[abnf-discuss] Target audience for ABNF

Paul Kyzivat <pkyzivat@alum.mit.edu> Mon, 20 November 2017 00:19 UTC

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From: Paul Kyzivat <pkyzivat@alum.mit.edu>
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Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2017 19:19:45 -0500
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Subject: [abnf-discuss] Target audience for ABNF
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On 11/19/17 4:08 PM, Carsten Bormann wrote:
> 
>> On Nov 19, 2017, at 19:56, Dave Crocker <dcrocker@gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>> Computers are not the target audience for computer languages.  Human readers are.
> 
> +10k.

I agree that the human audience is of major importance.
But mechanical verifiability of ABNF is also important.

The existing ABNF definition fits that need if you don't do something 
when using it to break that verifiability. Unfortunately, the ABNF as 
used in the IETF is rarely completely verifiable without a bunch of 
manual tweaking.

The end result of this is that often the ABNF in drafts either isn't 
formally verified (relying on eyeballing by reviewers), or is 
incompletely verified. (Superficially verifying that the ANBF text in a 
draft is well formed with the exception of undefined references that, 
based on informal notation in the text, are defined elsewhere.)

Going beyond that requires a bunch of manual work that is error prone.

Ideally IdNits would verify ABNF in drafts as a matter of course. IIUC 
doing so has been included as a requirement for the new tooling. Given 
the current situation what IdNits can potentially do is very limited.

	Thanks,
	Paul