When writing specifications, it is important to describe the world. The model. If you want to write a specification for zip archives, you would start out explaining the world of zip archives. E.g. “A zip archive is a map of zip path/zip resource pairs. Zip paths and zip resources are byte sequences.”

On top of this small world you can build other things. For instance, an API. Now if your API supports enumeration, you run into a problem. You either have to order at the API-level, leave it undefined (bad), or change the model. You also realize it is not clear whether you can have zero pairs. So you change it: “A zip archive is an ordered map of zero or more zip path/zip resource pairs.”

You’ll also need to define the mapping of the zip format to zip archive. That is, how you go from the input byte stream to your model. And maybe the reverse if you support serialization. And slowly your world starts growing up while staying relatively coherent and clear.

This all may sound relatively trivial, but many specifications fail or struggle to define their world and how APIs, formats, and URLs interact with it. So I thought I’d mention it and maybe help someone.

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