Email trivialities – a couple of first encounters

Last week i had my first encounter with a person who was unable to read an email which used Usenet-style quoting.  For those not familiar with the whole debate, which probably started probably before i first encountered the Internet (way back in 1989), the following references offer some insight:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posting_style
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usenet_quoting
  3. http://lipas.uwasa.fi/~ts/http/quote.html
  4. http://www.catb.org/jargon/html/email-style.html
  5. http://mailformat.dan.info/quoting/bottom-posting.html 
  6. http://mailformat.dan.info/quoting/top-posting.html

(Number 5 is particularly good because it explains why inline quoting is not just for geeks, but is a judicious practice for all sensible people, and number 6 preserves a particularly sad and hilarious example of why posting styles are important.)

Most people in the Linux world seem to be inline quoters, although this is changing gradually with more and more members of the Ubuntu community coming from non-technical backgrounds.  (Even my own wife cannot accept inline quoting as the one true method – despite my urgings…)  Those familiar with the debate and committed to inline quoting would likely be familiar with the frustration of dealing constantly with those who just accept Microsoft Outlook’s defaults and top-post everything, even when you have already responded in a point-by-point manner.

I’ve actually changed a number of my email habits over the last few years in order to make interacting with these people easier, including switching my default mail format to HTML, and switching from PGP and S/MIME to DKIM for cryptographic authentication.  But last week was the first time i’d ever come across someone who was so ignorant of inline quoting that he literally could not understand my email.  He thought i had just sent his email straight back to him.  (Why would anyone do that, i wonder?  Is top-posting not wasteful enough of bandwidth already?)  I believe that the inefficient nature of top-posting (the fact that no trimming of the quoted text is ever done) has taught people like him to simply ignore everything after the first visual divider in the email.

Anyway, i’m curious to know what others think (drop me a line, if you like) – how do you deal with this while still being responsible yourself?  I would have thought that the fact that my email looked superficially similar to my correspondent’s and was inexplicable should have clued him into the fact that something was afoot and signalled to his brain that he should read more closely.  Maybe he’s dyslexic?  Or just plain lazy?  I have to deal with this person on an ongoing basis – should i simply ignore it and move on?

In related news, today i had my first encounter with Hebrew spam.  Neither SpamAssasin nor Thunderbird’s spam filter picked it up, but Thunderbird’s phishing detection marked it as a scam (correctly, as far as i can tell).  It got Bayes rating of 60%, so i imagine i won’t see another one once my server runs its nightly Bayes training.  Having studied ancient Hebrew at postgraduate level, i was actually interested in the email from a linguistic perspective, but alas, modern Hebrew has no vowel pointing, so my woeful vocabulary (and the fact that languages change over 3000 years or so) rules out me actually reading it.  Interestingly enough, the spam was to the public email address of my Free Software project, Photo Importer, which means that the spammer has a crawling engine which actually extracts email addresses from .tar.gz archives which it has downloaded from the web.


Source: libertysys.com.au

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