[aur-general] [OT] how to post messages (was Re: espeakup's service file yet again lol)

Kyle kyle at gmx.ca
Sat Nov 16 20:34:58 EST 2013

If someone has just joined the list and wants to read all the previous
messages on a specific topic, I believe this list has an archive of all
previous messages that can be read in whatever order makes sence to him
or her. The previous messages can even be sorted by date or by thread,
so that the conversation may be followed from beginning to end in order,
hopefully without repetition. But what of those of us who have been on
the list and are not new to the topic? Why should we be forced to scroll
down through the same part of the conversation we just read, repeated
over and over in each new message, before we finally find the answer to
the question, which by this time is buried beneath tons and tons of
minutia from all the messages that came before, including times, dates,
e-mail addresses and under all that, the message we just read 4 times
already? This is what happens when messages build upon each other
anyway, but at least with a top-posted message, the most important part,
the answer to the question, is in a prominent and highly visible place,
right at the top where it can be seen quickly. If I then need to refer
back to something previous because the answer is not clear enough to
stand on its own, I am then free to look back at prior messages that
will clarify the answer, or if prior messages are underneath, I am free
to scroll down for clarification. It is important, however, that the
answer clarify itself, so that new readers can easily deduce the
question from the answer. This naturally prevents the same message
needing to be posted over and over either at the top or at the bottom of
the new important part of the conversation. I should note here that many
e-mail clients automatically put messages into conversation or threaded
format, and some of them even allow the reader to see the entire
conversation in order from beginning to end. Many times, e-mail lists
are archived in this way as well, similar to the layout of a web forum.
It causes lots of trouble in these cases to have to dig through each
message, through nested quote after nested quote to try to find the
answer, only to give up, never finding the buried answer.

Imagine a chat conversation that goes something like:

Person1: I'm having a problem changing my password.
Person2: Person1 said: "I'm having a problem changing my password." Did
you try changing it using the passwd command in a terminal?
Person1: Person2 said: "Person1 said: "I'm having a problem changing my
password." Did you try changing it using the passwd command in a
terminal?" I tried that, but I get an error message about my password
being in the dictionary.

The idea here is that each message gets larger and larger, and each
subsequent message contains the entirety, or at least a sizeable portion
of the first message, and every other message leading up to it. If this
is hard to read in a chat room, it is even harder to read in e-mail,
which rather than one-liners, is composed of multiple larger sentences,
and I can't see any good that can come from attempting to dig through
all the previous messages. Google already makes me dig for gold to get
to the answer to a question based on what I put into the search box, why
should simply trying to read an e-mail be even more of a challenge?

Finally, I must come back to the ultimate solution. It is extremely
important that the subject of a message reflect its content. For
example, this message has nothing at all to do with an espeakup service
file as the subject implies, but is rather a completely unrelated topic.
Therefore, the subject of the message will reflect that it branched off
the conversation about espeakup, just in case someone wonders why their
e-mail client grouped it in the same place, but it will also indicate
that the message is on a different topic entirely, and is in fact
off-topic, not being related in any way to the discussion of espeakup,
systemd service files, the AUR or even Arch Linux. Also, this specific
message is clearly in reference to the religious war that seems to come
up on e-mail lists from time to time regarding where to put the content
of a new message. It usually starts by making someone feel like an idiot
for not posting their message in a way that makes the person starting
the flamewar happy. The problem is that each list is different, and each
person who starts such a holywar has a different opinion, depending on
the list where it starts. I need absolutely no quoting from previous
messages to clarify my response, I only need to respond, because the
initial post on the topic can be easily deduced by simply reading the
response. While I agree that responses such as "+1," "I agree," and
"Thanks" need some context, messages like this should generally be kept
to a minimum, should quote *only* the small part of the message to which
it applies rather than the entire message, and should generally add
quite a bit more value to the discussion than simply saying that I agree
with you. On the other hand, most answers can be given in a clear and
concise way that doesn't have to refer back to the question, and
certainly doesn't have to rewrite the entire conversation that led up to
it. I don't see any problem with a Q&A style post that responds to
multiple points by quoting each Q and following it up with an A, but in
the case of a single question and single answer, or in the case of a
single answer that addresses only one of the original questions, it
looks much better, and saves much time for both the composer of a
message and for readers to have separate messages that look like

Subject: message quoting
Why is excessive quoting a bad idea in an e-mail message? What harm
could it do to bottom post my answers?

Subject: Re: message quoting
excessive quoting in e-mail messages makes them harder to read, because
readers are forced to read the same thing over and over before they can
find the answer to their question.

rather than to have a conversation that looks like

Subject: message quoting
What is the best way to answer a question on an e-mail list?

Subject: Re: message quoting
On Saturday, 16 November 2013 at 23:36, List Poster
<iaskquestions at gmail.com> wrote:
> What is the best way to answer a question on an e-mail list?

Bottom post. Put your answer below the original text of the message to
which you are replying.

Subject Re: message quoting
On Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 5:55 PM, First Responder
>answerman at plstmstern.net> wrote:
> On Saturday, 16 November 2013 at 23:36, List Poster
<iaskquestions at gmail.com> wrote:
> > What is the best way to answer a question on an e-mail list?
> Bottom post. Put your answer below the original text of the message
> to which you are replying.


In summary, make your subject line reflect the content of the message.
Usually, replying is enough, but if the message strays too far from the
topic of conversation, make the subject line reflect this. Refer back to
the subject of this message for an example.  Keep quoting to an absolute
minimum, and if quoting, rather than top or bottom posting, answer the
quoted question inline, and only quote the usually very small parts of
the message that are relevant to the answers. However, the best possible
posting style is to write the post in such a way where no quoting is
necessary. Make the answer to the question stand on its own, clearly and
concisely providing an answer that new readers will find useful, either
paraphrasing the question within the answer, or making every effort to
make it possible to very easily deduce the question from the answer. One
more thing: if you find that you must quote, edit that very long
attribution line. When lots of dates and times from different time zones
come together, it only serves to confuse readers. It is probably
sufficient to edit the attribution so that it looks like "Person wrote""
"According to Postman Pete," or similar short, catchy if desired,
attribution line. Hope this helps.
"Kyle? ... She calls her cake, Kyle?"
Out of This World, season 2 episode 21 - "The Amazing Evie"

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