[rfc-i] RFC citations committee I-D issued

John Levine johnl at taugh.com
Fri Feb 11 15:33:53 PST 2011

>I just looked at RFC 1380... an interesting example.  Some of the
>references are very interesting historically.  How can I find them?

The same way you chase down any other kind of reference.

The point of a good reference is not just to provide a string that you
can mechanically type into a box in some piece of software and have
the document pop out. That would be nice, but except in very limited
cases, it's not realistic.  The point is to provide enough clues that
readers who know how to use a library can find the document.  There
are references to books that I wrote 20 years ago and are not
available online (at least, not legally), but people can find them
anyway, using various clues like title, author, publisher, date, and

For the refs in RFC 1380, I tried to find some of the ones that were
not other RFCs, and I have to say it wasn't very hard.  I did a Google
search for the title or maybe the title and author, and it rarely took
more than a few seconds to find a copy.  Titles and authors are a good
search key, particularly when the titles are long and full of jargon.

With this in mind, the filenames of Internet drafts are actually
rather good stable identifiers.  For example, one of the references in
RFC 1380 is a document called "A Proposal for IP Address Encapsulation
(IPAE): A Compatible version of IP with Large Addresses."  It was
pretty easy to find using the title, but if the reference had used its
file name draft-crocker-ip-encaps-00, I could have found it even

This tells me that it would be a good idea for the IETF to bow to
reality and admit that I-Ds are around forever.  It would be nice to
give them stable URLss, but what's much more important is to be sure
we never break the extremely effective naming system we've
accidentally invented, since that's the most effective way to find

John Levine, johnl at iecc.com, Primary Perpetrator of "The Internet for Dummies",
Please consider the environment before reading this e-mail. http://jl.ly

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