Re: [urn] A 'newbie' question on the terminology used in RFCs

Juha Hakala <> Thu, 26 January 2012 06:29 UTC

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Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2012 08:29:21 +0200
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Subject: Re: [urn] A 'newbie' question on the terminology used in RFCs
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Reasonable people such as Alfred prefer using lowercase variants, and do 
not believe that avoiding them would fix anything. Since there is no 
approach that everybody would accept (as this discussion has already 
shown) I think it is better to stick to the policy implicit in RFC 2119.

It is unfortunate that standards are often written so that people, even 
after having actually red them, do not understand them in the same way. 
Revision of RFC 2119 is (fortunately) not on the charter of URNbis. But 
it seems to me that there is a need to clarify the RFC key word policy 
so as to make an end to this kind of semantic uncertainty which makes 
writing and understanding RFCs more difficult than it should be. Other 
standards communities I have been involved with do not have this kind of 
systemic terminological issues, although now and then some individual 
concepts have been difficult to nail down. For instance in the Dublin 
Core community we had hard times trying to agree on what a document like 
object is, and finally gave up and started using the term resource 

IETF may not be able to agree on the ideal approach (even reasonable 
people can be stubborn and stick to their own views), but that will not 
be a problem of the URNbis. Within this WG the editors only need to make 
sure that all the documents produced follow the same key word policy.


Julian Reschke wrote:
> On 2012-01-25 13:33, Juha Hakala wrote:
>> Hello,
>> RFC 2119, which is the sole authority as regards this issue, uses
>> (certainly intentionally) both upper-case and lower-case versions of
>> these words, and these terms do have different semantics:
>> ...
> Again, reasonable people disagree on this, and you will questions about 
> this again and again. The easiest fix is to avoid the issue by simply 
> not using the lowercase variants.
> Best regards, Julian


  Juha Hakala
  Senior advisor, standardisation and IT

  The National Library of Finland
  P.O.Box 15 (Unioninkatu 36, room 503), FIN-00014 Helsinki University
  Email, tel +358 50 382 7678