[PLUG-TALK] Top or bottom posting?

Daniel Hedlund daniel at digitree.org
Wed Jan 22 22:54:13 PST 2014

On Wed, Jan 22, 2014 at 9:20 PM, Denis Heidtmann
<denis.heidtmann at gmail.com>wrote:

> When I first posted to PLUG a few years ago, I was very quickly "advised"
> that bottom posting was the way to go.  Now I find considerable top posting
> here.  I don't  have a strong preference, but I do find the mixture of the
> two styles to be quite awkward.  Is it reasonable for us to settle on one
> style or the other?

I believe the resurgence of top-posting is happening, not because
top-posting is trendy again, but because:
1) newer web and mobile interfaces are making top-posting look like bottom
2) people are naturally lazy (it looks okay to me and probably most
everyone else)

Gmail, both web and mobile, encourages a flat discussion/forum style
conversation where it looks like you're bottom-posting by default but
aren't; replies are made at the bottom of the same page as the email thread
and the quoted email is hidden unless you click an extra button.  That
hidden quoted email is always included unless you manually rip it out,
which leads to a huge build-up of nested quoted emails.  Unhiding the
quoted emails on a phone leads to something that is a nightmare to scroll
through and painful to trim down.

Bottom-posting is still generally advised on most technical lists because
you usually find yourself replying to a subset of an email, often in
multiple places.  I find myself having to top-post more and more when
having conversations outside of email lists.  Often people expect
top-posting and, when they don't see a message there, jump to the
conclusion that it's an empty reply or stop at the first reply they find.
 Depending on who I'm writing to, I have to top-post with "Replies
inline..." and then make sure I put a lot of whitespace after each answer
to make sure each response stands out.  There also seems to be a growing
trend, now that HTML and color buttons are standard, to inline their
responses within the quoted text itself (on the same line) and leave
everything quoted.  /me sighs

(ranting follows)

While we could be more aggressive about forcing bottom-posting, I don't
think it'll be too long before some clients start removing the quoted email
by default; it'll turn into an obscure setting somewhere.  Most clients
already group the conversation together and it unmanaged quoted emails
grows are a significant amount of an email's size.  Gmail is also
integrating their Google+ service more tightly with Gmail (you can now send
emails to Google+ contacts, even if you don't know their email address),
and Google+ messages don't generally make use of nested conversations.
 Google has already demonstrated that they're happy cannibalizing services
like Google Talk.

I'd guess that the hosted/managed messaging trend will continue and
cannibalize email as far as most are concerned.  All of the big hosted
providers seem to be moving in this direction and it only makes sense for
them to finish shedding "legacy" email protocols and use something else, in
the name of spam prevention.  Email will continue to exist, but in a
shrinking circle that will require migrating back away from mainstream
hosted services.  Email will eventually be second-class and have to go
through some gateway/conversion process to communicate with the majority of
people; bottom posting after an email quote will no be possible for many.
 Highlighting a block of text and choosing "quote this person" in a context
menu will still exist, but only used on rare occasions, due to the
assumption that everyone else already sees the previous message just above
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