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Re: ACTION-350: Best practice for referring to specifications which may update

From: Henry S. Thompson <ht@inf.ed.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2012 08:36:51 +0000
To: Larry Masinter <masinter@adobe.com>
Cc: "C. M. Sperberg-McQueen" <cmsmcq@blackmesatech.com>, "www-tag@w3.org" <www-tag@w3.org>
Message-ID: <f5bboq0gkbg.fsf@calexico.inf.ed.ac.uk>
Larry Masinter writes:

> . . .
>
> To confirm that a reference is appropriate, W3C working groups could
> be encouraged to publish applicability statements, e.g.:
>
> "Working group finding:
>
> Spec A is still valid with B.v1 replaced with B.v2 and C.v1 replaced with C.v3
> (except note that referenced section 3.6 in C.v1 is now found in section
> 7 of C.v3)."

I liked this idea at first, but have now concluded that it just moves
the problem without solving it.  Because as noted in subsequent
discussion, this approach could only work if Spec. A explicitly
acknowledges its dependence on such applicability statements.  This
amounts to inserting an indirection in the normative reference, which
at first seems like not a bad idea at all.  So for example in Spec. A
we would replace

 [B] _Web-footed friends 1.0 (Second edition)_, D-B Platt, ed. ABSO,
     2011.  This version is http://www.abso.example.org/2011/WFF10e2/.
     The _latest version_ is available at http://www.abso.example.org/WFF10/ .

with something along the lines of

 [B] _Web-footed friends_, ABSO, version and edition as specified in
     [BRef].

 [Bref] _Normative dependence of A on "Web-footed friends"_, W3C,
        2012.  The version current at the time of this publication is
        http://www.w3.org/TR/2012/AS-ArefWFF-20120119/.  The normative
        version at any time is found at http://www.w3.org/TR/ArefWFF/.

And then _Normative dependence of A on "Web-footed friends"_ says
something along the lines of

   *Conformance*

     As of [date] conformance to [A] requires conformance to
     (clauses/sections/... of) [B].

   *Normative references*

     [A] ...the original spec we care about..., with dated reference.

     [B] _Web-footed friends 1.0 (Second edition)_, D-B Platt, ed. ABSO,
         2011.  Available online at http://www.abso.example.org/2011/WFF10e2/.

But, as putting it in TR space is meant to indicate, publishing a new
version of BRef (the 'applicability statement') surely requires taking
the proposed change through the full W3C Process.  It has to, since it
changes (A's) conformance requirements, with potential substantial
impact on implementors, to say nothing of possible patent
implications.

So what have we gained, compared to the current situation, where
publishing a new version of A would be required (either to update a
dated reference, or to qualify an open-ended one)?  Not much---not
enough to justify the cost to users of the indirection, I guess.

ht
-- 
       Henry S. Thompson, School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh
      10 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB, SCOTLAND -- (44) 131 650-4440
                Fax: (44) 131 650-4587, e-mail: ht@inf.ed.ac.uk
                       URL: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~ht/
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Received on Thursday, 19 January 2012 08:37:40 GMT

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