[rfc-i] RFC Heresies

Phillip Hallam-Baker hallam at gmail.com
Wed Mar 28 07:53:58 PDT 2012

I find UML descriptions of data structures to be completely useless.

I find finite state machines to be an essential design tool. And like
it or not these are best represented graphically.

Given what has been acceptable to the IETF community in the past, I
can't see the risk that they accept fancy diagrams being a problem.

The problem with ASCII art is that even when the content is
significant, the presentation renders it worthless.

Trying to solve this problem by blocking changes in the document
format is futile.

The IETF has already lost its position as the authoritative standards
body over Web related stuff to W3C and W3C has in turn lost half of
that remit to OASIS. Now that was probably unavoidable and necessary
as the IETF processes have limited scale and there is no way that the
IETF could be doing everything that IETF+W3C+OASIS do today.

But the IETF is about to loose control of PKIX to an outside body. Or
rather the loss of control is about to become apparent. For the past
12 months I have been one of the few arguing against that and now I
simply do not have any arguments left.

Just how far does the organization want to have its scope stripped
back before it recognizes that maybe a technology organization has to
be capable of change if it is going to survive?

On Wed, Mar 28, 2012 at 3:16 AM, Stewart Bryant <stbryant at cisco.com> 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
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Website: http://hallambaker.com/

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