Words from the IAB Chair

By: Olaf Kolkman

Date: June 1, 2010

line break image

Every year we would go through the same ritual. In late winter, sometimes in early spring, my mother would ask me to sort through my toys. I was allowed to keep most of them, but some had to go. It was every year, shortly before my birthday.

Olaf Kolkman, IAB Chair
Not an easy task for a boy in primary school.

Keeping the Legos and the fischertechnik were easy choices. But what to get rid of? The Tin Car and the plastic soldiers I used to simulate an infantry? The Tin Car and small plastic model plane were in use nearly every week when I played airport. I hardly ever played with the toys individually; however, when I used them in pairs or triplets, the hours would dissolve as I busily relived a recent episode of the Thunderbirds.

Every so often, true magic occurred. I would combine Lego, fischertechnik, planes, soldiers, a wooden garage, and a train (one of those wooden ones they now sell at IKEA) to form a gigantic city. Me and the boys from the neighbourhood would spend half of our vacation playing with the city, which soon would be left to deteriorate when we had to attend school again. I recently touched base with one of my childhood friends on Facebook, and we mutually agreed that the inspiration for our technology and engineering careers had its roots in those spring breaks.

That spring break city must have been in the back of my mind as I sorted through the toys. I didn’t want to get rid of the plastic barn or the gas station model; they were seminal pieces when constructing the fantasy world. But my mother was strict, stuff had to go, the amount of storage space in our house had an absolute limit, and there would not be room for birthday presents if I didn’t act.

So I acted. I disposed of toys, and when my birthday came, I got new toys. Toys I could use to build other cities, cities that would still inspire. Since they were built from different pieces, they would look different, but their essence would be the same; they were always recognizable. I remember the year I had to throw out almost half of the toys, and when I did, they were replaced with new ones on my birthday. I was childishly sad when it happened but also eager to build a new city during spring break.

I want to avoid the risk of carrying the metaphor much further. Some folks may misunderstand and think that I compare people to toys. Far from that. However, gaining fresh perspectives while cherishing previous ones is a good way to evolve-not only for technology but also for organizations.

This year the NomCom replaced Gonzalo Camarillo, Stuart Cheshire, Gregory Lebovitz, Andrew Malis, and Dave Oran with Bernard Aboba, Ross Callon, Spencer Dawkins, Andrei Robachevsky, and Hannes Tschofenig. I would like to thank the folks who left. It was a pleasure to work with them.

The Internet Architecture Board will hold its retreat in June 2010. I hope we will build a city that provides us with a new perspective.

The Internet Architecture Board is chartered both as a committee of the IETF and as an advisory body of the Internet Society. Its responsibilities include architectural oversight of IETF activities, Internet Standards Process oversight and appeal, and the appointment of the RFC Editor. See
This article was posted on 26 June 2010 .