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Subject: Analysis: What Is the ODF Specification Conformance Proflie?
I have asked forms of this question before. I don't recall receiving any response so I will ask again. Without understanding the answer to this question, it is difficult to review the current specification drafts with an eye to how conformance is handled. I have assumed the question have already been addressed and I simply don't know what the agreed approach is. If there has been no discussion and agreement on the approach, perhaps now is a good time to come up with a deliberate resolution (separate from the conformance-section proposal before us, but influencing its further refinement and alignment of the entire specification with that). THE QUESTION: What are the requirements for how conformance is treated in the ODF 1.2 Specification? I don't mean, what is ODF conformance? I mean what is the commitment to how conformance is dealt with in the specification itself. This is a specification quality question, not an ODF conformance quality question (although the quality of one impacts the achievable quality of the other). This is a meta-question, because guidelines on conformance clauses are a meta-topic related to the quality of an OASIS specification. WHY ASK: I see that we are adding material to the former Document Processing and Conformance section (1.5 in ODF 1.1). This is apparently in response to the OASIS Guidelines to Writing Conformance Clauses  put in place in September 2007. The creation of a distinct conformance section seems to be just one small part of what those Guidelines are about. The Guidelines address how conformance is treated as a whole. The Guidelines are intended to support the achievement of a particular purpose regarding the quality of the specification and its reliability in support of the successful creation of conforming implementations. My question is not about the technicality of having a conformance section with a particular format, but with regard to what it is we hope to achieve and how we will determine that we have accomplished that. What is our purpose and how does it align with the apparent purpose of the OASIS Guidelines? A PERSONAL CONCERN: Because we are starting from an existing series of specifications, it also seems useful to understand how much we are taking a step toward the aspirations that the Guidelines support and when we can say that we've done enough for now in 1.2. That's a personal concern for me because it determines how much work is appropriate in reviewing the current drafts once they are stable enough for that kind of scrutiny. If there's some profile of the Guidelines beyond which we do not have to reach, that helps in calibration of that effort. It also establishes "good enough" for this iteration of ODF specification development. - Dennis PS: I notice in the OASIS Document Templates that the Conformance section is supposed to be the last-numbered section of the specification. REFERENCES  OASIS. Guidelines to Writing Conformance Clauses. 4 September 2007. Available at <http://docs.oasis-open.org/templates/TCHandbook/ConformanceGuidelines.html> . This document referencs  but not in any normative way.  Lynne Rosenthal and Mark Skall (eds.). Conformance Requirements for Specifications v1.0, OASIS Committee Specification 15 March 2002. Available at <http://lists.oasis-open.org/archives/office/200902/msg00069.html>. This document provides sharper definitions and a statement of purpose and scope. Although written as a statement of requirements, it is apparently an informative document and not a requirement to be satisfied in the creation of OASIS specifications. ANALYSIS ======== Here are the parts of the Guidelines that I think we need to calibrate for ourselves and to declare how we intend to address them. PURPOSE AND CONCERNS The guideline front matter says that This document describes the purpose and scope of Conformance Clauses, and associated issues that Conformance Clauses shall address. I would argue that it fails to do that, especially with regard to purpose. The closest to a statement of scope is in [2: section 7 Conformance Clause]: The conformance clause is a part or collection of parts of a specification that defines the requirements, criteria, or conditions that shall be satisfied by an implementation in order to claim conformance. The conformance clause identifies what must conform and how conformance can be met. ... followed by [2: section 7.1. Rationale for a conformance clause]: A conformance clause: * promotes a common understanding of conformance and what is required to claim conformance to a specification, * facilitates consistent application of conformance within a specification, * facilitates consistent application of conformance across related specifications, * promotes interoperability and open interchange, * encourages the use of applicable conformance test suites, * promotes uniformity in the development of conformance test suites. In the Guidelines document, the best place to intuit the purpose is by noticing what is achieved when the checklist has been satisfied [1: section 6 Checklist]: ... * If you are using ISO keywords, have you explicitly stated this in the specification ? * Have you defined your Conformance Target(s)? * Are all Normative Statements clearly identifiable? * Are all Normative Statements understandable, clear, and concise? * Are all Normative Statements referenced directly or indirectly from a Conformance Clause? Note: A Normative Statement that is not related to any Conformance Clause has no meaning * Is each Normative Statement related to a Conformance Target(s)? [I take this item as meaning we are able to directly determine the target(s) for which the statement applies. This seems particularly critical for optional normative statements involving SHOULD and MAY in the ISO parlance, but for the absolutely-normative statements too.] ... * Are all Conformance Clauses understandable, clear, and concise? * Are the top-level Conformance Clauses clearly identified and related to a Conformance Target? [This connection of targets to clauses suggests to me that we should have separate definitions of conformance targets, each accompanied by identification of the conformance clauses that are applicable.] * Are all Conformance Clauses either top-level or referenced directly or indirectly from a top-level Conformance Clause? Note: A Conformance Clause that is not related to any top-level Conformance Clause has no meaning. * Are there any contradictions between Normative Statements on the one hand and a Conformance Clause and any referenced Conformance Clauses on the other hand? If there are, have these been explicitly noted and have any rules to over-ride the contradictions been made? WHAT MUST CONFORM The 2002 Conformance Requirements document does not use the "Conformance Target" nomenclature. However, it does specify [2: section 8.1 What needs to conform]: The conformance clause identifies the "class of products" (i.e., object of the claim) that will be developed, where "class of product" may be an implementation, application, service, and/or protocol (e.g., content, user agent, authoring tool). Additionally, the clause specifies the conditions that SHALL be satisfied in order to claim conformance for that class of product (i.e., make a valid claim). It MAY also specify that which is not a requirement. There may be several classes of products that are identified, each with its own conformance statement or set of conformance criteria. I take it that it is the conformance clause that defines what the conformance targets are, not the body of the specification. The following clause seems particularly applicable to our efforts [2: section 8.1.1 Modularity]: A class of product may consist of several integrated components rather than a single piece of software (e.g., browser). Conformance may be defined in terms of the integrated components (system) and/or for each component. Any restrictions or constraints on the number or types of components that make up the "subject of a conformance claim" SHALL be specified. For systems that are comprised of several components, it may be sufficient to state that conformance to the system is equivalent to conformance to all the required components considered individually, and the system satisfies at least the minimum conformance requirements for each of those components. THE TERMINOLOGY [1: section 2] Conformance Clause - A statement in the Conformance section of a specification that provides a high-level description of what is required for an artifact to conform. It, in turn, refers to other parts of the specification for details. A Conformance Clause must reference one or more Normative Statements, directly or indirectly, and may refer to another Conformance Clause. Note the requirement to reference normative statements (and we need to know how indirectly is achieved). Conformance Target - an artifact such as a protocol, document, platform, process or service, which is the subject of Conformance Clauses and Normative Statements. There may be several Conformance Targets defined within a specification, and these targets may be diverse so as to reflect different aspects of a specification. For example, a protocol message and a protocol engine may be different targets. Normative Statement - a statement made in the body of a specification that defines prescriptive requirements on a Conformance Target. CONFORMANCE KEYWORDS [1: section 3] We are using the ISO keywords in normative statements. It is important to recognize that the very same terms used in IETF RFC 2119 have a different sense in the ISO usage. SHOULD and MAY are each quite different in the two normative styles. The ISO CAN and CANNOT have no counterpart in RFC 2119. There are two other keywords that we need to understand for use as well [2: 7.2 Conformance key words]: NORMATIVE - statements provided for the prescriptive parts of the specification, providing that which is necessary in order to be able to claim conformance to the specification. Note: the conformance scheme of a specification can allow claimants to exempt certain normative provisions as long as the claim discloses the exemption. [This argues against making normative references to non-normative content and it also suggests that the ability to exempt from a normative provision will depend on that permission being granted in the conformance clause.] INFORMATIVE (NON-NORMATIVE) - statements provided for informational purposes, intended to assist the understanding or use of the specification and shall not contain provisions that are required for conformance. NORMATIVE STATEMENTS [1: section 4] A specification broadly consist of descriptive text and Normative Statements. The Normative Statements define what a Conformance Target MUST do to adhere to that part of the specification, and the descriptive text provides background information, descriptions and examples. Descriptive text is not normative and is used to provide contextual information. Normative statements are those that use the [conformance] keywords ..., descriptive text does not use these reserved words as keywords. The wisest approach is to not use those words at all in the descriptive text and to have the normative statements stand separately. CONFORMANCE SECTION [1: section 5] This is what we have been fussing over lately. I think it is important to review some of the important considerations: ... A specification may define a number of different clauses in the Conformance section, where each clause identifies different Conformance Targets that SHOULD conform, such as an implementation, a document, an authoring tool, a protocol etc. Defining more that one Conformance Clause segments the specification into different targets for possible Conformance. A Conformance Clause identifies that to which a Conformance Target MUST conform and this is done by reference to Normative Statements in the specification. A Conformance Clause therefore identifies a sub-set of the Normative Statements defined in the body of a specification. Thought should be put into the granularity of references to Normative Statements. If there are many Normative Statements referenced by a Conformance Clause then simply referencing each statement might not be readable or easy to follow. In such cases it may be better to revisit the Normative Statements and group them into larger referenceable units. Notice the presumption of specifically referenceable normative statements. There MAY be more than one Conformance Clause in a specification, and like Normative Statements they MUST be clear, concise, and unambiguous. Each Conformance Clause MUST be uniquely labeled. ... If any Conformance Clause references another one, it is essential that there be no contradictory Normative Statements within the clauses. If there is a contradiction, then the writers should either examine and try to remove the contradiction in the specification text itself or state in the Conformance Clause what must be done to avoid the contradiction, for example by stating that one overrides the other. When multiple Conformance Clauses exist, it must be clear which are the top-level. It is these top-level clauses that relate to the Conformance Targets that users and vendors MUST conform to, and are the clauses that should be referenced when claiming Conformance to a specification and in making statements of use. Within the Conformance section, a clear statement MUST be made as to how optional Normative Statements (i.e. those using the MAY keywords) must be handled. This decision relates to the type of Conformance Target and the use of the specifications. For example a document that claims Conformance to a schema does not have to use any optional features. However, in another scenario, a protocol target should implement optional features in case another party using the protocol makes use of the optional features. In deciding how to dispose of optional features, issues that effect interoperability and portability need to be considered. [that's all]
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