[rfc-i] RFC Heresies

Stewart Bryant stbryant at cisco.com
Wed Mar 28 02:08:10 PDT 2012

On 28/03/2012 09:42, Peter Saint-Andre wrote:
> 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
I agree, but we need to address that the same way that we address
marketing text in the body of the document.

We are pretty good at reducing the marketing speak in the
WG mtg slides, so we have some (imperfect) experience
at applying peer pressure to remove the marketecture
from the visuals.

We could perhaps address some of this by producing a set of
common object symbols.


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