Ensuring Appropriate Discussion On the ietf@ietf Discussion List

There is a lot of volume in the discussion on the main IETF discussion list, ietf@….

A number of persons and mechanisms can help the discussion stay focused, polite, and professional. If you have a concern on some aspect of the discussion, please speak to someone and ask them to help guide the discussion. The purpose of this note is to collect these mechanisms and the relevant contacts on one page, and to provide guidance on who to contact under various circumstances.

The basic rule is that the persons responsible for a specific technical discussion (such as Document Shepherds or ADs) can most easily provide help when it comes to the actual technical discussion, and helping that discussion stay focused and relevant.

The list has sergeants-at-arms following postings, and their role is primarily to ensure there is no spam, conference announcements, etc. on the list, but they also follow posts that might have inappropriate tone or otherwise unprofessional commentary. The sergeants-at-arms are expected to follow discussions on the list, but do drop them a note if you see something that doesn't seem to be handled.

In cases where there is clear unprofessional behaviour such as harassment anywhere within IETF activites, the IETF Ombudsteam has a duty to act. If you feel a discussion falls in this category, please contact the Ombudsteam. Note that the Ombudsteam may not necessarily follow all IETF discussions, so please contact them if you see an issue.

Finally, if all else fails, the IETF Chair can help address an issue.

Document Shepherds, Working Group Chairs, and Area Directors

Much of the discussion on the list is about last calls for various documents. Within these discussions, the relevant persons (such as Document Shepherds or ADs) managing the document have a role in managing the discussion as well. Timely responses and acknowledgment of issues raised is important. Occasionally it may be necessary to provide summaries of the discussion or note the current status of particular issues.


Some types of postings are inappropriate, such as unsolicited bulk e-mail. RFC 3005 indicates also the following as appropriate: discussion of subjects unrelated to IETF policy, meetings, activities, or technical concerns; unprofessional commentary, regardless of the general subject; announcements of conferences, events, or activities that are not sponsored or endorsed by the Internet Society or IETF.

The IETF Chair, the IETF Executive Director, or a sergeant-at-arms appointed by the Chair is empowered to restrict posting by a person, or of a thread, when the content is inappropriate and represents a pattern of abuse.

More information about the sergeant-at-arms model and dealing with list discussion on ietf@… can be found from The current sergeant-at-arms team members are Matt Miller and Dhruv Dhody (as well as the IETF chair and IETF executive director).


The IETF has strict rules relating to inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour per IESG Anti Harassment Policy and BCP 25 / RFC 7776 on IETF Anti-Harassment Procedures. The basic policy is:

"IETF meetings, virtual meetings, and mailing lists are intended for professional collaboration and networking. The IETF strives to create and maintain an environment in which people of many different backgrounds are treated with dignity, decency, and respect. Those who participate in the IETF are expected to behave according to professional standards and demonstrate appropriate workplace behaviour, and must not engage in harassment."

If you believe you have been harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, you are encouraged to raise your concern in confidence with one of the "Ombudsteam", a dedicated team with strict confidence rules that can help you deal with inappropriate behaviour. More information abotu the team can be found at The current members of the team are Allison Mankin, Melinda Shore, and Pete Resnick.

IETF Chair

When other means are insufficient, procedures are unclear, you feel that a mistake has been made, or if there are any other general questions, please contact the IETF Chair.

Last modified 10 months ago Last modified on 07/10/19 19:39:45