[e2e] Discrete IP - retake

Dave Crocker dhc2 at dcrocker.net
Tue Sep 18 09:43:35 PDT 2012

On 9/18/2012 9:17 AM, Jon Crowcroft wrote:
> this is what we used to talk about as the
> "my problem is too hard even for you" poser syndrome
> basically, whenever you offer a workable solution,
> the poser (of the problem) changes the
> problem (or the assumptions)

This is one of the reasons that I am a fan of starting any technical 
effort by agreeing on a simple, brief, entirely non-technical 
description of the problem to be solved and the benefit to be obtained.

In the case of revision efforts, it's especially helpful in providing a 
basis for analyzing deficiencies of the existing work, as well as 
possible improvements of proposed work.  It also forces a focus on 
community need in terms of user-level functionality that is not 
distracted by technical nits.

Predictably, the specific example I happen to encounter most often is 
assertions that we need to replace SMTP with something that has better 
security (to stop spam, phishing, and other unpleasant content.)

My suggestion is first to get the community to agree on a non-technical 
statement of the services that we need that we don't currently have.

This is, and should be, quite difficult.  Changing a complex human 
communication system is certain to have very serious and damaging 
unintended consequences.

In any event, until that agreement is clear, worrying about the 
technical work is wasted effort.

Once the agreement is in place, give the SMTP technical folk a chance to 
find a way to implement it.  That's a realm of activity that has revised 
itself successfully for 30 years, so there's a good basis for thinking 
it might be able to incorporate the 'next' set of functional changes.

At some point a revision effort will fail and indeed we'll have to 
replace SMTP, but until we go through the sequence, replacement is not 
appropriate.  The switching costs for an infrastructure service are too 

I of course intend this as an exemplar for all proposals of major change.

  Dave Crocker
  Brandenburg InternetWorking

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