[arin-ppml] ARIN Board members

Bill Woodcock woody at pch.net
Mon Jul 20 12:58:36 EDT 2015

> On Jul 20, 2015, at 9:17 AM, David Huberman <David.Huberman at microsoft.com> wrote:
> What fair and objective data does a voter have to judge how well an incumbent is doing?

Even speaking as someone who’s been reelected several times, this bothers me quite a lot too, and I’m really glad David’s brought it up for discussion.  I hope this time we can continue the momentum through to some sort of conclusion, even if it’s a difficult conversation.

When people have voted for me, I’m grateful, but I know that they don’t have access to the information that I know I’d want before casting that vote, so I know they’re going on faith.  And I don’t think that’s a fair burden to put on our membership.  In a sense, only people who are already on the board have access to the information they need to cast an informed vote regarding the other incumbents.

So, one (admittedly very thin) source of information the members can turn to is to look at the published endorsements of incumbent candidates by other currently-sitting board members.  That at least gives some indication of what other board members think of an incumbent who’s running again, or (in the case of non-incumbent candidates) what those sitting board members think is needed in terms of new blood.

The deficiencies of this as a channel of information are many.  First and foremost, the board is collegial, and public and attributed statements that are negative makes for difficult relations within the board.  It’s easy to say that good relations within the board are less important to the membership than are results, but in reality, it’s very difficult to make progress when the board is at loggerheads.  So, there’s some value in maintaining that collegiality, and letting board members feel like they’re not in a position of having to trade votes for public support, for instance, which would be a bad outcome.

> I can't tell you how good a Board member is.  I suspect that's because so much of our activity as the collective ARIN happens in the policy making arena, and the Board has chosen to be mostly silent in that arena.

I wouldn’t say that the board has chosen to be silent, I’d say that a majority of the board has chosen for the board to be silent.  I’d say that this is actually one of the most contentious issues within the board.  As well, it’s one of the things that makes the nomcom’s job hardest: the best candidates know that if they win, they’ll be effectively silenced on issues of policy.  I think it’s also worthy of note that although the danger of an activist board is not negligible, it’s a putative danger over which the board is self-censoring, rather than an issue raised by the membership.

> I read the published minutes of the Board meetings, and they're not particularly enlightening.

This is an issue that the AfriNIC community is confronting at the moment.  The membership appears to be on the verge of demanding transcripts, rather than minutes, of their board.  On the other hand, they’re facing board transparency problems far worse than ARIN is, and the danger of chilling discussion of difficult issues is also a real one.

> Does the Board Does the Board conduct any reviews or evaluations of Board member performance?

Not really, no.

> I mean, the CEO gets reviewed, yes?

Yes, that’s correct.  Though I believe the results are protected under HR policy.  Anyone is welcome to correct me if I’m wrong on that.

> If the Board can review the CEO, would it be a stretch to ask for reviews of the other 6 members of the Board?

That seems reasonable enough; my one caveat would be that the criteria by which a CEO is reviewed are reasonably cut-and-dried.  Before you could have useful reviews of board member performance, you’d need (1) to decide on criteria, and (2) to instrument those criteria.  To my observation, neither of those is as straight-forward as one might hope.

One transparency mechanism I had high hopes for was the one we discussed at the mic at the end of last fall’s meeting in Baltimore: use of the ASCP process for public discussion between the membership and the board members, either singly or each or collectively.  For instance, a member could use the ASCP process to ask each board member to state their position on membership categories and fees.  Or to ask each board member how they voted on an issue, and to defend their choice.  Or for their opinion on the success of the IPv4 marketplace.  Any of these would give the membership more insight than they have now, and it would provide a public commitment that board members, and the board as a whole, could be held to in their performance.  As such, it would be one way of beginning to establish criteria that board members could be measured against…  not static criteria, but the dynamic criteria of their positions on, and response to, the issues that confront ARIN, both predictable and unpredictable.

In any event, I’m very happy to see this topic aired, and I look forward to a good conversation and some actionable result!


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