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Electronic Meeting Working Group Report to Council 20/02/97

Guidelines for the Conduct of ISOCNZ Electronic Meetings

1. An email/electronic meeting will be initiated by a message from the Chair outlining the reason for the meeting and the proposed agenda. This message will be posted so that all interested parties have access to it. This will typically be addressed to all ISOCNZ councillors unless the meeting is of a sub-committee in which case the sub-committee mailing list will be used.

  1. If the meeting is for the full council, the meeting announcement will go out on the main mailing list. The reply-to will be set to a separate listserv as a 'subscribe' message. The second list will be for the meeting only and will have a default reply-to header to the list, not to individuals.
  2. If the meeting is for the sub-committee, a second listserv will probably not be necessary. It is up to the Chair of the subcommittee to determine whether a separate listserv is necessary for the meeting and to ask the Secretary to arrange it.

2. All members wishing to participate in the meeting will acknowledge this to the list within 48 hours. Members not acknowledging within that time will be counted absent. Absent members may join a meeting only with the Chair's permission and should request this by private email to the Chair. The Chair will arrange with the Secretary for that person to be added to the listserv.

  1. Messages acknowledging presence at a meeting should not carry discussion as well. Specification of the intent to participate in the Subject: line of a message will permit automatic processing of these by mail filters and may facilitate management of mailing lists etc.
  2. If the Chair grants permission for a late joining, the arrival of the member will be posted together with a summary of the discussion to date. A member joining a meeting after it has started may only revisit a completed part of the discussion if significant new information can be added and only with the Chair's permission.
  3. A request to the Chair for inclusion or re-opening of a discussion topic must not take place on the main meeting forum (list) but by email to the Chair. Discussion cannot be restarted once a vote has been initiated.
  4. A meeting may request that an invitation to join the meeting be extended to an individual whom the meeting feels may add value to the item under discussion. The request should be made to the Chair, and only the Chair may extend an invitation to any other individual.

3. The Chair will open the meeting with a statement of the reason for the meeting, any background information and a set agenda of topics for discussion and the order of discussion. The Chair will then specify an intended duration of the meeting with a projected timetable for the calling of votes.

  1. Business may only be dealt with in the sequence in which it appears on the agenda. Business not appearing on the agenda may not be discussed

4. At the end of the 48 hour period the Chair will announce the list of participants to the meeting and the meeting will officially be in session.

  1. The person chairing an email meeting may transfer the role of person chairing the meeting to any elected member present, unless the meeting disagrees.
  2. Once the list of participants has been announced, all those on the list will be deemed to be present for the remainder of the meeting for vote-taking purposes, unless the participant has been given leave by the Chair to leave the meeting, at which point he/she will be listed as absent.
  3. As with late joining, permission to leave a meeting prematurely must be sought by private email to the Chair. Granting of permission will be announced by tyhe Chair to the meeting as well as by email to the requestor. The requestor will then send an unsubscribe message to the listserv.

5. The Chair must keep a strict control of discussion in the meeting to ensure it moves towards an outcome. The Chair will summarise progress at suitable intervals. In general the summary should occur at least weekly and more often if the volume of discussion requires. The summary messages will bear the header "SUMMARY to [date of summary]". The summaries will be additive, rather than cumulative (ie. each summary will be of discussion since the last summary, not since the opening of the meeting, including previous summaries).

  1. Participants in the meeting will need to maintain discipline and keep on topic. Decisions as to whether a matter is on-topic will be at the Chair's discretion. When a matter is ruled off-topic, it must be abandoned immediately. An appeal by private email to the Chair, in the case of disagreement, is permissible and the Chair will answer by private email as to his/her reasons for so ruling, if he/she has not already done so.
  2. Meeting participants must query or object to a chair's summary if they feel it has left out something important or skewed the presented arguments within 48 hours of the summary being posted. This is done by private email to the Chair in the first instance, and then by a single message to the meeting list with the header "OBJECTION to Summary"

6. Messages during a discussion must be clearly labelled in the Subject line to facilitate ease of message management by recipients. In order to facilitate automatic sorting of mail messages, it is important that participants do not change the headers of a message when making a reply. When a new topic for discussion is reached, it is the Chair's responsibility to initiate the matter for discussion and start a new header.

  1. The list will also be automatically gatewayed to a web application (such as Web Crossing) which will thread messages by subject line and will become the official record of the meeting. This web site will be private to the ISOCNZ council and, while the meeting is in progress, each meeting will be private to the participants. (Note: this feature is due in the next version of Web Crossing). This application will enable accurate research of previously covered topics and discussions. It will also enable latecomers to a meeting to catch up on what has gone before.
  2. The existence of this record does not excuse the Chair from regularly summarising the main points of the meeting.

7. The Chair will determine when a meeting has progressed sufficiently to achieve its goals and will announce either a vote or that a consensus has been reached. Determination of this point is at the Chair's discretion, as no single formula will be applicable to each meeting.

  1. When a point is raised which needs to be addressed by the meeting, if participants do not respond within a predetermined period (to be determined by the Chair for each individual case) it is taken that they are in agreement with the point raised. (Hopefully, this will have the effect of ensuring that the participants make it well known if they do not agree.)

8. Votes must be returned within 5 working days from the Chairs announcement. A vote may be terminated and the result announced earlier than the 5 day period if all meeting attendees have recorded their vote.

  1. The Chair will designate a vote-taker either from the meeting or a Councillor not present at the meeting if independance is required. If no suitable Councillors are available, the Chair may designate the Manager of the DNS Registry or the Honorary Solicitor as the independent vote-taker.

  2. Each participant in the meeting will be allowed one vote on each issue on the agenda. If a vote has not been received from a participant deemed to be present at the meeting, that person will be recorded as having abstained from the vote.
  3. It is possible for subsequent matters on an agenda to be discussed independently during the 5 day period in which a vote is being taken.

9. If a meeting was one for the full Council, then the Chair is responsible for presenting the results of the meeting to the full Council for ratification if the meeting did not consist of a quorum of council members. If a full quorum was present, ratification is not required, but the Chair is reponsible for informing the absent members of the decisions of the meeting.

  1. If the meeting was a sub-committee meeting, the Chair is responsible for bringing the deliberations of the meeting to the attention of the full Council, for subsequent discussion or ratification.

10. Once the full business of the agenda has been concluded, the Chair will declare the meeting closed and inform the Secretary that the separate listserv (if one has been used) is no longer necessary.

  1. Once the Web-Crossing gateway is in place, the maintainer of the Web-Crossing site will also be informed that the threads constituting the meeting records may now be made public to the other members of the Council. It is not anticipated that these records will be made available to the wider membership of ISOCNZ, or to the general public, although certain decisions arrived at may be published on the ISOCNZ Website and on the isocnz-l mailing list.

Points to note:

  • Good chairmanship is the key to effective e-meetings.
  • Meeting participants should not inject too much "personality" into the messages. Participants should discuss the points raised on issues objectively and evidentially where possible.
  • The preparation of meeting summaries may be delegated by the Chair, but it is the Chair's responsibility to ensure that regular summaries do occur.
  • We recognise that what is proposed is a very rigid and formal structure. We think that the informal nature of our communication to date may be the problem that people have with our previous electronic meetings. Therefore we feel it is a good idea to attempt a more formal structure to see if that helps.
  • We also recognise that our bylaws have some detailed specification for electronic meetings. As we are proposing this change almost as an experiment, we feel it could be a wasteful excercise to amend the bylaws to incorporate these recommendations at this time. Rather, we believe we should amend the bylaws regarding electronic meetings to say something like:
  • "Council and its sub-committees and working groups may hold electronic meetings by email and other Internet technologies according to the Council Guidelines attached.

    Council may hold electronic meetings by teleconference or video conference according to the same procedures as pertein to quarterly face to face Council meetings."

    The distinction we are drawing is between synchronous and asynchronous meetings, the latter being harder to manage and requiring stricter guidelines.

  • Most issues with electronic meetings can, we believe, be resolved or negated with the use of common sense and simple courtesy. Where a problem exists with lack of these, it may not be the format of the meeting that is at fault.
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