back to article IETF's older white men urged to tone it down

The IETF's meritocracy is the envy of the world of tech, but the venerable outfit has its share of shouting matches. That's led Narelle Clark and David Crocker to add to the anti-abuse debate with an informational RFC, RFC 7704, “An IETF with Much Diversity and Professional Conduct”. The two are respected voices in the …

  1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    This could be a very good thing.

    I hope it helps reduce the tendency towards quasi-religious "technical" arguments that favour one group of technologists or use cases over all others. Maybe we'll even see an acknowledgement by the IETF that vendors can't be counted on to play nice. They won't deploy patches, updates or new protocols just because the technocrats agreed upon them.

    Vendors, service providers and so forth willl wring every last dollar possible out of what they have. Similarly, consumers and SMBs want 10 year lifespans (at least!) for their equipment.

    For me it would be nice to see people who champion the idea that "that just because money is essentially free to academia and the large enterprise world doesn't mean it is to the rest of us" aren't mocked, ridiculed, berated, shamed and ultimately forced out. I realize that's a pipe dream, but it is my dream of inclusion and consideration regarding the IETF.

    In the meantime, let's get any diversity possible going at the IETF. New ideas. New approaches. New people. Go forth, technocrats, and diversify!

  2. PushF12
    Big Brother

    Who is John Galt?

    Smart productive characters arguing rudely about systems architecture could be a modern reboot of the Fountainhead.

    Ayn Rand predicted this behavior and its consequences. Her writing gives many people the same bad aftertaste as the Idiocracy movie, but she wasn't wrong.

    Eric S Raymond proposes a solution in his recent essay entitled "Why Hackers Must Eject the SJWs".

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Who is John Galt?

      Ayn many people the same bad aftertaste as the Idiocracy movie, but she wasn't wrong.

      Fuck yes she was. In just about every way. Some people are very much like those she describes. Most aren't. Unfortunately, the people who follow her philosophy A) believe everyone else is "just like them" (massively false) and B) tend to gravitate towards positions of power where they can do the most amount of damage to the largest number of people.

      Ayn Rand's teaching are how you raise monsters. You take people who are already bordering on sociopaths and then you provide them excuses for their malignant, bigoted neuroses and a convenient scapegoat in the form of "under it all, everyone is actually just as horrible as me".

      Now, don't get me wrong, I loathe the SWJ "blame and shame" approach to life too. (It's very Protestant, when you think about it.) But those nutters are merely the flip side of the coin. Ayn Rand's self-centered bigot brigade on one side and SJWs on the other.

      The majority of humanity doesn't belong to either camp. Life isn't so easily reductionist that everyone neatly fits into one of the two boxes. We're really complex creatures. Neither fully altruistic nor fully selfish. Which is probably why most of resist either extreme trying to make us into a pure version of one end of a spectrum. Any spectrum.

      Ayn Rand. Oy vey.

      1. Chris Daemon

        Re: Who is John Galt?

        You should have read the books.

        Most people may not be like the horrible that Rand describes, but those some are usually found in key positions (rulers of any flavor). That is annoying to those of us who like to be without the deep-dicking that usually comes from rulemakers - those that claim their doing is best for some group as opposed to siding with the individual.

        Given Atlas Shrugged is a dystopian novel, much like Fahrenheit 451 or 1984, you should understand that archetypes dominate the settings - it is fiction, after all. Of course they differ from her almost ridiculously comprehensive papers, but I trust you can spot the difference.

        In the US, the target of Atlas Shrugged, individualism reigned supreme. You may call it self-centered, but like it or not, we all are selfish. Not in the idealistic terms - you are right -, but in general we are more selfish than altruistic. You do not sacrifice yourself for some intangible "superior" goal. I give away a secret you certainly don't know about: Read the first pages of The Virtue of Selfishness to get the meaning of the title. Read the rest to understand her argument. You haven't... which is why I suggest it.

        Following and discussing your argument is largely meaningless, as you won't change your mind on how horrible and dispassionate those damn objectivists are.

        How exactly objectivism raises monsters remains bafflingly absent. If you mean the discouragement of emotion-based actions, there you have it. But monsters are those that use only (blind) feelings and next to no logic - you correctly identify them as SJWs. I extend the horror to anything not featuring logic. You may include any popular, deity-based religion.

        Where exactly do you get the bigot part from? Feel free to point out examples, to any of your fun accusations - as you undoubtedly have such great familiarity with Rands texts. Trait, explanation, example/scene - you should be able to come up with three with absolute ease. Pretty please, with cherry on top.

        In case you can't, refrain from formulating quick generalizations. You made accusations, back up your claim.

        1. Ponytailed Opinionator

          Re: Who is John Galt?

          I have read Atlas Shrugged, at least. And the question is WHERE is John Galt, not WHO.

          I think Rand's analysis is stunning and brilliant. She's about the only writer that actually celebrates intelligence, rather than building subtle (or unsubtle) morality plays about how it is to be feared. However, her conclusions are appalling. Any answer to the problems she poses that leaves Eddie Villers to die in the desert is monstrous. Anyone willing to leave Eddie Villers to die is a monster.

          She's also rather naive, and wildly optimistic. Assuming that a Rearden could ever end up as CEO of his own business is just laughable: firstly there's a set of skills needed in that domain that are not engineering skills, but are valuable (and hence offer value). Secondly, that's where the looters live. People who create value typically never get that far in the first place. The principle of building everything on value for value exchange is fair and rather hard to argue with: defining value is a touch trickier.

          However, far more pertinently to this thread, I'll just point out that Dagny was a brilliant technologist and a woman, and Rand was (if you're objectivist, certainly) a brilliant writer and a woman. So attempting to use any kind of objectivism as an argument to work against female submissions to the IETF is all kinds of messed up. Where are the looters? Half the world's population is female, roughly. If women are not roughly equally represented in the IETF, doesn't that rather suggest that there are non-rational processes keeping them out? And isn't that the hallmark of the looters?

          Wouldn't posting an RFC to fix the mechanisms the looters are using to maintain their monopoly be a good, logical, objectivist answer to the problem?

          Why are we objecting to this again?

          1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

            Re: Re: Who is John Galt?

            Are you kidding? Rand was on a multiple-tens-of-thousand word rant about how she really wanted to be ploughed by a Hank Rearden-a-like in the real world. Look at the power play between Dagny Taggart and Rearden – that is, if you can get over the reams of sub-sixth-form political babble, running for pages and pages and pages, that any half-decent editor would have taken a chainsaw to.

            As an example of "how to get a raw manuscript published untouched", Atlas Shrugged is a masterpiece. As a work of readable fiction? It's awful, unutterably awful.

            Rand made a lot of very pertinent points in about the worst way possible. I say this as a minarchist libertarian. And I know this whole thread is now diving down a rabbit hole that's totally irrelevant to the IETF and socialist justice warriors getting worked up about people with the wrong colour skin getting ahead of their station.*

            *I'm proud to live and work in a society where the colour of my skin and what's between my legs is far more important than my education, ability or originality. You bigots.

          2. Alan_Peery

            Re: Who is John Galt?

            > Any answer to the problems she poses that leaves Eddie Villers to die

            > in the desert is monstrous. Anyone willing to leave Eddie Villers to

            > die is a monster.

            Thanks for the interesting reference. It's been decades since I read Atlas Shrugged, so I did a quick search to see what the story around Eddie was. The comments here are worth a read, as they refer both to the book and to what Ayn Rand said about the character (albeit without specific enough attribution to chase down the interview).


    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Re: Who is John Galt?

      Just googled "Why Hackers Must Eject the SJWs". Now wish i hadn't.

      Not a rational argument on issue.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Who is John Galt?

      "Why Hackers Must Eject the SJWs".

      Stanford Jazz Workshop? No, no, I'll continue supporting (and contributing my time to) SJW. After cooking, music is the second most important hack that good ol' HomoSap indulges in.

      Yes. I know. This is actually one of the few things I agree with ESR on ;-)

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: After cooking, music is the second most important hack that good ol' HomoSap indulges in.

        Music? I thought you were talking about jazz.....

  3. psyvenrix

    The SJWs strike again.

    The flat earth tyrants have taken over the globe, it is around about that time again.

    I am waiting for the call for a code of conduct for the IETF, the next way these try hards uses to ensure they can kick out anyone that doesnt follow the groupthink.

    Note that these measures are always done for the benefit of some voiceless collection of oppressed people.

    I take away from this the message that the proponents of this RFC value Identity politics and feelings over producing something that works.

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      "I take away from this the message that the proponents of this RFC value Identity politics and feelings over producing something that works."

      How is that any worse than the current territorialism, penis measuring and blatant corporate self interest?

      Either way, "producing something that works" is not the focus, and the majority of people are left out in the cold, their needs unmet.

      1. jake Silver badge

        "Either way, "producing something that works" is not the focus"

        You are wrong, Trevor. Want proof? You can read this.

        "and the majority of people are left out in the cold, their needs unmet."

        The majority of people can't wire or plumb their own house. Do you REALLY expect them to be able to contribute to RFCs? Honestly?

        As a side-note, seems to me that iFads & Fandroids meet the needs of TheGreatUnwashed. As does lager and fish&chips. None of which are exactly top of the line in their category.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        penis measuring

        That does seem to fly in the face of proper IETF behaviour. One wonders what an RFC on the subject would say,although I suppose it would have to consider the Postel principle ("Be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you accept").

      3. Cari

        Even your average "Straight White Men" get screwed over by the culture in tech companies. As much as idealists like insist that tech is a meritocracy, it really isn't.

        Unless you're fortunate enough to have proven yourself initially and then rise to success on your notoriety, you will often find yourself left out in the cold. Just ask all the mid-40s+ men who've worked hard instead of arsekissing, that face the chop when these companies make redundancies.

    2. graeme leggett Silver badge

      Aren't flat earthers more likely to be in the same set as the young earthers, birthers etc on the nominal right rather than the progressive left?

      1. Cari

        *regressive left.

        No. Two sides of the same coin, which I suspect is the reason for referring to flat earthers?

    3. Cari

      Socjus is a cancer that has metastasised in an otherwise worthwhile area of discussion. Of course diversity of thought, opinion, and experience is a good thing for any company. And it is worth making sure the environment enables that to come about by removing the restrictions that may be in place.

      Socjus doesn't allow for that either though. Interacting with anyone even so much as sipping the koolaid, one will quickly notice they value only cosmetic diversity, not true diversity. Even those they claim to champion get thrown under the bus as soon as they deviate from the approved party line.

      I've never seen terms like "uncle Tom", and the other more offensive one, in common use until I started observing discussions with supposedly progressive social justice advocates and the oppressed minorities and women that disagreed with them, or who politely asked sj to stop presuming to speak for them and appropriating their experiences...

    4. Donkey Molestor X

      that's a nice strawman, comparing people who are fighting for social justice with people who believe in a flat earth.

      let me guess, your definition of "oppression" is having to hear somebody SUGGEST that maybe people born with natural advantages should try giving a shit about people who don't have it so hot for maybe two seconds out of their precious fucking lives.

      poor baby. go back to your hugbox on /pol/ and try not to go on any shooting sprees.

      1. Cari

        Re: Donkey Molester

        > implying socjus gives shit about marginalised people and oppression

        > appropriating a pejorative used by neuro-atypical people, against a group that tends towards neuro-atypicality

        Wow. Much social justice. So progressive. Many virtues signalled.

        Go home Donkey, you're drunk.

    5. Yes Me Silver badge

      Some inconvenient facts

      > I am waiting for the call for a code of conduct for the IETF,

      That was published in 2001 (female author BTW) and updated last year (non-WASP editor BTW):,

      > the next way these try hards uses to ensure they can kick out anyone that doesnt follow the groupthink.

      I have no idea what that collection of words might mean.

      > I take away from this the message that the proponents of this RFC value Identity politics and feelings over producing something that works.

      Considering Dave Crocker's years of active technical productivity, that's absurd and insulting to him.

      Some other inconvenient facts of the matter:

      1) Women and non-WASPs have been in IETF leadership positions on many occasions.

      2) The lack of women and non-WASPs in the IETF population reflects the lack of them in the industry as a whole.

      3) For the record, this RFC is not an IETF document. It's an Independent Submisssion document - an opinion piece.

    6. swm

      I was once in a workshop about how to do brainstorming. The group consisted of high-powered scientists, secretaries etc.One of the techniques was to go around the room and specifically ask each person for an idea. When it was your turn you didn't have to shout over anyone else because it was your turn. I was surprised that the secretaries had very good input on even technical matters when they weren't being shouted down.

      I learned something. Maybe this RFC isn't such a bad idea.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Important RFCs by women ?

    How many RFCs that are important to the functioning of the internet ( i.e. not this nonsense ) have been written by women ?

    If you want to succeed in a meritocracy, you have to show you have merit.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: If you want to succeed in a meritocracy, you have to show you have merit.

      Did you read the article? Even the bit about the experiment they did? Do you understand what a circular argument is? Are you just being deliberately obtuse or is thinking too hard?

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Important RFCs by women ?

      "How many RFCs...have been written by women ?

      I'm guessing within an expected statistical range of the proportion of women taking part in the organisation.

      Plenty of women have technical merit, but if you look at the proportion leaving school with an interest or attempt to follow a technical career you will see the problem is far from an issue with the IETF or similar.

      Why so few women lecturers? Why so few women in science/technology roles? Duh, look at the number of women graduates 10-20 years previously!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Important RFCs by women ?

        All your points are correct, except that you see the lack of women in STEM as a problem.

        It is not, it is a reflection of how people are (still) allowed to choose their own career. Women favour medicine, law, wimmin's studies; men favour engineering, maths and computer science.

        That is why women do not write RFCs, and that in turn is why there are many more men than women running the IETF.

        Do the work, or get off the committee.

    3. jpwarren

      Re: Important RFCs by women ?

      What meritocracy?

      What is the metric used to measure merit here?

      Do you even statistics, bro?

      1. Donkey Molestor X

        Re: Important RFCs by women ?

        if software is a meritocracy then the metric for measuring merit is:

        How many new Javascript frameworks can be excreted into github per week.

    4. Chris Daemon

      Re: Important RFCs by women ?

      Radia Perlman is mentioned in the article... you're welcome.

    5. Cari

      Re: Important RFCs by women ?

      Which would be fine if it were in fact a meritocracy. You are not going to get one in any situation where people are identifiable in relation to their work, ideas etc.

    6. CaitlinBestler

      Re: Important RFCs by women ?

      I've already posted a comment that I think that the IETF's tone is far superior to other standards bodies and especially to most open source projects. So it really isn't a high priority target for improving things.

      But, I have to respond to this. Implying that being listed as an RFC author implies merit is nonsense.

      And yes, I am an RFC author.

      But my work on RFCs represents a small part of my technical work. What percent of your work becomes published in an RFC depends on a wide variety of factors, such as who your employer is. None of these factors are correlated with how good of a designer and/or writer you are.

      People (both men and women) are included or excluded from being listed as an author for political reasons. I know I was included as an author on some I-Ds from relatively light contributions, but only acknowledged on the RDMA MPA draft despite making major contributions. This is probably all very similar to the process of who gets listed as an author on a research paper. There are many factors, and the number of RFCs is still a bit too small to be proving things by statistical analysis.

    7. Donkey Molestor X

      Re: Important RFCs by women ?

      y'all motherfuckers talking about meritocracy and all you can do is write C code with no bounds checking or CRUD apps full of injection exploits.

      if there was a real meritocracy in software half the commentards in El Reg would be on the fucking street

    8. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Important RFCs by women ?

      OK, that's a challenge, and "important" is a judgement call. But looking at the list of

      full Standard and Draft Standard RFCs, I can see at least 17 with at least one woman author (two of them dating back to 1985). Among the Proposed Standards there are literally dozens more, I got bored counting, and in many cases I just can't tell whether an author from a non-European culture is man or woman.

  5. Peter Galbavy

    I think we should all sit in a circle and discuss what is troubling us while drinking this lovely herbal tea. Because that's how technology moved forward.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There is, Vulture South would note, a vicious circle here: a falling proportion of women in the organisation, over time, making it less attractive for women to participate.

    Or perhaps it's the "feminists" constantly bleating on about how hostile and oppressive the environment is toward women, and the tech media which laps it up and pumps out headline after histrionic headline, that drives women away.

    I thought this was supposed to be about "diversity" anyway. Why always so much focus on the gender aspect?

    1. Donkey Molestor X

      listen... dude... just listen.... listen to yourself.

      this is what you sound like:

      feminists: the culture in IT is hostile to women

      el reg commentard: oh my God how could those feminazi bitches say that the culture in IT is hostile to women? those evil fucking bitches dare to say that we're hostile to women? fuck those stupid whores!

      1. Chez

        Not counting the following, your post contains the only use of the word "whore" in this thread, and two of the only three uses of "bitch" - and the third use was as a verb.

        Who, exactly, is making this place hostile?

  7. Nolveys

    Women would have a much easier time in this culture if they'd learn to use their lirpas properly. It's their own fault for never attending pon farrs.

  8. TeeCee Gold badge

    Yeah, right.

    The problem here is that you can easily spot the cuddly "inclusive" organistions. They spend all their time arguing about how to be more cuddly, whether or not "x" is inclusive or divisive, censuring their members / staff for some perceived insult or other and never actually get anything done.

    You want things actually done? You need people who'll drive it through, riding roughshod over anyone or thing that gets in the way. Those "older white men"[1] are why we have an internet today, rather than the 2745th draft of the proposal to create one, containing five pages of technical content and several hundred on policies and procedures.

    @the RFC authors. You are the problem, not the solution.

    [1] I'll bet none of 'em have ever even considered the concept of giving a flying fuck about "inclusiveness" either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yeah, right.

      Indeed. It is obvious what is happening and sad that it happens at IETF.

    2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, right.

      "Why we have the internet today" is down to the work done in the 1970s and 1980s, which the authors of this RFC state was a time when IETF was more representative and inclusive than it is today.

      Technical organisations should hire the most technically able people. There appears to be a problem in IETF that no applicant with two X chromosomes is considered to have technical ability, regardless of their accomplishments. This is failed logic.

      1. Yes Me Silver badge

        Re: Yeah, right.

        > no applicant with two X chromosomes is considered to have technical ability

        That is absolute utter BS and shows your complete ignorance of the IETF.

    3. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, right.

      > [1] I'll bet none of 'em have ever even considered the concept of giving a flying fuck about "inclusiveness" either.

      I'm not up on PC jargon or anti-PC strawmen, but the IETF has been open to participation by any human being who shows up since 1986.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why I am not surprised at all that the first RFC from this woman was about their rights. She seems to be one of those mentioned in the article as "not having what it takes". BS!!

  10. jake Silver badge

    Oh, for fuck's sake.

    It's a fucking meritocracy!

    Those who can, do. Those who can't, bitch about it. It's been that way since time immemorial.

    Race, gender, creed, colo(u)r or upbringing aren't actually an important factor in this scenario. If you try to make it an important factor, you have obviously lost the concept ... we don't need your angst, we have other issues to deal with.

    Somewhere, Admiral Grace is spinning ...

    1. Donkey Molestor X

      Re: Oh, for fuck's sake.

      > It's a fucking meritocracy!

      > the software industry:

      > meritocracy

      > contains and tolerates major websites made with PHP and JavaScript

      PICK ONE.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Oh, for fuck's sake.

        Out of curiosity, how do you molest a donkey? And why would you want to? More to the point, are you absolutely certain that you want to broadcast this to the planet?

  11. Pirate Dave Silver badge

    "In RFC 7704, Clark and Crocker argue that ... “aggressive and even hostile discussion behaviour is quite common”. "

    Man, I hope they never join the Linux Kernel mailing list...or read any newsgroups...or post on any tech-related web forums...or visit El Reg. Poor blighters, the real world is just sort of tough...

    1. Donkey Molestor X

      I think we can all agree that the Linux Kernel Mailing List is a social cesspool as far as manners and comportment are concerned. It's too bad that with a minimal amount of research you can discover that, despite the prevailing belief among the commentards of El Reg, being an asshole is not positively correlated with code quality:

      "... I started to feel a little embarrassed by what we have as our own [Linux] kernel. The more I looked at the [OpenSolaris] code, the more it felt like it pretty much did everything the Linux kernel has been trying to do for ages. Not only that, but it's built like an aircraft, whereas ours looks like a garage job with duct tape by comparison..."

  12. CaitlinBestler

    Barking up the wrong tree.

    While no technical body is perfect on these issues, my experience has been that the IETF gets closest to functioning as a true meritocracy. I've been involved in several standards groups, including IETF, and several open source projects. The IETF is far ahead on the tone of discussions and fairness.

    There is some amount of "Boy's Club", yes. But compared to open-source communities it is nothing.

    If we could get the discussions on most open-source projects to be as respectful and professional as those in the IETF we could declare victory for the decade.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Barking up the wrong tree.

      The people who make this stuff have already declared victory - we made the £$%*ing internet and you are using it.

      The bleaters have lost, and if they don't like our internet they can (try and) make their own. But they'll probably need to spend less time chatting about Wimmins Studies, and more time locked away in a dark room, typing.

  13. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    What this sounds like

    The first several of these strips.

  14. Yes Me Silver badge

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon