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Re: My Action Item to rewrite definition of "normative"

From: Lofton Henderson <lofton@rockynet.com>
Date: Tue, 29 Apr 2003 10:43:42 -0600
Message-Id: <>
To: Mark Skall <mark.skall@nist.gov>, www-qa-wg@w3.org


I'm in the mode of trying to clean up some loose ends, for our eventual 
Disposition of Comments (DoC) document.

We closed and affirmed that we like our definition of 
normative.  Initially, I wrote our rationale in terms of the definition 
being narrower or more focused.

You write...

At 11:08 AM 4/18/03 -0400, Mark Skall wrote:
>I had an action item to look at the definition of normative and modify it 
>to reflect that it is directly connected to conformance (or narrowly focused).
>After examining our definition "text in a specification which is 
>prescriptive or contains conformance requirements" and UAAG's definition 
>"What is identified as "normative" is required for conformance (noting 
>that one may conform in a variety of well-defined ways to this 
>document).  What is identified as "informative" is never required for 
>conformance.", I find very little difference between the two.
>"Contains conformance requirements" and "required for conformance" are, in 
>my mind, the same thing.

I think there is a subtle difference, although I accept your final 
conclusion.  "required for conformance", I believe, can be more widely 
interpreted than "prescriptive or contains conformance requirements".  For 
example, it is easier to construct an argument that Glossary is normative 
under the UAAG definition than under the SpecGL (or QA Glossary) definition.

Argument goes like this, "our Conformance Requirements (tagged and styled) 
use terms from our Definitions, therefore these term definitions are 
'required for conformance'".  I'm guessing that is along the lines that IJ 
and JM were thinking, in their comments.

To me, there is nothing "prescriptive" in a definition (it does not 
prescribe any action or result), nor is there a "conformance 
requirement",  (Which latter definition we still have to face in a SpecGL 
issue), at least certainly not in the sense of our ConfReq in our 
checkpoints (or any other place that we use MUST, SHOULD, etc).

It is a subtle twist, and has to do with applicability, as you say below.

>I do not believe that our definition is "narrowly focused" and, thus, I 
>don't believe it should be amended to imply that it is narrowly 
>focused.  I don't think we should amend our definition to say it is 
>directly connected to conformance (since it already says that).
>I believe the difference is the way in which the two definitions are 
>applied.  Our definition is narrowly applied and UUAG's is not.

Moreover, (the flip side) I think that UAAG's supports wider interpretation 
and application than ours.

Now, in search of words for DoC, do we really mean "narrowly applied", or 
"narrowly applicable" (i.e., does not admit to application as wide as some 
of the other definitions).

As you will see, we need to work on resolution wording in the "what's 
normative" group, starting at:


>Perhaps we should say that somewhere in the document.



p.s.  I notice that normative and informative are not in the QA 
Glossary.  Should they be?  Or is it best to keep them in our GL documents 
only, where they are used, and not risk opening a W3C-wide argument about 
"normative" (at least, not now)?  Why do I say "risk"?  Because the header 
of the QA Glossary says, "It should be used as a definition for working 
groups to define their terms in Technical Reports and documentation issued 
inside and outside W3C."  In other words, we're telling UAAG to use our 
definition, and that sort of dispute is not a good place to spend our time 
now, IMO.
Received on Tuesday, 29 April 2003 12:41:36 UTC

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