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Re: Best practice for referring to specifications which may update

From: Martin J. Dürst <duerst@it.aoyama.ac.jp>
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 2009 17:31:47 +0900
Message-ID: <4AEAA473.90902@it.aoyama.ac.jp>
To: "Henry S. Thompson" <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>
CC: www-tag@w3.org, "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <cmsmcq@blackmesatech.com>
Hello Henry, others,

Some concerns based on my experience:

1) There may be a good use case for the very detailed rules and texts 
below, but I'm quite concerned that sooner or later, all W3C Specs or 
TRs will come with even more boilerplate that will cause even more 
boring work for WGs and team and will be read by even less people, and 
not applicable or unnecessary in many cases. So: Don't make this stuff 
(in whatever form or content) mandatory!

2) On the W3C side, you use "edition", which I understand e.g. as in XML 
1.0, 5th edition. As far as I understand, "edditions" in this W3C sense 
are mainly restricted to errata, and are only produced for 
high-maintainance specs. Examples given e.g. for the IETF (RFC xxxx 
obsoleeted by RFC yyyy) seem to have a far wider granularity; I don't 
know exactly about ISO.

3) In many cases I know, referencing "the earliest appropriate for use 
with this specification" seems undesirable. As an example, one could 
check a spec carefully and come to the conclusion that where it 
references Unicode, Unicode 2.0 is "the earliest appropriate...". Or one 
could look at language tags, and come to the conclusion that RFC 1766 is 
"the earliest appropriate...". Even if that might technically be true, 
it may still send very much the wrong message. That's why in I18N, and 
in particular for the above two examples, we have generally recommended 
"newest stable (or its successor)", and that has worked well so far. It 
may be that this approach works particularly well for specs that are in 
their core a list of values. But in some cases, it was also done simply 
for making people aware that some things not necessarily directly 
related to the citing spec have changed (e.g. it might really be a good 
idea now to support surrogate pairs in UTF-16, and 4-byte characters in 
UTF-8,...), even if there was no direct connection between the citing 
technology and the feature in question.
For language codes, the fact that the spec is a BCP and BCPs have stable 
numbers even if the underlying RFC number changes has led to the 
recommendation to simply say "BCP 47", with less of a need to say "or 
its successor".

Regards,   Martin.

On 2009/10/28 23:57, Henry S. Thompson wrote:
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> In the context of an extended discussion at the recent TAG f2f
> regarding references to potential time-varying specification URIs [1]
> I took an action [2] to suggest wording for a Best Practice in this
> area, based on wording developed by C. M. Sperberg-McQueen, who also
> reviewed and contributed to the following.
>
> Here's what I think this might look like:
>
>    When citing a W3C specification in the normative references section
>    of another specification, care should be taken to be clear about the
>    status of editions of the referenced specification other than the
>    then-current one.  In order to on the one hand acknowledge that
>    implementations sometimes lag behind specifications, and on the
>    other that implementations of new editions of referenced
>    specifications should be encouraged, wording along the following
>    lines should be used:
>
>      Left-Handed Sewer Flutes 1.0 (Second edition), P.D.Q. Bach and
>      Peter Schickele, Editors.  World Wide Consortium, 29 February
>      2009.  The edition cited (http://www.w3.org/TR/2009/REC-lhsf-20090229/)
>      is the earliest appropriate for use with this specification.
>      Conformant implementations may follow the edition cited and/or any
>      later edition(s).  The latest edition of LHSF 1.0 is available at
>      http://www.w3.org/TR/lhsf/.  It is implementation-defined which
>      editions of LHSF 1.0 are supported.
>
>    The appropriateness of this approach is based on the W3C rules
>    regarding what constitutes an acceptable new edition of an existing
>    W3C Recommendation.  For references to publications from other
>    standards bodies with similar expectations regarding backwards
>    compatibility, for example IETF or ISO, a similar approach to
>    citation is also called for, along the following lines:
>
>      The Extension of MIME Content-Types to a New Medium, N. Borenstein
>      and M. Linimon.  Internet Engineering Task Force RFC 1437, 1 April
>      1993.  RFC 1437 was current at the date of publication of this
>      specification, but may be updated or obsoleted by later RFCs.
>      Conformant implementations may follow the RFC cited and/or any
>      later RFCs which update or obsolete it.  It is
>      implementation-defined which RFCs are supported.
>
>      Intelligent transport systems -- Physical characterisation of
>      vehicles and equipment -- International airline seat pitch
>      measurements. Part 1: Measurement architecture.  International
>      Standard ISO 314159-1:2009, 29 February 2009.  The referenced
>      specification may from time to time be amended, replaced by a new
>      edition, or expanded by the addition of new parts.  See
>      http://www.iso.org/iso/home.htm for up-to-date information.
>      Conformant implementations may follow the edition cited and/or any
>      amendments etc.  It is implementation-defined which amendments
>      etc. are supported.
>
>    In cases where many references require similar treatment, a blanket
>    statement at the top of the references section may be more
>    appropriate:
>
>      Dated references below are to the earliest known or appropriate
>      edition of the referenced work.  The referenced works may be
>      subject to revision, and conformant implementations may follow,
>      and are encouraged to investigate the appropriateness of
>      following, some or all more recent editions or replacements of the
>      works cited.  It is in each case implementation-defined which
>      editions are supported.
>
>     and then simply
>
>      Left-Handed Sewer Flutes 1.0 (Second edition), P.D.Q. Bach and
>      Peter Schickele, Editors.  World Wide Consortium, 29 February 2009
>      (http://www.w3.org/TR/2009/REC-lhsf-20090229/).  The latest
>      edition of LHSF 1.0 is available at http://www.w3.org/TR/lhsf/.
>
>      The Extension of MIME Content-Types to a New Medium, N. Borenstein
>      and M. Linimon.  Internet Engineering Task Force RFC 1437, 1 April
>      1993.
>
>      Intelligent transport systems -- Physical characterisation of
>      vehicles and equipment -- International airline seat pitch
>      measurements. Part 1: Measurement architecture.  International
>      Standard ISO 314159-1:2009, 29 February 2009.  See
>      http://www.iso.org/iso/home.htm for up-to-date information.
>
>    All of the above formulations assume a definition of
>    'implementation-dependent' along the following lines:
>
>      If a choice is described as 'implementation-dependent', then
>      conformant implementations must document which choice they make.
>
> Comments welcome.
>
> ht
>
> [1] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/2009/09/23-minutes#item03
> [2] http://www.w3.org/2001/tag/group/track/actions/303
> - --
>         Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
>                           Half-time member of W3C Team
>        10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131 650-4440
>                  Fax: (44) 131 651-1426, e-mail: ht@inf.ed.ac.uk
>                         URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
> [mail really from me _always_ has this .sig -- mail without it is forged spam]
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-- 
#-# Martin J. Dürst, Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University
#-# http://www.sw.it.aoyama.ac.jp   mailto:duerst@it.aoyama.ac.jp
Received on Friday, 30 October 2009 08:32:55 GMT

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