Top-posting &c.

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at
Tue Aug 21 05:43:31 CEST 2012

On Mon, 20 Aug 2012 22:49:24 +0000, Prasad, Ramit wrote:

>> > I also tend to blame M$ (Outlook and variants) for this tendency to
>> > quote everything and top-post -- Outlook makes it almost impossible
>> > to do a trim&interleave response style.
>> I that Outlook & Co are guilty. That and the fact that few people even
>> think about this.
> Nonsense, I post only from Outlook. You can do it and it is not hard. It
> is just requires a little effort.
> Top posting makes more sense in a corporate setting for a couple
> reasons. Seeing the exact email trail rather than what someone considers
> "relevant" context can be very useful.

That's what your email archive, and the threading information in the 
email headers, is for.

When people used to correspond by paper mail, they did not photocopy the 
entire past correspondence and staple it to the back of their letter. And 
then the person responding didn't photocopy the photocopies and post them 
back with his response. If somebody did, that would be stupid -- did he 
think the sender posted the originals and didn't keep a copy?

If there was a business requirement to make copies of copies of copies, 
people would have done it. But there wasn't, and it was stupid and costly 
and so they didn't.

With email, it's less costly, but it's equally stupid. Email programs 
reduce the cost of making and posting those photocopies to essentially 
zero, at least zero for the person pressing Send.

It might be almost free for the sender, but it's still stupid. Nobody 
looks at those deep email trails. When you want to find out the order of 
correspondence, you sort your mail folder by Thread or by Date and look 
at it there, not by trying to interpret the copies of copies of copies of 
past discussions. Nobody uses them. They just bulk up email and get in 
the way of communication and make searching for relevant emails harder.

I've had to dig through email archives for legal purposes, looking for 
evidence in legal cases, and having to read past copies of copies of 
copies of copies (down to ten or twelve levels deep!!!) makes the process 
much, much, much harder than it should be.

Top posting in and of itself is not always bad. But the practice of 
leaving copies of copies of copies in the body of the email is beyond 
stupid. If they were *attachments* that could be ignored when printed, 
that would be *almost* sane, but putting them in the body of the email is 

> Not to mention that frequently
> corporate email is more like slow instant messaging; I need less context
> (e.g. conversation  history) and get all the information I need from
> what the sender is writing.

In my experience, if you ask a question in corporate environments by 
email, you're lucky to get an answer within a day. Slow indeed.


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