ICANN Blog: Food fights and lawyers

Au revoir a Luxembourg

The interview with Chancellor Schroeder, ICANN's behind-the-scenes powerhouse, has been postponed until after the meeting, if at all. A loss as it would be interesting to see what the CFO has to say about the $23-odd million pumped into this organisation. Not only does Ms. Schroeder likely know where the skeletons are, she probably dug the graves.

45 minutes

For anyone familiar with British politics, they will know that Holy Tony - Britain's dangerously sincere prime minister - got into hot political water over a claim that Saddam Hussein could launch chemical and biological weapons in 45 minutes at UK troops. It appeared prominently in a dossier - subsequently termed the "dodgy dossier" - which sought to persuade the British people that war with Iraq was justified on self-defence grounds. The claim turned out to be completely bogus and for a while it looked as though it might bring down the government.

Imagine our surprise then when the same 45-minute term was used for an equally bogus assertion at the meeting on WSIS first thing in the main room. When the UN gets together to decide the future of the Internet in just a few months' time, the ICANN crowd was told that it needn't worry about being heard. In fact, in recognition of how important the UN felt it was for folks like us - the people that build the Internet - to be heard, they had set aside an incredible 45 minutes *every two days*. In a classic example of the "fake sell" - instantly recognisable to anyone that has ever had to talk to an advertising exec - this almost-insult was portrayed as a dramatic concession on the UN's part.

We can only hope that the various ICANN constituencies can get together and agree a strong and concise joint statement to be read out, rather than a stream of interested observers asking short questions that will be disimissed out of hand. But hang on, what's this? A pig flying past the window?

Nowt as queer as folk

By and large Internet people are a friendly bunch. Once you get to know them. I particularly enjoyed an email from a reader saying he'd love to meet up in Lux. Just so I'd know him, he was wearing a purple top and has a goatee. Sadly, he was never spotted, unlikely as that may seem. Nor did I have time to take up the offer from Marcie at the GDNX booth to dish the dirt. And since this is being written from Luxembourg airport, it would seem that that scandalous information about ICANN Board members will now be lost forever in the fog of time.

For most members of the Internet community, being confronted with a member of the press is either a novelty or a fearful event. It was with some delight then that Peter Dengate-Thrush, the ccNSO's Board member, treated this reporter with the utter disdain that I correctly judged only a member of the legal profession can muster.

I once considered writing a short story about a world run and populated by lawyers [attorneys, for our American cousins], but just thinking about it brought on such a wave of despair and nausea that the project was abandoned. Ironically, the ccNSO found itself in just such a position earlier in the week, with one member suggesting that, during a long, drawn-out debate over the format of "accountability frameworks" signed with ICANN, that all the lawyers be asked to leave the room while everyone else carried out a discussion. They would then be invited back in once the details had been thrashed out and only then asked for their opinion. Now that's the kind of original thinking that made the internet such a success in the first place.

[My lawyer would like me to make clear that the previous text constitutes fair comment appearing as it does in a light-hearted first-person piece defined by its subjectivity. Lawyers are, and will remain, vital contributors to society and I retain the utmost professional respect for them all without prejudice. No references to Peter Dengate-Thrush are to be confused with persons living or dead.]

Can't eat, won't eat

Let's set the record straight. Vint Cerf and Paul Twomey were not barred from entering the ICANN's Gala Dinner by over officious Luxembourg officials. What happened was that the organisers had only distributed a certain number of invites, and many attendees without them turned up either unaware they weren't invited or expected to be able to get in anyway.

Arriving after the bulk of the guests Mr Cerf and Mr Twomey were temporarily held back while the Casino staff checked whether they could increase their capacity. This was achieved with the swift addition of an extra table. And thank god they did. Imagine their disappointment if they hadn't caught the world-beating entertainment. [Incidentally, I ignored Mr Christian's advice and did attempt to recreate one of his death-defying feats with the hotel staff last night as I stumbled in drunk. With the receptionist and one of the porters hold a heavy piece of iron, the security guard was encouraged to bend a shower curtain's steel pole with his throat. Far from being furious at the result, the guard was this morning delighted at being able to smoke twice as much as previously.]

IANA hell unfolds

The ICANN newsletter proudly announces an IANA web form that will revolutionise changes made to the DNS. But it has not found overwhelming approval among the close-knit community of top-level domain adminstrators.

One quizzed: "What is this? My ten-year-old son can do a web form like this in five minutes. Pathetic." Asked about IANA delays, and Vint Cerf's comment the day before that making changes to the DNS was extremely complicated and not something to be taken likely, our friend tried to put things in context. "If a dyslexic gynaecologist from a developing country can do this since 1991, then anyone can." The self-same manager was later seen discussing with Ombudsman Frank Fowlie whether being called a very rude word by the head of IANA came within his jurisdiction.

The heat, the heat

The public forum held at the end of the day (and going through the whole of Thursday) started getting heated yesterday, literally and figuratively. Dot-net was, unsurprisingly, pretty high up on the agenda. The clear consensus of anger led to several Board members decrying the fact that because full minutes of Board meetings were taken, the outside community couldn't be aware of what substantive and informed discussion they had had.

The lack of proper Board minutes has been a source of irritation for as long as ICANN has operated. Surely it is time that the supporting organisations started being active rather than passive and forward a motion for discussion at the Board for the Board to do precisely that - note down what the hell they talk about. The arguments for clearly outweigh the argument against.

That said, the entire Board deserves sympathy today. Having to sit on stage in sweltering heat all day taking the brunt of increasingly short-tempered attendees is not going to be much fun. Today is expected to be even hotter than yesterday. And at 5pm yesterday, one of the attendees remarked that he had never seen Vint Cerf without his jacket before. Will today see the unimaginable? Will Mr Cerf have no choice but to remove his waistjacket? The webcam should catch the live chest-action.

Previous blogs

Tuesday: Fear and Redemption
Monday: I don't like Mondays
Sunday: De Lux appointment

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