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Re: w3process-ISSUE-124 (WHATWG-blacklist): Normative Reference policy should explicitly black list WHATWG specs [Normative Reference Policy]

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Mon, 6 Oct 2014 21:57:03 +0000 (UTC)
To: "David (Standards) Singer" <singer@apple.com>
cc: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>, public-w3process <public-w3process@w3.org>
Message-ID: <alpine.DEB.2.00.1410062139190.12123@ps20323.dreamhostps.com>
On Mon, 6 Oct 2014, David (Standards) Singer wrote:
> Actually I would like to make the strong case that the act of making a 
> snapshot should not change the title.  The number plate on my car 
> doesn’t change when I take a snapshot of it, after all.

I'm not sure what you mean by "take a snapshot of [a car]". If you mean a 
photograph, then I don't think this analogy holds closely enough to be 
useful here.

> The snapshot is a ’snapshot' because the URL and/or datestamp that 
> references it is fixed.  The title should reflect the technical content 
> of the document, no more, no less.  That does not change during 
> evolution.  (One might even argue that not fiddling with the title comes 
> under ‘respect’).

I disagree, for the reasons I laid out in my last e-mail on this thread.

> It’s important that the snapshot be both semantically linked and 
> physically linked to the succession of documents it is part of.  Being 
> able to explore antecedents is also possible.

I disagree that that is a priori important. The purpose of the snapshot is 
just to provide a reference for patent lawyers in cases regarding patent 
infringement, and government officials in contracts whose precise details 
are ignored (as discussed in my last e-mail). In neither case is the 
history of the document important. In the latter case, even the content of 
the document is unimportant (just as the contents of HTML4 are unimportant 
to government contracts today referencing HTML4).

People who want to browse the history of the URL spec, for example, 
wouldn't ever end up at the patent snapshot of the URL spec. They'd end up 
at the URL spec, which has a "version history" link right at the top.

> It should ALSO be possible to reference the document un-snapshotted, of 
> course.  Both are useful in different circumstances.

That's like saying that a car and a photograph of a car are both useful in 
different circumstances. That's true, but it doesn't mean we should put 
physical wheels on a photograph, or make sure that cars are only painted 
in colours that you can reproduce with CMYK inkjet paint.

> There are plenty of good reasons to reference a snapshot. For example, 
> if document A says “As defined in section x.y.z of R”, you don’t want to 
> risk the section number changing.

What kind of document would reasonably say that? If it's a spec, and R 
changes, then you should change your reference.

(Using section numbers is especially ill-advised, of course. It's like 
referencing exported symbols by offset. Better to use defined names. 
You'll notice that all the WHATWG specs refer to each other using 
well-defined negotiated hooks, so that both sides can evolve without 
either breaking the references. When the hooks need to change, then you 
update all sides at once.)

It's really important to make sure you're working directly with whoever is 
responsible for the documents you reference, too, so that you don't fall 
foul of Conway's law or worse.

> If you say “a froobotz as defined in R” you don’t want to reference a 
> document in which the WG changed the name to “wokthang”.

If the term "froobotz" is updated, then there must have been a good reason 
for it, and you should update your reference.

> (I think the idea that every spec. should necessarily be in constant 
> flux (and written in pseudo-Basic) is also damaging to the web’s health, 
> by the way. It’s not the best approach for everything. But that is a 
> separate topic.)

I think the reverse, as discussed in my earlier e-mail, where I put forth 
all the reasoning for that position. I also don't think it's a separate 
topic. I think it's the crux of the matter.

> So, please can we have a snapshot that has the same title, has an FSA 
> pass done on it, has a stable URL, an internal declaration that this is 
> a snapshot and gives its revision marking, and uses the standard 
> boilerplate so we can see the provenance, IPR grants, and so on?

Other than the title, for the URL spec, it is done:


Don't reference it, though. That would be damaging to the Web's health.

Having the title be the same as the URL standard's would encourage you to 
reference this stale copy instead of the standard, and thus would itself 
be damaging to the Web's health.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Monday, 6 October 2014 21:57:26 UTC

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