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IETF rates itself 'minimally acceptable' on key measures of community, efficacy

Internet standards body admits to gender issues, communications problems, pledges fix for undefined 'high priority concerns'

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the open standards organisation that defines and develops internet standards, has surveyed its membership, and found that many of its key efforts are merely "minimally acceptable" – rather than efficient or inclusive.

Those findings emerged in the IETF's first ever community survey, which was conducted in May 2021 by sending email to the 56,000 addresses subscribed to the organisation's mailing lists. Responses came in from 2,032 people (600 addresses bounced and 700 people unsubscribed on receipt of the survey).

A report [PDF] on the exercise was released last week.

The organisation reported that respondents generally rate it as meeting its goals, but are less happy with the way it goes about the effort to do so.

Analysis of questions about the quality of RFCs produced by the IETF, their relevance and reflection of participant consensus saw the organisation rate its processes as displaying "minimally acceptable effectiveness".

"Those who have not interacted with the IETF have a consistently better assessment of it than those who have," the report damningly states.

One reason respondents don't interact could be that 49.83 per cent of them said they aren't aware of the IETF's main communications organ, the ietf-announce mailing list. Almost 18 per cent said it's not interesting enough to bother reading, and 16.67 per cent said they don't need to read it.

Another item rated as a key finding is that females make up between 9.2 and 10.7 per cent of its community. The body notes that level is "significantly lower than the percentage of the population or the percentage split of IT workers". Participation is also low outside of North America and Europe, with Asia home to just ten per cent of respondents.

The report assesses responses as suggesting that "a minimally acceptable number feel part of the community, feel treated the same as the rest of the community, feel that the IETF communicates with them well and … that behaviour is minimally acceptable, contributions are valued and that WGs are a good use of time."

The report didn't offer any conclusions, but the IETF says the survey "will be regularly referenced in decision making to ensure a data-driven approach is taken" when considering "high priority concerns". But the document and IETF announcement neither name nor identify those concerns. ®

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