IETF News

10 Years of the IETF Journal: How It Began

By: Mirjam Kühne

Date: July 6, 2015

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During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the IETF meetings became very popular and the number of attendees increased significantly. This was likely due to a number of factors: the tech boom, the fact that many IETF meetings took place in beautiful California, and an increase in the IETF’s work load. At the time, working group sessions were sometimes so crowded that it could be difficult to even enter them, and those who actively participated in the work became annoyed when seats were taken by attendees who were looking to gather information, rather than actively participate in building standards. 

Some of the active participants and I wondered if there might be a way to keep the information gatherers in the loop, while also retaining space in the working group sessions for more serious participants—a newsletter, for example. 

We envisioned that a newsletter could serve multiple purposes. 

  • Those who were only peripherally interested in IETF developments could read about them without having to attend meetings.
  • Those who wanted to participate on site could use the newsletter to convince their manager of the meetings’ importance.
  • It could be used to engage newcomers and other potential participants.
  • It could help keep present IETF participants of all levels up-to-date on activities throughout the organization.

When I began working at the Internet Society in 2003, I saw my chance to develop such a newsletter. I was aware of the skepticism within the IETF towards press and glossy magazines, so I decided to build the newsletter into the IETF process and, more important, to establish it from within the IETF to increase the odds of acceptance and support by both the IETF administration and its participants. I approached Brian Carpenter, chair of the IETF, and Leslie Daigle, chair of the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). It took some convincing but, in the end, we all agreed that this would best fit as an activity of the IETF Education Team (see www.ietf.org/edu/)—thereby making it an internal IETF activity, rather than an external media publication. We also decided that the IAB and the IETF chairs would be both members of the newsletter’s editorial board and regular contributors, as they still are today. 

So I joined the Edu Team mainly to set up the IETF Journal. And although today the IETF Journal is a well-established and independent publication—no longer part of the Edu Team—I’ve stayed with the Edu Team (see http://www.internetsociety.org/publications/ietf-journal-july-2014/getting-educated-meet-the-ietf-edu-team). 

Once the concept was approved, we needed a name. I was aware of Ole Jacobsen’s success with the IP Journal; and Jacobsen was a valuable advisor during the establishment of our newsletter. In collaboration with the IP Journal, we chose the name IETF Journal and a simple, nonglossy design. 

Together with Peter Godwin who helped with the layout and copyediting, I created the first issue of theIETF Journal. Later, I enjoyed a wonderful collaboration with the Internet Society’s longtime editor, Wendy Rickard, who passed away much too early in 2012 (see www.internetsociety.org/articles/remembering-wendy-rickard). The first issues had very few photos. Later, Peter Löthberg became the Journal’sunofficial photographer, primarily because he was the only one who could get away with holding a camera in people’s faces at IETF meetings. 

I had no idea how I would fill an entire newsletter three times a year without creating all the content by myself. So at each and every IETF meeting, I pushed myself out there, and sought volunteers to write updates about hot topics that I’d combine with regular features, such as articles from the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF), a list of Bird-of-a-Feather (BoF) sessions, and summaries from the plenary sessions. In the beginning, we also listed new RFCs published since the previous issue of the Journal,but that quickly became unmanageable. I remain grateful to the volunteer contributors and advisors who made and still make the IETF Journal the informative and varied publication it is.

Some highlights from my years as editor include having the privilege of interviewing a number of people for the IETF’s 20th anniversary (IETF 65) who attended the first IETF meeting and who were still active. I gained some great insights into the history of the IETF, as well as the future challenges these early members foresaw. For a different perspective, I also interviewed a number of newcomers at IETF 65. You can find these interviews at http://www.internetsociety.org/publications/ietf-journal-spring-2006. I’d be curious to hear what some of them have to say now—several of them are still active in the IETF community.

Also in 2006, we added a regular feature: reports from what later became the Internet Society Fellows to the IETF programme, a programme that enables engineers and policy makers from developing countries to get involved in the workings of the IETF.

In 2009, after IETF 75 in Stockholm, I handed the IETF Journal to my colleagues at the Internet Society. I created the first issue of the new IETF Journal with high hopes that the IETF community would accept it. Happily, they did! The Journal has been published three times a year since then, reporting from each IETF meeting, informing the community on the developments at the IETF—and now after ten years, it has gotten a complete facelift.

Congratulations to everyone who has helped the IETF Journal succeed. Did it keep the number of information-gathering participants at bay? Did anyone use it to convince their manager of the importance of a meeting? I don’t know. But I do know that I still enjoy reading it and that it helps keep at least this IETF participant up-to-date on developments now that I don’t attend every meeting.

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