[discuss] A plea to refocus our efforts

George Sadowsky george.sadowsky at gmail.com
Wed Mar 26 04:19:51 UTC 2014

I have real concern regarding the future of this list. 
There have now been more than 2,000 posts to the list.  I’m sure that they have been useful for a number of proposes, including edition for people who read the list, presentation of approaches to =Internet governance, clarification of views, definitions of problems, and approaches to solving them.
Yet for all of its richness for time to time, the ratio of signal to noise on the list has been quite low, and there has not been (in my opinion) any significant movement to defining and solving problems in internet governance.  I have observed the following:
- some detailed description of some historical periods in Internet technology
- significant theoretical discussion of issues in political science
- a schism between people who want to live with the current Internet and others who argue for a very different approach
- substantial circular arguments regarding political systems that appear to have as the goal the comparison and potential resolution of two particular people’s points of view
- a great deal of negative feeling (both subtle and overt) directed at some people who post
- ad hominem, disdainful, impolite and destructive attacks with no stated basis of fact
- substantial ignorance of the Internet coupled with a lack of willingness to learn from other posts
The combined effect of these issue has been to paralyze the list’s ability from time to time to address real problems in Internet governance.  The negative behavior and the lack of serious postings have caused a significant number of people to unsubscribe, when they could have contributed to the various discussions.
In short, we need to do better or this list will degenerate, much as similar lists have done in the past.   There seems to be a kind of Gresham’s law (bad money drives out good money) operating here, where 'bad posts' drive out people who are interested in making ‘good’ posts.
This list has promise, and Internet governance needs help.   At present, we are wasting the opportunity that this list offers.
NTIA has asked ICANN to coordinate the search for a transfer of responsibility for the IANA functions away from the US Government to a new environment.  The search should involve a much larger community that just ICANN.  ICANN has said that the content of the 1net list will be a definite contribution to this search.  Therefore anyone with an Internet connection, regardless of time or place, can contribute to this conversation. 
That’s the potential value of this list.  Let’s exploit it.
Based upon experience so far with this list, I’d like to suggest some possible guidelines for list use.
1. The list has a purpose: it is an open, global online forum about Internet governance.  It encourages multiple stakeholder discussion regarding issues of Internet governance, with a view to finding solutions for the myriad of Internet governance issues that now exist. 
2. Posts to the list should be consistent with the objective of the list.  Ideally, most threads should start with an issue, and subsequent posts should move the thread toward a solution (whether a solution is ultimately reached or not).
3. Everyone on this list has a right to be heard, by posting on this list.
4. When posting on the list, it’s important to be respectful of the opinions of others, and to be as constructive as possible when offering your opinions.
5. Successful posts use vocabulary that is simple and whose meaning is well-understood by readers of the list.  Successful posts are formatted  with some care so that they are easily readable by others.
6. Subject lines should clearly reflect the subject of the post. When posts diverge, the subject line should be changed.
7. List readers have some obligation to review posts to the list, i.e. to listen, and to determine by themselves the value of the information posted.
8. List readers have the right to _not_ listen to or respond to repeated posts with common themes that have already been posted, perhaps many times.
9. If there are no responses to a post, posters should not assume that the material they have posted has been agreed to by readers.  People on the list generally have busy lives, and often will not respond to posts.  Statements such as “no one on the list has refuted my statement yet" should not lead to the assumption that others agree with it.  It is equally likely that the post is judged to be incorrect or irrelevant. Readers have no obligation to correct erroneous material that has been posted to the list by others.
10. When there are clearly divergent views on a subject that appear to be irreconcilable, then little is accomplished by continuing the conversation. It may be better for those participants to continue their discussion on separate lists.  Sometimes It’s useful to do an approximate cluster analysis of the participants and their positions in order to identify like-minded groups that may be better off continuing their various discussions separately.
I would very much like to see some constructive responses to this post.  In the next day or so, I’ll post an updated problem for possible discussion.  To the extent that it generates discussion, I very much hope that it will be constructive and offer ideas that have relevance for attacking current issues in Internet governance.
Thank you for reading this post.
George Sadowsky    
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