[rfc-i] Resetting this format debate a bit

Joe Hildebrand jhildebr at cisco.com
Tue Mar 27 04:47:32 PDT 2012


On 3/27/12 8:33 AM, "Dave Crocker" <dhc at dcrocker.net> wrote:

> I think it at least worth considering careful modification to the base,
> primary 
> text format, to make it cover the two essential deficiencies that are causing
> serious problems, as opposed to merely being unpleasant:

Once you change the existing line-printer format, the tooling will have to
change.  I assert that getting your proposed modifications done correctly is
roughly the same amount of work as fixing the problem correctly.  If that
assertion were correct, it wouldn't make sense to bother with the half
measure.

> Permit these 3 changes.  Remove page headers and footers (but put tags at the
> beginning of the file to define them.  Define tagging for diagrams and allow
> it to also cite external, graphics-form diagrams.

This breaks existing format parsers, I'm sure.  One part to consider that
makes this more difficult than you might expect is that examples and
ascii-art need to NOT reflow.

> Done.
> 
> In its raw, unprocessed form, this would continue to be directly readable by
> most text display devices, as long as they wrap long lines.  The processing to
> produce a paginated form (and include the graphics form of diagrams) would be
> minimal.

And work that a browser already is MUCH better at than any other piece of
software everyone has on their box.  For example, getting line breaking
correct for a proportionally-spaced font is remarkably tricky.

>> The notion of a "file format" is complicated.
> 
> I suspect we should stop using that term.  It gives no indication of the role
> of the document.  So we don't know whether it's for editing, archive or
> display. 

Talking about a specific format seems reasonable, which is why I called out
the "line-printer format" earlier.

> (I'm still not clear on the need for different formats for editing vs.
> archive...)

I don't think there's a *requirement* that they be different, but I could
imagine multiple edit formats that are used to generate same archive format.
For example, some might edit an XML format that transforms to HTML, some
might use Word to save a .docx that is converted to HTML, and some might
edit the HTML directly.

-- 
Joe Hildebrand



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