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ICANN Community Faces Policy Overload

August 13, 2010david olive, Domaining, Domainnamewire, icann, policy, Policy & LawComments Off on ICANN Community Faces Policy Overload

Community and ICANN system may be overwhelmed by quantity of policy issues.

As I write this, there are currently 30 open or recently concluded comment periods at ICANN. You can comment on anything from “Interim Paper on Policy Aspects Regarding Introduction of Single Character IDN TLDs” to “Proposed Bylaws Amendment to Add Voting Director from the At-Large Community to the ICANN Board of Directors”. You just missed your opportunity to comment on “Revised Process for Selection of Sites for ICANN International Public Meeting”.

Only one group commented on that last topic.

Is this policy overload? Are little things creating noise and obscuring important policy? Some people in the ICANN community feel the system is broken. Issues without a quantifiable problem can be introduced to the flow, which slow down the process for more important issues.

“There’s a rise and fall of everything, and we might be at a high point [of policy issues] right now, which is why people might be overwhelmed,” ICANN Vice President of Policy Development David Olive responded in an interview with Domain Name Wire yesterday.

There are certainly a number of pressing issues, and the introduction of new top level domain names is adding to the number of hot-button issues.

But what exactly is “pressing”? For Olive, who just came to ICANN this year, he mostly has to take what the various councils (such as Generic Names Supporting Organization, or GNSO) bring to him. He then assigns staff to manage the process of collecting community feedback, and managing the issues until they become policy or are abandoned (if they ever are abandoned). And some issues have been under consideration for years.

A large part of the burden for deciding what’s important falls on these various councils. In fact, the GNSO is currently working on a new way to decide what deserves a Policy Development Process (PDP). Yes, you can comment on that process to determine the process as well.

The Registrar Stakeholder Group commented on GNSO’s plans, noting:

Over the past one to two years, the RrSG has grown concerned about an increasingly overtaxed community and ICANN staff and believes it’s important to both refine the PDP and find a responsible way to prioritize the GNSO’s work…

PDPs should be based on responsibly documented evidence of an issue to be addressed. Anecdotal evidence is insufficient. A reasonable data-driven threshold for introduction of a PDP is a necessary step to concentrating community resources on PDPs where there is evidence to justify a PDPs initiation.

An example of a solution that may be wanting a problem is the recent Inter-Registrar Transfer Policy initiative. None of its proponents knows (or will publicly say) how big of an issue it is.

As long as these councils send policy up the chain, Olive’s team must act on it, no matter how many policies are under consideration at any one time.

“It’s one of our core values and it’s of course part of the bylaws to employ open and transparent mechanisms,” explained Olive.

But to help with overload, his group wants to make the information easier to consume.

“Many of our documents are long, and we’re trying to reduce the complexity with executive summaries so the community can more easily digest important points and figure out if they need to comment,” he said.

They’re also looking at organizing comment periods by dividing them by type (i.e. just public notice, part of ongoing PDP, etc.)

In the mean time, Olive’s team is working with what it has.

“Ideally I’d like to say ‘I’d like to have more staff and resources’, but in the short term that can’t just magically happen,” Olive said.

Another common complaint, at least in domainer circles, is how much weight is given to comments. Olive says that, in his short experience at ICANN, he believes comments are taken very seriously. For example, in the Draft Applicant Guidebook v3, the staff compiled all comments by section and analyzed them, explaining what changes were made as a result of the feedback.

So if you do want to make your voice heard about “Proposed Bylaws Amendment to Add Voting Director from the At-Large Community to the ICANN Board of Directors”, head on over to ICANN’s web site. Someone is listening.

© 2010.

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