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Versions: 00 01 02 03 04 RFC 4897

Network Working Group                                         J. Klensin
Internet-Draft                                             April 3, 2006
Expires: October 5, 2006


          A Process Experiment in Normative Reference Handling
                     draft-klensin-norm-ref-01.txt

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Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2006).

Abstract

   The IETF and RFC Editor have a long-standing rule that a document at
   a given maturity level cannot be published until all documents it
   references as normative are at that maturity level or higher.  This
   rule has sometimes resulted in very long publication delays for
   documents and some claims that it was a major obstruction to
   advancing documents in maturity level.  The IETF agreed to a way to
   bypass this rule with RFC 3967.  This document proposes a one-year
   process experiment in which the "hold on normative reference" rule
   will be replaced by a "note downward normative reference and move on"



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   approach.


Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
   2.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
   3.  Proposal  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
     3.1.  Documents Not Yet Processed by the IESG . . . . . . . . . . 3
     3.2.  Documents Already in RFC Editor Queue . . . . . . . . . . . 4
   4.  Documents that Can Be Referenced This Way . . . . . . . . . . . 4
   5.  Discussion of Experiment  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   8.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   9.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
   Intellectual Property and Copyright Statements  . . . . . . . . . . 8

































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1.  Introduction

   The IETF and RFC Editor have a long-standing rule (see, e.g., RFC
   2026, Section 4.2.4 [RFC2026] and the extended discussion in RFC 3967
   [RFC3967]) that a document at a given maturity level cannot be
   published until all documents it references as normative are at that
   maturity level or higher.  This rule has sometimes resulted in very
   long publication delays for documents and some claims that it was a
   major obstruction to advancing documents in maturity level.
   Recognizing the problems that rule sometimes caused, RFC 3967
   established an exception procedure for normative downward references
   under some specific circumstances.  Perhaps because of its fairly
   stringent requirements, RFC 3967 has not proven adequate either to
   clear the backlog of documents awaiting upgraded documents or to
   prevent additional documents from joining that queue.

   This document assumes that downward references are possible only to
   documents that are already published or approved for publication.
   While downward references to, e.g., Internet Drafts, are
   theoretically possible, they are not contemplated here.

   This document proposes a one-year process experiment in which the
   "hold on normative reference" rule will be replaced by a "note
   downward normative reference and move on" approach.


2.  Terminology

   A reference involves two documents, the one in which the reference is
   imbedded and the document referenced.  Where needed for clarity,
   these documents are referred to as the "source document" and "target
   document" respectively.


3.  Proposal

   This document specifies a one-year RFC 3933 [RFC3933] process
   experiment (see the next section) that creates an alternative to
   holding source documents until all target documents referenced
   normatively are upgraded or by applying the procedure of RFC 3967.
   Different procedures apply to source documents that have not yet been
   processed by the IESG versus those that are already in the RFC Editor
   queue.

3.1.  Documents Not Yet Processed by the IESG

   An author or editor who requires a normative downward reference uses
   the following very simple procedure:



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   o  The reference text (i.e., in the "Normative References" section of
      the source document) is written as usual.
   o  A note is included in the reference text that indicates that the
      reference is to a document of a lower maturity level, that some
      caution should be used since it may be less stable than the
      document from which it is being referenced, and, optionally,
      explaining why the downward reference is appropriate.

   The IESG may, at its discretion, specify the exact text to be used.

   These annotations are part of the source document.  If members of the
   community consider either the downward reference or the annotation
   text to be inappropriate, those issues can be raised at any time in
   the document life cycle, just as with any other text in the document.
   There is no separate review on these references.

   At the option of the author, similar notes may be attached to non-
   normative references.

3.2.  Documents Already in RFC Editor Queue

   The IESG may, at its discretion, specify a procedure to be applied to
   documents that are already in the RFC Editor queue, awaiting
   referenced documents.  That procedure might involve asking the RFC
   Editor to apply an appropriate annotation to all such documents, or
   to a selective list of documents.  It might alternately involve the
   application of some additional review process to those documents,
   such as by directorates or other AD-appointed review committees,
   working group chairs, or appointed experts, each subject to appeal.
   That list of options is not intended to limit what the IESG might
   specify, but to give some indication of possibilities.  While nothing
   in this document would prevent the IESG from concluding that each
   document now on hold for normative references should be put through
   an additional Last Call to eliminate the restriction, that decision
   would definitely not be in the spirit of the experiment proposed
   here.


4.  Documents that Can Be Referenced This Way

   The "downward reference by annotation" model specified here is
   applicable to only the following types of target documents.

   o  Published RFCs at lower maturity levels, either standards track or
      informational.
   o  Internet-Drafts of Standards Track documents for which IESG review
      has been completed and Protocol Action or Document Action notices
      have been issued.  References to such documents would presumably



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      require the IESG and RFC Editor to work out some appropriate
      reference mechanism and format.  Standard industry practice would
      be consistent with pre-assignment of an RFC number for the target
      document and a notation of "forthcoming" in the source document.

   Obviously such downward references are part of the relevant source
   document at last call and subject to comments from the community.


5.  Discussion of Experiment

   Several claims have been made about problems that are being caused by
   the "no downward references" rule.  The number of documents waiting
   for lower-maturity documents in the RFC Editor queue is objective and
   easily-measured.  But claims about how many documents would be
   completed and processed to higher maturity levels if the normative
   reference rule were eliminated are impossible to validate without
   this type of experiment.  Consequently, this experiment should serve
   three purposes:

   1.  Prevent any new documents from entering the "hold for normative
       reference" queue for documents already published (see Section 4
       unless there is an explicit decision made that doing so is
       desirable.
   2.  At the option of the IESG, and under rules it adopts, clear the
       RFC Editor's current "hold for normative reference" queue of
       documents that reference those already published or approved.
   3.  Permit the community to examine questions of how much effective
       elimination of the normative reference rule increases document
       throughput and the number of documents being advanced.

   Should the community conclude that the experiment had undesirable
   impacts, i.e., that a more traditional view of downward references
   was appropriate, we will have some set of documents that will have
   been approved and published under these rules.  It might then be
   appropriate to note in the various indexes that those documents
   contained dependencies that would not generally be acceptable, at
   least until those dependencies were resolved,


6.  Security Considerations

   This document specifies an IETF procedure.  It is not believed to
   raise any security issues although, in principle, relaxing the
   normative downward reference rules for references associated with
   security mechanisms could make a specification less stable and hence
   less secure.




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7.  IANA Considerations

   This document requires no actions by the IANA.


8.  Acknowledgments

   This proposal was suggested by a comment by Spencer Dawkins and many
   complaints about the negative impact of the current rules.  The
   author is unsure about the validity of some of those complaints; the
   proposal is, in part, a way to test the validity question.  Spencer
   also provided helpful comments on a preliminary draft.

9.  Normative References

   [RFC2026]  Bradner, S., "The Internet Standards Process -- Revision
              3", BCP 9, RFC 2026, October 1996.

   [RFC3933]  Klensin, J. and S. Dawkins, "A Model for IETF Process
              Experiments", BCP 93, RFC 3933, November 2004.

   [RFC3967]  Bush, R. and T. Narten, "Clarifying when Standards Track
              Documents may Refer Normatively to Documents at a Lower
              Level", BCP 97, RFC 3967, December 2004.



























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Author's Address

   John C Klensin
   1770 Massachusetts Ave, #322
   Cambridge, MA  02140
   USA

   Phone: +1 617 491 5735
   Email: john-ietf@jck.com










































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   Internet Society.




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