The Web We Weave: Untangling the Social Graph of the IETF

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Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, June .


The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has developed many of the technical standards that underpin the Internet. The standards development process followed by the IETF is open and consensus-driven, but is inherently both a social and political activity, and latent influential structures might exist within the community. Exploring and understanding these structures is essential to ensuring the IETF’s resilience and openness. We use network analysis to explore the social graph of IETF participants, based on public email discussions and co-author relationships, and the influence of key contributors. We show that a small core of participants dominates: the top 10% contribute almost half (43.75%) of the emails and come from a relatively small group of organisations. On the other hand, we also find that influence has become relatively more decentralised with time. IETF participants also propose and work on drafts that are either adopted by a working group for further refinement or get rejected at an early stage. Using the social graph features combined with email text features, we perform regression analysis to understand the effect of user influence on the success of new work being adopted by the IETF. Our findings shed useful insights into the behavior of participants across time, correlation between influence and success in draft adoption, and the significance of affiliated organisations in the authorship of drafts.

Download: khare2022weave.pdf