Independent Submission D. Crocker Request for Comments: 7704 Brandenburg InternetWorking Category: Informational N. Clark ISSN: 2070-1721 Pavonis Consulting November 2015 An IETF with Much Diversity and Professional Conduct
AbstractThe process of producing today's Internet technologies through a culture of open participation and diverse collaboration has proved strikingly efficient and effective, and it is distinctive among standards organizations. During the early years of the IETF and its antecedent, participation was almost entirely composed of a small group of well-funded, American, white, male technicians, demonstrating a distinctive and challenging group dynamic, both in management and in personal interactions. In the case of the IETF, interaction style can often contain singularly aggressive behavior, often including singularly hostile tone and content. Groups with greater diversity make better decisions. Obtaining meaningful diversity requires more than generic good will and statements of principle. Many different behaviors can serve to reduce participant diversity or participation diversity. This document discusses IETF participation in terms of the nature of diversity and practical issues that can increase or decrease it. The document represents the authors' assessments and recommendations, following general discussions of the issues in the IETF. Status of This Memo This document is not an Internet Standards Track specification; it is published for informational purposes. This is a contribution to the RFC Series, independently of any other RFC stream. The RFC Editor has chosen to publish this document at its discretion and makes no statement about its value for implementation or deployment. Documents approved for publication by the RFC Editor are not 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/rfc7704.
Copyright Notice Copyright (c) 2015 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. 1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2. Concerns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2.1. Diversity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2.2. Harassment and Bullying . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 3. Constructive Participation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 3.1. Access . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 3.2. Engagement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 3.3. Facilitation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 3.4. Balance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 3.5. IETF Track Record . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 3.6. Avoiding Distraction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 4. Responses to Unconstructive Participation . . . . . . . . . . 14 5. Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 6. References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 6.1. Normative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 6.2. Informative References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Acknowledgements . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Authors' Addresses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
IETF] grew out of a research effort that was started in the late 1960s, with central funding by the US Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA, later DARPA) employing a collection of research sites around the United States, and including some participation by groups of the US military. The community was originally restricted to participation by members of the funded research groups. In the 1980s, participation expanded to include projects funded by other agencies, most notably the US National Science Foundation for its NSFNet effort. At around the time the IETF was created in its current form, in the late 1980s, participation in the group became fully open, permitting attendance by anyone, independent of funding, affiliation, country of origin, or the like. Beyond the obvious effects of the resulting technology that we now enjoy, the process of producing today's Internet technologies through a culture of open participation and diverse collaboration has proved strikingly efficient and effective, and it is distinctive among standards organizations. This culture has been sustained across many changes in participant origins, organizational structures, economic cycles, and formal processes. However, maintenance of the IETF's effectiveness requires constant vigilance. As new participants join the IETF mix, it is increasingly easy for the IETF's operation to gradually invoke models from other environments, which are more established and more familiar, but often are less effective. Historically, participation in the IETF and its antecedent was almost entirely composed of a small group of well-funded, American, white, male technicians. No matter the intentions of the participants, such a narrow demographic demonstrated a distinctive group dynamic, both in management and in personal interactions, that persists into the current IETF. Aggressive and even hostile discussion behavior is quite common. In terms of management, the IETF can be significantly in-bred, favoring selection of those who are already well-known. Of course, the pool of candidates from which selections are made suffer classic limitations of diversity found in many engineering environments. Still, there is evidence and perception of selection bias, beyond this.
In the case of the IETF, the style of interaction can often demonstrate singularly aggressive behavior, including singularly hostile tone and content. In most professional venues, such behavior is deemed highly unprofessional, or worse. Within the IETF, such behavior has had long-standing tolerance. Criticizing someone's hostility is dismissed by saying that's just the way they are, or that someone else provoked it, or that the person is generally well- intentioned. Further, anyone expressing concern about the behavior is typically admonished to be less sensitive; that is, a recipient of an attack who then complains is often criticized or dismissed. As the IETF opened its doors to participation by anyone, its demographics have predictably moved towards much greater variety. However, the group culture has not adapted to accommodate these changes. The aggressive debating style and the tolerance for personal attacks can be extremely off-putting for participants from more polite cultures. And, the management selection processes can tend to exclude some constituencies inappropriately. Recently, members of an informal IETF women's interest group, called "systers", organized a quiet experiment, putting forward a large number of women candidates for management positions, through the IETF's "NomCom" process. NomCom is itself a potentially diverse group of IETF participants, chosen at random from a pool of recent meeting attendees who offer their services. Hence, its problematic choices -- or rather, omissions -- could be seen as reflecting IETF culture generally. Over the years, some women have been chosen for IETF positions as authors, working group chairs, area directors, Internet Architecture Board [IAB] members, and IETF Administrative Oversight Committee [IAOC] members. However, the results of the systers experiment were not encouraging. In spite of their recruiting a disproportionately high number of female candidates, not a single one was selected. Although any one candidate might be rejected for entirely legitimate reasons, a pattern of rejection this consistent suggested an organizational bias. The results were presented at an IETF plenary, and they engendered significant IETF soul-searching, as well as creation of a group to consider diversity issues for the IETF [Div-DT] [Div-Discuss]. Other activities around that same time also engendered IETF consideration of unacceptable behaviors, generally classed as harassment. This resulted in the IESG's issuing a formal IETF anti- harassment policy [Anti-Harass].
Changing an organization's culture is difficult and requires not only commitment to the underlying principles, but also vigilant and sustained effort. The IESG has taken essential first steps. What is needed is going beyond the position papers and expression of ideals, into continuing education of the entire community, and immediate and substantive response to unacceptable behaviors. Kellogg]. They perform better at diverse tasks both in terms of quantity and quality, and a great deal of research has found that heterogeneity often acts as a conduit for ideas and innovation [WiseCrowd] [Horowitz] [Stahl] [Joshi]. The implicit assumptions of one participant might not be considerations for another and might even be unknown by still others. And, different participants can bring different bases of knowledge and different styles of analysis. People with the same background and experience will all too readily bring the same ideas forward and subject them to the same analysis, thus diminishing the likelihood for new ideas and methods to emerge, or underlying problems to be noted. However, a desire to diligently attend to group diversity often leads to mechanical, statistical efforts to ensure representation by every identified constituency. For smaller populations, like the IETF and especially for its small management teams, this approach is counterproductive. First, it is not possible to identify every single constituency that might be relevant. Second, the group size does not permit representation by every group. Consequently, in practical terms, legitimate representation of diversity only requires meaningful variety, not slavish bookkeeping. In addition, without care, it can lead to the negative effects of diversity where decision-making is slowed, interaction decreased, and conflict increased [Horowitz].
Pragmatically, then, concern for diversity merely requires serious attention to satisfying two requirements: Participant Diversity: Decisions about who is allowed into the group require ensuring that the selection process encourages varying attributes among members. That is, this concerns variety in group demographics. Participation Diversity: Achieving effective generation of ideas and reviews within a group requires ensuring that its discussions encourage constructive participation by all members and that the views of each member are considered seriously. This, then, concerns group dynamics. In other words, look for real variety in group composition and real variety in participant discussion. This will identify a greater variety of possible and practical solutions. Obtaining meaningful diversity requires more than generic good will and statements of principle. The challenges, here, are to actively: o Encourage constructive diversity o Work to avoid group dynamics that serve to reduce diversity o Work to avoid group dynamics that serve to diminish the benefits of diversity o Remove those dynamics when they still occur It also requires education about the practicalities of diversity in an open engineering environment, and it requires organizational processes that regularly consider what effect each decision might have on diversity. Examples abound: o Formally, an IETF working group makes its decisions on its mailing list. Since anyone can join the list, anyone with access to the Internet can participate. However, working groups also have sessions at the thrice-annual IETF face-to-face meetings and might also hold interim meetings, which are face to face, by telephone, or by video conference. Attendance at these can be challenging. Getting to a face-to-face meeting costs a great deal of money and time; remote participation often incurs time-shifting that includes very early or very late hours. So, increased working group reliance on meetings tends to exclude those with less funding or less travel time or more structured work schedules.
o Vigorous advocacy for a strongly held technical preference is common in engineering communities. Of course it can be healthy, since strong support is necessary to promote success of the work. However, in the IETF this can be manifest in two ways that are problematic. One is a personal style that is overly aggressive and serves to intimidate, and hence unreasonably gag, those with other views. The other is a group style that prematurely embraces a choice and does not permit a fair hearing for alternatives. o Predictably, engineers value engineering skills. When the task is engineering, this is entirely appropriate. However, many of the IETF's activities, in support of its engineering efforts, are less about engineering and more about human and organizational processes. These require very different skills. To the extent that participants in those processes are primarily considered in terms of their engineering prowess, those who are instead stronger in other, relevant skills will be undervalued, and the diversity of expertise that the IETF needs will be lost. o IETF standards are meant to be read, understood, and implemented by people who were not part of the working group process. The gist of the standards also often needs to be read by managers and operators who are not engineers. IETF specifications enjoy quite a bit of stylistic freedom to contain pedagogy, in the service of these audience goals. However, the additional effort to be instructional is significant, and active participants who already understand and embrace the technical details often decline from making that effort. Worse, that effort is also needed during the specification development effort, since many participants might lack the background or superior insight needed to appreciate what is being specified. Yet the IETF's mantra for "rough consensus" is exactly about the need to recruit support. In fact, the process of "educating" others often uncovers issues that have been missed.
Other intimidation efforts are tailored to targeted individuals and are generally labeled bullying [Har-Bul] [Workplace] [Signs] [Escalated] [Prevention]. The nature and extent of bullying in the workplace is widely underestimated, misunderstood, and mishandled. It is described as follows in a WikiHow article [wikiHow]: ...[B]ehavior directed at an employee that is intended to degrade, humiliate, embarrass, or otherwise undermine their performance... [T]he sure signs of a bully that signify more than a simple misunderstanding or personal disagreement... might include: * Shouting, whether in private, in front of colleagues, or in front of customers * Name-calling * Belittling or disrespectful comments * Excessive monitoring, criticizing, or nitpicking someone's work * Deliberately overloading someone with work * Undermining someone's work by setting them up to fail * Purposefully withholding information needed to perform a job efficiently * Actively excluding someone from normal workplace/staff room conversations and making someone feel unwelcome In addition, the Tim Field Foundation [Bully-Ser] lists the traits of a "serial bully", paraphrased below: o Jekyll and Hyde nature -- Dr Jekyll is 'charming' and 'charismatic'; 'Hyde' is 'evil' o Exploits the trust and needs of organizations and individuals, for personal gain o Convincing liar -- Makes up anything to fit their needs at that moment o Damages the health and reputations of organizations and individuals o Reacts to criticism with Denial, Retaliation, Feigned Victimhood [Defensive], [MB-Misuse]
o Blames victims o Apparently immune from disciplinary action o Moves to a new target when the present one burns out Whether directed at classes or individuals, intimidation methods used can: o Seem relatively passive, such as consistently ignoring a member o Seem mild, such as with a quiet tone or language of condescension o Be quite active, such as aggressively attacking what is said by the participant o Be disingenuous, masking attacks in a passive-aggressive style If tolerated by others, and especially by those managing the group, these methods create a hostile work environment [Dealing]. When public harassment or bullying is tolerated, the hostile environment is not only for the person directly subject to the attacks. The harassment also serves to intimidate others who observe that it is tolerated. It teaches them that misbehaviors will not be held accountable. The IETF's Anti-Harassment Policy [Anti-Harass] uses a single term to cover the classic harassment of identified constituencies, as well as the targeted behavior of bullying. The policy's text is therefore comprehensive, defining unacceptable behavior as "unwelcome hostile or intimidating behavior." Further, it declares: "Harassment of this sort will not be tolerated in the IETF." An avenue for seeking remedy when harassment occurs is specified as a designated Ombudsperson. Unified handling of bullying and harassment is exemplified in the policies of many different organizations, notably including those with widely varying membership, even to the point of open, international participation, similar to that of the IETF. Examples include: Scouts Canada: Bullying/Harassment Policy [SC-Cybul]
IEEE: Code of Conduct [IEEE-Cybul] Facebook: Community Standards [F-H-Cybul] LinkedIn: "Be Nice" in LinkedIn Professional Community Guidelines [L-H-Cybul] YouTube: Harassment and cyberbullying [Y-H-Cybul] NetHui: Kaupapa and code of conduct [NetHui] GeekFeminism: Conference anti-harassment: Adopting a policy [GeekFeminism] In fact, there is a view that harassment is merely a form of bullying, given the same goal of undermining participation by the target: Sexual harassment is bullying or coercion of a sexual nature... [Wiki-SexHarass] The IETF has a long history of tolerating aggressive and even hostile behavior by participants. So, this policy signals a formal and welcome change. The obvious challenge is to make the change real, moving the IETF from a culture that tolerates -- or even encourages -- interpersonal misbehaviors to one that provides a safe, professional, and productive haven for its increasingly diverse community. Here again, examples abound, to the present: o Amongst long-time colleagues, acceptable interpersonal style can be whatever the colleagues want, even though it might look quite off-putting to an observer. The problem occurs when an IETF participant engages in such behaviors with, or in the presence of, others who have not agreed to the social contract of that relationship style and might not even understand it. For these others, the behavior can be extremely alienating, creating a disincentive against participation. Yet, in the IETF, it is common for participants to feel entitled to behave in overly familiar or aggressive or even hostile fashion that might be acceptable amongst colleagues, but is destructive with strangers.
o The instant a comment is made that concerns any attribute of a speaker, such as their motives, the nature of their employer, or the quality of their participation style, the interaction has moved away from technical evaluation. In many cultures, all such utterances are intimidating or offensive. In an open, professional participation environment, they therefore cannot be permitted. o As a matter of personal style or momentary enthusiasm, it is easy to indulge in condescending or dismissive commentary about someone's statements. As a discussion technique, its function is to attempt to reduce the target's influence on the group. Whether nonverbal (such as rolling one's eyes), paternalistic (such as noting the target's naivete), or overtly hostile (such as impugning the target's motives), it is an attempt to marginalize the person rather than focus on the merits of what they are saying. It constitutes harassment or bullying.
leave much room for tutorial commentary to aid those new to the effort. Meeting time is always too short, and the primary requirement is to achieve forward progress. figuring out the IETF culture, the record really does qualify as excellent. However, very real challenges exist for those who have funding, logistics, or language limitations. In particular, these impede attendance at meetings. Another challenge is for those from more polite cultures who are alienated by the style of aggressive debate that is popular in the IETF.
o Respond to the content, not the author; in the extreme, literally ignore the author and merely address the group about the content. o Offer better content, including an explanation of the reasons it is better. The essential point here is that the way to have a constructive exchange about substance is to focus on the substance. The way to avoid getting distracted is to ignore whatever is personal and irrelevant to the substance. MlLists] [Anti-Harass]. The challenge, here, is for both management and the rest of the community to collaborate in communicating that harassment and bullying will not be tolerated. The formal policies make that declaration, but they have no meaning unless they are enforced. Abusive behavior is easily extinguished. All it takes is community resolve.
[Anti-Harass] IESG, "IETF Anti-Harassment Policy", November 2013, <https://www.ietf.org/iesg/statement/ ietf-anti-harassment-policy.html>. [MlLists] IESG, "IESG Guidance on the Moderation of IETF Working Group Mailing Lists", August 2000, <https://www.ietf.org/iesg/statement/ moderated-lists.html>. [Bully-Ser] Tim Field Foundation, "Introduction to the Serial Bully: Serial Bully Traits", <http://bullyonline.org/workbully/ serial_introduction.htm>. [Dealing] Government of South Australia, "Dealing with Workplace Bullying: A practical guide for employees", Interagency Round Table on Workplace Bullying, South Australia, 2007, <https://crana.org.au/uploads/pdfs/ SAgov_bullying_employees.pdf>. [Defensive] Bickham, I., "Defensive Communication", <http://www.people-communicating.com/ defensive-communication.html>. [Div-Discuss] IETF, "Diversity Discussion List", <http://www.ietf.org/ mail-archive/web/diversity/current/maillist.html>. [Div-DT] IETF, "Diversity Design Team wiki", 2013, <https://wiki.tools.ietf.org/group/diversity-dt/>. [Escalated] Namie, G., "Workplace bullying: Escalated incivility", Ivey Business Journal 9B03TF09, November/December 2003. [F-H-Cybul] Facebook, "Community Standards", 2015, <https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards>.
[GeekFeminism] Geek Feminism Wiki, "Conference anti-harassment: Adopting a policy", <http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/ Conference_anti-harassment>. [Har-Bul] UK Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, "Harassment and bullying at work", January 2015, <http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/factsheets/ harassment-bullying-at-work.aspx>. [Horowitz] Horwitz, S. and I. Horwitz, "The Effects of Team Diversity on Team Outcomes: A Meta-Analytic Review of Team Demography", Journal of Management, Vol. 33 (6), p. 987-1015, DOI 10.1177/0149206307308587, December 2007. [IAB] "Internet Architecture Board", <https://www.iab.org/>. [IAOC] "IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC)", <https://iaoc.ietf.org/>. [IEEE-Cybul] IEEE, "IEEE CODE OF CONDUCT", June 2014, <https://www.ieee.org/about/ieee_code_of_conduct.pdf>. [IETF] IETF, "The Internet Engineering Task Force", <https://www.ietf.org/>. [Joshi] Joshi, A. and H. Roh, "The Role of Context in Work Team Diversity Research: A Meta-Analytic Review", Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 52, No. 3, 599-627, DOI 10.5465/AMJ.2009.41331491, 2009, <http://www.ilo.bwl.uni-muenchen.de/download/ unterlagen-ws1415/josh-roh-2009.pdf>. [Kellogg] Kellogg Insight, "Better Decisions Through Diversity: Heterogeneity can boost group performance", Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Oct 2010, <http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/ better_decisions_through_diversity>. [L-H-Cybul] LinkedIn, "LinkedIn Professional Community Guidelines", 2015, <https://help.linkedin.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/34593>.
[MB-Misuse] Rachel Burger, R., "Three Common Ways Libertarians Misuse Myers-Briggs Part 2: Misunderstanding the Feeling Preference", July 2013, <http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ three-common-ways-libertarians-misuse-myers-briggs-part-2- misunderstanding-the-feeling-preference>. [NetHui] InternetNZ, "Kaupapa and code of conduct", NetHui 2015, <http://2015.nethui.nz/code-of-conduct>. [Prevention] WorkSafe Victoria, "Workplace bullying - prevention and response", October 2012, <http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/ pdf_file/0008/42893/WS_Bullying_Guide_Web2.pdf>. [SC-Cybul] Scouts Canada, "Bullying/Harassment Policy", May 2012, <http://www.scouts.ca/cys/ policy-bullying-and-harassment.pdf>. [Signs] Workplace Bullying Institute, "Employee Resource Council: 20 Subtle Signs of Workplace Bullying", November 2013, <http://www.workplacebullying.org/2013/11/10/erc/>. [Stahl] Stahl, G., Maznevski, M., Voigt, A., and K. Jonsen, "Unraveling the effects of cultural diversity in teams: A meta-analysis of research on multicultural work groups", Journal of International Business Studies 41, 690-709, DOI 10.1057/jibs.2009.85, May 2010, <http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jibs/journal/v41/n4/ full/jibs200985a.html>. [Wiki-SexHarass] Wikipedia, "Sexual harassment", November 2015, <https://en.wikipedia.org/w/ index.php?title=Sexual_harassment&oldid=689426449>. [wikiHow] WikiHow, "How to Deal with Workplace Bullying and Harassment", November 2015, <http://www.wikihow.com/ index.php?title=Deal-with-Workplace-Bullying-and- Harassment&oldid=18828395>. [WiseCrowd] Wikipedia, "The Wisdom of Crowds", November 2015, <https://en.wikipedia.org/w/ index.php?title=The_Wisdom_of_Crowds&oldid=689201384>.
[Workplace] "Workplace Bullying", YouTube video, 12:30, posted by "QualiaSoup", February 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAgg32weT80>. [Y-H-Cybul] Google, "Harassment and cyberbullying - YouTube Help", 2015, <https://support.google.com/youtube/ answer/2801920?hl=en&rd=1>.