Nan:2006-09-30-big-8-transition

From Big-8.org

This isn't a B8MB-posted announcement, but it has everything to do with the B8MB, so I'm including it in our archive. -Dave

From: Russ Allbery <rra@stanford.edu>
Subject: Big Eight hierarchy management transition
Newsgroups: news.announce.newgroups, news.admin.announce, news.groups
Message-ID: <1159661096.29508@isc.org>
Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2006 17:04:56 -0700

                Big Eight Hierarchy Management Transition
                            September 30, 2006

Introduction

    As most of the reading audience is probably aware, as of tomorrow,
    Todd and I are stepping down as moderators of news.announce.newgroups
    and ending our involvement in Big Eight newsgroup creation.  Since May
    of 2006, newsgroup creation in the Big Eight hierarchies has been done
    under the aegis of a new Big-8 Management Board as a preliminary trial
    period that Todd and I would evaluate before deciding how to handle
    our resignations.  This is my final report on that evaluation.

    This will be a very long message.  I don't want to leave anything
    unsaid that may help someone understand my personal reasoning or that
    might help those involved with Big eight newsgroup creation going
    forward.  It will be longer than many people will want to read; for
    those who don't want to wade through the whole thing, please see the
    next section for a summary.

    Due to the increased worries that this sort of message might be
    forged, in addition to the PGPMoose signature that all posts to
    news.announce.newgroups receive, I have also signed it with my
    personal GnuPG key.  That key is in the Debian archive keyring and
    part of the well-connected portion of the PGP web of trust and is
    available from any major PGP keyserver as well as from my personal web
    page.

    Some additional personal thoughts about the time I've spent involved
    in news.groups will be posted separately.

Summary of Decision

    Based on the work in the past five months and the discussions
    preceding that work, I believe that the Big-8 Management Board has
    demonstrated their ability to handle new proposals in a prompt and
    reasonable fashion and make defensible and reasoned decisions
    concerning management of the Big Eight newsgroup list.  I have some
    concerns about their ability to maintain the Board, encourage useful
    input, recruit new volunteers, and prevent burnout, but I believe that
    the system they have designed is at least clearly superior in that
    regard to the system that preceded it and has a reasonable chance of
    success.

    I am therefore handing over management of the news.announce.newgroups
    control message signing key to the Big Eight board, namely Brian
    Edmonds, Marty Moleski, Tim Skirvin, Joe Bernstein, Thomas Lee, Dave
    Sill, James Farrar, and Jonathan Kamens, following the procedures
    described at <http://www.big-8.org/>.

    The control key for news.announce.newgroups used to issue control
    messages in the Big Eight hierarchies (comp.*, humanities.*, misc.*,
    news.*, rec.*, sci.*, soc.*, and talk.*) will not change as part of
    this transition.  The tradition has been for the key to be entrusted
    to the best judgement of each news.announce.newgroups moderator or
    moderator team to pass on to their successors, and my best judgement
    is that this team of people will act in the best interests of the
    users of these hierarchies and the sites carrying them.

    I encourage any news administrator or Usenet user who is concerned
    with the operation of these hierarchies to review the rest of this
    message and the web site referenced above and to contact the Board
    with any concerns that they have.

Analysis by Criteria

  Output of New System

    My primary criteria in evaluating the actions of this new management
    structure is to look at the work they've done in maintaining the list
    of newsgroups over the past five months.  This is, in the end, what
    matters.  The purpose of this system is to make good decisions about
    what newsgroups we recommend Usenet sites carry.

    This criteria requires some clarification since the quantity of
    proposals has declined sharply over the past few years, as has the
    success rate of new newsgroups.  My interest is neither in creation of
    a large number of new groups nor in success of every newsgroup
    created.  Rather, what I wanted to see was prompt and reasonable
    handling of new newsgroup proposals, a working system that was clearly
    taking new proposals as input and making affirmative decisions on
    them.  Secondarily, I wanted to see a system capable of handling the
    proposals and changes that were structurally difficult under the
    previous voting system, namely group removals and handling of inactive
    moderated groups and absent moderators.

    Finally, I wanted to see that the new system was capable of handling
    controversial groups and hard decisions as well as simple creations.
    One part of that evaluation is incomplete since no group reorgs were
    proposed during this five month period.  However, I think enough
    information is nonetheless available to arrive at a conclusion.

    First, I think it is clearly demonstrated that the system is handling
    new proposals and reaching conclusions on those proposals.  The new
    Board has taken over handling of incoming messages to newgroups,
    group-advice, and news.announce.newgroups and is responding in a
    timely fashion to proponents.  Proposals are following a clear
    sequence and decisions are posted publicly.  The new process is also
    already handling significantly more simultaneous proposals than the
    process it replaced and resolving them more efficiently.

    Over the last five months, the Board has created the following groups:

        soc.religion.asatru
        comp.soft-sys.octave
        soc.support.vision-impaired
        soc.men.moderated

    (talk.current-events was also created a few days ago, but is too
    recent to be part of this analysis.)

    Of these groups, soc.religion.asatru has been a clear success, with
    sustained on-topic traffic (222 messages in a recent 21-day period).
    Furthermore, this was a controversial proposal with a lot of noise in
    the discussion, and to date the concerns raised during the discussion
    have not manifested on the group.  This is exactly the sort of
    successful decision that the old system would have had more difficulty
    reaching.

    comp.soft-sys.octave has been a clear failure so far, with no messages
    in the 21-day sample period.  Opinions on whether it was worth trying
    will vary; I tend to lean towards not being too concerned if groups
    are created and turn out not to be used if the creation itself won't
    cause other problems.

    The other two groups are more recent.  soc.men.moderated is a special
    case with several possible success criteria.  It is a moderated
    companion group to a long-standing high-flame group and may prove
    useful even if it only provides an occasional outlet for the other
    group (as has happened in several other similar cases in the past).
    However, it is dormant at this point, apparently, to the selected
    moderators no longer moderating.  It's probably too early to say for
    sure whether this is a success or failure; driven by the deadline for
    this post, I would call it a possibly recoverable failure.

    Finally, soc.support.vision-impaired has been a moderate success to
    date with 63 messages over a recent 21 day period, although it's still
    too early to tell whether this trend will continue.

    From the creations done so far, then, the new system appears to have a
    50% success rate, which as good as the last few years of the prior
    system.  More importantly, the Board has demonstrated an ability to
    deal with two very controversial moderated group proposals, with mixed
    success but with a process that was able to terminate.  This is a
    substantial improvement.

    However, the bulk of the work done so far by the new Board is in other
    areas.  Newsgroup removal has been stymied for years by the previous
    infrastructure and the Board has dealt with a backlog of over 45 group
    removals.  Most of these were long-dead INET groups promoted
    previously so that we could issue checkgroups control messages.  These
    removals had very little controversy, and in the few cases where there
    was some controversy, the Board acted with care and in some cases
    helped revive the group.

    Included in these removals is the removal of comp.binaries.apple2, the
    only unmoderated binaries group in the Big Eight and a chronic thorn
    in the side of Big Eight news admins due to its excessive share of the
    total bandwidth required for a Big Eight feed.  The Board was able to
    deal with an ongoing problem that the previous system had been unable
    to do anything about for years.

    The Board has also dealt with several other cases of inactive
    moderators, changing moderators of sci.physics.plasma, unmoderating
    soc.culture.galiza, and robo-moderating soc.religion.hindu.  In these
    cases, the groups have often been inactive for so long that it will be
    months, if not years, before we see if they find a new audience.  More
    importantly from my perspective, the Board is taking reasonable action
    with these groups and has a procedure in place to deal with such
    cases.

    In summary, while there will not be unanimous agreement on all the
    decisions taken, I believe that they are all reasonable and that most
    other observers looking at the corpus of decisions will arrive at the
    same conclusion.  The results are, in my opinion, clearly superior to
    the results that were being produced by the previous system,
    particularly in the ability of the Board to deal with proposals like
    removals and dead moderated groups that have no obvious voting base.
    And, most tellingly, the Board has been able to deal with backlog of
    known work that the old system had been accumulating for some time,
    accomplishing more concrete improvement in the group list than we've
    seen in years.

  Management Structure

    The second major criteria I had for success of the new system was a
    sustainable structure.  I think there are more significant risks in
    this area, as I detail below.  However, the Board has spread the work
    across considerably more people and established a replacement
    procedure and a sufficiently large active group that members have a
    hope of being able to step down before they have burned out.

    There is a structure in place that can absorb additional volunteers
    down the road and let them make progress on their own concerns, not
    just as members of the Board but as outside contributors to problems
    such as inactive groups.  One significant problem the previous system
    had was accepting systemic contribution from people not directly
    involved in the management of the hierarchy.  The Board's handling of
    the long-pending inactive moderator and inactive group removal
    problems shows that they are doing a significantly better job at this.

    Sustainability of the system and acceptance of input from new
    volunteers is the hardest problem by far for ongoing management of the
    hierarchy.  The new system does not fully resolve all of the problems
    I see in this area, but I don't believe any system could.  It has,
    more importantly, demonstrated far more flexibility than the old
    system could muster, which gives me hope that it can continue to
    adjust to this challenge going forward.

  Documentation of System

    Finally, part of setting up a new newsgroup creation system is to
    document the new procedure.  I believe that the Board has clearly met
    this evaluation criteria and gone beyond it by providing a clearer and
    more comprehensive information resource for Big Eight newsgroup
    creation than we have ever previously had.  <http://www.big-8.org/>
    has not only the new policies and procedures but an easily readable
    archive of decisions and more information about the format of a
    proposal and about the overall process than we had under the previous
    system.

Rejected Criteria

    The above criteria are the three that I consider the most significant
    in evaluating the new system.  Many other criteria are possible, and
    for the most part I won't comment on other possible choices.  However,
    there are several significant criteria that I did not apply, and which
    I feel deserve some explanation.

  Voting System

    The original mandate for the new Board called for the creation of a
    voting system to elect board members.  This has not happened, which
    has some possible negative consequences as detailed below.  However,
    after consideration of the arguments put forward by Board members
    and the discussion of this point in news.groups earlier this year, I
    decided not to require this in my evaluation.

    Election theory says that any voting system requires a defined
    electorate as well as several other security guarantees to provide an
    election that can be considered fair.  I have been convinced that,
    while not impossible, establishing those conditions in the Big Eight
    is at least exceedingly difficult.  Elections are being used in some
    other hierarchies, most notably uk.*, so it is clearly possible to
    manage a hierarchy this way.  However, even with newsgroup creation
    polls (for which the stakes are lower than a Board election), the old
    system was having significant problems running reasonable votes and
    found clear evidence of people successfully manipulating the CFV
    system and achieving results that were probably not representative of
    the intended voting base.  In the uk.*, with a small hierarchy and a
    fairly limited set of participants, it's possible to apply more web of
    trust metrics to evaluating votes that one can use in a general Big
    Eight election.

    If we tried hard to come up with vote vetting processes to work around
    this problem, we would run into another problem, namely frustration
    with strange rules and hoop-jumping necessary to vote.  We were
    already seeing this with the CFV process; it was one of the largest
    problems with the previous group voting system.  The resulting
    exasperation doesn't contribute to one of the primary goals of a
    voting system, namely a perception of fairness, and seems likely to
    create more energy-wasting arguments.

    Additionally, even if a fair vote could be held (meaning in this case
    a vote in which each Usenet participant had one and only one vote),
    I'm dubious that we could get a representative vote.  In this respect,
    votes for Board members face a problem similar to small city
    elections, with the same likelihood that the results will be mostly
    dictated by a small set of people directly involved in the process and
    will otherwise face general indifference.  If we had the sort of
    healthy, broadly-representative, and extensive participation in
    news.groups that we had back in, say, 1999, this wouldn't necessarily
    be a problem.  As matters stand right now, I think the expected voting
    base is so small that the results would be dominated by specific
    concerns unrelated to the general health of the Big Eight or, even
    more likely, would be essentially random from election to election.

    Finally, it's extremely important, given how thinly volunteers are
    spread, that all of the members of the Board be willing to work
    constructively with each other, back each other up on various internal
    responsibilities, and work together to keep the system working.  It's
    possible to maintain this with generally elected members, but it's
    certainly more difficult and would introduce a significant risk.

    I would like to see a successful voting system created because it
    provides a natural way to cycle new blood into the process and because
    when done well it creates a strong perception of fairness that is
    extremely difficult to achieve via any other process.  However, after
    long consideration, I believe the challenges are too difficult to have
    this be a fair evaluation criteria.

  Popularity

    There are two aspects to this possible criteria.  The first is the
    number of news administrators who honor control messages from the new
    Board.  One possible criteria by which to judge the new system is by
    whether it results in an increase in the number of sites honoring the
    Big Eight newsgroup list.

    On the surface, this seems like a criteria that drives straight to the
    heart of the credibility of this process.  However, efforts for the
    past decade in getting news administrators more involved in the
    process have mostly been a failure.  I can say from personal
    experience that most news administrators simply don't want to get
    involved, either because they don't care or because they're too busy
    or because they'd rather have independent management.  While I would
    be thrilled if it happened, I don't expect to see any significant
    movement in the number of sites honoring control messages.  Some will
    stop; any major change of any sort will lose some people at least in
    the short term.  If we're lucky, some will start in the longer term.
    Expecting any more than that is, in my opinion, unrealistic.

    The second type of popularity that one could judge the Board on is
    popularity in news.groups, either in the form of general approval of
    the Board's actions or in the form of building consensus and
    attracting new volunteers.  Again, and in this case more sadly, I
    think this is unrealistic.

    There has been a steady erosion in the usefulness of news.groups for
    holding meaningful discussion for several years, predating the Board
    or any effort to create a new system.  With the combination of two
    highly controversial proposals and the arguments surrounding the
    creation of the Board, that trend has drastically accelerated, but
    not, I believe, fundamentally changed.

    The Board is clearly unpopular with many news.groups posters.  Anyone
    evaluating this trial period should be aware of that; as spelled out
    below, this creates clear problems.  That unpopularity seems mostly
    based on three areas of disagreement: the lack of voting and
    accompanying loss of a concrete way to change newsgroup creation
    results, the Board's willingness to create groups without proven
    interest and see if they succeed, and the choice of moderators in
    controversial moderated groups.  However, the objections underlying
    that unpopularity are mostly not expressed in a way that the Board can
    respond to constructively, making it difficult to determine whether
    they contain ideas that could lead to a better system.

    Furthermore, in most cases I personally don't agree with the direction
    expressed by those objections.  I addressed voting above, and I
    believe a more liberal newsgroup creation policy with a working group
    removal system is reasonable way to proceed (and is well-supported by
    many previous discussions in news.groups).  As for the choice of
    moderators, this has always been difficult and controversial and any
    newsgroup creation system will have difficulties in this area.  The
    Board has, in my estimation, done at least as well as the previous
    system did with controversial moderator selection.  The success of
    soc.religion.asatru to date, with none of the anticipated problems, is
    significant evidence of that.  Since I disagree with the primary
    justifications of the unpopularity, I don't find the unpopularity
    itself convincing.

    Another possible evaluation criteria would be the ability of the Board
    to foster as positive of an atmosphere as possible for discussion of
    group proposals.  This, however, is exceedingly difficult to measure
    and largely not under the Board's control.  Much of the debate has
    been heated and personal, and while it's always possible to improve
    how one handled such a situation, my evaluation is that the Board has
    handled the situation better than I could and I'm dubious whether it's
    possible to handle it significantly better.  Given that, I think
    successful output of the process over time is a superior evaluation
    criteria and expecting the Board to simultaneously be popular in the
    current atmosphere is too high of a bar to set.

  Stability

    Finally, one possible way of choosing a successor would be to look for
    someone who would run the Big Eight largely the same way that Todd and
    I have.  This is roughly the criteria that has been applied in the
    past.

    I explicitly rejected this criteria at the beginning of this process.
    I believed, and still do believe, that the prior system was
    irrecoverably broken and that it was time for a much-deferred complete
    overhaul.  I was interested in seeing the system transition into the
    hands of people who would not run things the same way that I have
    since I believe the path I was on was heading for general failure of
    the system.  I wanted a group of people who would try more, risk more,
    and experiment more.  I believe what's needed at this point is the
    opposite of this criteria.

Risks

  news.groups

    The biggest risk facing the Big Eight newsgroup creation system going
    forward is the lack of a congenial and constructive place for
    discussion of changes to the group list.  This applies to any possible
    system, including the previous system which also suffered greatly due
    to this lack.  However, the discussion of the creation of the Board
    and subsequent reaction to Board discussions has clearly exacerbated
    the problem.

    At this point, most news.groups threads quickly acquire flamewars and
    rehashing of previous disagreements that have to be ignored by the
    thread participants.  It is difficult for a proponent to discuss a
    proposal in this atmosphere, and it's also difficult to extract
    objections to and constructive criticism of proposals.  Participation
    in this emotionally charged of an environment frequently leads to
    burnout, thus raising the risk that the available number of volunteers
    will drop below what's needed to keep this system running.
    Additionally, news.groups has traditionally served as the training
    ground for new volunteers, but an angry and confrontational atmosphere
    is more likely to drive potential volunteers away, making it difficult
    to find new volunteers when the current ones inevitably move on.

    This atmosphere also has a more subtle negative effect.  It selects
    for people who can work in an environment of frequent public attacks
    and further cultivates the necessary attitude.  This leads to a
    concentration of participants who expect harsh discussions, frequent
    flames, and personal attacks and who therefore have aggressive
    personal filters, an instinctive defensive emotional response, and a
    willingness to quickly stop listening to people who are perceived as
    abusive.  Not only does this create a self-perpetuating emotional
    intensification of the posts (one natural response to this sort of
    atmosphere is to try to be even harsher and even more dramatic in
    order to be heard over the background noise), it makes it difficult to
    de-escalate discussions and find legitimate disagreement under the
    emotional presentation.

    This effect hits everyone to some degree, no matter how experienced
    with Usenet, and affects those who feel obliged to participate more
    than others.  It poses a direct risk to the Board's continued ability
    to evaluate proposals, both through difficulty in obtaining
    high-quality input to that decision-making process and through
    difficulty in completely separating decision-making from negative
    emotion and reaction to the discussion atmosphere.

    I don't know what can be done about this risk.  I am deeply concerned
    that unless it can be corrected for somehow, no newsgroup creation
    system that uses public input will survive.  I don't believe that the
    Board can single-handedly fix it, but they will have to address it
    somehow going forward.  Unfortunately, most of the possible solutions
    that have been discussed over the years either decentralize the
    conversation (with a resulting loss of ability to recruit general
    volunteers and a lack of an overall view of the Big Eight) or are
    directly confrontational in trying to exclude posts that contribute to
    a toxic atomsphere, with all the resulting problems of impartiality,
    personal animosity, and continued necessity of confrontation.

  No Voting System

    This new system contains no inherent public voting system, either for
    groups or for Board members.

    The lack of a voting system for groups poses challenges for the type
    of proposal that the Board has not yet handled, namely a group reorg.
    For creations, the negative effects of a newsgroup creation on other
    groups are generally negligible or at the least possible to overcome.
    For removals and inactive moderators, the correct choice of action is
    normally obvious and one can afford to be conservative.  Reorgs,
    however, are one of the few places where a yes/no vote has clear
    advantages and measures input that is quite valuable and useful.
    Furthermore, it's hard to justify group renamings or removal of groups
    that are currently used without a clear public mandate to point to.
    Right now, the Board does not have a system in place to take such
    votes, which may pose problems should such a proposal be presented.

    The lack of public voting for Board members creates other problems.
    First, without a public election, the Board lacks a clear public
    mandate.  It may drift away from the goals of the general user
    population of the hierarchies due to the lack of clear and unignorable
    public feedback.  Votes provide a valuable and unambiguous evaluation
    point that is difficult to arrive at any other way.  A working voting
    system often produces outcomes that are quite surprising to someone
    who had reviewed only the public discussion.

    Second, since the original introduction of votes on Usenet proposals,
    votes have had the valuable effect of clearly concluding an argument.
    Most people have an inherent respect for the popular vote and will
    accept that they're in the minority if they lose a vote.  This effect
    had been undermined by the successful manipulation and gaming of the
    voting system, but it was still present to a degree.  Without a voting
    system, the Board loses the aid of a valuable system for terminating
    debate and getting people to move on to other questions.

    Finally, public elections would cycle new volunteers into the Board.
    This has both positive and negative effects and can cause serious
    issues if new volunteers aren't willing to compromise and form
    consensus with existing members, but without some system to do this,
    it is very difficult to replace volunteers faster than the burnout
    rate or to bring enough volunteers up to speed to create a
    self-sustaining organization.

  Little News Administrator Involvement

    Lack of direct feedback from news administrators has been a problem
    for the Big Eight newsgroup creation system for many years and
    continues to be an issue under this new system.  News administrators
    are in some respects the primary consumers of the output of the
    newsgroup creation system.  If they do not act on control messages or
    group changes, there's little point in making them.  However, as
    mentioned above, most news administrators appear to simply not be
    interested in participating.  As a result, any group creation system
    has a significant risk of going off in directions that news
    administrators do not actually approve of, thereby hurting the
    usefulness of the system for its primary audience.

Next Steps

    This is not the opening of an argument; rather, it is the conclusion
    of one that began about a year ago.  It is my position paper on all
    that has been discussed since then.  It is not, at this point,
    something that I intend to discuss further, beyond any necessarily
    clarifications in areas that are significantly unclear (if any).

    Implementation of this decision is effective tomorrow.  I am
    completely leaving a decision-making role in Big Eight newsgroup
    creation as of then, and will be unsubscribing from news.groups
    shortly.  I do plan on continuing to provide purely technical
    assistance to the Board, both as part of the ongoing transition of
    technical capabilities and as the ongoing maintainer of the
    ftp.isc.org archive and backup maintainer of the moderation forwarding
    database.  However, whatever involvement I have in newsgroup creation
    going forward will be limited strictly to my professional role as a
    news administrator for one university site, and even that I plan on
    limiting sharply for the foreeable future.

  How to Object

    If, after reviewing the current procedure, you have concerns or
    objections, I strongly encourage you to talk to the Board about them.
    I believe that every person on the Board is a reasonable, approachable
    person who will discuss concerns in a productive fashion.  I have
    known many of the people on the Board for years and have had the
    chance to observe their interactions in many different environments,
    and if I didn't hold this opinion, I wouldn't be handing the system
    over to them.  I believe that if you extend to them the presumption of
    good will and recognize that the system they came up with came from
    months of difficult discussion and is supported by reasons they
    believe in (and therefore is unlikely at this point to change
    quickly), they will return that presumption and will try as best they
    are able to find workable compromises.

    As with all such discussions on Usenet, firm facts are thin on the
    ground.  If you can provide concrete information, measurements, data,
    or the means for acquiring them, your concerns and objections will be
    much easier to respond to and far more persuasive.

    If for whatever reason the above is untenable or you cannot reach an
    agreement you can live with, the last resort is to start publishing a
    separate newsgroup list and issue separate control messages.  I don't
    consider this sort of further fragmentation of the Big Eight newsgroup
    list to be a good option, but if I'm completely wrong and the Board
    acts in some way seriously detrimental to Usenet, it's the recourse of
    last resort.  In such a situation, I do believe this last resort could
    be exercised effectively.  In some ways, it would be easier now than
    it was in the past, given that the Usenet readership is increasingly
    concentrated at a few large sites.

    I don't recommend that anyone take this approach, but since it exists
    to some extent as a check on our evaluation abilities, I believe it's
    appropriate to make it possible.  Therefore, if you want to start your
    own system or your own ftp.isc.org-style archive, my long-term
    intention is to make the software that I have used publicly available
    on my web site.  Until such time as I have a chance to do this, feel
    free to send me e-mail directly and ask for it.  I cannot provide help
    with customizing it for your purposes, and it will require
    customization, but I can provide a starting point.

  How to Help

    If you want to make this new newsgroup creation system a success,
    again, I encourage you to contact the Board and volunteer.  There is
    always more work than there are people, and there is work for a wide
    variety of different skill sets.  If you are a news administrator, I
    am quite certain that any input you can provide on what sort of
    newsgroup creation system is the most helpful to you would be greatly
    appreciated.

    Finally, everyone can help ameliorate the greatest risk for any Big
    Eight newsgroup creation system by being patient and constructive in
    news.groups.  Try to extend a presumption of good will.  Try to make
    any reply less of a flame than the message to which you were
    responding.  Try to understand the other person's perspective, or
    failing that, at least accept it.  If it doesn't feel right to support
    someone in public (sometimes it escalates matters), send private
    e-mail to people who say things well, or who do a good job at the
    above, and let them know that it was noticed, at least to those people
    who welcome private mail.

    It's difficult but not impossible.  And if enough people are working
    at this, it creates a positive reinforcement cycle and starts to build
    a community.  The reconstruction of such a community would be a
    wonderful step for Usenet as a whole.

########################- Russ Allbery
                                                   September 30, 2006
From: mccomb@medieval.org (Todd Michel McComb)
Subject: Re: RFD process on hold / Call For Ideas
References: <1127155907.16630@isc.org> <1129740562.29969@isc.org>
Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2006 17:08:52 -0700
Message-ID: <1159661332.9485@isc.org>


Thank you to everyone who has contributed to making the Big-8 group
list a better list.

Since I declared the October 1st deadline to sunset the previous
NAN Team, I feel compelled to make a few remarks at this time.

I congratulate the Board for doing many good things, and for taking
important steps to move the Big-8 process forward.  I am pleased
to hand over maintenance of the group list and related tasks to
them.

Regarding the details of what they were initially charged with,
Russ has many more things to say about the relative significance
of various topics, but I want to make clear the impetus of the
announcements last fall:  I was attempting to balance a need for
details on what volunteers were being asked to do, so that they
could make informed decisions on whether to volunteer, and another
need not to dictate a bunch of details to volunteers.  Ultimately,
I am very pleased with the Board from a broad perspective, and am
not going to get hung up on details.

That said, let me just echo Russ's comments on the critical need
to find a way to renew the Board and keep people fresh.  The Board
has indicated to me that they are ready to take some more steps in
that area, and I certainly wish them luck.  I had earlier tried to
sketch my ideas on how to do this, but at the moment, any ideas I
might have are ultimately unimportant.  They must find what works
for them.

I also want to re-raise another topic, one which was surprisingly
unpopular given the technical orientation of news.groups, and that
is on measurable data to drive decisions.  While many complications
were raised, I still believe that -- with some creativity -- there
is value to be gained from injecting quantifiable metrics into the
decision-making process.  I had hoped to contribute in that area,
but ultimately realized that it was best for everyone if I simply
bowed out.

Hopefully these things can be discussed -- by others -- in constructive
fashion.  I will not be reading followups.  Perhaps I should add
one other comment in response to something I saw posted:  There's
no such thing as a "partial success."  Either we are handing this
over to the Board or we aren't, and we are.

Thank you again to everyone who has helped foster Usenet and the
Big-8 over the years.  And an individual thank you to Bill Aten,
especially for his hard work in keeping the UVV operating while
under constant attack in its final days.

Todd McComb
Toolbox
LANGUAGES