Vote for lasting, positive change
Update 6 October 2022: I won the election. Results here.
Nominet needs to tackle longstanding issues over what it does with its money, its corporate structure and its overall strategic direction.
The only way to do that without sparking more bouts of infighting is to properly address a lack of member trust, and improve corporate transparency.
That’s why I am standing for the Nominet board: to help get the organisation into a position where it can finally address those concerns and move forward constructively, with member support.
I have two goals for the three-year term:
- Rebuild trust: I will work tirelessly to ensure that Nominet makes good on its promises to rebuild trust between members and management, and between members themselves.
- Improve communication: I will advocate for members at all times to ensure that they hear about and understand what Nominet is doing and why, and that their voices are heard clearly and consistently at the Board level.
There are other areas that concern me:
- There is no clearly defined policy development process
- There appear to be no defined goals or metrics around member engagement
- The Registry Advisory Council (UKRAC) is not functioning effectively
- Board minutes remain minimal, and both committee minutes and staff reports remain unpublished
- Corporate accountability to members is limited and ad hoc
I have a number of personal views on the .uk namespace:
- I agree with the majority of members that Nominet’s core focus should always be on the .UK registry
- I believe Nominet should stay out of commercial markets, particularly those that its members are in
- I am confident that the standardisation of .uk to fit with the rest of the global domain industry will benefit everyone but Nominet should ensure that no members are put at a disadvantage as a result
- I think Nominet should use its excess revenues and expertise to help the broader internet community tackle issues around security, stability and interoperability
- I believe Nominet can again become an industry and global leader if it relearns how to harness its members’ expertise in the overall interests of the UK’s internet industry
To be clear, though, if chosen by members to sit on the board, my energy will be focused on the twin goals of rebuilding trust and improving communication.
Nominet Board FAQs
- My interest is in helping Nominet deal with its trust problems, and making sure members are heard. I don't run or work for a registry or registrar, and Nominet members are not my clients. I've put myself forward out of a sense of public service: I can see what the problem is and I have to skills to fix it.
- I have a lot of experience at member engagement. I was ICANN's general manager of public participation; I ran a business focused on involving people in internet policies; I'm currently executive director of a non-profit that spends much of its time trying to engage with people. I know how to listen, what works and what doesn't when it comes to involving people, and I am acutely aware that you need to meet people where they are, rather than expect them to come to you
- I have been a journalist, policymaker and communications specialist for over 20 years. I know the value of providing people with timely and useful information, how to produce that information quickly and easily, and I am a firm believer in openness as a default. Nominet is a member organisation and as such it should hold itself accountable to its members.
I admire what Simon Blackler and others did when they highlighted serious problems at Nominet and forced the organisation to confront them - eventually leading to the removal of the CEO and chair when they refused to properly engage.
I agree with Public Benefit's aims and will work constructively with its leaders to achieve them.
However, I haven't seen the same kind of commitment from the campaign when it comes to fixing the underlying issues of trust and transparency. Members are still not actively engaged by Nominet, and I don't see a significant push for that to happen. The Board remains extraordinarily opaque, despite two new Public Benefit-backed Board members promising change, as well as a new chair and CEO.
Board minutes remain minimal and largely uninformative. Staff reports are still not published. And criticism from members is still met with silence or excuses.
Nominet remains locked in a distrust cycle where it doesn't feel it can or should let members know what it is doing on their behalf and with their funds, and some members are so distrustful of the board that they often seize on a piece of information to attack the organisation.
Until that cycle is broken by someone focused on providing real accountability and transparency, I fear Nominet will end up battling itself all over again in a few years.
I know and respect both Jim Davies and Volker Greimann.
However they are both former Nominet directors and it is time for Nominet to look forward, not back.
It is critical that Nominet is in a position to rebuild trust with its members and having former directors, one of whom ended up in a legal dispute with the organisation, and the other who supported management through a series of controversial changes, is not going to help.
My focus will be on building bridges, listening to all members and making sure that trust and clear communication is always on the Nominet Board's minds.
I have been a journalist for around half my adult working life and have written articles for The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The New Scientist, The New Statesman, among many others.
When it comes to Nominet, I have written mostly for The Register (149 articles, apparently). Many of my more recent articles were critical - and for good reason. I saw indications that Nominet was doing an increasingly poor job at stewarding the .uk registry, putting money ahead of everything else, and so started asking questions.
The organisation and, in particular CEO Russell Haworth, became increasingly aggressive in response - even accusing me of writing "fake news".
That kind of response is always a sign that something is wrong - and so it turned out. Haworth was wasting millions of pounds of members' money launching and then propping up various commercial enterprises. Eventually it led to his resignation.
Prior to those articles I have followed and reported on Nominet for nearly 20 years. I published the first interview with Russell Haworth, the day after he as announced as CEO. I also recently discovered interviews I did with Board candidates back in 2006.
And I have been there in person at many of Nominet's most important moments, asking questions, getting responses and producing a public record of what happened.
If I have been critical, it has always been for a good reason. Such as when the Board stopped publishing minutes and members became blind as to what their money was being used for. Or when the Nominet Trust was abruptly shut down and its charitable donations were poured into failing ventures.
But I have always contacted Nominet and asked for its side of the story.
There are significant gaps in my reporting - and those have been the years when I have worked in different jobs: as a manager of public participation; when I ran my own business; and most recently as the head of a non-profit.
I haven't done any journalism for over a year at the time of writing this, and if chosen to sit on the board, I would obviously not report on Nominet until the appointment was over. But what I would do is use the skills I have learnt over the years to ask questions, get answers and communicate that information effectively both within and outside Nominet.