[rfc-i] Giving up supported text Re: Following up from Atlanta

Nico Williams nico at cryptonector.com
Wed Dec 5 18:41:55 PST 2012

On Wed, Dec 5, 2012 at 2:00 AM, Brian E Carpenter
<brian.e.carpenter at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 04/12/2012 23:21, Heather Flanagan (RFC Series Editor) wrote:
>> On 12/4/12 2:23 PM, Nico Williams wrote:
>>> [...]
>> Third requirement in section 3.1 of draft-rfc-format-flanagan-02 states:
>>       *  While several Publication formats must be allowed, the
>>          Publication formats must include support for plain-text
>>          printing.
>> Does this meet the need of tty-lovers?
> If we ignore eccentric personal preferences, IMHO it slightly misses

Well, it's eccentric nowadays, yes, to prefer text.  I only prefer it
for reasons that are not fundamental, so I can live without text,
actually.  Rethinking it, then, I'm willing to give it up as a format
that is published by the RFC-Editor, though, of course, I wish to
retain the capability to render as text as much as possible.  The key
is that if text is not a format that the RFC-Editor publishes in then
we don't need to worry about the formatting problems introduced by

> the point. Yes, there are circumstances in which plain text printing
> without choice of font becomes necessary, but these days it's a corner
> case. Also, does this requirement imply "without loss of information"?

I would think not.

> What is really important is that graphics and some aspects of
> formatting (such as list layouts) survive the processes of storage,
> transmission, presentation and printing. Historically, a fixed-width
> ASCII-only format has been the way we guaranteed that. The real question
> is whether this has changed.

That's only the real question if guaranteeing survival through all
those things had been the reason for the original text format.  Most
likely the original RFC text format was text-based because.. that was
the simplest thing to do.  Admittedly I don't know this -I am
speculating-, but it seems very likely that ease of authoring/editing
given the tools available 30 years ago had a lot to do with why we
have a text-based format.

Has *that* changed?  Yes, undoubtedly.  We now have a surfeit of
possible authoring/editing tools, with a wide array of features.
Perhaps we have too many tools, but then, we only have two basis for
typesetting RFCs: nroff and xml2rfc, and neither is perfect.  So we
still have a tooling problem.  If we were to adopt a much less strict
approach to formatting then we could consider using LibreOffice, Word,
LyX, LaTeX, xml2rfc, ...


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