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Re: On what it means for a spec to be "normative" (re HTML5 & normative language spec)

From: Henry S. Thompson <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 12 Jun 2011 13:19:40 +0100
To: Jonathan Rees <jar@creativecommons.org>
Cc: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <f5bzkln9r8j.fsf@calexico.inf.ed.ac.uk>
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Jonathan Rees writes:

> Less technically there is the question of multiple ways to accomplish
> the same end. I am not a Python programmer but I have read it has the
> design goal "there should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious
> way to do it." The question is not what documents contain normative
> elements, but what way does W3C recommend (in preference to others)
> for doing something. W3C can't be correctly described as being a
> standards organization if it recommends multiple ways to do the same
> thing (without giving some criterion that would guide a decision
> between them). I think that's the question people are asking, even if
> they're using the wrong word to do so - what would be recommended
> should two recommendations be discovered to disagree. I think this is
> where your advice to write (non-normative) applicability statements
> comes from.

I fundamentally disagree.  It is a bad idea to think we are or should
be in the business of trying to write tie-breaking rules -- there are
all kinds of areas where specs may end up overlapping, either by
design or accidentally, and trying to handle that explicitly via
priority decision rules would be a never-ending process.  On another
thread Roy and I wrote:

Roy T. Fielding writes:

> Which section of the full spec is authoritative when two sections
> have different requirements for the same content?  The answer is that
> neither is more authoritative -- it is just a bug in the spec and we
> would want to fix one of them.

HST replied:

> Absolutely right.  We uncover contradictions within _single_ specs
> with some regularity, to say nothing of contradictions between specs.

> Zero defects is a goal, but has never been, and indeed cannot be, a
> requirement for publication as a W3C Recommendation (or any other kind
> of standard).

> Dealing with contradictions when they are discovered is part of "Life
> after REC" for W3C Working Groups.  It's why we have an errata process
> (although it really should be a called a  corrigenda process :-).

ht
- -- 
       Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
      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/
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Received on Sunday, 12 June 2011 12:20:21 GMT

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