Each meeting, both telcon and f2f (face-to-face), is minuted, in order to keep track of the decision-making process that went in to each decision, to give members who could attend a summary of the topics covered, and to allow transparency into the process of creating the specification. This log is is composed in a shared IRC channel, where attendees can post links or large sections of text, and which gives people who can't be on the phone a chance to contribute. The IRC channel has tools to help automate the task of keeping minutes, listed below. A volunteer is chosen based on how recently they have minuted; if nobody voluteers, a volunteer will be conscripted. The goal is to capture as closely as possible the salient points of the conversation. This means the the ideal scribe is someone familiar with the issues so that they understand what's being said, but who does not intend to be actively engaged in the discussion.
In order that the scribe can accurately record what can be rather lively discussions, they should not be shy about asking to pause the conversation while they catch up, asking anyone to repeat or clarify a statement, or even to ask for the speaker to write a particularly subtle point into the logs themselves. Accurately capturing the conversation is important, so that the reason for decisions can be found and understood if later issues come up on the subject.
All telcons are logged by a bot called, rrsagent, and is mediated by Zakim, a conference bridge which can be controlled through IRC commands (which start "zakim, action". After the meeting is over, Zakim is invoked to create a formal copy of the minutes via a Perl script.
Starting and Stopping the Telcon
Starting the Telcon
This is how you begin the meeting:
trackbot, start telcon
Setting the Scribe
The person taking the minutes is known as the "scribe". Each meeting also needs a chair, who conducts the proceedings, opening and closing topics, calling for resolutions, and stopping the frequent fistfights. To inform the logging script of these luminaries' identities, the scribe types:
scribe: name scribeNick: IRC nickname Chair: chair nickname
The scribe records as much of what is said, and by whom, as is possible. Each line is prefaced with the name or initials of the speaker:
DS: I think all normative requirements must be a MAY CL: You're fired
When a speaker is making a longer comment, the scribe may use an ellipses to indicate that the same person is speaking over multiple lines:
AE: we tried to implement it that way, but ran into problems ... the computer melted when we used that algorithm ... so we tried it this other way...
When the talk gets fast or very detailed, the scribe may have trouble keeping up. If that happens, the scribe should not be shy about asking people to pause while the scribe catches up. If there is a point the scribe simply doesn't understand, but which is important to be noted, the scribe may ask the speaker to repeat it, or even for the speaker to type it in, for the sake of clarity.
Stopping the Telcon
This is how you end the meeting:
zakim, bye rrsagent, make minutes
Once the minutes have been converted from IRC log into the proper HTML format, rssagent will provide you with a IRI. Create a text copy of the minutes by appending the string ",text" to the IRI in a browser. Copy the resultant text, and send an email to the list with the subject line "Minutes from SVG Telcon on [insert date]" and the IRI to the HTML version along with the full text of the minutes. Typically, this email will read something like, "Here are the minutes from the [insert date] telcon. Follow the link to the HTML version: [insert IRI] or find below as text: [insert text version].
The various commands that the channel bots understand are (note the space after the colons):
Sets the current topic for discussion; usually followed by a link relevant to that topic
Used to assign an action to a participant
ACTION: Investigate why the printer should halt and catch on fire for case XYZ
Used to indicate the decision settled upon by the group
RESOLUTION: Change the spec to say "WebApps IS TEH ROXORS"
Used to explain the justification for the Resolution
RATIONALE: WebApps IS TEH ROXORS because we're right
- Agenda+ item name
Used to add an item item name to Zakim's list of agenda items. See the Zakim commands section for commands that relate to agenda items that Zakim knows about.
- add more here
The various commands during the telcon that Zakim understands are:
- zakim, label is me
Used when you've dialed in to inform Zakim that the autogenerated phone label is you. This will assign your IRC name to your caller name that Zakim detected. Example in the IRC channel:
<anthony> zakim, ??P0 is me
In this case Zakim will respond with:
<Zakim> +anthony; got it
- zakim, who is here?
Used to list who is on the phone and who is on IRC. This command gives a current listing only.
- zakim, list participants
Used to list the attendees of the meeting as of a certain point. Even if people have hung up early on the telcon they will still be listed as having participated.
- zakim, list agenda
Used to have the agenda printed out in the IRC channel. Zakim will list any agenda items it knows about fro the current meeting. To add items to the agenda please see the Bot commands section of this docuemnt.
- take up agendum #
Used to set agenda item number # as the current topic for discussion. This can be used as an alternative to the "Topic:" keyword if Zakim knows about the agenda items for the meeting. To add items to the agenda please see the Bot commands section of this docuemnt.
- add more here
More Zakim commands can be found at www.w3.org/2001/12/zakim-irc-bot.
Off the Record
For various reasons, some members may wish to speak off the record about an issue. For example, they may wish to allude to possible IP concerns for their organization, to speculate about motives or future trends, to negotiate a delicate position, or to speak frankly about a concern. Recognizing the value of personal interactions as a means to reaching optimal solutions, minuting will be suspended at any time a participant asks for it, and will resume when indicated that the thread of conversation is no longer of a sensitive nature.