mailing lists given subscription to lists isn't
   monetised.  It isn't recommended to hold an asynchronous meeting over
   several days, and encompassing an IETF virtual synchronous moment for
   which participants would need to pay, as this would put list-only
   participants at a disadvantage.

   Another consideration is how to handle bluesheets for an asynchronous
   meeting held on a mailing list with hundreds of subscribers.  For
   those not reading the list carefully, they may be surprised to know
   that their commentary on a mailing list thread consistutes official
   participation in an IETF meeting.  Likewise it would be difficult to
   ask participants to sign in when attention will be rather fluid.

3.2.  Translation and accessibility

   Text-based communications present opportunities for increased
   accessibility of discussions because they can be fed into machine
   translators and screen readers; read, reread and referenced more
   easily.  Asynchronicity removes time-related constraints sometimes
   present in accessibility tools.

3.3.  Netiquette and participant instructions

   While most IETFers are well versed in proper mailing list netiquette,
   perhaps reminders of how the chairs would prefer the meeting flow in
   its discussion could be

3.4.  Compliance

   Lastly delivery of the Note Well and other compliance considerations
   when meeting only on a mailing list need to be explored further.

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   At all times, but especially when faced with potentially a huge
   increase in list traffic, chairs should be ready to enforce the IETF
   Code of Conduct [RFC7776].

4.  Annexes and examples

4.1.  Guidance from "Closer Than Ever"

   The Association for Progressive Communications was founded in 1990
   and has used mailing lists in creative ways to connect its global
   network.  Their publication on working remotely was rebooted in 2020
   and here's a relevant excerpt [APC]:

   When the email lists are used for meetings, we always establish a
   clear procedure so that everyone involved in the meeting knows how
   long we will be discussing the topics addressed, what topics will be
   discussed each day or each week, and how subject lines will be

   A typical online meeting can take place over three weeks: * Week 1:
   signing in and posting of discussion topics * Week 2: discussion of
   topics * Week 3: voting.

   These are the basic steps that we follow for our online council

   1.  Two weeks prior to the meeting, the meeting facilitators will
       post the proposed meeting agenda and motions to the Board of
       Directors for approval.

   2.  One week prior to the meeting, the executive director will post
       the meeting agenda, including the full slate of proposed motions,
       to the council email list.

   3.  Then we start the discussion by sending out one message for each
       point of the agenda, so that members may reply accordingly to
       each subject line.  The first messages are for checking in: each
       member that will participate in the meeting sends a short message
       stating their name and organisation, so that we all know who is
       participating.  Then we continue by replying to messages
       according to the subject headings of the agenda.

   4.  Once the meeting is finished there is an official message closing
       the meeting and thanking everyone for their participation.  All
       council members will then receive a summary of the points
       discussed and the agreements reached.

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   5.  During the meeting the facilitator has a key role in making sure
       everyone is participating, clarifying any doubts in the
       procedures, and asking relevant questions to those members who
       have been silent (sometimes off list, encouraging them to

4.2.  Sample welcome message and agenda

   Subject: shmoo-IETF109 0: Agenda and process overview

   This message is to open the _shmoo Meeting at IETF 109_. The meeting
   will take place on this list between _DD-DD Month YYYY_.

   The process for the meeting is the following:

   The chairs will open specific topic threads by sending opening
   messages to this list.

   Reply to any thread at any time, just make sure to keep the subject
   line intact so it is clear on what topic you are responding.

   Below is the agenda.  Please use this topic thread only if you have
   something to say about the agenda or the process.

   Remember that all relevant information and all documents shared in
   this meeting are available on the datatracker: _URL_

   Please shout with any questions.

   Welcome to the meeting! :)

   AGENDA: Stay Home Meet Only Online IETF 109 Meeting, _DD-DD Month

   -  shmoo-IETF109 0: Agenda and process overview (this thread)

   -  shmoo-IETF109 1: Check in and social space

   -  shmoo-IETF109 2: draft-shmoo-firstexample-00

   -  shmoo-IETF109 3: draft-shmoo-secondexample-07

   -  shmoo-IETF109 4: draft-thirdexample-03

   -  shmoo-IETF109 5: Any other matters

   -  shmoo-IETF109 6: Closing the meeting

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5.  Security Considerations

   Security is dependent on a wide range of actors that are implementing
   technical documentation.  Therefore it is crucial that language is
   clear, and understood by all that need to implement this
   documentation.  Correct and inclusive language is therefore conducive
   for secure implementations of technical documentation.

6.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no actions for IANA.

7.  Informative References

   [APC]      Association for Progressive Communications, . and ,
              "Closer than ever: A guide for social change organisations
              who want to work online",

   [RFC3934]  Wasserman, M., "Updates to RFC 2418 Regarding the
              Management of IETF Mailing Lists", BCP 25, RFC 3934,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC3934, October 2004,

   [RFC7776]  Resnick, P. and A. Farrel, "IETF Anti-Harassment
              Procedures", BCP 25, RFC 7776, DOI 10.17487/RFC7776, March
              2016, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7776>.

   [Silence]  Wikipedia, . and , "Silence procedure", 2020,

Authors' Addresses

   Mallory Knodel

   EMail: mknodel@cdt.org

   Karel Novotny
   Association for Progressive Communications

   EMail: karel@apc.org

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