[TSC-announce] Draft of a new ELF Dates standard

Richard Smith rsmith at fhiso.org
Sun Dec 30 11:47:10 CST 2018

FHISO's Technical Standing Committee is pleased to announce the first 
public draft of a new standard dealing principally with dates.

Extended Legacy Format (ELF): Date, Age and Time Microformats

This draft defines microformats for representing dates, ages and times 
in arbitrary calendars together with how they are applied to the 
Gregorian, Julian, French Republican and Hebrew calendars in a 
GEDCOM-compatible manner  It is available as a HTML web page or as a PDF 
for download:


We welcome comments these, preferably to the <tsc-public at fhiso.org> 
mailing list.


In the nine months since we released our last batch of public drafts, we 
have continued to work on FHISO's Extended Legacy Format, or ELF for 
short.  This is a document model and file format which we hope will be 
fully compatible with current uses of GEDCOM 5.5.1, but which will be 
much more readily extensible.  For better or worse, GEDCOM is currently 
the most widely support genealogical data exchange format and we believe 
it is necessary for any new facilities we define, such as those in our 
draft standards on Citation Elements, to be usable in ELF as well as 
other formats including GEDCOM X.  This does mean we have decided 
against defining our our serialisation format as well.

It is not our intention to make significant changes to the data model in 
ELF 1.0, except to reflect best current practice and to add 
extensibility facilities.  Significant extensions to the data model will 
be delivered in a series of component standards such as Citation 
Elements.  This will allow us to deliver data model improvements in a 
modular fashion, and will allow vendors to build in support incrementally.

Earlier this year, in order to establish a common theoretical 
underpinning and terminology for our various standards, we created the 
Basic Concepts draft standard, and ELF builds on this foundation.  We 
understand the material in Basic Concepts is largely of an arcane and 
technical nature, but we feel a solid formal basis is essential to the 
smooth interoperability of our various standards.  One reason for having 
a separate Basic Concepts is so we can keep our other standards 
relatively free of such material.

Back in October 2017, we said ELF would be a pair standards, with ELF 
Serialisation defining the low-level serialisation format and ELF Data 
Model defining a lineage-linked genealogical data model on top of it. 
Progress on these is going well, and we now believe we have identified 
and resolved all the major technical challenges.  This autumn we decided 
we would create two further documents as part of the ELF 1.0 suite.  One 
will be an ELF Primer, which will not be a formal standard but will 
provide a less technically oriented overview to the facilities in ELF. 
The second new document is ELF Dates, the document we are releasing as a 
first public draft today.  We split this out of the ELF Date Model 
document partly because of its length, and partly to make it easier to 
release a future ELF Dates 2.0 standard independently of the data model.

In producing this draft of ELF Dates, we've tried to write it in a much 
clearer, tighter style than GEDCOM 5.5.1, not only making it explicit 
what is and is not allowed, but also explaining the semantics implied by 
the syntax.    The GEDCOM 5.5.1 standard frequently fails to specify 
details of GEDCOM.  In such cases, we have attempted to research the 
behaviour of current applications, and where we've found consensus, 
we've standardised that.

The document contains numerous notes drawing attention to any deviations 
from GEDCOM 5.5.1, giving the rationale behind the text and otherwise 
explaining it.  There are also many examples which we hope clarify the 
intent of the text, especially when applied to non-Anglophonic or 
non-Western cultures.  Finally, there are a number of editorial notes 
recording outstanding issues which need to be resolved and removed in 
the final version of the standard.  Some of these record material which 
was removed from ELF Dates as too large a change from GEDCOM 5.5.1 to be 
within the remit of ELF 1.0, but which we plan to return to in the 
future.  The resulting document is 52 pages long: much, much longer than 
GEDCOM 5.5.1's treatment of dates, ages and times which takes up no more 
than six pages.

Comments, discussion or other feedback is welcome on any aspect of this 
document, but particularly on the issues discussed in the orange 
editorial note boxes.  We'd also be interested in feedback on the 
general approach we're taking with ELF.  Do you agree with it?

A complete list of FHISO's current public drafts can be found here, and 
feedback is always welcome on any of these:


Small editorial changes to any draft standard are also welcome.  I know 
my error rate when typing is quite high, so I'm sure lots of typos have 
slipped through, and there probably passages that not as clear as they 
could be.  Do draw our attention to these if you spot them.

Merry Christmas from all at FHISO, and we wish you an enjoyable New Year.

Richard Smith,                       FHISO   <http://fhiso.org/>
FHISO Technical Co-Coordinator       One Community, One Standard

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