The fun thing about Internet Engineering Task Force is that really, there’s no joining or leaving. It is just a space. It has two components. First, it has an online space. Mostly, I joined mailing lists — that is to say people emailing each other and copying everybody else. Aside from that, they also have face-to-face meetings where people can look and then talk to each other and learn from each other face-to-face in a high-bandwidth way.
Afterwards, people go back at their homes and write emails, and they save a lot of time, because now they know the people they’re talking with.
The IETF is a way for engineers, for people working on the Internet, to talk to each other so their machines can link to each other. The products of IETF is called the request for comments, the RFCs. They are the laws of the Internet, the law not as in the written law — code of laws for judges or courts — they’re the physical laws of the Internet.
They decide what is possible, what is impossible, what is the limit, and what is the rules. That’s how Internet works.
The way for IETF to work is not by voting. It’s not by hierarchy. There’s no kings. There’s no presidents. It’s just people talking to each other for weeks, for months, or for years, until mostly everybody has the same idea in their minds. Then, they go back to their computer, encode those ideas into their laws, as implementations. That’s roughly how it works.
My role in the IETF was mostly around the Atom publication system. Atom is a way for websites to discover each other’s content and link to each other. It was designed as a successor to RSS, the Really Simple Syndication protocol for the blogs to talk to readers like Google Reader or Feedly, to discover each other’s content. It was my first participation in an IETF mailing list.