Comments of ALAC Review report authored by Westlake Consulting Ltd
This was prepared as a PDF document. Cut/Pasted, so formatting might not be perfect.
Thank you for your consideration, O. Comments on ALAC Review Author : Olivier MJ Crépin-Leblond, PhD <ocl@xxxxxxx> Affiliation: Global Information Highway Ltd & ISOC England Date: Wednesday, 25 June 2008 In this brief note, I shall speak solely on my behalf, not representing either above organisations; mentioning them is for identification purposes only. Introduction I am sitting here in the Utrillo Room of the Meridien Hotel in Paris and have been listening to 1.5 hours of procedural discussions. Whilst I find this discussion to be interesting, just like Izumi Aizu I feel that the size of the room itself hinders the free flow of debate. Not that I am shy about mentioning my views in public, but the heat of debate concerning procedural issues has hindered me into digging straight into the review itself, the actual purpose of the meeting - in order not to risk cutting the flow of discussion currently taking place. As a result, I am submitting my comments in writing - since I have no interest in taking part in a debate that has been around ever since the inception of ICANN, since the IAHC days, even since the pre-IAHC days, when ISOC was trying to get a grasp on its own demons, and pre-ISOC, when the DDN, NSFnet and other organisations were coming to terms with the fact that the Internet that had served them was now metamorphosed into an Internet that had to serve users, ie. people. Yes, I was there, and I am tired of this debate. The issue at hand is the Independent review of the ALAC. ICANN has paid for this report by Westlake Consulting Limited (WCL). It is only fair that time/space allocated to comments about its draft version are submitted in time. Comments My comments start here. In order to keep the prose brief, they are referenced according to the Review document. I am also not commenting on all sections - some, I have not enough knowledge on to comment on. 1. Summary Recommendations (15) Development of Wikis and (21) replacement of Email lists with Wikis for discussion. I am surprised that this recommendation has been repeated twice. More on this subject later. 2. Analysis Methodology Whilst I do not see there being any major flaw with the methodology as such, one particular bias I have detected is the use of tools by the WCL team. Their primary use of Web 2.0 consisted of a Wiki system. This experience with Wiki might introduce bias towards selection of a common platform of interaction & debate, one of the recommendations prescribed by WCL. The analytical process as described in the document might have been simplified for the purpose of saving space in the written final report. It is hoped that the process used by WCL would have included the following: - Needs: the evaluation of needs & drafting of the exact requirements asked from the WCL consultancy. In the absence of a detailed description of a list of needs, I hope that these have been expressed by ICANN in further details than just as Article IV, Section 4, Paragraph 1 of the ICANN Bylaws. If a question is formulated well enough, the answer is obvious and has less chance of being ambiguous but more chance of being on target; - Sourcing: this includes a detailed plan of all sources, their objectivity & reliability. I see no detailed list of sources in the report that was presented from WCL and therefore have no ability to cross-check on the reliability of the sourcing process; - Collection: this is the collection of data from the sources selected from the vast array of sources available and selected above; - Evaluation: the evaluation of all data collected, along with selection of the most pertinent data and discarding of unreliable or un-correlated data. Whilst I see no evidence of this process having been explicitly followed using a specific and formalised method, it is mentioned that the "WCL Review Team had to rely on good judgment" and I trust the good judgment of the WCL team; - Analysis: the analysis of the retained data - a process described in the report involving a dual-stack analytical process with peer-reviewing of each other's work. This, I am confident, has been done "in the art". - Exploitation: the drawing up of conclusions from the analysis. This is also the use and review of the report. I am saddened that so little time was spend reviewing such report during the ICANN ALAC face to face forums but hope that this exploitation & evaluation will take place during the next few weeks, both formally and informally. As a whole, whilst a rigid methodology is not apparent, I feel that it was of a sufficient standard to bring forth some interesting points which the ALAC should take note of. Whereas some questions were well structured, the report as a whole does however seem to fail to address all questions which the ALAC might have had. The cause of this apparent failure is unknown to me since I have not been part of the process and would therefore be speaking on matters which I have no knowledge of. I am however aware that this is a working document and look forward to the final, revised version which, no doubt, will encompass more views & feedback from the ALAC. 4.5 Is the ALAC the most suitable vehicle? (3) Merge the ALAC with/into the Internet Society (ISOC) WCL's conclusion hinges on the following statement: "Indeed this submitter argued that the fact of overlapping membership was evidence of separate purposes - otherwise people would not become involved in both". Have WCL considered that the separate purposes of ISOC and the ALAC might have been desired by ISOC in order to differentiate itself and not duplicate the ALAC's work? The existence of ISOC pre-dates the creation of ICANN and indeed many of the participants are common to both organisations. Whilst my judgment might be tainted, I am sorry that WCL has focused on the differences between ISOC & ALAC rather than the common ground between ISOC & ALAC. In my humble opinion, ISOC and ICANN have different roles because they were designed to have different roles so as not to duplicate efforts and to avoid conflict. 7.8 Policy Development Use of multi-lingual Wikis for Participation by the community in the development of policy positions: disagreeing with this suggestion as the only channel of communication, I will address this point further in the next section. 7.14 Outreach Tools This section contains a fair assessment of the as-is situation but fails to provide a comprehensive study and set of suggestions for a to-be scenario. All in all, its length is barely 3 pages in a report that contains 112 pages. Considering the fact that the ALAC's main aim, as described in Section 4.1 of WCL's report is to bring accountability to a wider group of stakeholders, as well as participation from at-large members, effective communication should be at the heart of the ALAC's infrastructure. This is not emphasized enough in WCL's report. Furthermore, in several locations of the WCL report, a mention of Wikis points to Wikis being the sole preferred channel of communication & discussion. Whilst I believe that Wikis are well suited to providing a record of work performed and to archiving and disseminating this record in a suitable and well ordered manner, I do not believe that Wikis can be used for discussion. Wikis do not stimulate dialogue. One barrier to entry is its required use of "markup language", a skill not necessarily possessed by all contributors to the ALAC process. Wikis hinder spontaneity of ideas. Wikis need a main Wiki editor. Nevertheless, with 25 email lists in place (according to WCL report), I understand the difficulty with which stakeholders can communicate. The multiplicity of messages otherwise known as Information Overload is common to many of ICANN's discussions, more so within the ALAC process. I therefore agree that the sole channel for discussion should not be email. WCL's report fails to consider other Web-based channels such as online newsgroups, forums etc. that do not require knowledge of markup language like Wiki does. I would therefore suggest that a comprehensive study of current Web 2.0 / collaboration, archiving & discussion tools be undertaken with the purpose of implementing new communication channels. This should include teleconferencing, document sharing, threaded news, etc. This might include the more extensive use of multi-media, such as a video archive, bearing in mind that such an archive should be as easy to use as YouTube (a good example of an easy to use video archive), searchable, indexed and threaded. This could also include archiving of SMS communication through the use of an SMS to Internet gateway (for archiving of SMS communication in Africa as described in WCL's report (Section 7.14.2). It could include Facebook-like interaction tools. The study might even include benchmarking another similar member organisation specialising in bottom-up participation. Sadly this is missing from the report. The failure by WCL to address this core point is worrying. I believe that the ALAC lies at the heart of ICANN's process because it is a reflection of the problems ICANN is facing as a whole to undertake a bottom-up process through easy communication. Without the proper tools to make communication between ICANN and its stakeholders easy, ICANN's processes will not work and that will be particularly true of the ALAC constituency since this is probably the widest, most far-reaching constituency of them all. I thank you for taking my points into account in your review process andwish you the Best for the Future.