ICANN Meeting in Wellington

We are in Wellington.
If you don’t know where it is, check Google.
It’s far, far away, in a galaxy so different, that:

– cars drive on the left side of the road
– at airports they take your little ticket coupon, and give you back the big one – in all other countries it’s the other way around.

But enough about New Zealand, let’s see what ICANN meeting will be…

Many people expected that there will be huge arguments about the .com agreement. Amazingly, there aren’t. There are discussions if the Board can be more transperant and open. I agree with some of them, but sometimes a good idea, presented at the wrong time, by the wrong people may be ruined.

Here’s what I wrote in response to the blames that the Board works in secrecy, and people can’t understand what the Board is thinking:

[cut] You don’t know the thinking of the Board? Perhaps you don’t read the blogs, or you don’t talk to the Board members. Or may be they don’t talk to you? I’ve never seen other such meetings, where ANYONE… EVERYONE can go and talk to Board members, all the time.
I remember one of my first public meetings, where I actually ASKED the community to come and talk to me. I said, “please, approach me, talk to me, and don’t come at the end of a meeting and tell me that you haven’t been heard.” So far not that many have used this invitation. Don’t put the blame on our shoulders. I categorically deny your accusations that I am not open, that my thinking is not transparent. It’s so open, as I wish sometimes the thinking of some of the members of the community was also open as mine. Or at least close to it.

You understanding of transperancy and mine are quite different.
For example, in my country you can’t record me, if you don’t let me know in advance, and if I don’t agree. So, not only you have to state you’re recording, but you also have to ask for agreement. You believe what you do is transperancy. I believe it’s breaking of privacy.
But then, I am an European, you are an American. These are cross-cultural differences.
The problem is when these differences enter into someone’s privacy field. There’s no excuse for interfering into this space. Be that your desire for “transperancy”, whatever that means.
I feel insulted by the fact that you refer to me as working non-openly, non-transperantly.

to which I got the following reply:

Wow, Veni. We’re on different planets. Where’s the mailing list where I can communicate with the Board? Where’s the wiki? Where are the minutes? Where are the mp3s of the meetings? Where are the staff reports that are given to the Board?

to which I responded:

your questions are easy to answer, but you are missing the responses to the questions I asked you. Let me try to repeat:

You believe in mp3 recordings.
I don’t.
In Europe they are not quite appropriate. In Bulgaria – even less. Perhaps because we’ve grown up on a planet, where every phone call was recorded.
By the government. “For our own good”, of course. “For openess and transperancy”, they used to say.
I am afraid that when you do your recording, you remind me of a period of time in the Bulgarian history, which I don’t want to see repeated, least of all on the ICANN board.

Where’s the mailing list, you ask?
Well, I am on a number of lists, and we discuss a number of issues there, some of them related to ICANN. I’ve been trying to follow the questions and respond there. Of course, you wouldn’t expect me to speak “on behalf of ICANN” by default. However, your words make the alusion that this is exactly what you want to hear.
But let me try to reverse it: why didn’t you create a mailing list, invite the Board members to participate there? But you know, on the other hand, knowing how easy this is on your planet, perhaps one day this mailing list may become evidence in a case? Or may be not even “perhaps”, but “for sure”?

I’m one of the people who have been saying that the minutes should be published, as you quote “the maximum extent feasible”. On my planet “feasable” means “achievable, designable, doable, executable, practicable”.

You see, you are right – we are on different planets.
The imporatnt difference is I want to change the planet on which I am, and make it better.

At the same time, you, on the opposite, want to change not your planet, but mine, and make it better the way you see it.

You forget that the ICANN planet is in fact accountable – ICANN is being sued, the directors have mandates.
Can you tell me what are the mandates of the members of the ICANN community? Or when was the last time someone sued one of the SO, for example?

The difference between your planet and my ICANN planet is, that on my planet I want to be accountable, I want to be open and transperant, I want people to talk to me – in my capacity as director. On your planet, all of the above can not happen.
On my planet – as you may ask Susan, for example, who you probably respect – I spend days thinking if I have a vague potential conflict of interest.
On your planet everyone believes they don’t have any conflicts whatsoever. And they don’t declare them.
Yet, I don’t come to your planet blaming it for not being open and transperant.

If you believe I am completely out of touch, then perhaps you are right – with the only add-on that I am out of touch from your planet. However, the Internet is not on your planet, and I care first and above all about the Internet

# I care that the Internet access be affordable in countries which your planet doesn’t know they even exist.
# I care that the access is free of licensing and registration, so that people are not afraid to use it. That is not a problem on your planet.
# I care that the users have the right to express themselves freely. That, again, is not a problem on your planet.

It’s obvious even by this posting of mine that I do care about the words you say about ICANN.
If the self-management of the Internet was not in danger, I would have not paid attention to your words. Unfortunately it is in danger. I don’t see how your planet is helping to find a solution to that problem.

Bottom line – I am not against minutes, which should be distributed among the Board, before being published – for edits, corrections, etc. We do that on the ISOC Board, and it’s working. I’d like to see the staff provide us with a secretary to take the minutes. I will ask Vint Cerf for that.

But I am against wiretapping of phone calls – in many countries this is against the law. And I have enough of my phone calls recorded without my agreement before 1989 in Bulgaria.

I still encourage the ICANN community, and esp. the activists there to come and talk to me, to other Board directors. Some of the community people do that in New York – every second Wednesday we have a gathering of the 10th Str. Circle in the Village. Both me and my colleague director Susan Crawford are regularly present at these meetings. If you want to come, let me know by e-mail to veni@veni.com, and I will send you the invitation for the April meeting.

Again – it’s easy to blame someone for something he or she has done, or hasn’t done. I’ve seen that not only on the ICANN Board. The more difficult part is to actually suggest solutions, which are working. Saying “publish mp3 recordings” obviously doesn’t work. What could work is what I suggested above about the minutes.


* I just talked to Vint Cerf about the problems with the minutes, and here’s his response:

During the Wellington meetings with the registrars it was made abundantly clear that minutes of the board meetings, not just a summary of actions taken, should be available as soon as practicable after each meeting. Many board members have felt this way for some time and it is time to put this high on the priority list. Minutes and the transcripts of voting are two valuable elements of transparency and should be a regular part of the conduct of ICANN Board business.

My comment: I believe it’s cruical for ICANN to show that we do care about these issues. And it’s not only the registrars or individuals telling us. It’s normal to have the minutes as I suggested above. And I hope that the staff will deliver that in a very timely manner. And I hope the staff will not fail us and will meet our expectations to start this asap.

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One Response to ICANN Meeting in Wellington

  1. I think that some people equate transparency with knowing everything that happens in an organization, by mneans of verbatim transcripts, and perhaps audio and (why not) video recordings also. I think that it is quite unrealistic to expect an organization to work that way.

    ICANN is an organization that stretches (perhaps too much) to be many things to many constituencies. It appears to me as an organization that tries to be an industry organization, a technical coordinator with a very light regulatory touch, a domain name owner and user organization, and a dispute mediator. It tries to do this in an uncharted area, on an international scale with no international mandate, across both all character sets and all cultures of the world. And it tries to introduce organizational change in an area where both technical and industry change is occurring at a super-normal rate.

    Is it any wonder that the going is not comppletely smooth? This is uncharted territory with unkown risks in multiple dimensions.

    I am not saying that I agree completely with what ICANN has done. But if we are to get the best out of it, we must give it internal wiggle room to discuss and to experiment. I believe that it’s the best hope for the survival of the Internet as we know it, and we should be trying to support it, nothold it to unreasnable standards of public nakedness.

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