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Be more frugal

  • To: budget-comments@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Be more frugal
  • From: George Kirikos <gkirikos@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 24 May 2006 15:20:03 -0700 (PDT)

The budget is far too high, and showing an unrealistic growth curve.

Nearly 20% of the proposed $30 million budget is devoted to travel.
This should be reduced considerably by using technology for remote
participation (e.g. Webex, LiveMeeting, etc.), so that less needs to be
spent on air transportation and hotels. Furthermore, it would increase
participation by those unable or unwilling to travel to physical
meetings. Instead of travel throughout the exotic locations of the
world, so that Board members can go bowling:


or sit in front of empty halls:


locations (if needed) should be chosen that are the lowest cost for
participants and *essential* staff to attend (i.e. major transportation
hubs and destinations with affordable hotels/conference space).
Locations like Las Vegas, New York, and London come to mind. Maybe even
Los Angeles, so ICANN staff need not waste money on travel/hotels at
all, and can sleep in their own beds at night. 

It's very telling that ICANN sends so many staff members to the events,
yet somehow ICANN's duties during the week-long events are fulfilled
without any hiccups. It makes one really wonder what the staff are
doing the rest of the year, if their mass absence during those weeks
has no operational impact. It's a sign of overcapacity in terms of
current staffing, yet the current budget proposes to increase staff by
yet another 50% (from 59 to 89).

ICANN needs new metrics as to its "activities". In the budget paper, it
shows a graph of the number of registrars, which was essentially a
flat-line between 1999 and 2003. Everyone knows that the recent growth
in 2004/5/6 was driven by "phantom" registrars going after expired
domain names, and mostly controlled by existing entities. These were
not really new registrars, but were existing registrars seeking extra
accreditations to increase their chances of catching expiring domains.
The applications for these additional registrars are essentially
"cookie-cutter" cut and paste, with minimal work required to handle
them. Thus, it is highly misleading for ICANN to use that graph as a
sign that its activity level has increased 400%. If ICANN wanted to
tell the truth, they would present a graph of the number of registrars
that are unaffiliated with other groups. Due to industry consolidation,
I would expect that such a graph would show a DECLINE in the real
number of truly distinct registrars (for example, Dotster's parent has
acquired AllDomains, 000domains,  Dotregistrar and a few others).

Using the number of emails on a mailing list as a sign of organization
activity is also spurious. ICANN's spam filters are very poor, and thus
you get situations like:


where spammers and phishers are trying to sell pills, or steal one's
PayPal details. This is typical of many other ICANN lists. If one wants
to see a better indicator of ICANN's activity level in regards to
email, take a look at:

http://forum.icann.org/ [linked from ICANN's homepage as "Hot Topics"]

and see how many of the forums have zero messages lately. Indeed, the
Public Comment "Off Topic" forum has been closed for 18 months:


Most lists that are made public have trivial volume, not 500 messages
per DAY as the graph suggests, e.g:

http://forum.icann.org/lists/alac/ [ALAC, 95 messages from April 24 to
May 24 2006, = 3/day]

http://gnso.icann.org/mailing-lists/archives/registrars/ [Registrars,
http://gnso.icann.org/mailing-lists/archives/council/ [Council, 2/day]

I'm not privy to the Board list (any thoughts to making it public?),
but we do know exactly how many Board meetings there were via:

http://www.icann.org/minutes/  [exclude Executive Committee meetings
and Secretary notes]

2002: 15  
2003: 19
2004: 16
2005: 18
2006: 8 (up to May 24, 2006) 

We also know the amount of Correspondence from ICANN's Correspondence


2002: 24
2003: 87
2004: 53
2005: 71
2006: 24 (up to May 24, 2006)

This scaling is probably a better indicator of the true flat
organization activity, rather than the graphs ICANN has produced to
justify its huge proposed budget.

There's no indication that ICANN Board members or staff even read the
input of the public on most issues, in any event. If they did, perhaps
they would have rejected the VeriSign proposed settlement, as it was
clear that was the consensus wish of the public. I know for myself,
I've been trying to get detailed IDN TLD information from ICANN staff
since the last Board Meeting, for policy purposes, yet my last 2 emails
over a period of a month have had no response (although to be fair I
did get a partial response in 1 email in early April 2006). The WDPR
email system is entirely AUTOMATED, and thus no staff are required to
operate it as complaints rise. Thus, it is a poor indicator of
organizational activity/scale. [by the way, wouldn't it be more
appropriate to have the WDPR and Registrar Complaint forms at an
icann.org page, instead of at Internic.net?? apparently a new Webmaster
candidate is being sought -- perhaps they can also fix the ICANN
homepage RSS feed, http://www.icann.org/rss/news.rss, which is 1 month
behind, and was even further behind the last time I pointed it out]

In conclusion, for a non-profit entity, ICANN is spending the money of
its constituents (ultimately domain registrants) very poorly. I would
not be surprised if an efficient organization could do the technical
role that ICANN purports to perform for substantially less than USD $10
million/yr. Most non-profits are frugal. ICANN is not. That's a
disconnect that needs to be addressed.


George Kirikos

P.S. This comments email address wasn't working for a week, yet no one
at ICANN noticed. See:
http://blog.lextext.com/blog/_archives/2006/5/24/1982288.html  How can
ICANN be our Technical Overlords, when some of the most basic things
are mismanaged, and worse, without staff accountability for the errors?

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