Point-counterpoint on public participation at ICANN

We’ve released a new study
on public participation at ICANN, plus a serious critique of that
study by senior fellow Andrew McLaughlin here.  (It’s a forceful statement, and I’ll have to give some thought to a response to his critique).

A few notes, speaking for myself only:

1) I mean to be constructive, not piling on criticism on an institution
struggling mightily to reform itself.  The purpose of this study
is to take a hard, objective look at about 100,000 messages posted to
online forums to determine whether ICANN has succeeded at creating an
open and representative decision-making process.  My view is that
this experimentation, at least with respect to these online forums, has
not worked well.  The technology of online message forums and
listservs has not been effective at attracting and then enabling the
incorporation of Internet user community input into the ICANN
process.  And, it’s my view that ICANN is not the right venue —
given its highly technical mandate and other factors — in
which to seek to prove a point about Internet user community
involvement in a global decision-making process.  It’s not the
right place to prove a big point about the Net and global democracy.

2) I have some reservations about our study, primarily with respect to
its scope.  While I believe that our methodology and research
into the 100,000 public forum postings is defensible, I quickly
acknowledge that we have been cursory in our review of public
participation through the SOs.  Why?  After probing some of
the data available, we thought it would be too hard to draw meaningful
conclusions using a consistent methodology.  Someone might succeed
where we’ve ventured only gingerly.  Such a follow-up would be a
worthy undertaking, as it may well be that the SOs are the place where
public participation in ICANN is the most effective.

Given this mode of seeking to be constructive and these reservations, I’m pleased that my very insightful colleague Andrew
McLaughlin is offering a concurrent critique of this study.  Andrew is well-positioned
to put this work in context — and certainly to do so from a healthily and helpfully skeptical place.

Update: Andrew blogs about his critique here, with a summary of his argument.

5 thoughts on “Point-counterpoint on public participation at ICANN

  1. In your study, you lump those who posted most frequently to the public forum as flamers, and state, quite bluntly, that “The heavy posters are people who invested a lot of time in the forum community. They often flame one another and do not consistently make substantive comments.”

    As one of those posters named, I take exception to this generalization. If you would take the time to read the forum, you will find that I was the only TLD applicant who took the time to respond to questions and work towards public discussion and clarification of our .Web application.

    I cannot recall a single instance where I flamed anyone, and I am certain that my posts were regularly substantive.

    I believe an apology is in order, if not a correction in your study.

  2. Mr. Ambler:

    Apologies indeed. I (and my co-authors) certainly read the forum — in great detail, in fact, and over a long period of time, as I hope our study makes plain. Please note that in our study we do not state that you, or anyone else in particular, made non-substantive postings. It is, all the same, empirically true that you are 1) one of the top posters to the list mentioned and 2) that many of the heavy posters to that list wrote many posts that were flames and that were not substantive. I don’t believe that anything that you raise here points to something incorrect in our study. However, I hear your concern and hope to address it. To ensure that other readers are not misled, I’ve modified the language in that section of the report slightly, hopefully in the process making clear this distinction while retaining the essential point that we sought to make. I hope that this change is responsive to your concern.


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