[Mailman-Users] The "right" way to reply to a mailing list

Lindsay Haisley fmouse at fmp.com
Wed Mar 25 03:34:16 CET 2015

On Wed, 2015-03-25 at 10:42 +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:
>  > Yes, whether we like it or not. It's a pity though that such
>  > complex HTML is used. Do we really need anything more than the
>  > ability to bold and underline? I'd be happy with some of the basic
>  > Structured Text formatting commands, which have the advantage that
>  > they're still intelligible in plain text.
> You'd be amazed what teenage girls will do in an HTML email using a
> WYSIWYG editor.  The point of the brain damage is like proprietary
> drivers in the Linux kernel: trying to provide features that the
> competition doesn't, in a non-standard way so that they can't just fix
> their editors.

I've always admonished list owners for MM installations that I host at
FMP to avoid HTML-ized email.  It plays hell with digesting, and there's
no single standard for interpreting it so that what the composer of an
HTML-ized post may see in his/her WYSIWYG editor may or may not be what
any particular recipient may see.  It introduces an egregious amount of
bloat into an email, and is a huge bandwidth suck when such an email is
sent out via a list, not to mention that on a list a good fraction of
recipients is pretty much guaranteed to not be able to see what the
composer intended.

As the Internet has evolved, however, I've observed that there's a
steady, unrelenting pressure toward enabling messaging of all sorts,
including email, to handle a richer variety of content options -
bolding, fonts, images, advanced formatting, etc.  HTML appears to be
the best markup standard for this and variations of it have been widely
adopted for this purpose.

One of two things is eventually going to have to happen.  Either people
who design and publish standards for email are going to have to come to
agreement on a proper standard for this kind of content enhancement, and
people who design MUAs and email utilities such as mailing list managers
are going to have to come to grips with these standards and implement
them, or email as a form of communication will eventually go the way of
Usenet, archie, gopher and other extinct (or nearly so) protocols and
become an Internet relic along with all the spam that it makes possible.
Email will be replaced for popular usage with such things as FB
messaging and its descendants, and we'll see a movement away from public
open standards toward proprietary protocols.

Email as a concept is extremely powerful, and how this plays out will be
definitive in how the Internet itself evolves.  Running a small online
web hosting and ESP provision service, I've come to learn that when
people's websites go down, they'll call and bitch about it and implore
you to fix it ASAP, but if their email goes down they'll come looking
for you with a rope.  Human communication is vital, and full
communication on the Internet must eventually involve a visual as well
as a textural component, just as verbal face to face communication
involves body language.

Teenage girls may indeed lead the way, just as we can learn what next
year's high fashion in womens' wear will be by observing what hookers
are wearing this year.  

Lindsay Haisley       | "The only unchanging certainty
FMP Computer Services |    is the certainty of change"
512-259-1190          |
http://www.fmp.com    | - Ancient wisdom, all cultures

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