On Consensus and Humming in the IETF
RFC 7282

Document Type RFC - Informational (June 2014; No errata)
Was draft-resnick-on-consensus (individual in gen area)
Last updated 2015-10-14
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Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                        P. Resnick
Request for Comments: 7282                   Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
Category: Informational                                        June 2014
ISSN: 2070-1721

                  On Consensus and Humming in the IETF

Abstract

   The IETF has had a long tradition of doing its technical work through
   a consensus process, taking into account the different views among
   IETF participants and coming to (at least rough) consensus on
   technical matters.  In particular, the IETF is supposed not to be run
   by a "majority rule" philosophy.  This is why we engage in rituals
   like "humming" instead of voting.  However, more and more of our
   actions are now indistinguishable from voting, and quite often we are
   letting the majority win the day without consideration of minority
   concerns.  This document explains some features of rough consensus,
   what is not rough consensus, how we have gotten away from it, how we
   might think about it differently, and the things we can do in order
   to really achieve rough consensus.

   Note: This document is quite consciously being put forward as
   Informational.  It does not propose to change any IETF processes and
   is therefore not a BCP.  It is simply a collection of principles,
   hopefully around which the IETF can come to (at least rough)
   consensus.

Status of This Memo

   This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is
   published for informational purposes.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Not all documents
   approved by the IESG are a candidate for any level of Internet
   Standard; see Section 2 of RFC 5741.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at
   http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc7282.

Resnick                       Informational                     [Page 1]
RFC 7282                      On Consensus                     June 2014

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2014 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
   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  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   2.  Lack of disagreement is more important than agreement . . . .   4
   3.  Rough consensus is achieved when all issues are addressed,
       but not necessarily accommodated  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   4.  Humming should be the start of a conversation, not the end  .  10
   5.  Consensus is the path, not the destination  . . . . . . . . .  13
   6.  One hundred people for and five people against might not be
       rough consensus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
   7.  Five people for and one hundred people against might still be
       rough consensus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16
   8.  Conclusion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   9.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   10. Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  18
   Appendix A.  Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  19

Resnick                       Informational                     [Page 2]
RFC 7282                      On Consensus                     June 2014

1.  Introduction

   Almost every IETF participant knows the aphorism from Dave Clark's
   1992 plenary presentation [Clark] regarding how we make decisions in
   the IETF:

      We reject: kings, presidents and voting.

      We believe in: rough consensus and running code.

   That is, our credo is that we don't let a single individual dictate
   decisions (a king or president), nor should decisions be made by a
   vote, nor do we want decisions to be made in a vacuum without
   practical experience.  Instead, we strive to make our decisions by
   the consent of all participants, though allowing for some dissent
   (rough consensus), and to have the actual products of engineering
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