Steve Litt on 16 Sep 2016 02:14:11 -0700

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Re: [PLUG] Replacement mailing list idea

On Thu, 15 Sep 2016 12:11:49 -0400
"Rich Mingin (PLUG)" <> wrote:

> While I appreciate the sentiment, that's uphill against massive
> amounts of established software and user training, as my reply is
> showing. Like Betamax, the superior method is losing, top posting has
> won.

Nice declaration of victory. But it's not factual.

The Vim mailing list has no top posting. Because their mailman sig says
"Do not top-post!". Plenty of other mailing lists require bottom
posting or inline posting (those two are compatible with each other,
and totally broken by top posting).

Now that we've dispensed with the false declaration of victory, let's
take a look at what we want from a mailing list. If you're anything
like me, you want a group discussion that elevates the knowledge and
creativity of the group to be far beyond the sum of the knowledge and
creativity of the individuals comprising the group. 

To achieve this group creativity, clarity is required, and ambiguity
must be eliminated. Answers need to directly follow questions. Just
like in human speech. The phrase "you're right, except for the case of
Python" makes perfect sense immediately following quoted context saying
"modern languages aren't whitespace dependent." But the former phrase
thrown at the top of a long thread containing the latter phrase is
meaningless without a detailed examination of the entire quoted
context, and life's too short.

That's the bottom line: Life's too short. I don't have time to deal
with top posts, because it's too hard to put them in context. The
minority of times I reply to top posts, either I remove all context
except for one top-poster statement and reply to that (this reply is an
example), or take his misplaced reply, put it where it belongs in
the conversation, and reply below that. But most often I don't reply at
all, and in the case of militant top-posters on community mailing
lists, I pipe them to /dev/null.

There's a special place in hell for the top-poster who takes a
productive thread that's been proceeding down the page, getting more
and more concise, and throws a top-post on it, thereby guaranteeing
that any subthreads of his reply are unfathomable. I'd urge all of you,
as a matter of public citizenship, not to reply to thread-busting top
posts. They're seldom important, but their perpetuation drags the
conversation down into the depths of ambiguity.

Speaking of ambiguity, trim the quoted context to material pertaining
to your reply: Get rid of all the rest. This is a must whether you're
top, bottom or interleave posting.

Before concluding, let me reply to the tired old argument saying
something like "if you were in business, you'd know that top-posting is
the way it's done." Yeah, absolutely, in business situations you
top-post. Because unlike mailing lists where the priority is knowledge
transfer and spread, in business situations the priority is CYA,
meaning each email must have a log of all that went before it, with no
trimming of quoted context. Obviously, in such a case, you top post.
But saying you should top post on mailing lists because you top post in
business communications is a little like telling you to maintain
identical decorum at Tea With The Queen and at your local soccer
(Football) game.

Top posting has not won, and top posting is a loss for all concerned.


Steve Litt 
September 2016 featured book: Twenty Eight Tales of Troubleshooting

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