Public vs. Private Disclosures

Discuss membership issues, group operating procedures, etc.
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Bradford Van Treuren
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Public vs. Private Disclosures

Post by Bradford Van Treuren »

A recent issue was raised in the IEEE P1687 IJTAG working group that could impact the way we conduct business regarding what we publish as public data vs. what we publish as private data. Our main goal as the SJTAG team has been to be as open as possible with the public to encourage participation and generate interest in our cause. There are reasons the enclosed comments were made by the TTSC to Ken Posse, the chair of the IJTAG WG, that needs to be published to the SJTAG team for our clarification. The subject was raised in the P1687 WG as they are compiling a draft of their standard and question of how much of this draft is allowed to be visible outside of the WG were raised. The response from the TTSC may extend into all facets of public disclosure that a WG is permitted to share or not. Thus, my posting of this discussion topic. The message sent by Ken Posse to the P1687 WG reflector is as follows:
Hello P1687 Working Group;

Several questions have been asked regarding the policy on sharing P1687 documents (including the draft standard) and the information contained in these documents with non-members of the Working Group. I have exchanged email messages with the IEEE Test Technology Standards Committee (TTSC) on this subject to see if the IEEE has a policy guideline for this situation. Below is essentially the response to this question.

The details of the standard, while it is still under development, are proprietary and therefore the detailed information should not be shared with anyone outside the Working Group without bringing this to the WG as a whole for discussion. In the public area of the web site are slide sets available for use in discussions outside the WG, but the meeting notes, drafts of the standard, and the information contained therein are not available for such. Approval by the WG for such discussions would be on a case-by-case basis. Approval should be for the benefit of the development of the standard, such as was suggested earlier that we have not had an inspection of the hardware rules with an eye toward routing. Permission would not be forthcoming simply to allow individuals or companies to "get a head start" on product or circuit development

Thanks,

Ken Posse
We, the SJTAG team, seem to have a process for approving the release of information to the public, but I do not think it goes far enough to ensure we don't have a policy that does not default to public unless otherwise noted. In the spirit of being open to the public, something the TTSC said the P1687 struggled with to the other extreme when they got started, we may be opening ourselves up to possible unfair business practices down the road as SJTAG becomes more firm or perhaps accused of misleading people as to the direction we are taking with the standard.

Another public vs. private issue to consider is regarding meeting minutes that might cause problems outside the working group if published to the public (e.g., interim positions of company representatives or personality clashes that should not be made visible for the dignity of the group). Do we need to have public and private versions of the meeting minutes in the future?

Ian responded with some email to the forward of Ken's email I made to him as the chair and chair emeritus talking. Ian suggested I start this thread for discussion. I will let Ian add his email response to this thread so it captures the thoughts came from him as a followup to my question.
Last edited by Ian McIntosh on Sat Apr 11, 2009 6:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Add quote tags for Ken Posse e-mail text
Bradford Van Treuren
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VT Enterprises Consulting Services
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Ian McIntosh
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Re: Public vs. Private Disclosures

Post by Ian McIntosh »

I certainly believe we have a process for approving material for public release, but I think there are a couple of questions that arise.

The right to access the draft or final normative text of a standard is something that the IEEE "sell", so obviously we must never undermine that, but how rigorously do we need to protect the underlying information or principles?

If meeting minutes need to be vetted for possible exposure of details of the standard then that impinges on our principle of openness and suggests that minutes may at some point in the future need to have "public" and "private" versions, or no public version. The former seems like an overhead we can do without, the latter just doesn't seem "right" to me. I think the question becomes "Does the aggregation of information contained within meeting minutes allow someone to collate something that would constititute a disclosure of the draft?". There's no particular question of "advantage" here, since everyone has equal access.

If you ever elect to selectively release a draft to a third party (even for wholly justifiable reasons as cited in the Ken Posse e-mail) then I guess you are offering the recipients a possible competitive advantage. The underlying principle of non-disclosure is based on a presumption of honesty and integrity of the participants and I guess I'm getting pretty cynical as I get older, but those are characteristics I don't see a lot of these days, particularly when business perfomance pressures start to bite. Do we perhaps need to draft some form of Non-Disclosure Agreement? I'm wary that this could just open up another legal minefield, unless the IEEE-SA or TTSC already has a template.

Looking at this another way, could it be that our openness is actually discouraging people from joining our group, since they can simply observe via the website, thereby gaining most of the benefit of participating with none of the commitment?

I also wonder if other standards groups have the same guidance? I'm sure most people reading this can point to products in the marketplace that cite "compliance" to draft IEEE standards.
Ian McIntosh
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Adam W Ley
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Re: Public vs. Private Disclosures

Post by Adam W Ley »

Every policy and/ or procedure that we should need to know/ follow in this regard *should* be established in the TTSC policies/ procedures and/ or the policies/ procedures of the higher level entities.

That said, and without trying to excerpt these, my understanding of the fundamental principles of the IEEE Standards community is that business is to be conducted openly; for example, meeting minutes should be available to any party that requests them. A common exception, largely for practical considerations, is the conduct of business by email or similar.

Concerning work products, the only item(s) that need to be safeguarded are those to which IEEE copyright pertains; in general, these are limited to the standards drafts.
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Ian McIntosh
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Re: Public vs. Private Disclosures

Post by Ian McIntosh »

Adam W Ley wrote:Every policy and/ or procedure that we should need to know/ follow in this regard *should* be established in the TTSC policies/ procedures and/ or the policies/ procedures of the higher level entities.
I'm not finding anything in the TTSC, CS or SB documentation that explicitly sets out anything like the directions in the Ken Posse e-mail; there is guidance on "public statements", but I take that to mean things like press releases.

I agree with Adam though: The Introduction to the TTSC P&P (http://standards.ieee.org/board/aud/C-TT.pdf) sets the requirement for openness in standards development, and that is a flow-down from the Standards Board Operations Manual, but IEEE copyright material should not be circulated.

Maybe I'm reading too much into that e-mail - it's the comment on minutes not being releasable that concerned me, but all the official indicators are that these should be available to anyone who asks. For other substantial materials the group should approve release, which is generally the case anyway, even for minutes.
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Bradford Van Treuren
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Re: Public vs. Private Disclosures

Post by Bradford Van Treuren »

I struggle with this whole subject. We need to be as open as we can to obtain as broad of ideas as possible to be able to address the entire community needs, but we also have to keep in mind that only a couple of percent, if that, of the community are actually participating faithfully in formulating the standard. One has to ask the question, "What is the benefit in participating in the working group?" Some could argue that the benefit is that you have the ability to influence the direction of the standard. Others feel you gain a benefit in understanding why the direction was followed over some other direction. Still, as volunteer work, each person has an underlying motivation for participation that must align with the restrictions placed on the effort by IEEE.

The presentation of the minutes as public information seems open enough to me and equally accessible to all so an unfair advantage is not created. A concern I have is regarding the white paper the group has been working on. We have to ask ourselves, "How detailed do we need or want to make this artifact and yet make it generalized enough to not present the draft standard in laymen terms?" I think we need to reassess what it is we as a group are trying to accomplish as our focus for the white paper. There is a lot of insights in the white paper that will not be showing up in the draft standard regarding insights to the direction and motivation for the standard decisions. Are these insights and the understanding of them the benefits or advantage for participating members? As Ian mentions, these are different times in business today. Most companies will not invest in any activity unless there is a clear Return on Investment (ROI). What is our ROI for companies to sponsor membership in our group? This would be a good discussion topic for a future meeting.

My bottom line is I don't want to see what happended with the IEEE 802.11n draft occur with SJTAG where products based on the draft of the standard began appearing on the shelves almost the same day the draft was released for ballot or even have products claiming compliance to a draft.
Bradford Van Treuren
Distinguished Member of Technical Staff
VT Enterprises Consulting Services