[Ietf-lac] Fwd: ietf meeting fees

Fernando Gont fgont at si6networks.com
Thu Jun 13 15:25:50 -03 2019

Yo plantie esta inquietud en latinoamerica, junto con otras tantas.

Nadie me dio ni pelota.

EN fin...

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Re: ietf meeting fees
Date: Wed, 29 May 2019 13:45:00 -0400
From: John C Klensin <john-ietf at jck.com>
To: Michael StJohns <mstjohns at comcast.net>, ietf at ietf.org

--On Tuesday, May 28, 2019 21:29 -0400 Michael StJohns
<mstjohns at comcast.net> wrote:

> On 5/28/2019 6:49 PM, Keith Moore wrote:
>> On 5/28/19 4:35 PM, Michael StJohns wrote:
> IMO - it's not inertia as much as reality.  In the current
> "we don't have members" and "we don't charge for standards"
> model, we have three funding sources: meeting fees, sponsor
> contributions (both meeting and sustaining), and checks from
> the parents ... I mean ISOC contributions.    We could
> become more like other standards organizations by charging for
> either or both of membership (student, researcher, personal,
> corporate etc) and copies of the standards, but I grok that
> either of those changes could change the fundamentals of the
> IETF in a way that could make us *less* viable or
> relevant. 


I mostly agree, but have a different take on this, involving two
other pieces of the same reality.  As participation costs [1]
rise, it becomes harder for people without enterprise (profit or
non-profit) support to attend f2f meetings.  For those of us
with healthy consulting practices or significant
non-occupational income, retirement income, or other reserves,
attendance becomes a matter of personal or business priorities.
For people operating as individuals and closer to the edge, the
choice may be one of feasibility.   As a personal example, I've
got some health issues that drive up minimum costs, but there
have been years when I was attending substantially all meetings
f2f in which the annual IETF bill came to USD 30K- 40K.  Even if
one can get by at half or a third of that by cutting various
costs, we still are not talking about chump change.

It would be good to have actual numbers, although I'm not
confident that many of us would want to disclose the details of
our support situations to the community (or even the
Secretariat), but my strong suspicion is the percentage of
people actually participating as individuals -- on our own
wallets with no enterprise/organization support -- is dropping
relative to those who can depend on organizational money for
travel support, registration fees, and maybe even a salary while
at IETF or doing IETF work.   To the extent that is the case, it
turns the model of participation by individuals into a
convenient myth.
Of course, organizations differ hugely about what, if anything,
people they support to participate in the IETF are expected to
do in return.  We've seen the full spectrum from "go there, do
your thing, and don't pay any attention to any relationships to
your day job" to clear corporate policies about positions
employees are expected to take or avoid in the IETF, rewards for
particular IETF-related actions or accomplishments, and so on.
However, I suggest that even the potential for a company to hold
people accountable for what they do in the IETF makes those
people different from our traditional story (myth ?) about
individual participation.

That myth is, IMO, dangerous for at least three reasons.  One is
that reasoning from the assumption that changing a model that
doesn't exist in practice would fundamentally change the IETF
may get in the way or clear thinking about alternatives,
including financial alternatives.  Second, noting that
participating as an IESG, IAB, etc., member is even more
expensive than participating as an ordinary contributor, if our
decision bodies come to be dominated by people with strong
organizational support, sensitivity to cost and related issues
by those who actually make the decisions may be reduced.
Finally, many of our policies and procedures are designed around
the assumption of individual participation and the related
assumption of no coordinated organizational influence.  Should
the IETF, as a standards developer ever get itself embroiled in
claims that particular standards decisions were made because of
undue organizational influences and that those decisions
distorted the market for certain products, our failure to have
policies and procedures in place to control that risk -- and our
presumed claim that we don't need them because everyone
participates as an individual would be more likely to fail a
laugh test the more unbalanced the participant profile gets.

> So in the current model we can a) charge higher meeting fees,
> b) get more sponsorship, and c) ask ISOC for a bigger check. 
> None of these wells are bottomless.  We could reduce
> expenditures - but what would you cut?  Meeting related
> munchies and internet? Remote access bandwidth?  Staff costs?
> Tools support? Standards production?

Well, I don't know how much it would help and we have built
systems that would cause it to take a long time for any changes
to show significant effects (maybe another symptom of the
"individual participation" myth), but we could also think about
some ways to cut costs and how much they would save.   As
(i) Raise the threshold for creating a new WG, keeping a WG
going, and/or giving WGs meeting time slots, or restrict the
number of WGs to the point that we could reduce the number of
days the IETF meets and/or the number of meeting rooms needed in
parallel.  Reducing the number of days meetings last would
reduce the number of hotel nights people had to pay for and
perhaps even the number of hotel nights for staff the IETF,
ISOC, etc., needed to pay for.  Reducing the number of parallel
meeting rooms required might broaden the range of facilities we
could consider and thereby permit lower-cost meeting site
(ii) Consider whether, with increasing use of interim meetings,
we could reduce the number of all-IETF meetings from three to
two.  This would presumably reduce annual travel, hotel, and
other costs for both participants and staff and might help
broaden participation by allowing at least some participants to
spend a larger fraction of the year at their day jobs.

(iii) Push back aggressively on small group meetings in parallel
with IETF.  IIR, we used to require between three and four small
meeting rooms: IAB and IESG (sometimes sharing one dedicated
space), a work area for the Secretariat, and maybe something
else like the Nomcom.  Anything else was required to take it
elsewhere or meet in ordinary hotel rooms (or rooms of members
of the leadership who were given complementary upgrades to
suites under hotel contracts); we even aggressively discouraged
other groups or company gatherings in the meeting hotel.  I
gather the number of such spaces that are "required" has
increased very significantly.  Given the complexities of hotel
contracts I am not sure that cutting the number back down would
lower costs for a given facility, but such a decrease would
increase the number of facilities that could be considered,
leaving us less at the mercy of facilities large enough to
accommodate our increasing needs and more able to negotiate more
attractive facility contracts.

I note that each of the above has been proposed in the past, at
least the first to the point of I-Ds proposing different
variations.  What they have in common is that the IESG (and/or
IASA) have been unwilling to take them up.  There are others
that might be worth considering although I'd predict they would
be even less likely to go anywhere:

(iv) Push back on IAB, IESG, or other "retreats" that require
additional travel, sometimes four weeks a year away from home
rather than three, and staff support and travel.   These
increase costs and decrease the number and diversity of people
who can volunteer to serve in leadership positions.  Sometimes
they are worth it, but the community's uncritical acceptance of
them as regular events may imply that we are not paying enough
attention to cost control (or that those will large travel and
expense accounts don't notice the costs or don't care).

(v) And, yes, we could attack the cookie budget by, e.g.,
creating an extra charge for snack breaks.   Given the nature of
hotel contracts, it is not clear how much that would save, but
making it negotiable would increase our ability to control costs
and promote competition among candidate facilities.

Those are just examples.  If we were serious about cost
reductions, we could probably come up with others.  I suggest
that "we" are no serious and that, in some respects, the
increase in remote participation has reduced the incentives to
control costs because someone who can't afford to travel to all
f2f meetings just stops doing so.   However, that seems to me to
be reducing the diversity of the IETF's leadership, making the
idea of participation as individuals more or a fiction, and
turning the IETF more into a body where participation and
leadership is by large and well-funded organizations even though
we keep trying to hide and deny that.

>>> If you are arguing for actions that reduce or tend to reduce
>>> or have  the potential to limit the intake of funds from
>>> that model, I suggest  you also come up with a more than
>>> handwaving proposal for how to  replace those funds or
>>> explain which functions supported by the IETF  we're going
>>> to eliminate to cover such shortfall.
>> Perhaps we should also require more than handwaving reasons
>> for  staying the same.  :-)
> See above - it's really just a question of who we want to be
> and what we're willing to pay to become that.  If you can
> tell me who we want to be, I can help you with figuring out
> what it's going to cost in time, reputation, angst, etc.

To turn this around a bit, maybe we should accept that who we
claim to be is getting less true even if has yet to disappear
entirely.  If we want to be a body that matches our claims, we
need to figure out what we are willing to pay (in cost
reductions, changes in workload, and adjustments to leadership
and overhead structures) to get that back and retain it.   I am
not holding my breath.


[1] That is costs as seen by those individual participants,
i.e., not just the registration fee but the sum of that, plus
travel expenses (air, hotel, meals, visa application fees and
associated travel when necessary, etc.), maybe plus lost income
or other opportunity costs when our individual sources of income
or other support make that relevant.

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