Re: document writing/editing tools used by IETF

Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com> Sun, 28 February 2021 03:41 UTC

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Subject: Re: document writing/editing tools used by IETF
To: ietf@ietf.org
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From: Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com>
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Date: Sat, 27 Feb 2021 22:41:04 -0500
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On 2/27/21 10:00 PM, John Levine wrote:

> It is sheer hubris to imagine that we are so special that nobody else 
> could have built collaboration tools that would work for us. 

No it's not, because:

  * IETF does have fairly unique requirements.  Few organizations
    collaborate among thousands of volunteer contributors and reviewers
    to write complex technical documents that must be universally
    accessible, publicly searchable, and archived.
  * Nearly all existing collaboration tools with the assumption that
    those collaborating can be forced to use those tools (e.g. because
    employers require it), whereas IETF cannot reasonably do that
    especially if (a) the tools are platform-specific, (b) the tools
    have significant per-user costs (we can't expect IETF participants
    to pay to use a common toolset), or (c) the tools violate users'
    privacy (which is true of all web sites that use tracking cookies) 
    (Want examples of sheer hubris, consider the many companies who
    think it's perfectly ok to track every bit of personal behavior that
    they possibly can of millions or billions of people.)
  * Most of these collaboration tools have vendor-lockin as part of
    their design, limiting their applicability for an organization that
    needs its documents to be maintainable for many decades.
  * Many collaboration tools do not work well for attendees in highly
    diverse time zones, especially if they expect people to watch for
    incoming instant messages.
  * Many collaboration tools that I see have lousy facilities for
    searching and archiving.
  * We are capable of evolving the tools we use to meet our needs, much
    more than can be said for tools that others provide.
  * Most of the collaboration tools that I see are actually worse than
    email in nearly every respect.
  * Any tools that are maintained by some company out there have a
    decent chance of not existing within a few years, or existing only
    in a form that isn't compatible with older files.   That goes even
    for tools made by Big Companies.
  * Forcing people to use crippled tools kills innovation.

I'm not saying that there absolutely is no solution out there, but it's 
pretty hard to beat what we have with COTS tools, and much easier and 
safer to do what we're doing than to expect some company to provide what 
we need.

Keith