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NomCom nonsense continues

Category : ICANN, Internet governance · by Dec 6th, 2006

[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.

Reality check

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.

Review

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?

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(5) comments

Michael Froomkin
7 years ago ·

I did NOT blog that I was informed yesterday that I was selected. This is total distortion of what I wrote. I blogged that I was leaving for Brazil yesterday, which I was, and explained that the reason I was going was that I was on the nomcom again.

I was informed of my selection several weeks ago, which is how I had time to book the ticket, arrange for accommodations, etc.

Please correct your blog post here and elsewhere.

Discourse.net
7 years ago ·

Off to Brazil…

I don’t usually blog about ICANN here — I save that for ICANNWatch, but the next few days may be an exception, as I’m going to Sao Paulo for the second half of the ICANN meeeting, which will be followed by a NomCom meeting. It’s seems I’ve been re…

Kieren
7 years ago ·

I think was a reasonable assumption from what you wrote Michael, but my point wasn’t whether you were chosen yesterday or in November – and it most certainly wasn’t that you personally had been chosen – it was that the members for next year’s NomCom had already been decided.

Just another mysterious decision taken by someone, somehow, not relayed to anyone except those in the group, not posted anywhere publicly. When everyone knew the NomCom was due to be reviewed, this smacks of a fix rather than business as usual.

But, yes, of course I will correct my posts.

Kieren

vbertola
7 years ago ·

Kieren, as much as I share some of your points about the NomCom process being too secretive and intransparent (I think you could find public documents of mine dated 2002, with points on that), who appoints the NomCom members is one of the most clear things in it – it is clearly defined by the ICANN Bylaws.
Specifically, Michael Froomkin was appointed by us (the ALAC) last year, and we confirmed him again for next year. We appoint five members, one per each ICANN Region (and Michael, obviously, is for North America).
Thanks,

Kieren
7 years ago ·

Hi Vittorio

I’m not claiming there is some grand conspiracy. I am despairing at everyone agreeing that the system has to change and then blindly continuing on with the exact same process.

I don’t think people realise when they themselves are contributing to an aura of unnecessary secrecy and opaqueness by making decisions without wider review, without saying they are making the decision, when, how, why and then not making those selections public.

Now the NomCom goes out of its way to remain what it sees as uninfluenced but any reasonable observable outside the process sees as unduly secretive.

But by making a decision about who will serve on the NomCom when it is completely unnecessary to decide at that moment; when the process is up for review; and when the last year’s NomCom hasn’t even reported, is either incredibly unthinking or highly suspicious.

Kieren

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