20i Domains

Update on the UK Registry Advisory Council (aka: the story so far)

Discussion in 'Nominet General Information' started by Siusaidh, Oct 3, 2021.

  1. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2019
    Posts:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    355
    This Friday we are holding the 2nd Meeting of the UKRAC. This is the new 'Council' that Nominet decided to create to show people they were engaging with members. Cynics would say this was a PR tactic to funnel and filter issues through a few people, contain member voice, and try to steer these 'sock puppets' (ie me and 5 other people willing to give up their time) into limited discussions on what they (Nominet) want to discuss.

    That might be a rather jaded view, but it is I admit understandable in the context of Nominet history, deleted previous forum, and criticisms over responsiveness.

    My hope is that UKRAC can be a genuine voice, representing what members actually want from the Registry, by actually listening to them, involving them, and if need be polling them. That is my hope, and they say 'hope springs eternal', but I admit I'm taking a punt in placing my hope in what I see as a change of tone from the new Chair Andy Green, and the likely election of Simon Blackler as NED.

    First thing to say: it has been really busy. Our role as 'Councillors' (a bit of a grand title) is voluntary and unpaid. We knew that when we signed up. I think we've probably shared about 500-1000 emails and posts in the past 2 months, studied over 100 pages of formal papers, and in the case of Andrew, Ciprian, and Dan worked countless hours on specific working groups that have been set up by Nominet.

    I see constructive potential in UKRAC if Nominet is willing to play the game, and really engage, but it needs to be more than engagement with those of us elected to the Council. It needs to commit to a more open, transparent, responsive, interactive dialogue and discourse with members generally. I hope the new Forum, which Dan is heavily involved in constructing (well offering advice, because Nominet staff are mostly evolving it) will offer a real platform for issues to be raised, and for Nominet staff to be expected to reply to.

    But I am unhappy with a number of things:

    1. The 6 of us elected to UKRAC were swept into position on a veritable landslide. I know Andrew and others feel they were elected on their own merits and campaigning, which to a degree they may have been, but my own view is that we got a huge number of votes because Simon Blackler endorsed us and activated his extensive mailing list to vote for us. The outcome was that we won our seats by large margins, in my view because we had been vocal or actively supportive of the need for change in the 'Public Benefit' crisis and EGM.

    Conversely, people less associated with that 'uprising', or who voted against the resolution, got very few votes. In short, they were crushed, and I'm sure that was because of the continuing feelings that the EGM mattered. It's worth remembering that the Board including NEDs were reportedly 'unanimous' in opposition to Simon Blackler's campaign and resolution, and frankly party (by association and silence) to a regime that was excoriated. In short, not one member of the Board would have got elected on to UKRAC if they'd stood. They represented exactly what voters were voting against.

    Now you could say 'let bygones be bygones' and let's move on. I'm trying to agree. I'm trying to hope that Andy Green and Simon Blackler will between themselves usher in a better version of Nominet. But words are words, and actions are something different. So my view is that the Nominet Board and Executive are on a kind of good behaviour 'probation'.

    So what am I unhappy about, with regard to UKRAC?

    I'm unhappy that one of the old Board NEDs has been parachuted in to UKRAC and imposed as our Chair, with powers to steer the Council, to close down 'off topic' discussion, and to have a vote on the Council (possibly the casting vote) even though they would never have been elected to UKRAC in the election this summer - in fact, exactly the opposite.

    Initially when I pressed for this to be immediately changed, I was told by a colleague I was trying to rush things too fast. However, we have pushed and pushed, and it now looks like on Friday we shall have won the right to choose our own Chair. Given that we were supposed to be a democratically-elected Council, that is absolutely right and proper. The irony has been, though, that other Council members have now said 'Let's have the NED as Chair anyway'. So we win the right to choose our own Chair, and then choose the NED as Chair anyway. I'm just not happy with that!!

    2. The NED still has a vote on the Council, and I have pressed and pressed for that to be changed, and for the NED to have what was initially proposed - non-voting observer status. 'Somehow' that got changed at Executive and Board level to the present NED as Chair, with a vote. So you end up with someone not elected to the council (and who would never have been elected to the Council) being imposed on 'the voice of the members' with a vote. I've been told by fellow member that I am pushing too fast and that Nominet will never revoke this vote. I don't accept that.

    The Board, and especially those on the old, discredited and de-capitated Board, have a different role to UKRAC members. UKRAC members democratically represent the voice and concerns of the membership. It should be the Members' council and mouthpiece. It should be democratic. A Director, parachuted in, should not have a vote.

    Anyway, that's a continuing unhappiness I have, and I'm being open and transparent with you, that we have disagreement on the way forward on those issues.

    With regard to the substantive policy matters, I'll cover that in my next post, as the word count limit may otherwise cut me off!
     
    • Informative Informative x 2
  2. Domain Forum

    Acorn Domains Elite Member

    Joined:
    1999
    Messages:
    Many
    Likes Received:
    Lots
    articles.co.uk
     
  3. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2019
    Posts:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    355
    What UKRAC is working on (policy issues):

    UKRAC is only advisory, but Nominet has been keen to get it involved in policy development, even though it has no power (except the hope of influencing decisions).

    We have our second formal meeting this Friday.

    Andrew and Ciprian are involved in the Working Group which was initially concerning Expiring Domains. However, it's pretty clear to me that Nominet does not want to rock the boat on expiring domains until 2022 (after the whole EGM rumpus they are trying to restore calm) so they have changed the title of the working group so it's now about Droplists only. It seems very clear that Nominet wants to introduce drop lists, and the Working Group is exploring different ways of doing that, and may also explore the timing of drops in the context of those droplists. Should droplists be designed primarily for the benefit of drop-catchers, or should they be for registrants generally to use? How can the system of droplists be protected from abuse, and how is effectiveness measured? The full details are/will be visible on the members' Hub. The Working Group believes it needs to draw in a wider range of participants from other parties with interests in UK domains.

    I think that Nominet, to an extent, wants UKRAC to lead on this. That does make sense, because of the hands on experience and insights of people actually involved in dropping domains. I do, though, wonder whether Nominet is also hoping to shift blame and unpopularity on to UKRAC by attributing decisions to the advice of UKRAC. Clearly, decisions on expiring domains in 2022 are likely to be contentious and controversial. That may account for Nominet wanting UKRAC to be seen as taking a leading role in the policy development.

    Dan has been very involved in the Working Group which is planning the New Forum. The direction this has taken is that it looks like Nominet wants to outsource the running of the forum (and its moderation) to a third party company, but with UKRAC possibly given powers to challenge moderation decisions.

    Discussion on the Forum has involved the issue of Nominet responsiveness. Why will members bother to take part, if Nominet just ignores them and does not engage and respond? On the other hand, if you had a trouble maker posting multiple questions, essentially trolling staff, then there have to be limits on staff's time and obligation to respond. So we've been exploring the concept of 'upticks' or 'likes' for questions raised on a specific forum page 'Ask Nominet'... with Nominet committing to respond properly to the top 5 or 10 (or whatever number agreed) posts in a month. In short to let members prioritise the questions they believe must be answered / responded to.

    There is also a call from Nominet for UKRAC to review Online Harm Policy.

    There is also call from Nominet for feedback on Pricing, and possible linkage to Incentives to Encourage Good Practice.

    Should there be an incentive scheme with registration discounts for registrars whose DUM score well on best practice standards? And if so, how to you measure good/bad practice? And should a huge company like GoDaddy end up with 1000's of times more reward than the smaller registrars? Would it be better to simply focus on lowering or freezing domain prices across the board for all parties?

    We are all busy working people, doing this on a voluntary basis. We don't all agree on everything. But I hope you will believe that there is good intention. Personally, I think there should be much more proactive to and fro between UKRAC and the whole membership, on each issue we address. We are meant to be democratic representatives, after all. But how we achieve that... well, ideas welcomed. I suggested we livestream each UKRAC meeting, along the lines of Nominet Webinars, so there's complete transparency. After all, they livestream Parliament and Committees. However, the concept is not popular (and I admit, pobably very few people want to sit through 3 hours watching our meetings!). The Forum may help. I guess, my ongoing concern is: is UKRAC representing the views and interests of all members or is the UKRAC elected as 'chosen ones' entrusted with exercising their own views and opinions. I believe we need some kinds of interface. Otherwise, the very instrument that was designed to 'give members voice' could actually end up cutting off members. The cynic in me would say that was the intention of Nominet all along - to create and isolate and steer a bottled up 'shop-window' of member engagement. Certainly, as this whole UKRAC venture was proposed in the days of the previous Chair and CEO, some cynicism might feel justified. On the other hand, I try hard to hope that perhaps things will be different now, and that under Andy Green and some new Directors, member voice and engagement will be valued, promoted, facilitated.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  4. diablo

    diablo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Nov 2005
    Posts:
    2,052
    Likes Received:
    140
    Which NED?

    (And thank you for taking the time to provide the update!)
     
  5. DesD

    DesD Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2019
    Posts:
    138
    Likes Received:
    56
    Excellent posts , Susannah.
     
  6. Siusaidh

    Siusaidh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2019
    Posts:
    1,051
    Likes Received:
    355
    I was avoiding personalising it. Anne Taylor. I want to stress I have nothing against her as a person, and she has been polite to me, even though she knows I have been critical of this UKRAC set up. So fair play for that.

    I simply don't believe, if we have a democratic election (as we did) that a Director should be parachuted in by Nominet, given a vote on 'what members want', and imposed as Chair of members' Council. I think that's all wrong.

    I think we have pressed the Board enough to concede our right to choose our own Chair. But speaking entirely personally, and at odds with the rest of the UKRAC, I am aghast that we seem to win the right to choose our own Chair, and then people opt to keep the NED as our Chair.

    I'm equally opposed to the NED having a vote, because they weren't elected to UKRAC and never would have been.

    On the other hand, I don't have any problem with the NED being welcomed as an observer. That seems fine. I'd only go further and add that I think all members should be able to 'observe' as well at meetings, and we have the tech which could make that possible. Openness and transparency.

    These are just my views, not UKRAC's !!
     
    • Agree Agree x 2