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

From: David (Standards) Singer <singer@apple.com>
Date: Mon, 06 Oct 2014 17:06:25 -0700
Cc: Tim Berners-Lee <timbl@w3.org>, public-w3process <public-w3process@w3.org>
Message-id: <98711A5B-F8AD-49B0-92A3-D0ECDBBA4B7F@apple.com>
To: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>

On Oct 6, 2014, at 14:57 , Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch> wrote:

> 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).

No, that is a very narrow and intentionally pejorative view.  I encourage you to move beyond it.

> 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 

some version of

> 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.

OK, let’s try different analogies.

If you want to stay informed, I suggest you read The Economist. (General reference).  If you want to see the article I am discussing, please read the issue dated June 21st 2013.

If you want to steer clear of legal problems, stay up to date on the law.  If you want to know what Mordred is being prosecuted for, read 134.c(3) of the 2005 penal code.

>> 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.

Not everyone changes everything all the time. Yes, at the next opportunity to revise the containing document, one can update what you point to.  That’s no excuse for confusing or misleading readers in the meantime.

> (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.)

I also use this technique, and indeed in one document I have done there are explicit instructions only to use these names, and a promise that they won’t change.  This is not common.  I think it is a good practice, I agree, for documents with clear ‘external entry points’.

> 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.

People finish documents and at best put them on one side for a while.  Expecting everyone to keep editing constantly because you are editing something they reference is expecting too much.

>> 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.

When you next can.  Don’t lose your readers in the meantime.

>> (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.

There is a reasonable balance between stability and revision, and where that is can depend a lot on the content and nature of the specification.

>> 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:
>   https://whatwg.org/specs/url/2014-07-30/

It also doesn’t appear to use the CG template, for reasons not entirely clear.

> 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.

Your inability to imagine good reasons does not mean they don’t exist.

If you want the title changed to suit other people’s purposes, then they get to choose the title.  One could hope that they do a better job than you, but why open that Pandora’s box? You have opened the door to editing, which I would have thought you don’t want.

You are *asking* for a fork, either by asking for change of title, or by inventing an unacceptable title that forces a document copy. Why?

David Singer
Manager, Software Standards, Apple Inc.
Received on Tuesday, 7 October 2014 00:07:17 UTC

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