META CONTENT: posting format redux: education of a welcome, new community member...?

Linda Walsh
Wed Nov 4 20:14:00 GMT 2009

Florent Fievez wrote:
> 2009/11/3 Linda Walsh <me'email@me'dom>:
                         ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ --  another no no**(see bottom)
>> [curious] Why did you copy [the previous,] complete note
>> into your response, when [all you said was] "me too"?
> I simply clicked on "reply" button of my webmail. I will not do it
> again ;-)

   The point was not whether you hit reply, but whether or not you chose to
edit down the part you included to some minimal subset of the message so as
not to fill the rest of anyone's screen with unnecessary characters.

   Some people (call them group A) use text-only readers that display the
whole message from top to bottom that scrolls your response off the screen
if you fill your message with a copy of a long included response.  As a
result, they have to redisplay your message with paging enabled, just to see
a 1-liner that is placed at the top of the message (call that Style-A).

   Other people (call them group B) using Graphical-readers(GUI's) to read
email only see the first page of a long email, so when someone includes the
whole message and puts a 1-liner at the end (call that style B), have to
manually scroll through a bunch of text they've already read in previous
posts, just to see a one liner.

   Note: Style-A is sometimes called 'top-posting', and Style-B is sometimes
called 'bottom-posting'.   

   When someone is using a GUI, and reads a 'Style-B' message, they have to
slowly scroll through your message, either using the mouse or using some
page-down type character. That can be a tedious and error-prone process

   In both cases it requires more work to read your message which was simply
a "me too" message that didn't require inclusion of the entire previous
message.  So some people get 'irritated' at having to scroll up or page
through repeated text just to get to a "me too" response.

   This is even more of a problem for people who have disabilities -- blind
people might have problems reading through tons of repeated text just to get
to important stuff, so its important for you to pare down the extraneous
parts to make it easier in any event.  People with motion disabilities
(including people with RSI type problem (Carpal tunnel, Ulnar 'tunnel', or
spinal problems) may have problems with the extra motions required to read
your text.   

   So, in generally, it's just a good idea to trim down included text to
some minimal context that is needed to make your message "make sense" --
which is, nearly always, something that is both, considerably less than the
full message, but will also fit on 1 screen, with your message, of those in
group-A and in group-B -- thus making both happy, though, I believe
"Style-A" (AKA top-posing), as you did, would best serve those using
screen-readers -- which work with GUI's but not usually text-style windows.  

   Note -- you didn't do anything *wrong* -- I'm just letting you know the
problems that other people have raised about posting styles in the past, so
you can be aware, and be conscious about your posting style.  We certainly
don't want any *unconscious postings*! :-)  (been there, done that, got no
T-shirt -- just negative karma points).

   Hopefully I won't get flamed for this, but I'm cross-posting this to the
cygwin main list, as well, where this issue comes up on some periodic basis,
with the hope that my suggestions will be considered: "Style-A" (AKA
top-posting) is easier on people with disabilities, but excessively quoting
old text such that the "new content" is scrolled off a screen is also
annoying and wasteful.  For those in Group-B, if they are trying to be
thorough and make sure you had no further comments interspersed with the
content below, they'll still be forced to page through pages of repeated

   I'll respond to the rest of your note separately on the appropriate list.


** -- it's also considered a no-no, to include people's actual email
address when responding: use their name instead or at least heavily
obfuscate their email addr, since these emails are archived on publicly
searchable websites and spammers skim these archives to look for email
addresses to send spam to.  I can vouch for getting a considerable amount
of spam sent my list-dedicated email accounts.

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