Interview with Jessy Cowan-Sharp, Masters Public Policy and Computer Science at Univ. of Maryland, Newcomer at the IETF


Date: May 7, 2006

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Question: Why did you attend the IETF and how did you find out about it?

Jessy: I knew about the IETF before and I found about this meeting through my interest in interplanetary Internet and deep space communications. It turns out that this topic is being pursued under the delay-tolerant networking research group and they were meeting here this time. It happened to overlap with my university break.

Question: What are you studying?

Jessy: I am doing a masters in public policy and I am also taking courses in Computer Science and would possibly like to do a PHD in Computer Science. I have also a grade in astrophysics and math and I am actually interested in seeing the technical side of things.

Question: You were here all week. How did you like it?

Jessy: It is fascinating. I am just starting to learn about networking and protocols and I found the research groups being more accessible to me. I’ve attended two research groups. For the actual IETF WG meetings you really have to be up to date about all the drafts people are writing and talking about on their mailing lists. If you have not been reading the mailing lists or have not been reading the Internet-Drafts or the RFCs it is difficult to follow.

But I have met a lot of people and have been talking to them and that was really good. That might be the most useful side effect of the IETF and I heard a lot of people say that.

Question: Is there anything you find particularly interesting or different from other meetings or conferences?

Jessy: One of the things that attracted me to come here – which is probably a double-edge sword – is the fact that it is so focused on the working groups. That makes it interesting, because you’re actually doing work. On the other hand it also what makes it inaccessible for Newcomers, especially if you haven’t been reading the mailing lists for a while.

I don’t know enough about how the IETF works to know if it might benefit from having one presentation a day summarising some topics. As a newcomer this time and as I begin to learn more over time it might be interesting to write a document for beginners that talks about the pros and cons and what the major considerations are for writing standards and protocols. Once I know more about protocols and routing and switches and all that, maybe that will become more obvious to me. But it would be helpful to have a document that talks about things like how much room they take up on a server, what kinds of resources they require, how much bandwidth they require, what the trade-offs are when designing them (e.g. they might make things work faster, but take up more memory). Maybe that sort of thing exists, but I have not seen it or maybe once I knew more, it would be intuitively more obvious to me.

Question: Did you attend the Newcomers Tutorial on Sunday?

Jessy: Yes. It was good and useful.

I was a bit disappointed, because there were a few other tutorials I would have been interested in, but they were in parallel with the Newcomers Session. Next time I will go to one of the other ones.

Question: Do you have any other comments or suggestions?

Jessy: Maybe from someone who is funding her participation herself, having the meeting at a hotel that costs 170 USD a night (plus registration fee and air fare) means that even though it is open in terms of not having to have any technical requirements, it is not necessarily financially open to everyone.