Re: [rtcweb] Uppercase question for RFC2119 words

Dave Cridland <dave@cridland.net> Wed, 30 March 2016 19:00 UTC

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Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2016 20:00:37 +0100
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Subject: Re: [rtcweb] Uppercase question for RFC2119 words
From: Dave Cridland <dave@cridland.net>
To: Barry Leiba <barryleiba@computer.org>
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Cc: IETF discussion list <ietf@ietf.org>, "Heather Flanagan \(RFC Series Editor\)" <rse@rfc-editor.org>, "rtcweb@ietf.org" <rtcweb@ietf.org>, IESG <iesg@ietf.org>, Dave Crocker <dcrocker@bbiw.net>
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On 30 March 2016 at 18:59, Barry Leiba <barryleiba@computer.org> wrote:

> >> That such a rule differs from natural English -- which does not
> typically
> >> alter semantics based on case -- and that most readers of RFCs will not
> have
> >> such detailed knowledge of RFC2119 nor read RFCs with the care such a
> rule
> >> demands, my question BARRY and adam and EveryOne Else, is what makes
> anyone
> >> think that such a rule must (MUST?) ensure proper reading of RFCs so as
> to
> >> distinguish between normative portions and advisory portions?
> >
> > Sorry, I think that's nonsense. RFC 2119 and its capitalized keywords are
> > well known to anyone reading any specifications, these days. I think we
> can
> > actually assume a priori knowledge of RFC 2119, for the most part. What I
> > think would be far more surprising is this notion that the keywords,
> noted
> > and referenced in capitals, also have the same precise meaning and force
> > when written normally.
>
> I agree with the first and third sentences of what Dave Cridland said,
> but I think we have to be a little careful about the second.  What I
> think we can assume is an a priori knowledge of some of what 2119
> says: that there are these capitalized key words that have special
> meanings.  But it's quite clear from reviewing a lot of documents (one
> of the fun things one gets to do as AD) that many writers do not know
> how 2119 actually defines those.  I see significant misunderstandings
> about "SHOULD" and "MAY" all the time, examples of which I can give
> you if you like.  And one of my favourites is when someone used
> "RECOMMENDED", I questioned it in a comment, and the response was,
> "Yes, maybe we should switch that to 'SHOULD'."
>
>
For future reference, I tend not to zero-index my sentences. ;-)

I think that MUST/SHOULD/MAY (the former two tempered by NOT) are
well-understood, although the strength of SHOULD is usually underestimated.
OPTIONAL is probably obvious enough (though its implications may not be),
and SHALL/RECOMMENDED are uncommon enough that they're probably not
understood nearly as well.


> As a complete side thing, I wonder how this all seems to
> German-speakers, as German uses initial caps for all nouns.  I wonder
> if anyone even notices if someone fails to do that.  I wonder if it
> becomes puzzling, perhaps in some instances.
>
> Barry
>