[arin-ppml] Curious about consensus

Leo Bicknell bicknell at ufp.org
Sun Apr 24 13:43:04 EDT 2011

In a message written on Sun, Apr 24, 2011 at 10:46:33AM -0400, Joe Maimon wrote:
> I would really appreciate if some members could find the time to shed 
> some light on their consensus evaluating processes and to share their 
> thoughts concerning that portion of the AC's role in the policy crafting 
> activities.

I am no longer an AC member, which may make me more open to speak
about this process. :)

I think in my time on the AC I had more discussions about what is
consensus with other AC members than any other topic.  Various folks
on the AC have different interpretations of what consensus means,
and see different levels of consensus in the actions around each
policy.  Note, I think these differences are actually a good thing,
and largely the result of different perspectives coming together.

You are right that the show of hands is one of the more direct ways
you can gauge consensus, and since it is in front of the membership
it is one that they see as well.  The AC also looks at the number
of PPML posts in support or opposed to a policy, staff does a great
job of providing summaries of this activity.  Also note that one
of the most interesting numbers is the number of folks not voicing
an opinion.  There is often great debat when a vote is 10 for, 10
against in a room of 150 if the 130 not voting are apathetic, if
they don't understand the proposal, if it simply doesn't affect
them, or various other situations.

Outside of these numerical measures, there are a number of other factors
that are regularly considered:

* Vote history.  When the proposal has been to multiple meetings the
  historical vote, and trend can be quite important.

* Where the vote was taken.  Meetings always have an extra group of
  local people attending, which may not represent the entire region.

* Who voted.  There have been cases where someone who wanted something
  to happen got 20 of their friends to show up at the meeting when none
  had been there before and vote for it.  If no one else at the meeting
  voted for it as well, that may be discounted.

* Passion of those for/against.  If one side is passionate about the 
  impact and the otherside is apathetic, that may sway towards passion
  if the vote is close.

* Input from staff and legal council.  The AC, being under NDA, can ask
  some questions that don't come out in the public forum.  Note, they
  don't always get their questions answered even in that forum, but
  there is often useful input.

There's also a number of far more intangable things that go in,
sort of a gut feel thing.  For instance, some early IPv6 policy was
clearly of non-interest at the time to 80% of the community, yet
the AC realized a time would come that we needed an IPv6 policy,
and if we wanted until then it would be too late.  Thus consensus
may have been largely judged in the 20% who were into IPv6 and cared
at the time.

It is also for these reasons I now urge those who have been on the
AC for 2+ terms to consider stepping aside and letting someone else
do the job.  In the hyper-policy enviornment of the AC there are a
lot of things thrown at you the normal community might not notice.
You'll have long discussions with other AC members about minute
details that 90% of the community would never even care about.  It's
very easy to let your mental "center" drift from the community's

That's not to say I think anyone there is doing a bad job, just
that I think it's in the communities interest to insure we both
never burn out some of our most passionate individuals, and also
keep fresh perspectives going into the AC.

       Leo Bicknell - bicknell at ufp.org - CCIE 3440
        PGP keys at http://www.ufp.org/~bicknell/
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