document writing/editing tools used by IETF

Keith Moore <> Thu, 25 February 2021 20:27 UTC

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Subject: document writing/editing tools used by IETF
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From: Keith Moore <>
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Date: Thu, 25 Feb 2021 15:27:06 -0500
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On 2/25/21 12:39 PM, Andrew Campling wrote:

> This made me smile as GitHub is itself an excellent example of a tool being a barrier to entry for new participants.
> I've been using word processors since the early '80s (WordStar back in the day), don't understand why anyone would opt to use a different tool to write a document.

I would like to make it be the case that anyone could submit a document 
written with their favorite word processor, and for that document to be 
converted to whatever format we want to use.   I actually think this is 
feasible for document submission.   If nothing else, most word 
processors can generate some flavor of HTML, and that HTML could be 
stripped down to its bare essence and converted to rfc2xml.   It's 
entirely doable, probably with a relatively small amount of python 
code.   (You do need some conventions for representing metadata in HTML 
that can be input with a word processor, but I think I see how to do 
that too.)

But if we insist on one particular word processor, that will create a 
huge mess.   Having multiple parties edit the same document in 
succession with different tools (even if they're supposedly all 
compatible with the same format) results in a document that some people 
won't be able to read or edit, won't display or print consistently, 
etc., and may not be repairable.     And all of those document formats 
are moving targets.

> I know that this point of view will not be accepted by many current IETF participants but it seems particularly perverse to use a software development tool to write documents when there are many widely available options that are far better suited to the task (many of which support collaborative writing).

Actually, I doubt there is a single option that is better and which 
supports collaborative writing.  Because forcing thousands of volunteers 
to use a common set of proprietary tools (many of which are unreliable, 
profoundly dysfunctional, expensive, and have abysmal user interfaces) 
is absolutely unacceptable.