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This document captures Best Practices regarding the use of normative references.

This document is a Work In Progress and as such is subject to change. Feedback is welcome, either directly editing the document (preferred) or by sending comments to the public-openw3c @ mail list (archive) with a Subject: prefix of [refs-bp].

Note: "BP" means Best Practice.

See Also:

Transparency Builds Trust

When groups create normative reference dependencies, it is essential that all relevant groups work openly and transparently to address the requirements and constraints of each other.

  • BP: groups that work in Public should invite all group participants to meetings where normative reference dependency issues (f.ex. status, schedules) will be discussed. This is especially important if there are known differences of opinions for topics such as whether or not an external normative reference is acceptable vis-à-vis the Normative Reference Policy (NRP).
  • BP: postpone meetings until key participants can attend; or ask key participants to provide their input (Publicly archived) in advance of the meeting.
  • BP: refuse to participate in Public groups' meetings if the agenda includes normative reference dependency discussions and the meeting fails basic transparency conventions such as advanced agenda, Public minutes, etc.

Shared Responsibility

Normative reference dependencies are inherently about two or more groups working together thus the groups have a shared responsibility to document the dependencies in the relevant groups' charter.

  • BP: document all important normative references in WG charters, including realistic scheduling data if the relevant groups have mutually agreeable data.
  • BP: if WG A has an important normative reference for WG B's document, both WGs should consider making the document a joint deliverable.

Check and Re-check Your References

  • BP: changing a normative reference after meeting a Candidate Recommendation's exit criteria is poor practice (f.ex., that could invalidate a review of the document, could affect interoperability data, could invalidate an implementation).
  • BP: if WG A has a normative reference for WG B's document, both WGs should agree on a plan to assure WG A's document may progress to Recommendation status without being blocked by the status of WG B's document. The groups' Chairs, Staff contacts and Editors should proactively monitor the status of such references.

Normative Reference Policy: Friend or Foe?

A feature of the Normative Reference Poilicy (NRP) is that it provides relatively unbounded flexibility for the decision maker(s) and at the same time, it can lead to uncertainty for those trying to understand how it will be used in a specific scenario.

  • BP: if a group has any questions about whether or not a normative reference is sufficient (f.ex. to advance a document to Proposed Recommendation or Recommendation), ask on the Public [@TBD public-@TBD] e-mail list ([@TBD archive]).
  • BP: if there is any doubt about whether or not a normative reference is acceptable or not, check very early and get a clear, Public and binding answer. This is especially important for references that are owned by external organizations.

Q & A