Beckstrom probed over bizarre spam complaint

Kevin Murphy, September 25, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Ombudsman looked into a complaint that former CEO Rod Beckstrom allegedly spammed community members the day after he left the organization, it has emerged.

Whoever filed the complaint evidently did not like Beckstrom one bit.

According to Ombudsman Chris LaHatte, who rejected the complaint, the complainant said:

I wish to file a formal complaint about the below SPAM originating from ICANN’s servers. Since Mr. Beckstrom has left yesterday it is clear that he cannot have had access to ICANN infrastructure any longer. If however this were the case, one would have to consider YET ANOTHER serious breach. In any case I do not wish to receive communications of any kind from this person, Mr. Beckstrom. Please confirm receipt of this complaint, commence an investigation and advise me of the outcome.

LaHatte found that the email in question was “a courteous farewell and introduction to the new CEO” sent to between 50 and 60 people, all movers and shakers in the ICANN community.

According to LaHatte, who blogged about the complaint today:

After discussing this matter with the ICANN staff, it is clear that this email was in fact not spam in the common meaning of the term. Spam is usually considered bulk emailing sent indiscriminately to very large numbers of recipients. By way of contrast, 60 emails specifically tailored for groups of recipients is hardly unusual within a large organisation such as ICANN.

I know Beckstrom was not a massively popular individual with some in the ICANN community, but this complaint seems to be way out of proportion for a simple unwanted email.

Somebody out there needs to take a chill pill.

Former ICANN VP calls bull on Beckstrom’s exit speech

Kevin Murphy, June 26, 2012, Domain Policy

If you were following DI on Twitter during the opening ceremony of ICANN 44 yesterday, you may have noticed I only tweeted one direct quote from incoming CEO Fadi Chehade.

I pulled this one line out of what was a fairly long and passionate address because I had a “hunch” what might be coming up next when outgoing CEO Rod Beckstrom took the stage for the final time.

Now, former ICANN vice president of corporate affairs Paul Levins has called out his old boss for taking credit where credit may not be due.

Beckstrom said, during his opening remarks:

My first day on the job, I was given a blank sheet of paper and I was told that the Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Commerce of the US government was not going to be renewed by ICANN.

And I was told, “You better come up with something better and you have to get it done in 90 days because the MoU is going to expire.”

Together we worked and we created the Affirmation of Commitments.

The MoU and the AoC which replaced it have been ICANN’s primary statements of legitimacy with the US government, spelling out its responsibilities to the internet community.

Levins, writing on CircleID last night, calls Beckstrom out on the statement.

We were not starting with a blank piece of paper. It’s to his credit that he allowed that to continue, but it’s not healthy to perpetuate a belief that what replaced the Joint Project Agreement — the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) — was miraculously developed in the space of only weeks prior to the expiration of the JPA — that an accountability rabbit was pulled from the hat.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It was ultimately the result of ten years of community effort.

But in the lead up to the JPA expiry, the direct negotiating and writing team was me, Theresa Swinehart and importantly — from the Department of Commerce (DoC) — the willing, creative and sincere cooperation of Fiona Alexander and Larry Atlas the then Senior Advisor at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Communication at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

The first written draft of the AoC had been produced over the eight months prior to Beckstrom’s arrival, Levins writes.

It’s fairly well known that Levins was one of the first people to lose his job under Beckstrom, but several others who were on ICANN staff at the time have confirmed to DI that the AoC was developed as Levins says.

His op-ed doesn’t strike me, in that light, as a full case of sour grapes.

Levins, who seems to be one of the many ICANN attendees who was impressed by Chehade’s debut address yesterday, signs off his editorial with what could be considered advice to both Chehade and Beckstrom:

…truth and sincerity is what should continue to drive the AoC’s ongoing implementation. But it should also drive the corporate memory of its creation.

Humility was a personality trait that ICANN specifically asked for when it advertised the CEO’s job earlier this year.

Judging by the reactions of ICANN 44 attendees who listened to Chehade’s speech yesterday — and have met him — humility is something Chehade appears to possess in buckets.

Everybody I’ve spoken to so far is impressed with the new guy, though some have also pointed out that they felt the same way this time in 2009.

ICANN CEO job ad in The Economist [image]

Kevin Murphy, January 6, 2012, Domain Policy

Having spent the last six months mulling over the qualities its ideal CEO would possess, ICANN has started advertising the position to a wider audience.

EconomistThis ad (click to enlarge) appears in the January 7-13 issue of The Economist.

ICANN says it is looking for “public interest-minded individual with a combination of financial management, diplomatic and organizational skills”.

The successful candidate will have “excellent management and leadership skills, positive and steady personality” and a “solid record of public, corporate, and/or academic experience at high international level”.

He or she will have to be committed to “integrity, trust, humility, technical excellence and public service”.

The salary is described as “commensurate with the scope and importance of the position”.

Rod Beckstrom, who intends to leave ICANN in July, is known to receive a base salary of $750,000 and bonuses that have bumped his total take-home to over $800,000.

ICANN chair says new gTLD program “will run smoothly”

Kevin Murphy, January 3, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN chairman Steve Crocker has again said he expects the new generic top-level domains program to kick off next week as planned, and that he expects it to “run smoothly”.

His comments came in a New Year email sent to the rest of the ICANN board of directors, as well as the chairs of the community’s various policy-making bodies.

Here’s an extract focusing on new gTLDs:

In terms of immediacy, the opening of the window for applications for new gTLDs is January 12, ten days from now. This is occupying a large fraction of our attention and is also the source of much attention from our stakeholders and others watching us. An enormous amount of work has gone into the program and I, among many, many others, are eager to see what will happen. The opening of the window on January 12 will be a noteworthy day, but the closing date, three months later and the publication date for the names a bit later will also be quite noteworthy. I know there is a bit of controversy over some specific aspects of the program, but I am confident the program is well constructed and will run smoothly.

The message goes on to outline two other major issues facing ICANN in the near term: the renewal of the IANA contract with the US Department of Commerce and CEO Rod Beckstrom’s imminent departure.

It also touches on broader themes, notably ICANN’s effectiveness as an organization:

We often emphasize our commitment to a multi-stakeholder model. There’s no question this is important. However, from my point of view, we are organized around broad participation from all parties because it’s a system that has worked well in the Internet ecology. And “working well” means the job gets done. If we are not effective and reasonably efficient at doing the job we were created to do, the details of our processes will matter very little. We have many processes in place to measure ourselves in terms of transparency, accountability and other attributes of fairness. I applaud and support all of these, but I would like us all to keep in mind that in addition to these very important measures that we also focus on making sure that we deliver the service our community needs.

This echoes remarks Crocker made at ICANN’s last meeting, in Dakar last October, when he stamped his authority down on the registrar community, which stood accused of dragging its feet over improvements to how it deals with law enforcement.

“If all we have is process, process, process, and it gets gamed or it’s ineffective just because it’s not structured right, then we have failed totally in our duty and our mission,” he said at that time.

Beckstrom: next ICANN CEO should be an outsider

Kevin Murphy, October 25, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom has called on the organization to replace him with somebody from outside of the domain name industry.

His remarks, at the opening ceremony of its meeting in Dakar yesterday, came as the organization’s decisions are coming under increasing scrutiny from outside the domain name industry.

“I hope that the person who replaces me will be of the highest integrity and has no recent or current commercial or career interests in the domain industry, because ICANN’s fairness, objectivity and independence are of paramount importance to the future of the internet,” Beckstrom said.

“We are not here in the domain name business,” he said. “We are here to serve the global public interest.”

Beckstrom generally uses his ICANN meeting opening remarks to fire-fight the latest pieces of criticism directed at the organization and yesterday was no exception.

His comments should be read in the light of ongoing claims that the new gTLDs program was approved prematurely due in part to the business interests of former chair Peter Dengate Thrush.

Dengate Thrush left ICANN in June, shortly after helping to approve the program, and promptly took up a position with gTLD applicant Minds + Machines.

Organizations opposed to the program, such as the Association of National Advertisers, have seized on the controversy as a stick to bash ICANN with.

Since June, there have been calls for ICANN to revisit its conflicts of interest and ethics policies, which it seems to be taking very seriously.

Every member of the ICANN board of directors has already been ruled out of the CEO search, for example.

Beckstrom elaborated on his comments at a press conference yesterday.

“My view very strongly is that the organization can and should be led a party who does not have a vested personal business interest or history specifically in the domain name industry,” he said, “lest the efforts of the organization be potentially skewed in such a direction from a policy or operational standpoint, in terms of being more sensitive to the needs of the industry as opposed to the global public interest.”

Chairman of the board Steve Crocker said Beckstrom’s opinions were valuable, but his own, representing only one input into the process of creating CEO search criteria.

“We obviously want to balance two factors,” he said. “We’re very concerned about conflicts of interest and at same time we want the widest and most capable pool of candidates possible.”

There have previously been calls for ICANN to hire somebody already familiar with its operation, in order to reduce the learning curve for Beckstrom’s replacement at a time when the organization is in the midst of the new gTLD evaluation process.