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Guidance on In-Person and Online Interim Meetings

Document Type IESG Statement
Title Guidance on In-Person and Online Interim Meetings
Published 2023-08-14
Metadata last updated 2024-02-26
State Active
Send notices to (None)

Guidance on In-Person and Online Interim Meetings

14 Aug 2023

This statement provides IESG guidance on hybrid and online interim IETF working group (WG) meetings.

For the most part, the work of the IETF is conducted over mailing lists. This practice ensures the widest possible participation in the working group process, allows in-depth analysis of proposals and is generally inclusive. Hybrid meetings during IETF weeks, i.e., meetings with in-person and remote participants, are used for high-bandwidth discussions on specific issues that a working group has not been able to resolve on a mailing list, or, in the case of a Birds of a Feather session (BOF), to get a common understanding of the issues involved in a particular topic. These meetings are important, but not substitutes for mailing list discussions.

There is a long history of IETF working groups occasionally holding hybrid (or in the past, in-person-only) interim meetings in between their regular IETF meetings to focus on specific issues or resolve specific problems. In-person attendance at such hybrid interims is costly for the community in terms of time and money, and can hence be exclusionary. When considering whether to approve a hybrid interim, Area Directors (ADs) are expected to balance these downsides with the expected benefits.

Working group chairs should propose hybrid interim meeting logistics (concerning location, timing, and remote participation) that maximize participation opportunities for WG active participants. Working group chairs should confirm with the WG that a proposed hybrid interim in a given location does not impose undue visa or other travel complications for in-person participants, and minimizes timezone issues for interested remote participants. Any hybrid meeting location involves a series of tradeoffs. Chairs resolve these tradeoffs, with AD approval of the result.

The proposed meeting venue should also be accessible without in-person participants needing to sign non-disclosure-agreements (NDAs) or other agreements that interfere with the transparency of the standards process.

Interim meetings of any type are integral to the IETF way of working, and especially online interims are expected to become more commonplace over time. However, working groups should occasionally meet during regular IETF meetings to engage and interact with the broader IETF community.

RFC 2418 section 3.1 tells us that "interim meetings are subject to the same rules for advance notification, reporting, open participation, and process, which apply to other Working Group meetings". This also applies to all hybrid meetings to which a substantial part of the working group is invited in person, even if labeled as “informal” to distinguish them from “real” working group meetings.

Extended sequences of online interim meetings should be considered when numerous specific issues need to be debated. When working group chairs wish to schedule a sequence of more than four online interims, the chairs must explicitly set out the reasoning for that in a mail to the list and check that there is rough consensus for that plan.

The guidelines for hybrid interim meetings of IETF working groups are as follows:

  • The meetings need prior approval of the responsible area director well ahead of time, given the required announcement period (see below).
  • The meetings should be scheduled (location/timing) with fair access for all working group participants. This includes not meeting in countries with overly restrictive visa policies or in venues that require in-person participants to sign NDAs or other agreements that interfere with the transparency of the standards process.
  • If participants indicate they require Letters of Invitation for visa purposes, it is helpful if the host of the meeting is able to issue those to some or all interested in-person participants.
  • The meetings must not be scheduled in the weeks immediately before, during or after IETF plenary meetings.
  • The meetings must be announced at least eight weeks in advance.
  • The draft agenda should be published together with the announcement, to allow participants to determine if and how to attend.
  • Remote participation (via Meetecho or similar) must be provided.

Minutes, including a list of attendees, must be sent to the working group mailing list no later than ten days after the meeting (and at least 48 hours before any subsequent meeting), and be uploaded to the IETF Datatracker.

Letters of Invitation are a potential means of circumventing immigration laws, and careless issuance of such letters exposes the IETF to significant legal and reputational risk. Working group chairs should not issue Letters of Invitation themselves in their capacity as chairs.

As a U.S. corporation, the IETF Administration LLC (IETF LLC) can issue Letters of Invitation for hybrid interim meetings that occur in the United States, in accordance with the following procedure:

  1. After announcement of the meeting venue, interested participants request a Letter of Invitation from the working group chairs. The applicants should include any deadlines relevant to their visa applications.
  2. Working group chairs apply judgment as to whether each request reflects a sincere desire to attend the interim and likely benefit to the group of in-person participation. Indicators could include authorship of drafts, ownership of agenda items, frequent substantive contributions to the group, or work on an implementation subject to interop testing.
  3. Working group chairs submit the filtered list to the Responsible Area Director for approval. If satisfied the chairs exercised due diligence, the AD approves the list.
  4. The AD instructs the IETF LLC to directly issue the Letters of Invitation to the participants.

The guidelines for online interim meetings of IETF working groups are as follows:

  • The meetings are scheduled by the working group chairs, who should discuss their plans with the responsible area director well before any announcements need to be made.
  • The times of the meetings must allow fair access for all working group participants.
  • The meetings must be announced by posting to the relevant working group mailing list two weeks in advance, and the draft agenda must be published at least one week before the call or session.
  • Recurring meetings may be scheduled together, with a single announcement. A separate draft agenda, serving as a meeting reminder, should be posted before each recurrence.
  • Minutes, including a list of attendees, must be sent to the working group mailing list within ten days (and at least 48 hours before any subsequent meeting), and be uploaded to the Datatracker.
    As RFC 2418 Section 3.2 points out, decisions at any meeting (normal, interim, conference call, or chat session) are not final and must be reviewed and confirmed on the mailing list. Special care needs to be taken for topics or issues which have not been discussed on the mailing list or for outcomes that are significantly different from previously arrived mailing list consensus.

Information on how to set up conference calls can be found on the WG Chairs webpages.