[ih] Re: internet-history digest, Vol 1 #45 - 11 msgs

Mike Padlipsky the.map at alum.mit.edu
Mon Aug 5 17:34:52 PDT 2002

At 03:47 PM 8/5/02, Bob Braden wrote:
>A good place to start is the RFC series.

i beg to differ.  the RIGHT place to start, and finish, would have been in 
the msg that mentioned the several more or less obscure protocols, and 'the 
kobe meeting' even if it had been findable on-line.  unless, of c., the 
idea of the internet history list is to give students exercise rather than 
readers useful information....

let me be so bold as to suggest that the issue is reflective of a broader 
problem in the field.  i think of it as the old 'man' page/rfc abstracts 
problem, where the reader is expected to possess full prior knowledge of 
all the context the author deems relevant.  [and to be scrupulous, i really 
should point out that 'man' [for 'manual'] pages are the traditionally 
more-terse-than-concise writeups of unix[tm] commands, since we shouldn't 
assume everybody reading this is familiar w/ that particular blot on the 
escutcheon of software documentation ... tho i do think it's fair to assume 
anybody reading this ought to know what an rfc is, and to have seen enough 
of them to realize that the abstracts are typically overstuffed w/ 
unexpanded acronyms; however, just in case....]  in the context of a 
discussion of internet history, i submit we ought to be able to rise above 
that sort of lazy writing.

indeed, to digress just a tad, the 'man' page/rfc abstracts problem itself 
can be thought of as a reflection of a still broader problem in the field: 
programmersloppy prose -- which is not only lazy writing but also hazy 
writing.  it seems worth mentioning because a delightful example arose in 
john day's follow-up to joe touch's msg:  being older than john, i 
naturally wouldn't think of addressing the substance of his question abt 
what 'sri is porting nls to an imlac' means since he specifically asked 
that 'really old guys' stay out of it, but i'm confident it doesn't give 
anything important away to observe that, knowing what both acronyms 
represent and having used both things referred to by the acronyms by 1972, 
i really don't think nls would have fit in an imlac.  granted, i could be 
wrong about that, but i don't think i am, so must assume that to whoever 
wrote the rfc in question 'porting' must have been programmersloppy prose 
for 'allowing the unique-at-the-time, but probably required and definitely 
useful, nls interface devices to be supported by an imlac', or something 
like that, rather than what we'd think of as 'porting' these days and i'm 
almost certain thought of as porting even when the rfc was written.

ok, enough of this.  if i don't stop now i'll start grousing about the 
problems programmersloppy prose -- specifically the inability to 
distinguish between 'i.e.' and 'e.g.' -- led to in ftp-based netmail [as we 
called it when we were inventing it], and that'll lead me to grousing about 
how long it took to get rfc 491 on-line, and that'd lead me to grousing 
about the fact that rfc 666 is apparently still not on-line, and then i 
might be tempted to mention who it was who's been promising me it would be 
put on-line for 5 or more years, and that might seem like i'm getting 
'personal', and....

cheers, map

[whose shoulder problems caused him to break down some time ago and create
a 'signature' file to apologize for the lack of his formerly customary
e-volubility -- and who's been employing shiftless typing for a long time
now to spare his wristsnfingers, in case you didn't know ... and who's
further broken down and done http://www.lafn.org/~ba213/mapstuff.html ,
rather grudgingly]

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