I recently attended IETF94 Yokohama and most people who participated waxed lyrical over it. This consensus says a lot as this meeting saw the largest contingent in the last 10 years in Asia, with 1,320 attendees.
And, the people attending were truly diverse. From locals to people travelling nearly 24 hours to Yokohama, IETF hosted nearly 300 first time participants and, from ten public policy leaders to 14 technical fellows to a 16-year old coder. Some were observers at some of the 123 working groups whereas, others were influencers there or at the Birds-of-a-Feather (BOF). There were individuals from small companies to the distinguished engineers from major companies. But why was it so special and how does one judge whether it was a successful meeting or not?
Being a special meeting did not come by accident. There was big picture design and follow up on the minutae. The host WIDE worked with IETF on all three meetings in Japan. They are forward looking, well organised and connected with the Japanese Internet community. WIDE worked tirelessly to obtain a long list of supporters and liaise with Yokohama City so that even the Yokohama Ferris Wheel had Wi-Fi coverage.
Most importantly, they were united with the common aim of making IETF94 a success. Committees were set up to look into direction, finance and execution. What was useful was a core that had worked on numerous events together for many years. No detail was too unimportant and the can-do attitude was really invaluable–from helping with emergency technical translation, last minute visa applications, to looking for a missing wallet in Tokyo.
Thanks to the outreach with the Japanese technical community, IETF94 was able to take advantage of the synergy with other technical events in Japan preceeding and post IETF94 – including other conferences for standards, developers, measurements and security. This was invaluable especially to world travellers among the IETF community.
Measuring success is not always easy. For the group of policymakers that attended ISOC’s IETF Policy programme, among their takeaways were more interest to revitalise a Computer Security Incident Response team in their home country, looking more carefully into IPv6, learning more through other technical programmes run by ISOC, and wider collaboration related discussions.
Working group participants talked about the amount of work that was done and the improvements brought to the Internet, the interesting discussions that took place within the meeting and, the wish to come back soon to a future meeting. Even the newcomers commented on the care given to them including mentoring, transparency brought about through remote participation and note taking and the audio-video system with power outlets everywhere and an incredibly functional Wi-Fi system.
A special and successful meeting is hard work – it takes co-operation, collaboration, contribution, flexibility, and determination. IETF94 was a prime example of all that.