Archive for the 'ICANN' Category

Hey, ho, Delhi here we go

I’m writing this in that neverworld of an airport waiting for a slightly delayed plane.

And, of course, as it always is, that airport is Heathrow. I hate Heathrow. I’ve always hated Heathrow. Even as a kid, I remember the sensation of life ebbing away from you as you sit in uncomfortable chairs next to grumpy people, eat dreadful food and get annoyed with snooty staff. It’s Heathrow, it’s British Airways, it’s delayed, and I’m flying economy, seat 49J, which means no sleep, cramped legs, and an incredibly frustrating effort trying to do work on my laptop for the next nine hours.

Still, I’m on my way to the ICANN meeting in Delhi which should prove to be the usual mix of fun, exhaustion, confusion and interesting events. Plus I’ve never been to India before. What’s happening at the ICANN meeting? Well, plenty. Discussions on front-running, on domain tasting, on new gTLDs and IDNs. And the JPA. And the translation programme – which I have been working very hard on and should really help ICANN become an international organisation. And, you know, all the other sorts of issues that underpin the future evolution of the Internet and which I now concern myself with every day.

I have to say though that I felt an itch as a journalist to get stuck into the US elections yesterday. Shame I wasn’t in the country for Super Tuesday. Ah well, new gTLDs and IDNs are going to have a bigger impact on the world than the next US president. And I mean that too.

Too much bloody work

It’s been six weeks since I last posted here. That can’t be good. And I have a ton of stuff to get out of my mind through my fingers. The one-day trivia brain of Los Angelenos; the US presidential election process; the insane bureaucracy and mind-control of this peculiar and remarkable country. Plus, lots of pics – some with world famous stars of the screen. And the tale of trying to get hold of my possessions after 16 weeks now.

Why is this material still in my brain and not on the page? Because of work. Too much work. Far too much work. This job is a constant invitation to burn-out. I think it is the three international meetings a year that is what really makes the workload impossible: there is never more than a week in which you can get on with all those things that need quiet periods to get done. I thank god that the cycle ride home (along the beach – it’s nice, even in crap weather) is 35 minutes. It’s the one conscious hour of the day I can’t be at my laptop. Although I did take two phonecalls on my way in this morning. How long before I’m balancing the Dell on my handlebars, trying to pick up WiFi signals from the beach houses?

Still, I’m going to Delhi in a week’s time. It’ll mean 37 hours in economy there and back (I’ll be in London, Paris and Vienna briefly if anyone desperately wants to meet up), but I should have time to go see the Taj Mahal at some point. And I’ve always fancy seeing that and India. The urge to take off a month and travel the sub-continent is pretty intense, I have to say. Anyway, more work, then sleep, then more work…

Back to work

In case anyone is wondering why I haven’t been calling, emailing, insisting people come out for drinks, and so on, I have been on a three-and-a-half-week tour covering New York, Los Angeles and Puerto Rico – all for ICANN. A very busy week-long meeting has caused me to take three days off without any form of electronic communication, so I am currently sat in Continental’s President Club in San Juan airport (so poorly stocked that there are even signs suggesting you go outside for food and then come back in), and have just downloaded no less than 406 emails.

I’m also a bit burnt – partly thanks to the intense heat in the Caribbean, partly because my British skin just does not do sun, but mostly because I don’t have the rules of being in the sun screwed into my brain. Anyway, on my way to Houston and then Gatwick and then Oxford, so it’s Tuesday 8am and by Wednesday lunchtime I’ll be back home and calling people again. I understand that my home country not only has a new leader but that we are, yet again, the target of terrorist attacks. Home Sweet Home.

Polls: ICANN, Sex.com and book reading

I’ve just stuck up a third poll in the space of a week, so I figured it was time to review the results of the previous two and outline the third. (As if anyone really cares, but it makes me feel better.)

The first was about ICANN and what I should do in my new role there as general manager of public participation. The results were:

  1. Making processes clearer (33%)
  2. Run an awareness campaign (19%)
  3. Consultation before making changes (13%)
  4. Improve ICANN’s website (11%)
  5. Getting ICANN staff to blog etc (10%)
  6. Online collaboration tools (8%)
  7. Multi-lingual efforts (6%)

It may be handy after nearly three months in the job to review how I’ve done with respect to these.

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Online participation – practicising what you preach

I am having a bloody busy time of it at the moment. I lost most of last week due to an appalling cold and chest infection (which is still nagging me now), I have my publisher breathing down my neck asking for my Sex.com book back with the copy editor’s changes included (to be frank, a job that takes *much* longer than the few days I have apparently been alotted); and I have the ICANN Lisbon meeting to prepare for, where I have to try to organise “public participation”.

That’s more complex than it sounds, but my hope is that a big chunk of it will simply be directing people to the participation website at http://public.icann.org and hoping that it is intuitive enough that people simply get stuck in. This participation thing – especially online – is complex and difficult. Despite alot of people in the Internet community being very comfortable with the online world, as human beings we have trouble interacting as large groups at the same time in anything but a face-to-face way. You can’t ignore millions of years of evolution in a generation it would seem.

Terminal Too

Nonetheless, people are willing to try – even if it means not having to spend so much time on planes – and it is my job both for ICANN and partly for the IGF to try to come up with ways to make this online interaction as effective and comfortable as possible. As such I am practicing what I preach as we speak – sat in a soul-destroyingly drab and busy Heathrow Terminal 2 accessing a meeting of ICANN’s President’s Strategic Committee.

You see the agenda here, you can listen to it here [Real], there is a chatroom here, and a forum here.

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Becoming part of the story – expert or ego-maniac?

A story about the Sex.com case has appeared in the San Jose Metro which includes as many quotes from me as it does from Gary Kremen and from Cohen’s current lawyer. I was also heavily featured in a different article in the German FT on Sex.com last week. And on Monday I am going to be interviewed by the BBC on my new role in ICANN.

This has all caused me to realise I am becoming part of the story – something that I instinctively wish to avoid. My experience as a journalist has led me to see that the most real work – and hence change – is done by people that remain in the background. There are always frontmen and they serve a very useful role, but they are rarely any good at actually recognising what the problems are and how to solve them. And I’ve always liked to think of myself as a doer. The great risk that also comes with having a public profile is that you start to believe in your own genius. The number of people I’ve seen who are brilliant on one topic but within a few interviews have started waxing lyrical about things they know nothing about, and looked ridiculous as a result – to the extent that people have trouble listening to them even when it comes to their own specialist subject.

So with respect to Sex.com and ICANN – am I an expert or an emerging ego-maniac? I would say the former at the moment. The test will come when I am asked to do something that stretches slightly beyond my knowledge. And then the final test: how you react when someone criticises you for not knowing what you’re talking about. I have already charged a few people with the job of occasionally telling me I’m an idiot. Let’s hope my failure to reply to their emails thanks to workload doesn’t encourage them to sleep on the job.

My first ICANN blog post

Okay, I’ve just stuck up my first post on the ICANN blog. It is called “On the inside, look out… at a tornado” and it basically covers the second day working for ICANN and the first in which I met all the staff etc.

Why on earth am I blogging about a blog post? Well, just in case people ponder why this site is suddenly short of information on ICANN, it’s because I’m going to shift my writing about ICANN over to the ICANNblog. Two reasons: one, I now work for ICANN so it’s a good idea to build up the value of the ICANN blog rather than my own by populating it with (hopefully) useful content; and two, I can’t be arsed to write two blog posts on the same subject. I suspect my ICANN blog posts will be slightly more sober. I will certainly cut out the swearing. But otherwise I hope to retain the same basic approach.

I have also created a “participation” category with which I shall tag all my posts and that can be found at http://blog.icann.org/?cat=13 (maybe I should change the underlying architecture so it is “http://blog.icann.org/participation” instead). So that’s it. More ICANN posts in the pipeline. In the meantime enjoy the first.

The Internet rollercoaster starts up the track again: IGF in Geneva

I am in Geneva for a stock-take of the first Internet Governance Forum in Athens last November.

It should be an interesting meeting. The one thing that no one is any doubt about is that the IGF will be bigger and more important in 2007. Born out of international discussion (some might say argument) at the United Nations over problems thrown up by the Internet – especially the best way to agree to fix problems – the IGF caught most people by surprise when it became a tremendous success, despite all the opportunities for it to be otherwise.

This year the meeting should get the resources it was starved of last year but at the same time the 2007 meeting in Rio de Janeiro could prove explosive mostly because of continued disagreement about how the Internet is currently run and who gets to make the decisions.

That argument is still ruminating so this 13 February meeting should be an opportunity for people to review and enjoy IGF 2006, discuss what worked and what didn’t, and agree on how to make this year’s meeting better. To this end. the organisers asked people to send in comments to help form discussion and have posted them on its website.

I have been through them all and have put together this quick summary of what everyone agrees on; what most people agree on; and where there will be argument. Where there’s argument, I have given what I hope is a balanced and objective review of what the argument is about and why it’s happening, plus predicted what is likely to happen.

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Wednesday, Thursday, a touch busy sorting out my new role

I’m in Brussels trying to sort out exactly what I can do in my job in ICANN.

I have had no time to write anything because I’ve been trying to speak to everyone and trying to get as much out there and suck up as much as I can.

With a brain full of information I am desperately trying to get out but without time, I thought I’d at least treat myself to a blog post saying just that.

Apologies to the people that have called me the past three days and have received in return only quick text messages. Normal service will resume shortly.

Bill Hobbs breaks cover – and piles on the coincidences

It was bound to come back to haunt him at some point, but Bill Hobbs has been forced to break cover after people in his home town of Nashville came across the various posts by me, Kev Murphy and Brett Fausett that fingered him as being Steve Forrest – the most-biased man in showbusiness and the brawn behind Free2Innovate.net.

Mr Hobbs is a right-wing political blogger who takes very aggressive stances on whatever topic happens to come along that day. Fitting the model of such people beautifully, it would also appear that Mr Hobbs is a tremendous hypocrite as he has been posting consistently about the need for transparency without divulging that for two years or so he posed as an apparently independent blogger called Steven Forrest.

The controversy comes over the fact that Steve Forrest was so unbelievably biased and so monumentally inaccurate about Internet governance issues that many questioned what on earth he was posting for. And how he got hold of insider documents when no one had ever met him, or spoken to him, or seen him.

After a long while of putting up with Mr Forrest’s rants and misrepresentations, it finally became necessary to point out that every single post on the site reflected the specific viewpoint of dotcom owner VeriSign. And that there was a big bundle of evidence to point to the fact that it was a bloke named Bill Hobbs behind the propaganda.

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