[ppml] ARIN participation (was: Proposed Policy: IPv6 HD ratio)

Matt Pounsett matt.pounsett at cira.ca
Wed May 11 13:23:31 EDT 2005

It's an annoying but common feature of human nature to not bother  
with things that are perceived to be working just fine, or perceived  
to have a high bar of entry (either in required experience or  
skill).  Also, people are lazy.

We have a similar problem with participation here at CIRA, where  
domain holders act in many ways like shareholders in the company..  
running for and voting for our board, voting on annual financial  
statements, etc.  The members have a huge say in how the organization  
is run, yet with over half a million domains out there we have a hard  
time making quorum for our annual general meeting.  As Bill Darte  
noted, just look at the American and Canadian electoral processes..  
even with millions of dollars going into advertising specifically  
designed to get people to vote, a significant number of people just  
don't bother.

The subject of participation at meetings came up in Reston.. in the  
Policy Proposal BoF, I believe.  One major thread of the conversation  
revolved around the perception by newcomers that there is a great  
deal of history (both technical and political) in most discussions,  
as well as a need for a significant amount of operational experience  
in order to understand all the nuances and potential side-effects of  
any one suggestion or decision.  The two combine to make it difficult  
to feel comfortable adding one's voice.

Personally, as someone who operates a small network on the edge, I  
just don't have operational experience on the same scale of many of  
those who participate in meetings or on PPML.  Also, as a relative  
newcomer to the ARIN scene, I'm unaware of discussions that may have  
already taken place eliminating particular solutions or avenues.   
That makes it difficult to feel comfortable commenting, or making  
suggestions... it's just too easy to commit some sort of gaffe.  As a  
result, I tend to limit my comments to subjects where I do have  
significant operational expertise, such as with the DNS or with  
whois. ... and I'm not even the proverbial geek introvert.  I  
gathered from the discussion at Reston that there are many others  
with similar reasons for lurking.

I'm not sure there's an easy solution.

Creating a new mailing list certainly isn't going to do it... if the  
members were going to participate in a mailing list just because it  
exists, they'd participate here or on arin-discuss.  If I'm reading  
between the lines correctly, it seems the suggestion is based on the  
notion of mandatory subscription, which I don't think will fly... and  
not just because people will revolt if you tell them they /have/ to  
accept e-mail from you.   In my experience, people don't participate  
on mailing lists because there just isn't time.  I can spend a couple  
hours a day just keeping up with ARIN and NANOG, and the only reason  
my boss allows that to continue is because I've convinced him it's in  
our best interests as a part of the infrastructure to know what's  
going on.

Of course we want more people to participate, but I think it's  
incorrect to suggest there's something wrong with having experienced  
people (not only operationally experienced, but more importantly  
experienced with the community that is ARIN) on the AC or the BoT.   
As has already been noted in this thread, and as is noted at every  
meeting, these people do not make or break policy -- they oversee  
process, and rubber stamp the decisions of the community.  I think  
it's important that a significant number of the people doing those  
jobs be very familiar with ARIN, its processes, and the nuances of  
its community.

I haven't proposed any solutions here, but hopefully I've provided  
some insight into why a participation problem exists.  I don't have  
any good suggestions, since marketing just isn't my forte, but I will  
note that all cases where I've seen the public respond to requests to  
participate, it has been at the expense of a significant amount of cash.

Matt Pounsett
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