t byfield on Mon, 11 Feb 2002 00:11:02 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Inside Job: ICANN Hires Crispin as "Technical Systems Manager"


   ICANN Staff and Structure 
   Inside Job: ICANN Hires Crispin
   Posted by tbyfield on Sunday, February 10 @ 14:10:05 MST

   Contributed by tbyfield

   "Following a long international search" sprawling over all of 65 days
   and 360 miles (the distance, as the SUV drives, from Marina Del Rey to
   just north of Silicon Valley), ICANN has rewarded one of its most
   devout errand boys for years of services patiently rendered. Kent
   Crispin has ascended to the proud position of ICANN's Technical
   Systems Manager.[1] *Kent Crispin.* The name alone brings shivers to 
   ICANN Watchers around the world.

          [1] http://www.icann.org/announcements/announcement-04feb02.htm


   Crispin's company, Songbird, hosts numerous sites, "some of" which are
   named on Songbird's site.[2] Among those not named is that of ICANN's 
   own Intellectual Property Constituency.[3] (One can only wonder at the 
   horror felt by the registrants of 500-odd federal "IPC" trademarks at 
   the IPC's use of "ipc" as a "superdomain"[4] tacked onto songbird.com.)

          [2] http://www.songbird.com/
          [3] http://ipc.songbird.com/
          [4] http://www.tbtf.com/roving_reporter/icann3.html#7

   Crispin's provision of technical support to the GHQ of ICANN's
   intellectual property devotees might seem to suggest certain
   proclivities; and yet, astonishingly, since August 1999 -- that is,
   pretty much since the beginning -- he has represented an organization
   on *Noncommercial* Domain Name Holders Constituency. So what's the
   catch? The "noncommercial" organization whose interests he
   "represents" is a *yacht club*.

   Even a cursory glance at the NCDNHC's membership rolls[5] makes clear
   just how peculiar this particular member is. Fortunately, Crispin
   can't actually vote in NCDNHC matters, because Songbird subsequently
   joined the Business Constituency. As a result, Crispin, along with his
   sidekick Dave Crocker (q.v.), has had to content himself merely with
   engaging in coordinated tag-team disruptions of NCDNHC discussions --
   which is a particular shame because the NCDNHC, though far less
   effective than the corporate-supported constituencies, nevertheless
   remains ICANN's most substantial internal critic.

          [5] http://members.icann-ncc.org/

   But ICANN is, after all, *industry self-regulation* (can you say
   "Enron"?), so it would be unfair to bar someone like Crispin from a
   "technical" position solely on the basis of his involvement in prior
   controversies, right? Let's turn to something more tangibly relevant
   to his new job, by looking at past examples more closely related to
   his new employ -- say, his judicousness in distinguishing between his
   own views and the broad range of interests that bear on DNS issues, or
   his meticulous and sustained attention to detail.

   A clearer sense of Crispin's tendencies in these regards can be found
   on a transparently bottoms-up patch of astroturf known as "ICANN
   Facts"[6] -- which, if anything, is a testament to ICANN Watch (imitation
   being the sincerest form of flattery, after all). ICANN Facts purports
   to proffer up 25 kinds of ICANN-related background info, but in 
   its year of existence to date only 6 of them (including the
   self-referential items "Home" and "About") have ever actually been
   linked. That leaves:

    1. the content-free "References" page[7] ("We will try to keep it
       complete...but are sure to fail");

    2. the "Representation" page,[8] which points to a solitary meditation,
       "Towards Improved Representation in ICANN" -- written by former
       ICANN CEO Mike Roberts;

    3. "Alt Roots,"[9] which links to the IAB's famously (lowercase "c")
       catholic RFC 2826, as well as to two IETF drafts by, yes, Crispin
       and Crocker. Interestingly, these three documents are dated,
       respectively, May 2000, 25 May 2000, and 15 June 2000;

    4. and, last but surely not least, a nostalgic link to the site of
       the (circa late '96) abortive International Ad Hoc Committee

        [6] http://www.icannfacts.org/
        [7] http://www.icannfacts.org/references.html
        [8] http://www.icannfacts.org/topics/representation/representation.html
        [9] http://www.icannfacts.org/topics/altroots/altroots.html
        [10] http://www.iahc.org/

   Credit where credit is due: all three members of the troika, which
   also includes Dave Crocker and Eric Brunner-Williams, *did* take the
   time to disclose their inolvement with ICANN.[11] Crispin flatly states
   that "ICANN is a client"; Crocker avers that his employer, Neustar,
   "is an ICANN-related client [but I] do not participate in their
   business discussions," thereby casting an intriguing light on
   Brunner-Williams's disclosure that "I've been employed by NeuStar
   since January '01, in a senior technical, standards, and *business*
   capacity." *Time to update the disclosures, fellas.*

      [11] http://www.icannfacts.org/about.html

   Prior to ICANN, Crispin chaired the gTLD-MoU's Policy Advisory Board,
   which consisted of organizations that had signed onto to the gTLD-MoU
   but didn't have a seat at the table where business got done, namely,
   IAHC's Policy Oversight Committee (POC). When IAHC was folded into the
   gTLD-MoU, POC became (Apple, eat your heart out) the "iPOC," where i
   denotes "interim" -- and Crispin, along with Crocker, drifted
   accordingly to become "initial members." ("*Initial*" ... "*interim*" 
   ... starting to sound familiar yet? )

   Crispin's nominal power in the IAHC's toothless lumpenparliament
   proved to be excellent training for the bulk of his publicly visible
   subsequent ICANN-related activities. After the Freddie Kruger-like
   shape-shifting ICANN borg emerged from the distributed ashes of the
   rolling and roiling gTLD-MoU-IANA-NSI-IFWP-ETC-ETC fiasco(s), Crispin
   and Crocker found a new, yet somehow old, calling: they went on to
   found the tragicomic dynamic duo disaffectionately known as the
   "C-serpents" for their destructive involvement in ICANN's Working
   Group C, which dealt with "whether there should be new" gTLDs. WGC
   bowled everyone over with its innovative approach -- which was
   curiously similar to the 7 new gTLDs[12] proposed by the MoUvement 
   on 4 February 1997 -- when it recommended "an initial rollout of 
   six to ten new gTLDs, followed by an evaluation period."[13]

          [12] http://www.iahc.org/press/press-final.html
          [13] http://www.icann.org/dnso/wgc-report-21mar00.htm

   One would think (or perhaps merely hope in vain) that Crispin's
   technical mettle would be substantial enough to trivialize these years
   of controversial dalliances. On the contrary: the plot only thickens
   when one begins to examine Crispin's business dealings with ICANN. As
   I wrote in my roving_reporter column on 3 October 2000:[14]

     ICANN Maximum Leader Mike Roberts refuses for months to reveal the
     deep, dark secret of who wrote the crufty [Membership At large]
     signup software, not realizing that ICANN staffers at Yokohama
     happily chatted about how hard ardent ICANN-lover and paid
     consultant to ICANN Kent Crispin worked on it -- as well as on all
     the constituency elections systems. Pay no attention to that man
     behind the curt^W lever...

          [14] http://www.tbtf.com/roving_reporter/icann2.html#9

   Why "crufty"? Because, depending on how you reckon it, the At Large
   signup system was both/either broken from the get-go and/or was
   throttled to stem the flood of unwashed masses who wanted to
   participate in ICANN. Whether these glitches stemmed from design or
   incompetence, Crispin's role in this *technical systems* fiasco alone
   should be enough to disqualify him from his new job. The fact that it
   seems, if anything, to have *qualified* him in the eyes of ICANN staff
   is an astonishing testimony to what ICANN has become -- or, perhaps,
   always has been but is now merely being more transparent about.

   Crispin is also said to have written the interface between ICANN's ALM
   database and election.com's election software, which broke during the
   first few days of the election *as well as* in its closing hours[15]. 
   As _WiReD_ News, put it:[16]

     [Election.com CEO Jon] Mohen said that the initial problems were
     due to a quirk in the way ICANN wanted the election handled.
     "Typically, we control the whole election," he said, "but ICANN
     didn't want us to have access to the voters' names." This
     requirement necessitated an ICANN-designed "front-end," Mohen said.
     That was the component that broke down.

          [15] http://www.tbtf.com/roving_reporter/icann2.html#19
          [16] http://www.tbtf.com/roving_reporter/icann2.html

   Since the latter snafu put ICANN in the awkward position of either
   fumbling the election or extending it on an adhocratic basis, it comes
   as small surprise that ICANN's staff was less than eager to credit the
   middleware's author. If anything goes wrong with ICANN's "Technical
   Systems," Crispin's prior involvements with the At Large software --
   both signup and elections -- really ought to be examined in meticulous

   So, depending on how you want to look at it, after this "long
   international search," ICANN has either rewarded Crispin for keeping
   secrets (if he did what they told him to) or chosen the one person on
   the planet they *know* from direct experience cannot be relied on to do
   professional technical work.

   But the question remains what exactly has he been hired to do? It's
   hard to say. As ICANN's announcement puts it, "As Technical Systems
   Manager, Kent is responsible to the President and CEO for the
   technical architecture and operational functions of ICANN." But what
   does that *mean*?

   According to ICANN's Proposed Fiscal Year 2001-2002 Budget of 14 May
   2001[17] -- published 196 days before ICANN embarked on its 65-day 
   search -- it means:

     Additional technical staff are urgently needed to support the
     operational and systems workload imposed by assuming the InterNic
     function from Verisign; implementing the distribution master for
     root servers; implementing data escrow support for registries; and
     providing 24/7 supervision. At this point one additional technical
     systems person is proposed but this may need to be expanded.

          [17] http://www.icann.org/financials/proposed-budget-14may01.htm

   As near as anyone can tell, Crispin's new job replaces the position of
   "Chief Technical Officer" (original by-laws,[18] Article VIII, Section 
   1) originally intended for Jon Postel.


          [18] http://www.icann.org/general/archive-bylaws/bylaws-06nov98.htm

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