The way it works is, we have this Issues List, and when we’ve moved everything from “Not Taken Up Or Need to Revisit” through “Currently Under Discussion” to either “Accepted for Inclusion” or “Closed”, plus we have consensus around the running spec and some running, interoperable code, then we declare victory and go home.
Well, I do anyhow; there are some people who will stay devoted to a single working group through five years and three major versions, but I have the attention span of a gnat and if there’s ever an Atom version 2 I fearlessly predict it’ll be someone else’s butt in the chair.
The IETF Process · First of all it felt weird, but empirically, it seems to be working. What happens is, Sam Ruby schedules the issues and after everyone’s argued for a while, either Paul Hoffman (the other co-chair) or I speak up and say “I think we have consensus to accept this one and reject that one, anybody who disagrees holler.” So far, we’ve accepted and rejected about a dozen each, and sure enough, there have been a couple of cases where someone said “You’re wrong, no consensus” and that’s OK.
We’ve deliberately held off on grappling with a few of our hairiest and thorniest issues until we get our consensus-building chops a little more finely honed, but I’m optimistic we’ll knock ’em down when the time comes.
The main reason for that, of course, would be the people.
The People · I just can’t say enough good things about how the people have rallied around and pitched in. The volume is high, the signal-to-noise ratio is high, and the incidences of flaming and trolling have been few and far between; even better, almost every time someone’s gotten rude and been pushed back at they’ve said something along the lines of “oops, sorry.” The world may have thought it impossible to argue about syndication technology without flaming and fulminating, but we’re proving that wrong.
For example, even Dare Obasanjo, famous on various mailing lists for emerging from silence to say “This is all too stupid for me, I’m unsubscribing!” has been observed on AtomPub engaging coolly in intense back-and-forth threads, being tolerant of the poorly-informed, and even emitting the occasional “+1”.
The Product · It’s going to be simple. It’s going to be easy to understand. It’s going to be implemented on cellphones and email clients and word processors and interoperate with lots of different blogging engines. And it’s going to be mostly done this year.
The Problem · It’s a great bunch of guys, and I mean guys. There are no women, as in zero, currently active on the Working Group. This is really, really, bad, I hate it.