I'm now at Frankfurt airport waiting for my connection to fly to San Francisco. I slept through most of the 12 hour flight here catching up on my nearly no sleep week in Cape Town. As I've said before, I'll try to pick topics as I get my head around them and blog them, but it feels like I learned more during this one week at the ICANN meeting in Cape Town than I've ever learned in a single week. The scary thing is, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. People who participate in ICANN come from government, politics, civil society, academia, law, technology, business, NGOs and just about every other kind of group you could imagine. They come from developing nations and developed nations. It was the most diverse group I've ever seen. People wear 3 piece suits, t-shits, traditional dress from their countries and everything in between. It reminded me of scenes from science fiction movies of intergalactic meetings.
The conference is organized so that different constituencies have closed as well as open meetings about their issues. There are cross-constituency meetings where different constituencies discuss issues with each other, and there are public forums where everyone is present. The tone and style of each of the constituencies were extremely different, but I was struck by how civilized the discussions were considering how diverse people's backgrounds and views were. Obviously some people had agendas and some people were frustrated with many things, but everyone there seemed to be really committed to doing the right thing for the Internet. I met with many people who were critical about some of ICANNs positions and all of them were very patient in explaining their positions and sending me additional materials to study. (Special thanks to those of you who sat down with me and walked me through issues.) During the Public Forums, there was an open mic and many people spoke for many hours, very eloquently about their positions. This was also very enlightening. I do think that getting the web casting more organized, having more information online to help people understand the issues and creating more ways for people to participate without being physically present is something we need to work on. Also, with all of the acronyms and history, it's quite hard for a newbie like me and probably for most people to understand the context of many of the discussions. I think we need to make it easier for people to get up to speed and participate in the dialog.
It is an extremely important time for ICANN and for the Internet. Even though the focus is names and numbers, the issues being debated in this context will have a broad impact on how the Internet operates. There are many critical issues that have to be resolved over the next few years. If you really care about how the Internet impacts your life, I urge you to get involved. Getting involved means understanding the issues, participating in mailing lists, reading and writing white papers and getting others to think about the issues. You don't have to be technical. Many of the issues involve the social, economic and political impact of technical and operational policies. (I know some of you are wondering when I'm actually going to start talking about the issues... It will be when I have something non-ignorant to say.)