[rfc-i] [Ietf-and-github] RFC Editor & Github

Heather Flanagan rse at rfc-editor.org
Fri Feb 22 09:57:58 PST 2019

> On Feb 22, 2019, at 7:52 AM, Ted Lemon <mellon at fugue.com> wrote:
> On Feb 21, 2019, at 8:10 PM, Eric Rescorla <ekr at rtfm.com <mailto:ekr at rtfm.com>> wrote:
>> On the one hand, it was quite painful.
> You’re the second person to say this, so I assume it’s true, but it’s also surprising.   It would be helpful if (perhaps this has already been done) there could be a writeup of what about the process of using github was painful.   We aren’t constrained to either choosing to use github or do nothing to improve the process, and your point about auth48 changes resonates for me too.   If we understood why Github didn’t make things better, or what things about Github made things enough worse that the things Github made better weren’t enough, that would be helpful.
> _

ekr has posted his impressions of the GitHub experiment with the RFC Editor, which I’ve seen and is useful feedback. From the point of view of the editors, however, the experience of what worked and what didn’t was somewhat different. We posted our feedback to the IESG and the tls-chairs list.

One other point - we need to continue this conversation about how to improve AUTH48 for the authors. In much the same way that when I first started, the majority of input I received was that the format was the biggest pain point that needed attention, what I’m hearing now is that AUTH48 is the next big area to target. While I'm not ready to revive the experiment given where things stand with the format work (more on that in the next few weeks) this is definitely something that I’m hearing as both urgent and important.


Hi all,

This is the consolidated feedback from the RFC Editor regarding the experiment in using GitHub to process the TLS 1.3 document. Please note that this feedback focuses entirely on the GitHub experience; all comments regarding editorial changes are off topic. Also, the markdown conversation (i.e., editing in markdown, choosing a particular flavor of markdown) is also outside the scope of the experiment and this feedback.

GitHub did not improve anything for the RFC Editor, and seemed to replicate and over-complicate the AUTH48 process where the authors and the RPC exchange updated XML files.

What Went Well:
* The author seemed happier with the interactions with the RFC Editor.

* It was easy for the RFC Editor to download a copy of the revised XML files.

What Was Challenging:
* This was not a good choice of documents to do an experiment with; the length, criticality, and number of early questions that had to be held until AUTH48 made the overall experience more complicated than it would have been otherwise (from the RFC Editor's perspective). In particular, typically a set of questions would be sent during AUTH state (earlier in the process); for this document, all questions were held for AUTH48 state, and this added to the perceived excessive number of initial changes.

* While the discrete list in GitHub of each change seemed to make the review easier for the author, it proved to be significantly more difficult for the RPC editor. Rather than have the changes all in one place, this required a lot of clicking to each individual change to review the comments. It was very time consuming.

* Being on the "Watch" list resulted in a great deal of noise that the RPC editor had to work through. It was difficult to determine if comments and proposed changes were being directed to the RFC Editor or to the author.

* The RPC editor's AQs (Author Query) are often truncated in GitHub, which introduced some confusion on both the part of the author and the RPC editor.

* In a document that has a large number of AQs (as this one did), the GitHub UI will hide the majority of those questions, along with some of the comments from authors and other reviewers (e.g., "120 hidden conversations"); one has to manually "unhide" them, 20 at a time. This process needs to be repeated every time you leave/return to that page.

* There was definitely confusion about how the RPC editors actually edit a document reflected in a request to receive intermediate diff files that show one type of change (header changes only, whitespace changes only, editorial changes only, etc). That is not how documents are edited, and trying to do that would definitely increase the level or work required on the part of the RPC editor.

* "Reflowed" text within the XML file is a common result of making editorial changes or inserting questions into the XML file. Typically, this has not been a concern for authors or the RPC, as such changes aren't reflected in the publication output, and the only diffs reviewed are text file vs. text file. In the case of this document, when reviewing XML diffs generated by GitHub, this introduced a number of changes that were noise. In the future, one way to avoid this would be careful editing of the source file to avoid reflowing the text or inserting comments mid-paragraph; however that seems like a lot of work for little return given the purpose behind the XML file. (As an aside to this one, in the future, improved XML diffing might not display changes to reflowed text in the XML -- the xmldiff tool is under development as part of the format work.)

Proposed Changes to the next stage of the GitHub Experiment (JSEP draft)
Full detail of the process is here: https://www.rfc-editor.org/rse/wiki/doku.php?id=github_auth48_experiment <https://www.rfc-editor.org/rse/wiki/doku.php?id=github_auth48_experiment>
* change to step 5 - rather than having the RFC Editor subscribe to all notifications, have the author(s) add an @mention when the RFC Editor needs to do something. (Assuming this feature will work if the account is not actually watching the repository.)

* change to step 10- rather than the RFC Editor emailing the link to the latest XML file to the author, the RPC editor will submit it directly to GitHub.

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