Collaboration at ICANN

Susan Crawford has a laundry list of things that ICANN needs to do. One of her items has been a theme in the ICANN community for a while, and it came up in Wellington as well: 1.5 We need to make better tools available for policy development purpo…

Susan Crawford has a laundry list of things that ICANN needs to do. One of her items has been a theme in the ICANN community for a while, and it came up in Wellington as well: 1.5 We need to make better tools available for policy development purposes.As I told some senior ICANN staffers in a hallway down there, ICANN isn’t really lacking the tools. ICANN has archived mailing lists. It has a web server. People do use instant messaging. It is possible to build a decent collaborative environment based on these tools.What ICANN lacks is a culture of collaboration: Appoint an editor for documents. Publish things quickly, and at a stable location — right now, everything that goes on the ICANN web site needs five days for conversion to HTML (why not use HTML for authoring?) and review by General Counsel; drafts are generally word documents that are exchanged by e-mail. Make minutes available, quickly, and link them from a web page. Link, whenever you refer to something. Have Instant Messaging back-channels during conference calls.Bad enough, a large part of the ICANN community seems to believe that tool support can solve problems that are actually caused by the overall work style in the ICANN community.Unfortunately, it doesn’t really look like the work style of ICANN’s current leadership mixes too well with online collaboration. So we’ll probably hear more about how ICANN suffers from inadequate tools, how a new position has been staffed to achieve Excellence in Collaboration and is now reviewing a lot of expensive toys — and in the end, everybody will continue to work the same way they do now.As someone said in Wellington: “E-Mail doesn’t really fit my work style.” I think I was speechlessly puzzled in that moment. And then, I started to wonder how on earth that person got the job they hold now.