[rfc-i] Does the canonical RFC format need to be "readable" by developers and others?

Iljitsch van Beijnum iljitsch at muada.com
Fri Jun 22 13:27:34 PDT 2012

On 22 Jun 2012, at 21:51 , Andrew Sullivan wrote:

> If the source file has to be the canonical
> file, the bar for the tools goes way up: we can't shrug our shoulders
> about corner cases and say, "Well fix that up by hand," because there
> is no "by hand" step.

This is a very good point.

At this moment, we have a situation where authors can either submit RFCs-to-be to the RFC Editor in the RFC format, or in XML2RFC format. For many people, using XML2RFC is a lot easier than creating the formatted ASCII RFC format themselves. But those who prefer to use a different tool get to do so, so there is less pressure to have XML2RFC be all things to all people.

With a new format, there are three possibilities: authors may submit the new format directly and/or XML2RFCng. The situation where authors may only submit XML2RFC would be undesirable for those who want to use different tools, because then those tools would have to generate XML2RFC rather than the new format, so synergy between the authoring format and the new RFC format would be lost. And see Andrew's point above.

The situation where both the new format and XML2RFC may be submitted would work well like today, but if the new format retains metadata and structure, there is really no need to submit XML2RFC source; authors could just run XML2RFC themselves and submit its output.

As to the discussion about XML2RFC as the canonical new RFC format: I don't think we can assume the ability to work with this format meets our longevity goals. Yes, there is the "read the source as ASCII and ignore the XML tags" fallback. And it's good to have this fallback option, but only as a last resort, and not something we have a good chance of needing somewhere along the way.

Adopting XML2RFC as the canonical format would also make changes to the format much harder, depriving XML2RFC users of innovation.

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