20i Domains

The Manifest Threat to Nominet’s Reputation & Stability

Discussion in 'Nominet General Information' started by Acorn Newsbot, Mar 10, 2021.

  1. Acorn Newsbot

    Acorn Newsbot Junior Member

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    Some have claimed that the resolution they have proposed for the upcoming EGM won’t affect Nominet’s stability, or indeed our reputation, which has taken years to build, and will take days to destruct. We believe that the EGM will inevitably cause serious disruption. But let us go into that in a bit more detail and explore the many reasons why.

    Business Continuity Under Threat

    The advocates of the EGM resolution argue that both firing the leadership and reducing the price of domains will not have any serious impact on the organisation. But cutting prices will ultimately lead to sustained under-investment in the registry. Coupled with another demand of the campaigners to disband our DNS cyber capabilities it would wind the clock back 10 years and completely ignore how complex and challenging the internet has become in the intervening decade. Figure 1 below shows the rising complexity of managing the .UK domain namespace given the number of DNS queries and security risks.

    While we have business continuity plans covering a wide array of contingencies and threats, those plans don’t contemplate an immediate, wholesale change of strategy taken without proper preparation or consideration. These actions will put Nominet in stasis for a long time to come.

    [​IMG]

    Figure 1: Showing increased DNS queries/complexity of running .UK

    Employees Make our Registry Work

    Now let’s consider people and culture. Nominet’s employee engagement scores are higher than the industry average. This means we attract and retain the amazing, diverse and motivated talent we need to run one of the world’s largest domain registries.

    Talent is attracted to Nominet by the exciting challenges, culture and values of the business. We can grow a business, while having a positive impact on society. This ‘profit with a purpose’ goal – where we aim to increase the connectivity, inclusivity and security of the internet is what drives our people. Our values of ownership, integrity and boldness and a culture that’s challenging, collaborative and fun is how all the parts move together to run a reliable registry and grow a world class DNS cyber business.

    If Nominet takes a 10-year step back in time, it immediately becomes a less exciting place to work. Without high technical and business aspirations we will struggle to retain our best people, and with a tarnished reputation we’ll struggle to replace the good people who leave. This means we’ll rely on contractor resource which increases costs and makes it harder to maintain a unified culture.

    Instability Undermines Reputation and Threatens Yet More Instability

    If the EGM resolution passes, our stakeholders in the UK and around the world will see Nominet in a different light. They will naturally question the stability of our business. They will worry about the threat of more destabilising EGM proposals. And they will be concerned about Nominet’s ability to continue operating with the quality and level of service that they have come to expect. That could quickly trigger an accelerating spiral of decline.

    Stakeholders in the UK government will inevitably ask questions, too. And if Nominet steers into dangerous, uncharted waters, they will undoubtedly step in.

    An Unnecessary Step

    All of these points add up to enormous dangers to Nominet. The impact of the EGM resolution might not be to burn down the entire house in one go, but it will seriously damage it and, like deep rot, it will set a path to a steady erosion which will get worse as time goes by.

    At the same time, the 7 Point Plan we have launched addresses all of the concerns raised by those advocating for the EGM resolution, making voting ‘yes’ for the resolution entirely unnecessary.

    [​IMG]

    In closing…

    We strongly believe dialogue is better than destruction. We’re taking concrete steps, and we’re eager for more input from members on these steps to ensure every member who wants to weigh in has a chance to do so – now through the RAC.

    The stakes for Nominet, and you as members, couldn’t be higher. Our plan gives stability in the short and long term without unnecessary risk and reputational damage.

    We ask you to vote, as your voice is important. Please vote ‘no’.

    The post The Manifest Threat to Nominet’s Reputation & Stability appeared first on Nominet.

    Continue reading...
     
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  2. Domain Forum

    Acorn Domains Elite Member

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  3. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Active Member

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    "PROJECT FEAR"

    Yawn...

    Removing a whole government at a General Election does not mean a country plunges into chaos - it's called democracy.

    So please don't tell us, Russell, that you are so brilliant and irreplaceable that if a rather small Oxford company had a change of CEO, it would plunge into disaster.

    I genuinely hate to say this, but you're basically pleading for your job. Nominet can survive and flourish without you.

    This is not a few 'troublemakers' trying to ruin the company.
    419 of the company's most engaged members are calling for you to be removed from the Board.


    In a set up where voting often barely reaches 10%, those 419 members represent (to date - the number keeps on growing) 24.7% of voting rights, including 75% of the top 50 members.

    In addition, these members have made it clear, and backed a proposal, that Sir Michael should take over as interim Chairman. There can hardly be a more qualified person to do so. He was the author of the detailed review of Nominet, he knows Nominet, he cares about Nominet. He also has huge management experience and track record.

    Russell, your 'Project Fear' is frankly an insult to him, suggesting he would become some kind of agent of destruction. But you miss the point.

    In reality, the problem for members is that... no matter how many promises you make... TRUST has collapsed. Members have NO CONFIDENCE in the present leadership.

    This goes back years. But sadly, you have compounded the loss of trust and respect by what I personally would call a bullish, corporate management style.

    The collapse in public benefit donations after you became CEO compounded the problems. The rise and rise of executive pay, not to mention your own large bonuses, compounded the problems. Failed investments in automated cars (wtf?) compounded the problems. The mass-registration of 2 million zombie domains, facilitated twice by Nominet's free registration promotions, compounded the problems. The melodramatic (and incredibly rude) deletion of the members' forum in the middle of the AGM compounded the problems of TRUST. Members naturally concluded, 'How can we trust a man who says he wants to listen to us, when he shows off his power by shutting down discussion and opinions?' It was crass.

    Another example of crass management style was Simon Blackler being sent a membership list on 500 sheets of paper (which looked like just being inconvenient and stupid) when a simple email attachment would have done. It just alienates people. It's unintelligent. It demonstrates the very malaise that people are complaining about.

    And then this whole 'Project Fear' campaign. No, Nominet won't collapse into instability. That's rude to your staff. It's also rude to the members who, let us remind you, you are accountable to. All directors are - we delegate power to you, but we can remove it as well, and that's where things have got to.

    The way the Board have handled this EGM and the Resolution vote is frankly abysmal. It defies belief that you could be so stupid as to stick a video of one voting option only on the voting page - if you go into a voting booth it is meant to be an impartial process. You went against any hint of balance and fairness in that action, against appropriate democratic protocol, and that really demonstrated a worrying malaise in Nominet's management style.

    Carrying on, the Board has published a letter associating Simon Blackler with intimidation of members - which is classic smear: Simon is a highly principled, decent man. On the contrary, it was one of your own Directors (possibly a regular visitor here on the Acorn Forum under weird pseudonyms, who knows, complaints were made) who threatened the director of a member company with potential loss of business if they voted YES. Any action taken?

    And you just don't seem to get this: members want new leadership and a better culture. The more you vilify the very large number of members who oppose you, the more you actually put people off. You say you want to listen, but you don't want to hear. In shockingly large numbers, members want you to hand over the running of the company to someone they trust. The number of signatories calling for your removal has just gone up and up over the weeks. You're in denial.

    Later today Freeola and Namecheap, two significantly large companies, jumped ship and joined the support for an EGM and Resolution to change the leadership of Nominet. They join companies like Gandi, 20i, Coherent, Krystal, Any-Web, Hosting Concepts BV, Zen, UKFast, TwentyTwenty Media... the list goes on... more than 400 others. None of these people are destroyers. How dare you imply that they are? Like over 400 other members/companies they want an orderly transition of power. At first that would mean Sir Michael taking on an interim and caretaker role, because there's no-one better equipped to do so. And no, don't be ridiculous, Russell, Nominet will not "take days to destruct". Rather there will be review, and assessment, and careful step-by-step action.

    To the extent there is any instability, it's because you've somehow managed to incite 75% of your top 50 members, and over 400 in total, to call for you to leave. The instability is not to Nominet, but to your job (or to be precise, your position on the Board). If you really care about the stability of Nominet (which will be fine anyway) you would set in motion plans for a stable and orderly transition of power to Sir Michael in the (highly likely) eventuality that the YES vote prevails. That would show proper care to the company and to your staff.

    Simon Blackler is a good and decent man, and it enrages me that this week attempts have been made to associate him with whatever random (and for all I know imaginary) crazies there are on the internet. Neither you, nor Mark, nor Simon can control the actions of crazies on the internet (though I can think of one member of the Board who you could possibly rein in).

    I'm sorry Russell, but your leadership is "The Manifest Threat to Nominet's Reputation and Stability". TRUST has gone. And remember, members have a legal right to be remove any director. Any director is there at the members' largesse. Any can be removed. All are accountable to the members. And that power that you so grandiosely displayed at the AGM when you deleted the members' forum 'because I can' - that power is only delegated to you by the members of the company. It looks like they'd rather entrust it to somebody else.
     
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    Last edited: Mar 10, 2021
  4. martin-s United Kingdom

    martin-s Well-Known Member

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    The status quo is a greater threat to the future of the .uk namespace than a successful EGM result.
     
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  5. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Active Member

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    Totally agree, Martin.
     
  6. TinkyWinky United Kingdom

    TinkyWinky Well-Known Member Acorn Supporter

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    "taken years to build, and will take days to destruct."

    Wow get over yourselves. Absolutely no proof whatsoever that anything of the sort will happen...

    That sort of statement is like the sort my 12 year old daughter used to come out with.
     
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  7. Johnp United Kingdom

    Johnp Active Member

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    I posted what is italics below on another forum but it sums up my thoughts on the current debacle and a proposal from David Thornton a Non Exec. who has publicly stated his views on taking Nominet into being a totally commercial enterprise. Unfortunately what we have at the moment is a half way house where up until the EGM the board thought they could not be held to account, and to be fair to them they had good reason to conclude that because of the complex membership structure and voting rights.

    'Like probably many other members of Nominet I joined 10+ years ago to gain access to the registry services and member discounts. I have sat quietly on the sidelines and watched with increasing disbelief the shenanigans emanating from the Oxford HQ. So yes probably by accident I am a partial custodian by my membership of an asset (the UK namespace) which until the current EGM I felt powerless to actually assist with making meaningful positive change.

    Nominet in my opinion has no business in it’s current structure running questionable non core commercial ventures (which all appear to be going badly wrong), subsided by a core business which is a monopoly and being ‘utterly milked’. The board remuneration could never be justified running just the ‘core UK registry’ and the over complication of the business to justify all the ‘expensive talent’ at board level has been unforgivable.


    For that reason alone they must go, the campaign to fight the EGM using all the resources of the company to justify themselves has been a disgrace and I would suggest counterproductive and whatever they say now or in future just will not be believed.


    So I urge all members to vote YES.'


    JohnP
     
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  8. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Active Member

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    Steve Dyer (formerly on the Board of both Nominet and its charitable Trust):

    "I and other ex-Directors would be happy to support and assist any new Board in restoring the Company to its proper position as a not-for-profit entity supporting the UK Internet industry. Regarding the Nominet Chair's comment 'If the EGM initiative achieves its aims, it will leave the company leaderless and facing an exodus' : I see no evidence that 'highly-skilled staff will leave'. "

    Nigel Titley (Nominet Founder): "I urge all Nominet members to support this EGM motion and return Nominet to its original aims of serving the UK Internet."

    The motion also supported by 2 other Founders of Nominet: Keith Mitchell and Ivan Pope.

    Nobody seriously believes Russell's suggestion that its reputation "will take days to destruct" if the Resolution is passed to restore Nominet's fundamental purpose as a not-for-profit entity supporting the UK Internet industry.

    420 of the most engaged members of that industry support the resolution. Russell does himself no favours by making them seem like destroyers.
     
  9. monaghan United Kingdom

    monaghan Moderator Staff Member

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    If the EGM fails, can we have another one to resolve the fragility issues raised by the board?

    If our company is so fragile that loosing a few senior staff will cause it to collapse, then this is a very major issue that needs to be addressed urgently. If the senior staff are as good as they suggest we run the risk of loosing them to headhunters, especially with their pay freeze. If our company that we as members own is that fragile, then we need new management who can build a structure more resilient and has senior management who are more competent - who actually builds a company structure based on a few select people when that company has gone from holding a few domain names from this nerdy Internet thingy to something that most businesses and organizations in the UK depend on? We are currently over a year into a world wide illness that is killing people regardless of their age, sex or employment status and NOW they tell us that our organization is dependent of a just a handful of people and will fall apart if they are no longer in charge. Given that the Internet is regarded as critical infrastructure, surely this is even more reason to restructure and invite fresh blood to replace those that have got us into this situation to prevent the government from taking this into one of the government departments and then who knows what will happen.

    Has anyone noticed if you google "nominet egm" you get an ad from Nominet, is this really how they are spending member's subscription fees and the proceeds from domain registrations?
     
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  10. foz

    foz Well-Known Member Exclusive Member

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    Ah Government intervention. Lesley Cowley wheeled that one out last time. Not going to work this time.
     
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  11. monaghan United Kingdom

    monaghan Moderator Staff Member

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    I hope not, but if they are publicly stating the company can't run if a handful of it's staff are removed, then surely that is a significant risk to the UK infrastructure and these people should be replaced ASAP with those who will keep the registry operational. In my opinion, the current board are putting us at risk by making these statements rather than justifying their existence.
     
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  12. jmcc Ireland

    jmcc Active Member

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    If these people are critical to the operation of .UK then Nominet surely must have some redundancy procedures in place if they are made redundant. Is the motion to remove them likely to pass?

    Regards...jmcc
     
  13. monaghan United Kingdom

    monaghan Moderator Staff Member

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    The feel of the message Nominet are giving us is that if the board gets changed then everything falls apart and it's the end of the world and this is the sort of management style we're expected to welcome, so much for business continuity planning!

    A lot of us are hoping the motion does pass so we can enter a new era of Nominet, I guess ultimately pass / fail depends on the (alleged!) bribes & bungs and threats the board use on the members with the largest percentages of the voting rights.
     
  14. Murray

    Murray Well-Known Member

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    great point
     
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  15. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Active Member

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    I think you could argue that the very way the Nominet leadership has handled the EGM issue epitomises this 'we are vital' mentality, when actually many would argue that it is the way this leadership operates that has triggered 429 of the most engaged members finally deciding enough is enough.

    There's an article in todays 'Telegraph' where the CEO is quoted, and (in my opinion) once again his hostile 'tone' seems to me to demonstrate a problematic mindset and method. He tries to argue that because they've promised to freeze pay for 2 years, they shows how they have met members' demands.

    The thing is, it’s not just “over executive pay and falling charitable donations” as the intro to the Telegraph article says, which Russell claims has been sorted. It’s about the whole direction of the company, and about huge loss of trust and confidence in its leadership, after a whole series of blunders, complaints, ill-manners (the AGM forum seemed just rude), and unresponsiveness. Those are issues the Russell's “7 point plan” doesn’t address - and indeed it doesn’t even address members’ complaints about excess pay, because it does not offer to reduce the exorbitant executive pay levels: its big offer is to maintain them at those levels (and just for 2 years). They need to be slashed. The NED contract states that for 30 days’ work they are paid £35,000. That’s more than a nurse like myself gets paid in a whole year. And as for the CEO’s huge salary (not to mention £200,000 bonus): I think that is just taking the piss. Maintaining pay at these levels in no way answers members’ complaints.

    Russell’s quoted claim that it is 20% of membership calling for the EGM (and his removal) is incorrect. It keeps on rising and is now 25%. That is a huge indictment of a problem. It is also 75% of the top 50 UK members/companies. When companies like Namecheap and Gandi endorse the call for change, you know this EGM is not just a fringe of malcontents. This has been building for years.

    And when Russell refers in the Telegraph to “the membership, run by a couple of ringleaders”… we are not “run” by anyone. Moreover, using the term “ringleaders” is offensive to all the membership who agree with the EGM. It is terrible ‘tone’. The term ringleader is more usually applied to those who lead a gang of criminals or troublemakers. If that’s how Russell wants to frame 429 of Nominet’s most engaged members, that is disrespectful.

    He says ‘Let’s have dialogue’ but he was the person who deleted the members’ forum, melodramatically, and rudely in a show of power, right in the middle of the last AGM.

    A Nominet spokeperson is quoted: “Nominet’s Board and leadership are unanimous that the proposed resolution is bad for Nominet.” If that is true (though it’s possible Phil or others may not actually think that, and this is just spin) - but if that is true, then I am one of the hawks who believe a further EGM should be called to remove all the remaining directors. If and when Resolution 1 passes, then they cannot really be regarded as the right people to support the members’ programme of reform. The pivotal issue is whether the remaining directors support the intentions of the petitioners, not only on Resolution 1, but on the reform necessary in the aftermath. We’re told that they ‘unanimously’ think the EGM is bad. If true, they become the next problem in the process of reform.

    If it is opponents of the Resolution who are left in charge of the Board, with Russell remaining as CEO of the company (as is likely), then expect to see other supporters of the present set up appointed onto the Board to fill the gaps: Nick Wenban-Smith and others, supporting Russell’s agenda, and continuing the company on its present course. Given that a next AGM could be deferred until December, the attitudes and actions of the 6 remaining board members may necessitate their removal - which members are perfectly entitled to do.

    We speak as if Russell is gone if the Resolution carries. But it is likely that he will not be gone at all, and will still be backed by the Board, in a continuing role as the executive in charge. The real danger is that the remnant Board and Russell will not comply with the expressed wish of the membership on 22nd March for new leadership and reform of Nominet. And they may then spend the 9 months until a deferred AGM consolidating, campaigning, and subverting the wishes of the membership.

    The rest of the Board may have to be challenged or removed, if the radical re-boot of the company under Sir Michael’s leadership is to be accomplished.

    Meanwhile, with a highly likely removal of the CEO and Chairman coming up, if they genuinely care about the "stability" of Nominet, they should be preparing a smooth and orderly transition of power, and a recognition that the company's members want new leadership.

    And so, first of all, March 22nd.
     
  16. jmcc Ireland

    jmcc Active Member

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    The thing about domain names is that they are remarkably resilient once they get past the first renewal. They keep on being renewed for the lifetime of the registrant's business. This effect is amazingly strong with ccTLDs compared to .COM and the other gTLDs. The .COM first renewal rate varies but it bounces around between 52% and 57% over a year. I haven't run any calculations on the .UK yet.

    There might be some turbulence during the takeover period but the replacement nominees seem to have quite a bit of experience in the field as well as commercial knowledge.Even if the motion does not pass, the current board is effectively on notice.

    Regards...jmcc
     
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  17. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Active Member

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    Today Mark (Chairman) has posted an article entitled ‘A Threat to Independence’.

    The line of argument is plain: he is alleging that if 5 directors are removed, the Government may intervene, take away Nominet’s independence, and remove the membership-based system of governance.

    What you might call ‘Plan G’.

    For a start, I think it is a reflection of Mark’s expectation that he is likely to lose the vote next Monday, that he is shifting the playing field to threaten ‘Do that, and the Government will intervene, and you’ll be left with zero participation in Nominet.’

    'The government can step in," Mark explains, “if Nominet is ever considered unstable or not capable of governing itself.”

    My question would be: “Why does a change of leadership make Nominet unstable or incapable of governing itself?”

    Governments of whole countries change, without making those countries ‘incapable of governing themselves’. Are Russell and Mark, in person, so irreplaceable?

    Mark goes on to suggest that the EGM petition is pressurising any remaining Board Directors “to install candidates outside normal procedures.” He is referring to the call in Resolution 2 (which he has refused to hold, alleging we wanted to 'elect' the replacements) for the Board to appoint Sir Michael and Axel (note ‘appointing’ not electing).

    To be plain, the membership is entitled to take a view on who should be Chairman. As there will be NO Chair if Resolution1 passes, it is reasonable and responsible to draft in a man (Sir Michael) of great experience and acute understanding of Nominet, as an interim or caretaker Chairman. It would just be a responsible interim measure.

    No-one is saying that “normal procedures” would not then take place to confirm or repeal that interim measure. Everything would proceed in a normal orderly manner. There is no instability involved in all of this. And Mark could himself set to work, co-operating in an orderly transfer of leadership to Sir Michael. Leadership changes. That happens in all companies.

    I don’t think the Government need to see that as “instability”. It’s simply transition of leadership.

    The EGM is not a “wrecking ball”. To suggest that is to be fairly derogatory towards 429 of the most engaged Nominet companies, including the top 75% of UK members/companies in Nominet. Members simply want new leadership, as is their right and function, in law.

    March 22nd begins that process.
     
  18. monaghan United Kingdom

    monaghan Moderator Staff Member

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    If the board are insisting that the government may have to step in if they loose a few members of the board, then Nominet is clearly not fit for purpose at the moment and shows just how badly the organization is being managed and it just confirms that we either need to restructure urgently to retain the right to manage the domain space or it needs the government to step in and resolve the lack of business continuity. Despite being a long time Nominet member who thinks the government should not interfere, we can't risk the stability of the UK domain space to a bunch of idiots who have rebuilt the company infrastructure around a few individuals rather than making the company resilient.
     
  19. jmcc Ireland

    jmcc Active Member

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    Based on experience with other ccTLD registries (the .IE was in a far worse situation about 17 years ago but those problems were taken care of and government intervention was not required), the local governments are generally wary of getting involved with the running of the local ccTLD. The legislation covering ministerial and government control is generally strong enough to cover an emergency transition with the relevant minister being the ultimate authority. That's the nuclear option and it might even involve redelegation. The one thing that may be going through the heads of civil servants dealing with this is a question of how things had gotten so bad that it came to the membership calling an EGM with a motion to remove these people.

    From a sort of outsider's point of view, it does not look like a transition of leadership as much as a replacement of employees. Well-run companies are able to weather these replacements. If Nominet was not able to weather them, then wouldn't that be a management issue? Civil servants may not have knowledge of the business but they will ask very uncomfortable questions if it even gets that far. The last thing that a ccTLD registry should want is government intervention and even mentioning it is a very bad idea because it will be picked up and amplified by the media.

    Regards...jmcc
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2021
  20. othellotech United Kingdom

    othellotech Active Member

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    Seems to have survived the loss of the CTO 2 years ago just fine.

    Any executive/director who feels the are essential to an organisation either doesn't understand their position, or hasn't done their job right - putting systems/policies/procedures in place for "when I'm not here" is a core part of the role.
     
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  21. cav United Kingdom

    cav Active Member

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    Last edited: Mar 17, 2021