[rfc-i] RFCFORM BOF, percentage of specs using xml2rfc

Iljitsch van Beijnum iljitsch at muada.com
Wed Mar 28 00:54:44 PDT 2012

On 28 Mar 2012, at 9:25 , Julian Reschke wrote:

> Henrik reported on the percentage of drafts that are submitted with the XML version; I believe that number is a bit misleading, as long as submitting the XML is just additional work with little benefit.

How is this relevant? From where I'm sitting there are no good tools to write RFCs, so please don't construe my use of XML2RFC as an endorsement. (I always uploaded the XML version for my wg drafts, btw, just in case someone else would have to take over the work at some point.)

I might as well explain my issues with the XML2RFC system here and now.

Now I fully realize that some of my issues can be solved by using the appropriate tools. As such, I'm open to suggestions but please send those privately. However, realize that the need to find, learn and use arcane tools in and of itself is a big barrier. Randy Bush once said "anyone with time on their hands and a keyboard can write a draft" but that's not really very true at this point. Add an understanding of XML and the ability to read between the lines in the XML2RFC syntax specification. Fortunately you can use a web interface to do the conversion rather than have to install the tool locally, which would otherwise be an additional challenge.

I otherwise never have the need to edit XML, so I don't have a workflow for doing that. I've been writing HTML the hard way for a decade and a half, and that works for the most part. RFC-length documents in XML are much more problematic to do by hand, though, because of the need to close tags. The tools I've found don't provide a way to quickly find and correct mistakes with this, and as the documents grow larger this becomes more of an issue.

Also, even though I need to specify my full name, my initials and my last name, XML2RFC still fails to allow me to specify "I. van Beijnum" and "Van Beijnum" where appropriate as per Dutch capitalization rules. So XML2RFC makes me spend cycles to encode my name in a relatively complex way but then ultimately fails to do the right thing anyway. For names the encoding is not so onerous, but for references it is.

All in all writing a draft in XML2RFC for someone who doesn't know XML in general and XML2RFC in particular is quite painful. So I think we should move away from XML2RFC as a de facto input format.

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