Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(November 2005)

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Subject: Re: Posting style filters?
From: Vince Sabio <vince @ vjs . org>
Date: Thu, 24 Nov 2005 01:29:41 -0500
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com
In-reply-to: <20BB9502-AF30-4CE5-B81F-018452F8B99F @ plaidworks . com>
References: <20051124000638 . GA23161 @ firedrake . org> <43850C13 . 90305 @ btinternet . com> <20BB9502-AF30-4CE5-B81F-018452F8B99F @ plaidworks . com>

** Sometime around 16:47 -0800 11/23/2005, Chuq Von Rospach said:

where I've seen this stuff used, or where I've experimented iwth it, it's been an absolute failure. it doesn't "teach" users "better" habits, it teaches users how to circumvent the filters.

Disagree with you (for a change), Chuq. On our lists, the server bounces messages for over-quoting, and the Listmoms(tm) bounce messages (on specific mailing lists) for top posting. In neither case do users, as a practice, circumvent the filters (there are exceptions, but we have an active Listmom(tm) team, so the exceptions are singletons FTMP, and are rare in any event).

However (and this is a big 'however' for Roger), what we've observed is that some users get kinda pissy when their posts are rejected for top posting. Of the ones who get pissy, some will attempt to debate with the Listmoms the relative merits of top posting vs. threaded posting (as we call it), and most of them will simply refuse to reformat their message and re-post it. [1]

** Sometime around 00:40 +0000 11/24/2005, lee said:

I wouldn't have such views on the mail lists I admin, because I believe such things are the personal choice of the poster with pros and cons from both sides.

We have very pragmatic ration^W justifications for banning top posting in favor of threaded posting:

1. The vast majority of cases in which the poster has quoted an entire message are top-posted replies. To put a number on it, it's probably in excess of 90%. In any event, it's very highly correlated -- and it's very lazy.

2. Top posting yields a poorly formatted daily digest. This is partly due to excessive quoting, and partly because the interspersing of top-posted messages and threaded-style messages makes it damned near impossible to decipher. [2]

So it's not merely a matter of personal choice IMNSHO, as the "personal choice" affects the readability of the list as well as the readability of the daily digest. [3] IOW, it affects every other subscriber on the list.

In the end, whether a list owner imposes (or attempts to impose) a specific posting format and/or set of posting guidelines on a list is, IMO, largely a function of the nature and character of the list. For that reason, we have imposed a threaded posting requirement on some of our lists, but not all of them. No matter what you do, you might as well assume that some people will not be happy with it. And that includes the do-nothing option (i.e., no list policy, leave it up to the individual poster), as well.

<joke>Say, anyone want to talk about Reply-To munging?</joke>

Vince Sabio                                                  vince @
vjs .

[1] It is worth noting that there are some subscribers who like the threaded posting requirement enough to request that we extend it to other lists that we host. In all fairness, there are far fewer voices of praise on this point than there are voices of criticism -- but then, that's human nature, so it's to be expected.

[2] It can be argued that the interspersing problem is as much the fault of threaded posting as top posting -- and I'd say you're right, but I'd also remind you that over-quoting is still correlated with top posting -- so if we had to pick one format and stick with it, we'd pick threaded posting. And, in fact, that's exactly what we did.

[3] Sure, there's a MIME digest option. But I'm not going to tell the subscribers that they must subscribe to the MIME digest in order to get a readable digest in their mailbox each day. It is also worth noting that about 75% of our digest subscribers receive the plain-text version, not the MIME version. In some cases, it is out of ignorance, but there are cases in which we recommend the MIME digest to a subscriber (for one reason or another), and have had the subscriber state a preference for the plain-text digest.

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