[discuss] What is MSism?

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Fri Mar 28 17:47:48 UTC 2014

On Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 09:28:59AM -0700, nathalie coupet wrote:
> With MS-ism, there seems to be an increased awareness that
> stakeholders are not on an equal footing

I'm not sure what this means.

If this means that, for any given issue under this or that process,
someone with greater familiarity with the topic is regarded as somehow
having a more useful opinion, then I think I agree and I also think it
is as it should be.  That is, on the topic of (say) how the global DNS
is actually deployed today and what is therefore possible with the
system, I think some people's opinions (David Conrad's, for instance)
are more valuable than that of some others (I'll leave these

If instead it means that some people have greater access to or
privilege within the particular process even though they ought to be
included, then to the extent it's true it's a deficiency in the
process.  In RIRs, for instance, if some members of the RIR in
question are much better able to influence outcomes because of special
expertise in the arcane procedural rules, then that's just a
deficiency of the process and not actually, I think, a goal.  (It may
have been _someone's_ goal in designing that process, but I don't
think it was an overall goal.  For example, I've seen John Curran of
ARIN go out of his way to explain how to get things done within ARIN

Of course, also, some multi-stakeholder systems work by limiting the
classes of stakeholders, and perhaps you are worried about this.  For
instance, people might complain that public policy goals are badly
represented at the IETF because IETF discussions are not structured in
ways that make public policy people comfortable.  I think this has to
be taken case by case; I also think there's a high bar here.  (For
example, I don't fully buy this complaint about public policy
concerns.  The IETF has a specific charter-specification phase, and it
would often be a good time to get those policy considerations included
in the use cases.  It's true that the IETF doesn't do a lot to make
public policy people comfy in these cases, but I don't know that that
is only the IETF's responsibility.)

Maybe by "equal footing", you mean that everyone's opinion, no matter
how well informed, ought to affect the outcomes equally.  If that's
what you mean, then with respect I disagree.  Yes, mine represents a
somewhat technocratic view of the correct mechanisms, but in fact one
of the grave problems with direct democracy in populist periods (like
ours) is that most of the populace doesn't have any basis on which to
select an option.  In direct democratic traditions that produced
stable societies for a long time, it was mostly by the mechanism of
restricting electors to those who had the money and leisure to devote
themselves to understanding the issues.  

And in any case, note that most of the above inherently needs to
consider the particular multistakeholder process you're talking about,
rather than talking about them all in the abstract.  See Stephen
Farrell's earlier excellent observation about this.

> Discouragement, disillusion and frustration will certainly
> follow.

Not half as certainly, I claim, as talking about a particular concrete
problem in the abstract.

Best regards,


Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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