[K12OSN] Bottom post

Ken Meyer kmeyer at blarg.net
Mon Sep 27 17:42:00 UTC 2004

It appears that it's time for the annual rehash of this issue, which is
apparently a "sine qua non" for all geek-oriented lists.  So, my intuition
is screaming to let this lie, as it too will pass; but apparently, I am
going to ignore that internal advice yet again.

My bottom line is that there may be conflicting merit to both techniques, as
applied to specific situations; but that the bottom-post works best in a
perfect world, which of course, ain't the one we inhabit.  Furthermore,
bottom posting may be a variant of interleaving, but is sort of the
degenerate case.  True interleaving responds to the need to address several
disjoint aspects of a message, probably without destroying any part of it,
whereas an arbitrary bottom-post doesn't consider the needs of the message,
so I don't think that bottom-posting can be categorically justified by
extrapolation of the pretty obvious situational need for interleaving.

Now, the merit of bottom-posting is, IMHO, contingent on several factors:

The recipient has not been following the thread closely and needs to be
force-fed the history

[In fact, some folks have been following, and some may not be doing so; in
fact they may ignore the entire thread.  Convenience should be directed to
favor those who are most involved; those who have not been involved should
be given a complete picture of at least the most recent posting]

The sender will do a perfect job of pruning the reference message

[Now, really!  Doing this is a really difficult task.  If you are doing
20-to-life and have a lot of time on your hands, you may be able to address
this criterion fairly well, but it is really not in the cards for most of us
in our real world -- I would rather have rapid benefit of your expertise
rather than having you spending time doing a surgical selection of text to

[Frankly, particularly if there is some controversy involved in the thread,
I really don't want anyone trimming my message and perhaps -- even likely --
creating an erroneous impression by rendering my comments out of context]

It relies on proper notation of quoted text sections.

[I frequently find myself "stuttering" in scrolling down a message,
wondering if what I am looking at is the "new meat", and being exasperated
because I am having to read stuff that I am already intimately familiar
with.  This problem can be particularly severe if HTML text has been
converted to plain text, which can destroy the identification of quotes
available in HTML, when done by colors or a vertical line in the margin.
Now, in the plain text, you don't have any differentiation between the new
and the old text.  Of course, the issue of posting in HTML is another
subject that has a lot more validity than top-vs-bottom, but...it's not
going to go away completely]

I will note that the penchant for bottom-posting seems to be most in
evidence in geek-oriented lists.  Other lists that are populated by
intelligent people, including my fellow Ivy League Alumni, gravitate to
top-posting and this debate seldom arises.

Now, I hasten to add that people who top post and don't trim the trail
reasonably, including snipping multiple identical footer messages appended
by the list server, should be provided with "corrective advice".  The length
of the trail that is appropriate is dependent on how controversial the
thread is, and is situation-specific.

In other words, bottom-posting with substantial "top-trail" is really
vexing; trimming the "top-trail" is very subject to misrepresentation of the
respondee's position and is subject to abuse; it is much more convenient for
people who are really involved in a thread to get the new information right
off the top; those who have not been doing so benefit from a comprehensive
introduction that is out of the way and can be referenced as they need it --
which is best included the way footnotes are (have you ever seen a footnote
at the top of a page?).  Ergo, bottom-posting has significant advantage only
in a world that we don't live in.  I am not so naive as to believe that it
is going to go away, and sometimes it is not a big deal to deal with; I only
wish to defend the alternative from supercilious and invalid criticism.

Ken Meyer

-----Original Message-----

From: k12osn-bounces at redhat.com [mailto:k12osn-bounces at redhat.com]On
Behalf Of Roger
Sent: Monday, September 27, 2004 7:59 AM
To: pfaffman at relaxpc.com; Support list for opensource software in

Subject: Re: [K12OSN] Bottom post

Around Mon,Sep 27 2004, at 10:45,  Jay Pfaffman, wrote:

> the conversation and don't need to see the quoted text (since they
> just read the other message).  Then it's a drag to have to scroll down
> through the quoted text, which likely includes lots of stuff not

Properly done, you would cut the lines of garbage that aren't relevant.
Unlike top-posters that feel 80k of text is okay since it's down below.
(no, yours wasn't 80k.)
roger at efn.org

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