[rfc-i] Does the canonical RFC format need to be "readable" by developers and others?

Martin Rex mrex at sap.com
Mon Jul 9 07:37:58 PDT 2012

Phillip Hallam-Baker wrote:
> In practice it is very easy to find HTML editors that do not muck
> stuff up as all of us who have produced W3 drafts know.
> It is also very easy to take HTML and throw out the crap using a tool
> that removes unwanted stylesheets, etc etc. You can even use Word with
> that approach.
> The XML2RFC format is not a good document format. The designer seems
> to have decided to do things their way without any good reason not to
> follow the HTML approach. So things that are easy in HTML, like lists
> require reference to manuals. Why they chose to use <t> instead of <p>
> and so on? Its like the inventor was deliberately trying to make the
> thing different and hard.
> That said, XML2RFC exists and is somewhat tailored to IETF documents
> so it makes a reasonable interchange format, albeit a rather tedious
> one and it is a fixed point that is not going to change over time
> unless IETF requirements change.
> So just think of it as CLR or Java bytecode for IETF documents. The
> only people who have to use it raw are the compilers (editors).

I'm very sceptical to the claim that you do not have to know
XML when using XML2RFC (unless you are very ignorant about the
output it produces).

I started exploring TeX in 1990.  And while it took quite some getting
used to in the beginning, there was really nothing that could not
be done with TeX.  Because of the widespread use of LaTeX in areas
of the academic community, I bought the LaTeX book (2.09 I believe)
and tried to use it myself, but was significantly disappointed.

Although the LaTeX book claimed to have been typeset with LaTeX itself,
this claim was provably untrue, because it was impossible to create the
page headers used in the LaTeX book (with a horizontal seperating line)
with LaTeX means.  It required some amount of non-trivial TeX code to
do this (resulting in potential forward compatibility problems with
future LaTeX version when mixing both).

Similarily, it prooved to be quite difficult to locate/get the correct
version of latex style-files for academic papers 3+ years after the
papers had been published.

So I went back to using straight plain TeX (with a collection of my
own macros inserted into the beginning of every of my documents).
While that approach proved to be pretty close to 100% backwards
compatible over 10+ years for the few TeX documents that I ever created,
TeX itself did not make it as my favorite document editing tool, because
*very* few work environments come with TeX pre-installed.

When I wrote my master thesis in 1995, I used W4W 6.0 + Visio 2.0.
I really appreciated the ease of use of Visio back then.  I hated
W4W for its countless bugs, many of which are still present in Office 20xx,
for the simple reason that Office would likely be preinstalled on every
Office PC, whereas TeX was completely do-it-yourself, and there was no
tool even remotely comparable to Visio for use with TeX.


More information about the rfc-interest mailing list