IETF Open Internet Standards

Reflecting on 10 Years of the Fellowship to the IETF

At any particular IETF meeting, you are likely to find the Tech Fellows buzzing to and from working group (WG) meetings to BOFs or hanging out in one of the rather small public areas, laptops open and headphones plugged in, or talking with other fellows or participants during the lunch break or in the many informal lounge areas. Others might be serving as scribes for certain sessions, discussing their current projects with WG chairs, speaking at the microphone during the Q&A, or talking with their Mentors about which sessions on the agenda are best for them to attend.

At the end of the day, the Fellows would have attended sessions that match up with their own academic or professional interests, had lively conversations with their colleagues, been stimulated through interactions with IETF veterans more than likely in their own or similar fields, engaged in deep technical discussions in groups of their peers, discovered a new research group (RG) or standard that peaks their interest, deepened social bonds at an informal dinner, and been pushed to broaden their minds in purposeful and unexpected ways.

And this is pretty much what the Fellowship to the IETF is all about. The programme was started in 2006 to increase awareness of the open standards development process across communities where there was little to no understanding. Since then, it has evolved into a sort of incubator for the next generation of IETF leaders. Over the 10 years of the programme’s existence, a total of 289 awards have been given out to 193 individuals (First-Timer and Returning Fellows). And during this time, we have recognized that the success of the program is largely down to not only what Fellows give back to the IETF (directly or indirectly), but also what they receive from it.

A recent survey of past participants of the Fellowship to the IETF has yielded some interesting results as it pertains to the direct and indirect contributions of Fellows to the IETF. Below are a few highlights from the survey:

  • Fellows have contributed to the development of roughly 49 RFCs in total, including 7 co-authored RFCs
  • Several fellows are active in other standards development organizations such as IEEE and W3C, and also involved with network operator groups (NOGs)
  • Fellows regularly speak at regional conferences about the importance of the IETF and recruit individuals to become involved
  • In 2015, a group of past Fellows from India have launched the Indian IETF Capacity Building initiative, and secured funding money from the government to host a meeting and build an Indian Fellows programme and mentoring network
  • In LAC, many former Fellows have been involved in recruiting others and organizing local hubs for remote participation
  • Former Brazilian Fellows launched professor-student Fellowships where they attended 6-9 IETF meetings over 3 years
  • A number of Fellows have led and driven IPv6 deployments at their respective universities

We are certain that the individuals selected for the Fellowship to IETF 97 will continue along this rich vein of building awareness of and sustaining active participation in the IETF. You can check out their profiles here.

At this time, we would also like to thank those organizations who sponsor and support the Fellowship to the IETF: Afilias, APNIC, APTLD, Google, and ICANN. We very much appreciate your support!

Open Internet Standards

Fellows to IETF 95: Building Diverse Technical Communities

Independent, volunteer-based, technical communities are vital to the success of the IETF, and to the bottom-up, collaborative fabric of the Internet ecosystem. These communities of practice serve as important forums for knowledge exchange, resource sharing, skill development, relationship building and networking.

While quite prevalent in developed countries, there is still quite a lot of work to be done to create extended local and regional technical communities in emerging economies. The manner in which these communities emerge and evolve; how they are managed; and how they support local and regional (as well as international) collaboration, is critical to the strengthening and sustainability of the IETF, and to increasing awareness and participation in its work from individuals in developing countries.

The Internet Society serves diverse technical communities by continuously enhancing its activities related to open Internet standards (OIS). To date, the organization has supported over 200 technologists, engineers, and researchers from Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America & the Caribbean to attend IETF meetings. The regional bureaus have fostered a vibrant network of remote hubs that engage with the IETF community in a number of ways.

The IETF in LAC initiative has served as a key impetus to bringing the first IETF to Latin America. The African Bureau is also building off the IETF in LAC model with the objective of bringing the IETF to the continent. The Kolkata Chapter has partnered with the Government of India on the India IETF Capacity Building (IICB) Program, which is geared towards increasing the participation of Indians and the engagement of corporations in the work of the IETF. As a result, communities of practice are popping up all across the world. But to accomplish this, there have been some critical success factors. Let’s discuss what they are.

Finding Common Ground

The first one is finding a way to connect different groups of people regardless of their background to a common ground. The biggest thing we see in the IETF are people forming groups and communities around passions that many of them identify with. Their need for and love of the open Internet has been at the core of our burgeoning communities. For them, the Internet is an indispensable platform, and one around which their interests are galvanized.

Let’s Come Together in the Same Place

Secondly, no one can discount that remote participation is important. But nothing can aptly replace face-to-face interactions. When it comes to engaging a community, you cannot rely solely on online platforms. Getting people to come and shake hands with the person next to them has been more beneficial than any advice or guidance they receive online. For example, there are currently around 20 Remote Hubs in Latin America and 26 in India, and with many of them being led by past Fellows to the IETF. This demonstrates why Remote Hubs and the Fellowship to the IETF have been so essential to the growth of our communities.

It’s the Content

Content is another significant component in the overall mix. Our communities look to us to provide timely and relevant content on the issues that matter to them. Whether it takes the form of web site updates, online courses and tutorials, Deploy360 resources, or policy briefs, our constituents view us as a trusted source for Internet-related content. This is how they become informed and empowered to act (and to increase their participation in OIS activities).

Leveraging Social Media

Effective community leadership requires constant creation/sharing of quality content and connecting with people online. Online engagement is of paramount importance — Frequent updates on ISOC activities, generation of new content, timely responses to questions from our community, and features on our influencers and programme alumni are just a few components of the overall social media strategy. This is how we build connections and ignite change. And we want to keep these conversations going!

So to recap, key success factors for sustainable, successful tech communities:

  • Find a shared passion
  • Create consistent face-to-face opportunities
  • Delivery consistent, useful online content
  • Use social media to engage with your community around a shared passion
  • Did I mention consistency?

Finally, we would like to congratulate the Fellows to IETF 95. You can view their bio profiles here.

Once again, we have another dynamic group of young professionals who will be attending the Buenos Aires meeting. We are looking forward to an exciting and productive week with them. They are our next wave of advocates and ambassadors who will strengthen and build new communities going forward.

Human Rights Technology

The Science and Art of Identifying Next Generation Leaders: Some Reflections before IETF 93

For IETF 80 in 2011, the Internet Society had nearly 90 applicants for 12 available Fellows awardee slots. For IETF 93, applications increased by more than 60% to 170 applicants for 14 slots.

As awareness and corresponding demand has ballooned for future leaders in the Internet ecosystem, so clearly has the number of applicants to the Internet Society’s Fellows and other competitive leadership programmes. While demand has increased, so has the overall quality of the applicants and ultimately the selected individuals.

Three factors contribute to this increased caliber:

1. Qualified self-selection
In 2013, we initiated a self-assessment guide. Coupled with the actual selection criteria, these two documents lay out capacity and capability expectations. Before potential participants apply, they need to qualify themselves according to the criteria for these programmes. These expectations clarify required commitments before, during, and after the event. Since applying is in itself a process, we wanted to mitigate unnecessary frustration and these checklists help ensure that those who do apply have a fair shot for serious consideration.

2. A robust, diverse selection committee
The current Fellows selection committee has nine (9) standing members, many who contribute to each round and are active in IETF. The committee includes: a Chapter representative, a current ISOC Board member, active IETF participants, regional staff representatives, and former awardees. Each selection committee member brings invaluable perspective and passion. Niel Harper, the lead for ISOC’s Next Generation leaders programme, guides the process, including reviewing each application fully. A former ISOC NGLer himself, Niel is uniquely qualified in understanding what is required of Fellows to IETF and our other programmes.

3. An appreciation for the more intangible skills of leadership
While there are some straightforward criteria, such as following and contributing to IETF Working Groups and a demonstrated commitment to advancing IETF and open standards in region, we also consider some other leadership traits. Integrity, passion, and a pay-it-forward mentality all factor into the vetting process. In programmes where we have returning opportunities such as Fellowships to IETF and Ambassadors to IGF, it is particularly rewarding to see individuals awarded over time who have even more fully demonstrated the potential we initially saw. Some qualities on those who get the most out of the Fellows experience can be found here.

All that said, please join me in congratulating the latest cohort of Internet Society Fellows to IETF.

They are truly an exceptional group of technologists and we look forward to seeing their contributions to IETF and open standards this upcoming week and in the future.

IETF Open Internet Standards

Congratulations to the Internet Society Fellows to IETF 92 in Dallas, TX (US)

Please join me in congratulating the most recent cohort of Internet Society Fellows to IETF. These 14 technologists from academia, business, and civil society were selected from more than 120 highly qualified applicants.

As the next billions come online, they will be from countries like Brazil, India, Pakistan, and Ukraine. The Internet Society and its partners’ ongoing commitment to this programme ensures that individuals from these regions have an informed voice and a seat in the room where standards development takes place.  As importantly, each individual selected has to demonstrate how they will take their experiences at IETF back to their communities to amplify the work of the Internet Society.

Previous Fellows have authored RFCs, mentored students, spoken in their communities to increase awareness of IETF and the importance of Open Standards, and deployed IETF standards in their companies and communities.

We look forward to seeing what this group will accomplish in the coming years and months.  You can learn more about them on the IETF 92 Fellows page.

In the meantime, many thanks to our partners in the programme: Afilias, Comcast/Universal, Google, Microsoft, and Verisign.

NOTE: If you are interested in being considered for a fellowship for IETF 93 in Prague in July 2015, please visit our IETF Fellowship page.   The process for applications is open now and the deadline to apply is April 5, 2015.