death to gmail users!

Eric Wald eswald at brainshell.org
Fri Mar 23 13:40:33 MDT 2007


Mister Ed wrote:
> Who all came up with the keen idear that bottom posting was best?

The first users of email.  According to the jargon file, "This is
correct form, and until around 2000 was so universal on the Internet
that neither the term 'bottom-post' nor its antonym top-post existed."

Then again, Wikipedia makes a distinction between bottom-posting
(including the entire relevant portion of an email before your reply)
and "inline replying" or "interleaved reply" (quoting specific points
before replying to each one, as I'm doing here).

> Top posting seems a bit more efficient to me, in most cases (not all).
> If I want to waste time scrolling down, I can do so, should I need a
> reminder of previous conversation points.

If you are assured that all recipients of the email did in fact either
send or receive all previous emails in the thread, and can still
remember them, then top-posting is indeed more efficient.  If you
want to include someone else in the middle of a conversation, then it's
not more efficient, but avoids potential data loss.

For example, the sales team occasionally sends me an email with the
text, "Eric, any ideas?"  This is followed by a string of quotations
going up the chain from an end user, to a supervisor, to an
administrator, to a support address, to the sales rep.  Some of them
have useful information, and some of those people wouldn't recognize the
most important bits of information in the screenshot from the end user.
In these cases, it is useful to have the entire thread at once.

On the other hand, interleaved replies have the significant advantage of
making it clear which points are being replied to.  In top-posting, you
end up either summarizing the points or replying to the message as a
whole.

> I believe this whole issue is a matter of preference.

Partly, but a significant portion is a matter of where you learned to
email.  If you learned from Usenet, which was originally dominated by
Unix-based email programs and where conciseness was valued highly, you
learned to trim and interleave responses.  If you learned from business,
which was originally dominated by Outlook and where completeness was
valued highly, you learned to top-post and include the entire
conversation.

For mailing lists, a consistent style tends to make things easier to
read.  Particularly annoying are the posts that mix styles, meaning that
you have to jump back and forth to read it, particularly if you join the
list in the middle of a conversation.  Note also that digests are much
easier to read with bottom- or interleaved posting, particularly because
top-posting tends not to add quotation characters to the quoted lines.

- Eric



More information about the PLUG mailing list