[rfc-i] open issues: small and mobile screens

Tim Bray tbray at textuality.com
Thu May 31 11:28:11 PDT 2012

A big modern 4+-inch-diagonal phone, with a high-pixel-density screen,
is practical for reading almost anything.  Even if I believed your
assertion that it’s too small for anything but a few paragraphs, the
case of looking up just a few paragraphs is an important one; it seems
a no-brainer that consulting a little chunk of ABNF or
codespace-repertoire or some such is at least as common as reading
specs end-to-end.

I have not heard a single well-informed argument against this requirement. -T

On Thu, May 31, 2012 at 11:19 AM, Joe Touch <touch at isi.edu> wrote:
> -1
> I think that the onus for support for *highly*-constrained devices rests on
> the consumer, not the producer.
> I consider "highly constrained" to be a device on which reading current RFCs
> would be prohibitive (e.g., cellphone). I agree it would be useful to
> support useful consumer output on a wider range of devices, but we should
> establish a reasonable lower bound - I'm not sure what that is, but a 4"
> phone is at least 1/4 what I would consider useful for reading anything
> beyond a few paragraphs.
> Joe
> On 5/31/2012 11:10 AM, Andrew Sullivan wrote:
>> Dear colleagues,
>> This is another of my attempts to engage with particular issues the
>> RSE says are open.  In this case, it is, "Want the RFC to be suitable
>> for small screens/mobile devices."
>> I have been using small screens for almost as long as I've been using
>> computers.  In cramped spaces, like a subway or an airplane, I find
>> the ability to use a small screen to read something extremely
>> helpful.  In the case of airplanes, it's also cost-saving, since I
>> can't afford to replace my laptop every time some clown smashes the
>> seat-back towards me.  I am mostly able to do useful work with my
>> phone, for instance, but a notable exception to this is in reading and
>> commenting on Internet Drafts.  Since we have effectively adopted a
>> rule that I-Ds have to be formatted as RFCs, the upshot of this is
>> that I can't do reviews in cases where it might be convenient for me.
>> In the case of RFCs themselves, if I am in a discussion with a
>> customer or supporting someone talking to a customer, and I'm on the
>> go, it'd be extremely useful to me to be able to look up an RFC and
>> read it comfortably and easily on my mobile device.  This isn't
>> possible now, because the way the format works means that it doesn't
>> work well with small screens.
>> It also seems to me that it has been a standard practice for many
>> years not to rely too strongly on predetermined ideas of someone's
>> display properties when laying things out for online access.  This is
>> part of an overall form/content distinction that, I think, underpins
>> most of the flexibility we get today on the Web.
>> I fail completely to understand the objection to this desire, such
>> that I'm incapable even of sketching what I understand to be the
>> counter-argument.  Perhaps one of the partisans can have a go?
>> Best regards,
>> A
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