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Appeal to the IAB Concerning the Way Users Are Not Permitted To Adequately Contribute to the IETF (JFC Morfin) - 2008-11-29
Response - 2009-01-28

The below response is also available in the archives of the

ietf-announce mailing list:

From: IAB Chair

Date: January 28, 2009 9:54:11 AM GMT+02:00



Subject: [IAB] IAB Response to an Appeal from J-F C. Morfin dd 29 September 2008


IAB Response to an Appeal from J-F C. Morfin.

On 29 November 2008 the IAB received an appeal from J-F C. Morfin,

related to an earlier appeal from Mr Morfin to the IESG that the IESG

rejected on 29 September 2008.

Mr Morfin’s appeal includes significant background material, as well as

details of the original appeal to the IESG. In the section “Matter of the

appeal”, Mr Morfin appears to accept the IESG’s decision in this specific

case, and raises a number of points related to it.

The IAB understands the relevant points to be these:

  1. The IETF should be watching out for the good of the Internet, and when

something comes up in that regard — particularly related to

interoperability — it should supersede the charter of a Working Group or

a decision of a WG chair or an Area Director.

  1. Challenges to Working Group deliverables on interoperability grounds

should never be considered off topic.

  1. Some documents should have a “Precaution Considerations” section that

discusses what precautions have been taken to “preserve present and future

interoperabilities as well as users’ requests”.

There does not appear to be anything in the IESG’s response to Mr

Morfin’s original appeal that Mr Morfin is directly contesting. Further,

the IAB, in reviewing that appeal, finds the IESG’s response to be

correct. Therefore, the IAB’s direct response to this appeal is to

support the IESG’s earlier decision.

Beyond that, the IAB considered Mr Morfin’s points:

The IAB considered Mr Morfin’s allegation that IETF participants are

unconcerned with the needs of end users, and found this allegation to be

baseless and without merit. To the contrary, the needs of Internet users

are very important to the IETF, to ensure the relevance of its output, and

that importance is reflected in IETF processes and practice. The role of

the IETF is to provide a venue for individuals working on networking

hardware or software (whether commercial or free) to get together and

agree on how those networking devices should interoperate to everyone’s

mutual benefit. That benefit would not be well served by ignoring the

needs of users, and producing output that no one wants.

The IAB considered Mr Morfin’s allegation that IETF participants are

insufficiently concerned with interoperability problems that may result

from their work, and found this allegation to be baseless and without

merit. Challenges to the quality and interoperability prospects of

Working Group deliverables are taken seriously and are generally

considered to be in scope when they are first raised. Once decisions are

made — usually by rough consensus — raising the same issues repeatedly

is not accepted. This is correct: the Working Group must make progress in

its work, rather than spend its time revisiting old issues when there’s

nothing new added. In fact, in the case that prompted this appeal, Mr

Morfin agrees that the upholding of the Working Group chair’s decision was


The IAB considered Mr Morfin’s allegation that IETF participants are

unconcerned with supporting multilingual text and the needs of

non-English-speaking network users around the world, and found this

allegation to be baseless and without merit. IETF participants are

actively working in areas related to multilingual text, enabling more

multilingual use of the Internet. As to multilingual participation in the

IETF: any organization doing the sort of work that the IETF does must have

a lingua franca in which to work. Most engineering and scientific

organizations use English as that language, and it seems best for the IETF

to do so as well. It is our judgment that IETF participants generally do

make a strong effort to understand those whose written or spoken English

skills are imperfect. Being a worldwide organization, the IETF welcomes

engineering contributions from individuals everywhere, both from native

English speakers and from those for whom English is not the first


The IAB considered Mr Morfin’s allegation that end users are “banned”

from IETF participation, and found this allegation to be baseless and

without merit. The IETF is open to anyone who has access to email and

makes the effort to participate and contribute, and the IETF welcomes and

actively encourages participation from any individual who wishes to

contribute in good faith.

The IAB notes that making a worthwhile contribution does take effort.

Showing up unprepared and espousing uninformed opinions takes little

effort, but such behavior rarely amounts to a useful contribution.

Similarly, repeatedly raising the same issues or pursuing a specific

agenda that differs from that of the Working Group disrupts progress. To

safeguard against such disruptive behavior, the IETF has procedures,

outlined in RFC 3683, for banning a disruptive individual from posting to

Working Group mailing lists, but this is uncommon, and has only happened

twice since RFC 3683 was published in March 2004.

For the IAB,

–Olaf Kolkman,

IAB Chair.