Re: [Tools-discuss] Why do we even have text formats any more?

Toerless Eckert <tte@cs.fau.de> Wed, 28 July 2021 14:32 UTC

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Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2021 16:31:52 +0200
From: Toerless Eckert <tte@cs.fau.de>
To: Martin Thomson <mt@lowentropy.net>
Cc: tools-discuss@ietf.org
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Subject: Re: [Tools-discuss] Why do we even have text formats any more?
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a) As mentioned in before, i would love for datatracker to offer
   the option for users to choose or even upload an html style sheet
   which would then be used for rendering of datatracker drafta/RFC
   for them. This IMHO would be the most easy and useful starting point 
   to leverage the flexibility of HTML.

b) I can not see any way to move away from a pure text editor
   for all core work - writing drafts and commenting on them.
   I can see that this can be done with either a txt or
   a markdown version of drafts/RFCs, not with HTML/XML.

c) RFCdiff is a big thing for me, i guess that can evolve to use other
   imputs than just txt over time.

Cheers
    Toerless

On Wed, Jul 28, 2021 at 11:53:49AM +1000, Martin Thomson wrote:
> I realize that this might be a little inflammatory as far as subjects go, but bear with me.
> 
> There are probably a few narrow cases where rendering plain text is better than HTML.  But what we've been doing for years (thanks to Henrik's great tool) is take text and turn it into HTML using the power of regular expressions.  That's been good, but it's not always reliable (how many errata mention that "Section X of [FOO]" links to Section X of this document?).  It's also been lagging as the text format changed (case in point: lack of a table of contents).
> 
> Here's an alternative: style the HTML so that it looks like the text.  I tried this and it worked shockingly well.
> 
> Repo: https://github.com/martinthomson/rfc-txt-html
> Demo: https://martinthomson.github.io/rfc-txt-html/diff.html
> 
> This isn't perfect, but it seems pretty good to me.  Keep in mind that this took only a little bit of time to sketch out. No doubt it can be improved.  The readme has a bunch of things I found, all minor.
> 
> I don't think that this is the end of text, but a possible way to limit our use of the htmlizer[1].  People who need to automate access to content might still use text, though I will argue that XML is superior in that regard.   The other thing that comes to mind is diffs: HTML-native diff tools are somewhat less than ideal.  Either way, serving HTML is just better.
> 
> Enjoy,
> Martin
> 
> 
> [1] Though I still see a shocking number of people authoring in XML (or XML-capable input formats) and submitting in text.  But I think we have plans to limit that.
> 
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