[rfc-i] RFC Heresies

Peter Saint-Andre stpeter at stpeter.im
Wed Mar 28 01:42:51 PDT 2012

On 3/28/12 9:16 AM, Stewart Bryant wrote:
> On 28/03/2012 06:23, Tim Bray wrote:
>> 1. No, we don’t need graphics
>> I’ve thought for years that one of the great strengths of the RFC
>> series was the absence of structure tables and flowcharts and various
>> other visual expressions of architecture astronautics; forcing the
>> authors to explain Internet protocols in simple clear linear English.
>> At the end of the day the audience is coders who have to express
>> behavior of network elements in a linear fashion, and I don’t know any
>> way of programming computers that involves showing pictures to them.
>> I think the potential harm from letting graphics in the door greatly
>> exceeds the potential benefits. It’s a slippery slope that leads
>> inexorably to UML. The one exception that seems plainly obvious is
>> math, and I guess you do need some of that to design the Internet. But
>> that’s the only exception I’d make.  Plus ASCII art for ladder
>> diagrams.
> The contra view is that there are people who think in pictures and
> when they write code or protocol specifications they are compiling
> those pictures into another format. When understanding the written
> text of an RFC this group of people have to reconstruct the picture
> (either physically or mentally) from the text.
> I think that in this discussion it is important to respect the different
> mental processes of the members of the network engineering
> community and to define a system of specification that works for
> us all.

Stewart, I'm all in favor of respecting those who think differently. I'm
slightly concerned about RFCs including marketing-style graphics with
cutesy bubble diagrams, complex architecture pictures with "creative"
icons for various entities, etc.


Peter Saint-Andre

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