[K12OSN] Bottom post

Jeff Kinz jkinz at kinz.org
Mon Sep 27 19:34:38 UTC 2004

On Mon, Sep 27, 2004 at 10:42:00AM -0700, Ken Meyer wrote:
> 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

Much of what Ken said here when describing the format he found useful is
actually the same as the rfc 1855, Only the rfc says it more concisely:

    - If you are sending a reply to a message or a posting be sure you
      summarize the original at the top of the message, or include just
      enough text of the original to give a context.  This will make
      sure readers understand when they start to read your response.
      Since NetNews, especially, is proliferated by distributing the
      postings from one host to another, it is possible to see a
      response to a message before seeing the original.  Giving context
      helps everyone.  But do not include the entire original!

So what Ken has called interleaving, is actually the correct behaviour
and is called "bottom posting" by the Net at large. An unfortunate
choice of name, since some misunderstand its use.

> 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

Which is often the case. Remember we never know what circumstances or
time or environment (email client) people will be in, when reading our

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

No, Perfection is not required.  Good enough is sufficient and normal.

> [Now, really!  Doing this is a really difficult task.  

I simply delete anything I'm not replying too. I don't worry about
perfect because a few units of experience lets you know that perfect
is never achieved, and good enough is good enough.  Not difficult.

> [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]

This is true, and it has happened.  We must rely on the honesty of
others at times and this will not always work. Fortunately, no money is
involved.  : -) 

Sometimes you may have to address the issue of people re-framing your
text just so they can abuse it. These people are not worthy of your
respect or your time and most people see through them. (Note: the
shorter you keep your emails the less likely people will be to chop them
up too much.  Ken's email and my reply to it are examples of emails that
are so long, they are clumsy.  My apologies to the reader.)

Whenever you deal with a contraversy in email, always be just that much
more considerate of all points of view. 

> 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.  

Most email clients (Except Microsoft) already handle this the standard
way. Just look for the lines beginning with ">" or the poster's initials

To fix Microsoft email clients so they work correctly:
To fix outlook express:
To fix Outlook:

> This problem can be particularly severe if HTML text has been

HTML should never be used to post to email lists.  It is one of the
tools used by spammers and virus authors to accomplish their goals.
Many of the more sophisticated Internet citizens simply drop or strip
all HTML email because of the security issues.

To setup any email client so that it doesn't send HTML see:

> I will note that the penchant for bottom-posting seems to be most in
> evidence in geek-oriented lists.  
And email lists that have been around for a long time or have high
volume or have lots of subscribers.  It is not restricted to 
"geek oriented" only.  One example - the speech recognition email lists
on yahoo (subscribers are mainly people with conditions that prevent
them from being able to type.)

> Other lists that are populated by intelligent people, including my
> fellow Ivy League Alumni, gravitate to top-posting and this debate
> seldom arises.

I have seen just the opposite.  The more intelligent and productive the
individuals involved are (including Harvard and MIT) the more likely
they are to use interleaving on email lists.  It is mostly newbies or
folks who have never used anything but Microsoft software who TP.
> 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".  

> In other words, bottom-posting with substantial "top-trail" is really
> vexing; 
Yes, absolutely.

> 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.

Except that by not interleaving you have failed to point out what parts
you think are "supercilious and invalid" unless you think the whole
notion is.  In this respect top posting invites much more misrepresentation
and abuse than interleaving does.  Time has proven this over and over
again on the web.  Trust me Ken.  In time, like me, you will change
your mind.

Linux/Open Source.  Now all your base belongs to you, for free.
Idealism:  "Realism applied over a longer time period"

Jeff Kinz, Emergent Research, Hudson, MA.

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