a pre-vacation peeve

Warming up for subjecting our hosts to gales of nazzling and peevage, I present this lightly toasted peeve:

It would seem an obvious feature for mailers to figure out (from the time stamp) the order of quoted messages (presumably, allowing each embedded quote to retain its identity, when it’s quoted) and allow readers to display messages with multiple layers of quotes in consistent order: either top-posted or bottom-posted, with the option to hide all but the most recently quoted material.

One “conversation” in my gmail account is up to 27 entries…and some folks have been top-quoting, others bottom-quoting, to the point that it’s been impossible to figure out what the most recent posts in the conversation have been responding to. Of course, that’s partly because they’re little conversational snippets along the lines of “great!” and such, so it’s not terribly important…but there have been times when it’s been very difficult to follow.

One problem is, I think, that business communication (and mail readers designed therefor) tends to favor top-posting, on the logic that the newest info is the most important – while with personal communication, arguably bottom-posting makes better sense (particularly if writers edit the quoted material to its essentials rather than leaving the entire thread intact. Such intactness is a benefit in the business world, where it forms a virtual paper trail, but just pointless wasted space in most personal communication). It seems to me that gmail, with its default setting of hiding quoted text, is intended primarily for personal communication and designed for bottom-posting. Personally, top-posting has made little sense to me since, unless the message being responded to is only a line or so, it forces readers who want to read the whole thing to repeatedly go up and down the page…whereas bottom-posting preserves a natural reading order, and is (by me) preferred so long as it’s clear where the new material begins.

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3 Comments

Filed under geek, grump

3 responses to “a pre-vacation peeve

  1. Aaron

    While I don’t entirely get all the excitement over Google Wave in some quarters, it does seem like it would solve this problem, and we’d all be better off for it.

  2. I gotta go with top posting. It sure saves a lot of scrolling if you have been following the thread.

  3. Yes, but that assumes there’s only one thread you’re following, and that you’re aware which comment the writer’s responding to and that it’s appearing in order (and not, say, in response to something that someone else posted later which showed up in your queue afterwards).

    Also, the way gmail works, by default it hides quoted material: this is fine, but it would be even better if it hid by default the all but the last comment (i.e., whatever was being immediately responded to).

    What I find is that if there are multiple conversations, sometimes multiple conversations some of which sprang originally from the same source, I can’t keep them all in mind enough to know which particular thread a sometimes context-dependent response is coming from.

    The point is, gmail’s hiding quoted material saves you the necessity of scrolling anyway, but bottom-posting at least allows one to reproduce the context if it’s needed.

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