I know that when an optional field is not set there is no cost in terms of 
the size of the encoded message. However, I am finding that the time it 
takes encode a messages is proportional the the number of optional fields - 
regardless of whether they are set. Seems to me that that algorithm to 
encode is to go through ALL the fields and check whether they have been set 
or not. Why can't the encoder simply keep a list of just those fields that 
have been set and go through that list?

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