[rfc-i] Potential RFC format approach: HTML

Tim Bray tbray at textuality.com
Sat Mar 24 10:42:36 PDT 2012


On Sat, Mar 24, 2012 at 3:09 AM, Dave Crocker <dhc at dcrocker.net> wrote:

> In spite of the fact that you are an experienced and prudent guy, let me
> suggest your above assertion is not terribly prudent.
>
> The strength of the ASCII base has been its minimal processing requirements
> and its excellent, long-term stability.

I always find this assertion puzzling: I am a long-term veteran of the
text-processing and publishing-tech world, and I totally can't get a
high-quality printout of the current RFCs in ASCII format.  For those
that have xml2rfc-generated HTML available, I can and it's trivial.

I am fairly old fashioned in that, for serious spec review, I prefer
to work off paper.  .txt is a serious obstacle. -T

>
> HTML isn't even close to trivial, by that metric.  Worse, as soon as you say
> "subset" you mandate specialized software.
>
> "HTML" in the open Internet is spectacularly variable.  It works because
> HTML engines know to process quite a bit of that variation.  The remainder
> doesn't get processed properly.
>
> This establishes an extremely unstable processing base, no matter how widely
> usable it is at any given moment, such as "today".
>
> In an environment like that, any assurances of future support -- say 30 or
> 50 years from now, nevermind 100 -- is problematic.
>
>
>> I believe what's as important is to profile the document structure, define
>> default CSS (we want some uniformity, right?), and recommend certain ways
>> to use
>
>
> css.  Excellent.  A parallel item to support and hope is compatible decades
> from now, if the item can be found.
>
>
>>> - Define a very strict structure, using a microformat/semantic style,
>>> that
>>> makes it easy to pull out information semantically with a little bit of
>>> jQuery in post-processing tools. Make a choice about XML-style
>>> well-formedness, which is probably not needed.
>>
>>
>> +-0; it's possible to embed all metadata in the HTML, but that makes us
>> depend
>> on conventions (microformats) or specs that are currently a bit in flux
>> (RDFa vs
>
>
> flux.  exactly the right word.
>
> For the current exercise, the requirement to attain long-term viability that
> is on a par with what was achieved with the original ASCII base, is
> simplicity and stability.
>
> It's not enough to be clever with something that can "be made to work".  It
> might or might not work tomorrow.  Anyone thinking otherwise needs to
> produce a comparable historical basis for their belief.
>
>
> d/
> --
>
>  Dave Crocker
>  Brandenburg InternetWorking
>  bbiw.net
>
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