[I just posted this on the ICANN Participation website - and realised maybe I should have only posted it here on my own blog. So here is some daft repetition.]
The Nominating Committee of ICANN decides who will take the most important posts in the organisation.
It is also the most secretive organisation I believe I have ever come across. I know more about MI5, the KGB and Mossad than I do about the NomCom. Which is very odd as I personally know a number of people actually on the NomCom.
At 8.30am tomorrow morning, chair of the NomCom, George Sadowky will give a presentation about this year’s process, you can see it now here (Powerpoint). I have alot of respect for Mr Sadowsky but reading the presentation you would think that the whole process was smooth and open and understood.
The reality was (and I know because I applied) that no one at all had even the slightest idea what was going on. You sent a submission, you received an email saying it had been received. And then four months later you recieve an email telling you who had been chosen (and it wasn’t you).
The NomCom went out of its way not to supply even the most basic information about its processes. It even keep the date and location of its meetings secret. And if I asked any of the members of the NomCom that I know personally, they refused to give even the most basic information. They had been told not to talk about any element whatsoever.
What did happen if you were deemed by the invisible process to be vaguely suitable was that you received an aggressive phonecall – the structure of which was never explained. Here is what Wendy Grossman felt about the experience. She received an email asking her for a phone number where she would be available all weekend.
“When the email said they wanted to talk to me for ‘clarification’ I assumed they meant they wanted to ask me questions about what I’d written in my statement of interest. So I reread it. I also spent an hour or two before the phone call reading news and other items on the ICANN site.
“None of that helped, because what Sadowsky, who conducted the 20-minute call with utter silence behind him, asked me were things like, ‘What, in your view, is ICANN’s mission?’ And ‘What are the three areas of ICANN you most want to be active in?’ The first question made me think I was taking a test; the second seemed more like a job interview, or perhaps a theatrical casting call. You know, the kind where the director and his minions are all sitting, invisible, out in the theater where you can’t see them because the stage lights are blinding you.”
By every measure – except secrecy – the NomCom process is a disaster. Out-of-date, ineffective, unaccountable, unhelpful, it is an abomination.
The Canadian government doesn’t like it – and said as much in a public meeting in Washington. The ccNSO doesn’t like it – its chair Chris Disspain saying so no less than five times yesterday in the ccNSO meeting when discussing transparency and opennes with ICANN’s Paul Levins. In fact, I have yet to have a conversation with *anyone* who thinks the NomCom functions well.
But I have held off laying into the NomCom recently because I have been told in a number of private conversations that everyone has already agreed that it will be extensively reviewed, and many of the people most closely involved in it were hoping the review would be announced at the same time as the candidates that will take their positions at the end of this week.
George Sadowsky makes a point in his presentation – highlighted in bold with an explanation mark – that NomCom review is needed. I know that Wolfgang Kleinwaechter has some intelligent thoughts about the next iteration of NomCom and in fact the make-up of ICANN. I know that ICANN staff aren’t happy with it but don’t want to say anything because to do so could be mistaken as trying to meddle with an independent appointment body.
So everyone is agreed — it has to change.
Then why on EARTH have the people for next year’s Nominating Committee already been decided? Michael Froomkin has blogged that he was informed yesterday that he has been chosen a second time for the NomCom [Michael Froomkin has taken issue with this (see below) and says he was informed a few weeks ago. My point is not when he was chosen but that he was chosen before the NomCom officially closed this week].
Who the hell is choosing who gets to be on the NomCom? And when and how did they decide who would be on 2007’s NomCom? Why have members been chosen before the NomCom even gives its report? This is a fix and people should refuse to accept it tomorrow morning.
If ICANN is serious about openness and transparency, how about it starts with the very process that decides how the organisation is run?