[rfc-i] Comment on Holistic archiving (section 2.4.3 of draft-flanagan-rfc-preservation-01)

Robert Sparks rjsparks at nostrum.com
Tue Oct 28 12:00:37 PDT 2014

The paragraph that starts out with "Consider a future where XML has been 
obsoleted for half a century" has a rough edge I would like to try to 
make better.
It talks about the need to keep an environment (programs and OSes) 
around to be able to use whatever bits you have stored. While that's 
true for the general case, it overstates what would be needed to be able 
to read an XML file in the future.

Unlike some compressed or specialized binary format, the bare XML source 
is relatively directly accessible by humans. The environment you need to 
keep looks more like the environment you need to keep to be able to read 
the current ascii RFC files than it does one you would need to keep to 
read, say PDF,
as long as you keep the XML files stored in a way that is amenable to 
letting people see the characters easily. That is, the target is more 
like 'cat' than it is 'adobe reader'.

We're choosing the element names in the XML to be relatively self 
descriptive. In an archival-recovery situation, a person would have a 
relatively easy time determining what the bits mean, _especially_ if we 
keep the definition of the elements around in the same easy to get to 

Please be careful with choosing what the archived bits really need to be 
- I think we have an opportunity to avoid much of the complexity the 
current text warns about in this section.


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