Network Working Group T. Hardie Request for Comments: 3929 Qualcomm, Inc. Category: Experimental October 2004 Alternative Decision Making Processes for Consensus-Blocked Decisions in the IETF Status of this Memo This memo defines an Experimental Protocol for the Internet community. It does not specify an Internet standard of any kind. Discussion and suggestions for improvement are requested. Distribution of this memo is unlimited. Copyright Notice Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).
AbstractThis document proposes an experimental set of alternative decision- making processes for use in IETF working groups. There are a small number of cases in IETF working groups in which the group has come to consensus that a particular decision must be made but cannot agree on the decision itself. This document describes alternative mechanisms for reaching a decision in those cases. This is not meant to provide an exhaustive list, but to provide a known set of tools that can be used when needed.
available in some sphere. In most of these cases, there are two or more competing proposals at approximately the same level of technical maturity, deployment, and specification. In some cases, working groups can achieve consensus to advance multiple proposals and either to revisit the question with experience or to build the required mechanisms to handle multiple options for the life of the protocol. In other cases, however, a working group decides that it must advance a single proposal. Choosing among proposals can be difficult especially when each is optimized for slightly different use cases, as this implies that the working group's best choice depends on the participants' views of likely future use. Further problems arise when different proposals assign costs in implementation, deployment, or use to different groups, as it is a normal human reaction to seek to prevent one's own ox from being gored. This document proposes a set of experimental mechanisms for use in such cases. To gauge the results of the use of these mechanisms, the Last Call issued to the IETF community should note such a mechanism is being used and which proposal among the set was chosen. If and when the community becomes satisfied that one or more of these methods is useful, it should be documented in a BCP. In no way should this experiment or any future BCP for this small number of cases take precedence over the IETF's normal mode of operation. CONFLICT].
Using "rough consensus" as a guideline limits some of the disadvantages of consensus processes by ensuring that individuals or small factions cannot easily block a decision that otherwise has general support. The touchstone of "running code" can also limit the disadvantages of consensus processes by requiring that statements opposing particular proposals be technically grounded. These limitations do not change the core mechanisms of consensus- building, however, and the IETF process continues to require individual participants both to use their best engineering judgment to select among proposals and to balance their own interests with those of the Internet as a whole. Active participation and a willingness to compromise, possibly on key points, are needed. Historically, this has worked because a large majority of participants have recognized that the Internet's growth and enhancement are more important overall than any specific short-term advantage. In other words, "rough consensus" is sufficient in most cases in the IETF to ensure not only that individuals or small groups are heard when they raise technical objections, but also that they cannot block progress when general agreement has been reached. This document does not suggest changing the usual mechanisms for achieving progress; it proposes mechanisms for use when a working group has consensus that it must make a decision but cannot make that decision by the usual rules.
consensus that an alternative method is required but does not come to consensus on the method to use, an external review team (c.f. section 4.1, below) will be formed. In discussions regarding this document, several points have been raised about the viability of any mechanism that requires consensus to use an alternative to consensus-based decision making. Some individuals have pointed out that groups having trouble achieving consensus on a technical matter may have similar problems achieving consensus on a procedural matter. Others have been concerned that this will be used as an attempt to end-run around rough consensus. These are valid concerns, and they point both to the need to retain rough consensus as the baseline mechanism and the need to exercise caution when using these alternate methods. More importantly though, they highlight the nature of these alternatives. They are primarily mechanisms that allow people to recognize the need for compromise in a new way, by backing away from entrenched technical positions and by putting the technical choice in the hands of the broader community. They highlight that the choice for each participant is now between achieving a result and failure. There is a fundamental tension between the IETF community's desire to get the best decision for a particular technical problem and its desire to get a decision that has community buy-in in the form of rough consensus. These mechanisms cannot resolve that fundamental tension. They may, however, provide a way forward in some situations that might otherwise end in a deadlock or stagnation. RFC3127] for a description of that used in the decision between two competing candidate protocols for Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting. By setting out these proposals, this document does not intend to limit working group choice but intends to provide a set of well-defined processes that obviate the need for reinvention in most cases.
RFC3777]. Explicitly excluded from participation in external review teams are all those who have contributed to the relevant working group mailing list within the previous twelve months, the IESG, the IAB, and the members of an active NomCom. Volunteers to serve on the review team send their names to the IETF executive director. Should more than five volunteer, five are selected according to the process outlined in [RFC3797]. Note that the same rules on affiliation apply here as to the NomCom, to reduce the burden on any one organization and to remove any implication of "packing" the review team. Participants in the working group may actively solicit others to volunteer to serve on the review team but, as noted above, they may not serve themselves if they have commented on the list within the previous twelve months.
The review team commits to reading the summary provided during the IETF announcement and all of the relevant Internet-Drafts. Members may also read the archived mailing list of the working group, and of any other technical experts as they see fit. All such solicitations and all deliberations among the review team of the proposals should take place on the archived mailing list mentioned in the IETF announcement. RFC3797] to select a single volunteer from the list. That volunteer decides the issue by naming the Internet-Draft containing the selected proposal in an email to the relevant working group chair, the working mailing list, and the IESG.
needed to designate a specific DNS prefix. As the decision involved early access to a scarce resource, a random selection was required. In such cases, a working group may ask IANA to make a random assignment from among a set of clearly delineated values. Under such circumstances, IANA will be guided by [RFC3797] in its selection procedures. Under extraordinary circumstances, the working group may, with the approval of the IESG, ask IANA to select among a pool of Internet-Drafts in this way. Section 4.3 may require the IANA to make random selections among a known set of alternates. [RFC3797] Eastlake, D., "Publicly Verifiable Nomination Committee (NomCom) Random Selection", RFC 3797, June 2004. [RFC3777] Galvin, J., Ed. "IAB and IESG Selection, Confirmation, and Recall Process: Operation of the Nominating and Recall Committees", BCP 10, RFC 3777, June 2004. [RFC3127] Mitton, D., StJohns, M., Barkley, S., Nelson, D., Patil, B., Stevens, M., and B. Wolff, "Authentication, Authorization, and Accounting: Protocol Evaluation", RFC 3127, June 2001.
[VOTE] Center for Democracy and Voting. "Frequently Asked Questions about IRV", http://www.fairvote.org/irv/faq.htm. [CONFLICT] International Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict,"Consensus Rule Processes", Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA. http://www.colorado.edu/conflict/peace/treatment/ consenpr.htm
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