NOTE: This wiki is now archived. Information about topics covered here is now maintained at the Working Group Chairs site

WG Chairs' Guide

Everything a WG Chair Needs to Know but Was Afraid to Ask


The job of an IETF Working Group Chair is challenging (see GeneralRequirements) and needs a lot of procedural knowledge, technical expertise and management skill. This guide has been created as a collaboration among Chairs; it is meant to be informal and certainly doesn't count as official rules.

It is permanently a work in progress; please feel free to contribute from your experience by editing this (or any other) page using the "Edit this page" link at the bottom; if you need to, you can obtain a new login. WikiFormatting will give you a detailed description of available Wiki formatting commands, and TracGuide is a good place to start.

See also the Working Group Chairs page maintained by the secretariat.

The Rules

The IETF is governed by a bunch of process rules, related procedures and folklore.

IntellectualProperty can be tricky, so it has a page of its own.

See also the list of formally accepted process BCPs.

The formal rules are not complete and unambiguous in all cases, and the IESG exercises some judgement in applying them; appeals sometimes result.

The Tools

There are many tools available to help with the chair's tasks. Some of the important ones are:

  • the datatracker, to track and manage the progress of drafts
    • Requesting publication of a working group document is now done with the datatracker.
    • Milestones are now updated through the datatracker. Information about updating milestones is available here.
    • Document replacements are now recorded in the datatracker. In the datatracker view of the new document, click the word "Replaces" near the top of the page, and enter the name of the older document that this one replaces. You can add more than one, if that's appropriate for the particular document.

See the IETF Tools page for a listing of other useful tools.


There are some common actions that WG chairs take that do not have tools. One such important step is getting document shepherd writeups. It is often useful as part of improving WG member skills and participation to appoint WG members as shepherds. In the end however, the chair is responsible for seeing that a document is properly shepherded. As part of that, the chair needs to be aware of the IESG expectations on shepherd writeups:

Other common actions that do not require tools are:

  • (The list is empty right now...)

Document State

The status of I-Ds in the IETF document stream can be tracked through the datatracker. The document states are defined in RFC 6174. If the document is going through a Working Group Last Call (WGLC), for example, that state can be set through the "IETF State" field in the datatracker web page for the I-D. The identity of the document shepherd can be added through the "Document Shepherd" field, and the shepherd writeup can be added or changed through the "Shepherd Write-Up" field.

All working group chairs should already have a datatracker login. If you don't, click the "New Account" link on the top left of the datatracker page. If you do, click the "Sign In" link on the top right. It's important to remember to check that you're logged in: currently, the datatracker cookies are too short-lived, and you'll find that you're often logged off when you're not expecting it.

WG draft

May a Working Group Chair edit a WG draft? DocumentEditor

Advice about how Working Groups handle drafts and, in particular, about how they are adopted, can be found in RFC7221: Handling of Internet-Drafts by IETF Working Groups

Using github

Some working groups have successfully used github to aid in collaboration on document development. The GIT working group is developing recommended procedures for that; see their documents here:

There are examples of tools to help chairs automate github administrative and management tasks here and here.


WG Chairs have two kinds of herding: herding cats (BuildingConsensus) and herding documents (DocumentShepherding).

Cat herding includes running meetings. During meetings, it's helpful to remind your presenters about AV considerations. You'll also need to be attentive to Remote participation.

Soliciting Implementation Feedback

An important consideration when progressing documents is whether the protocol is implementable, or has in fact been implemented. One way to track implementations is by including an Implementation Status section, as recommended in RFC 6982. More information is available on the Running Code page.

Useful Email Addresses

Replace draftname by draft-full-draft-name (without -xx version): Draft authors (for now, could change) Draft authors (explicitly; will not change) WG Chairs (if the draft is a WG draft) The document shepherd, if one has been assigned The addresses entered into the tracker's email notification field for the draft The sponsoring AD, if the draft has gone to the IESG All of the above, merged into one alias

To see the expansion of all the aliases associated with a document, use To see all aliases for all documents (big page!), use

Replace wgname with the short name (acronym) of the working group, and areaname with the three-letter name of the area: WG Chairs All ADs for the WG's area (not just the responsible one) All WG Chairs in the specified area All ADs for the specified area

To see the expansion of all the aliases for a specified working group, use To see all aliases for all working groups, use

Holding effective WG meetings

Virtual Interim Meetings in April 2020

Because the in-person IETF 107 meeting was cancelled, a high volume of virtual interim meetings is anticipated for April 2020. The IESG has provided guidance for chairs and a recommended schedule.

Other / Tips and Tricks

Stuff that didn't fit nicely into any other category...

WG Chairs Forum

The Working Group Chairs Forum is a lunch meeting at IETFs that provides all sorts of good stuff for WG Chairs.

Current open action items and suggestions for future topics and other fabulous notes are here... WGChairsForum

Topics to Add

This wiki is just starting to be populated. Here are some of the topics that have been brought up so far. If there's something important that you don't see anywhere, at least add a point to this list.

Last modified 3 months ago Last modified on 14/07/22 20:48:34

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