[rfc-i] Proposal for v3 to simplify most referneces

Paul Hoffman paul.hoffman at vpnc.org
Sat Feb 8 19:57:44 PST 2014

Greetings again. Most references in most recent RFCs are just to RFCs; sometimes they are Internet Drafts as work-in-progress; much less often they are pointers to standards of other SDOs, research articles, or just plain URLs. There have been many complaints about how difficult it is for people who don't have strong XML skills to use references when making Internet Drafts.

The two popular methods now for references to RFCs are entering the whole reference by hand (hopefully getting all the fiddly bits of <front> and <seriesinfo> correct), or using XML entities that call out the xml.resource.org. Both have their faults. The first requires good copying skills and sometimes causes difficult XML errors; the second prevents you from changing the anchor name and also requires that you be online when you run the xml2rfc processor.

The following is a proposed addition to the v3 format. It supplements the current options, but anyone wanting to use the current options can continue to do so.

The <reference> element can take another optional attribute: "rfc", "fyi", "id" "bcp", or "std". Each takes a string that is a number. If "bcp" or "std" are given, an additional optional "expanded" attribute can be given: it is a comma-separated list of numbers. At the same time, the contents of <reference> goes from requiring <front> to making <front> optional.

Examples of entire references could be:
   <reference anchor="SMIME-OID" rfc="7107"/>
   <reference anchor="IPRNEW" bcp="79"/>  # Will expand to RFC 3979 and RFC 4879
   <reference anchor="IPROLD" bcp="79" expanded="3668"/>   # *Old* contents of the BCP
   <reference anchor="ABFAB-USECASES" id="draft-ietf-abfab-usecases"/>

Clearly, this proposal would require some smarts (and hopefully good error messages) in the processor. The processor would need to make sure that exactly zero or one of "rfc", "fyi", "id" "bcp", or "std" is given. It would also have to do a sanity check on the "expanded" list to see if that list matches the present or a previous set of values for the BCP or STD. It would then emit the properly-formatted output for the reference.

This would make it much easier to create RFCs that have the desired anchor names. It would also prevent the RFC Editor from having to check and/or replace the <reference> contents for Internet Drafts that come to them. (Ideas for simplifying references to documents from outside the IETF can be handled at a different time.)

Are there any objections to this addition to the v3 vocabulary?

--Paul Hoffman

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