[rfc-i] What the text version is used for (was Re: The <tt> train wreck)

tom petch daedulus at btconnect.com
Mon Aug 23 04:59:18 PDT 2021

On 21/08/2021 18:55, Robert Sparks wrote:
> Tearing out the separate topic (as Carsten already identified).
> On 8/16/21 2:10 AM, Julian Reschke wrote:
>> Am 16.08.2021 um 08:56 schrieb Carsten Bormann:
>>> On 2021-08-16, at 08:30, Julian Reschke <julian.reschke at gmx.de> wrote:
>>>> what purpose does the TXT version
>>>> serve?
>>> That is indeed an interesting question, and one answer is in
>>> <https://mailarchive.ietf.org/arch/msg/tools-discuss/BK7yyQoSbhnbYDYsyzjk_J2vufg>
>>> The question is, however, not so relevant to the discussion at hand.
>>> After a decade of trying to suppress the TXT version, it is still
>>> considered desirable by many even after the transition that was meant
>>> to make it less relevant.  So I would expect that, independent of any
>>> outcome of the discussion of the question for the reasons, the TXT
>>> version is here to stay.
>>> So, back to fixing the train wreck.
>> I agree that it'll stay; the question is what are the use cases, and how
>> does this discussion relate to these.
>> Decoration in plain txt was removed because it was distracting (it was),
>> and thus people avoided font changes altogether. If there was a
>> consensus what the TXT version is needed for, this would help us in
>> deciding things like these.
> There have been several times we have had long threads where people have
> told us what they use the text formats for. They've been compelling, at
> least to me, for helping ensure the format continues to be produced.

I was going to pick up on this but the thread seemed to move on, so 
thank you for returning to it.  txt is simple, straightforward, easy to 
use, universal.

txt is compact; not as compact as Shannon would allow but I have seen 
pdf in the IETF that are some 50 times the size of the txt version. Yes, 
computers get bigger and faster but not that much.

txt can be processed on every device I can ever recall having used, give 
or take the ASCII/EBCDIC conversion and some awareness of code pages (my 
dollar is your cent) and that applies to display, to editing and to 
printing.  It is simple, supported everywhere, can be used for interchange.

It encourages people to be clear in their language.  I have seen 
diagrams lately of the kind
I---I     I---I
I   I --->I   I
I---I     I---I
with no explanation of the meaning of the arrow and, when I sought 
clarification, it transpired that the meaning was the exact opposite of 
what I had assumed!  And this is a general issue, the richer the 
language that is used in a specification, the more comprehension is 
assumed in the reader. At a slight tangent, the logic of AND and OR are 
widely understood, NAND or NEQ less so even if they are arguably simpler.

Tom Petch

> I truly don't know what you're looking for when you say "consensus what
> the TXT version is needed for". Are you looking for a document that's
> gone through some formal consensus-gauging process that iterates these
> things? Are you just looking for an easy-to-find list of things that
> people have told us? Can you point more clearly at what you think we
> should have that would help?
> I note that your choice of words "what the TXT version is needed for"
> frames things differently than "what the TXT version is used for". The
> difference will make the conversation less one of defending the format
> and more of exposing what's people actually need from it.
> RjS
>> Best regards, Julian
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