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Organizational structure image conspiracy uncovered

Unveil the conspiracyOne of the most difficult things about working at ICANN is keeping all the conspiracies under wraps.

With an eagle-eyed community keeping tabs on the organisation’s every move, the tiny tweaks that, left noticed, would irreversibly alter the entire domain name system keep getting picked up before they can work their magic.

We have decided to come clean with the latest example, henceforth to be known as the “organizational structure image conspiracy”, or OSIO for short.

Picture this

Last week, we changed the image on the About page that tries to outline as simply as possible the structure of ICANN with the SOs, ACs, Board, liaisons, staff, and so on.

The old image of a huge Board of Directors with the Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees pointing accusatorially at it was out-of-date, not very clear, and not at all accurate for how ICANN as an organization functions.

Old org chart

The inadequacy of this image was realized around a year ago and so a new graphic was produced to be used in the Annual Report.

This graphic would explain a little the split between SOs and ACs, and try to outline what exactly they were and who they represented. It would also try to get across the fact that the Board of Directors is made up of representatives from the different constituent parts of the organizations. Plus, include the vital role the Nominating Committee plays within ICANN. Not an easy task.

But a graphic was arrived at, boldly stuck in the Annual Report [pdf] on page 7, and then the whole report was released with as much fanfare as possible in December 2007. It was printed out, emailed, linked to, stuck on a carnival float bare-chested and wheeled around Los Angeles, all in the hope that people would actually read it.

This was clearly less than fully successful as the first time many people have seen the graphic on page 7 was when we finally got around to sticking it on the About page last week.

Here it is:

New structure image: evil

No doubt those of you that have not already read the various email messages decrying this new image will have spotted the conspiracy.

But just to make our culpability absolutely clear, you will note several things.

  • There is no Ombudsman in the new graphic. The secret hope here was that by not including his name on a graphic, the Ombudsman would be destroyed by feelings of personal inadequacy and so be unable to continue with his job, leaving ICANN free to claim full control of the Internet unhindered.
  • The gTLD registries and registrars are featured *in bold* under the GNSO, while the other constituents are not. This was done on the advice of a Puerto Rican witchdoctor while in San Juan last year. He told us that to make one constituency bold, while making another not bold, would provide strength and unassailable mental prowess to the bold party. In the interests of full disclosure, that witchdoctor’s exhorbitant fees were paid for by GoDaddy.
  • In the same box, on the advice of said witchdoctor, the NCUC was hideously malformed from Non Commercial User Constituency to just “universities/consumers” despite the glaring evidence that there is at least one person in the NCUC that is not a consumer or from a university [can we fact check this, please? - Ed]
  • If that wasn’t bad enough, the NomCom is disparaged, some would say libelled, but being represented using the colour black. What can this mean? Yes, that’s right, we were hoping that the NomCom wouldn’t be noticed at all. We wish you’d forget all about the NomCom so we can call it “The President’s Appointing Board” and replace all the Board members with the children of ICANN staff – and no one would ever have known. At least until bedtime.
  • But hang on… the NomCom also only has arrows to the Board, yet it appoints members of the SOs and ACs as well. We have yet to even discover what fiendish plan we have in store with this one.
  • And if you look really carefully are the number of seats selected by the NomCom and the ACs being subtly hidden with an expedient dot?
  • But probably worst of all: what exactly do the strange sucker-like graphics on the side of the GAC and President boxes mean? That’s right – they are the power suckers. By putting these tiny images on a graphic on a page of the ICANN website, we have managed to unravel the bylaws and nearly a decade’s worth of real-world practice and allow ICANN to be run entirely by the President and GAC.

Or at least that’s what would have happened had it gone unnoticed for just another five days. But gah! the organizational structure image conspiracy (OSIO) was uncovered on various mailing lists before it could take place.

Your turn to undermine the entire multi-stakeholder model

Our spin on all this is that it is actually incredibly difficult to produce a graphic that covers the complexities of the ICANN multi-stakeholder model while still appearing mildly comprehensible. As such we have had to simplify and modify.

You will all, quite rightly, dismiss this excuse out of hand. To which we say, in all seriousness, please come up with your own graphic and email us and if it’s better we will use it instead – feature it on the website, in the Annual Report, brochures, whatever. Think of it as a competition.

And feel free to have some fun. We won’t use any daft ones of course but if they make us laugh we’ll feature them here on the blog. This is not a competition competition in the sense that we are not going to pick a winner and then parade the winning entry, but we would sincerely like to see the ICANN model represented as clearly and simply as possible so if you fancy picking up the gauntlet, here’s your chance.

Please draw up your graphics, or make your comments, and then either email Kieren McCarthy at kieren[dot]mccarthy @ ICANN [dot] org, or stick a link or a comment below.

And good luck with cracking the other conspiracies. There are, I am told, three more.


    Domain Name System
    Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."