Email Etiquette


Edit - September 14, 2004: I just found a great site that basically describes what I'm to say below. So if what I wrote below isn't very clear, maybe this will be better:

It was about 10 years ago when email first started getting popular, amazingly there are still very few people who have a grasp of how to format or reply to email, nor do most people even know that there are ways that you should format your replies to make your reply more readable, this despite the fact that a very large majority of North America and Europe use email on a daily, even hourly, basis. These people aren't limitted to just the non-technical, they include everyone from your Grandma to your most technically elite email veterans and hackers.

Every day I read poorly formated emails. This usually means that neither I nor many others will read that email, especially if you're sending the email to a popular mailling list. Perhaps one day good emailing skills will be taught in school, but first the teachers will have to realize that there is something that needs to be taught. I write the following as an experienced emailer who has to read through other peoples crap replies every day.

Most of this is common knowledge and applies to email, maillists, and forums. But it takes practice to master good email communications, so keep emailing!

Top Posting
Some zeolots will tell you that "top posting" is rude and idiotic and that there's nothing more annoying than having to read through an email where some of the people decided to "top post". Top posting is what happens when you reply to someones email and leave all your text at the top.

Hi Bob,
I think that your ideas on theory X are crap

On Tuesday July 6th, 2004 Bob Wrote:
> Scott, theory X is an excellent theory. It demonstrates exactly why theory Y is
> applicable to theory Z and so much more.

Not sure where the following originated, but it summarize the evils of top posting very well.

A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
A: Top-posting.
Q: What is the most annoying thing on usenet and in e-mail?

Now you both know what top posting is and why it should be avoided.

In general, top posters will also leave a lot of irrelevant email below their text. This is a waste of bandwidth and diskspace. It is unfortunate that top posting is the default for many email clients, such as Outlook.

There are some cases when top posting is perfectly acceptable, and in fact could be preferred. But generally when the conversation is going to be long, or several people will be reading the email, it should be avoided.

Bottom Posting
Bottom posting is the exact opposite of top posting.

Although bottom posting is generally preferred, please bottom post with caution. I said that top posters generally leave irrelevant email below their post. Well this is far more annoying (but thankfully less frequent) when a bottom poster does this, as the readers may need to scroll for pages before they get to the message. This is probably the single largest reason why some people are actually "anti bottom posting".

Know when to hold 'em
Only keep the relevant parts of an email you're replying to. This helps the reader determine exactly what you're referring to. In a lot of cases I find it best to snip out the unneccessary email contents and insert my reply to that specific statement or idea in the middle (middle posting?).

Try not to keep loads of irrelevant content in the email. I find that often people will write something like Yes, I like that idea, but it might need some more thought even though my email had a few places that that exact statement could refer to.

Nothing is more annoying than having to reply back to a reply because you've got no clue what the person is referring to.

When starting a new topic, start a new topic
Don't reply to someone's email if yours has nothing to do with the topic. Each email contains an ID and when people thread their emails, their email client bases the threads on these ID's. If you don't know what email threading is it's basically just a way of grouping all emails relating to an original email. So if someone replies to an email those two will be grouped together.

Now, when you just reply to an email and modify the subject that email will be grouped with the one you replied to. People who thread their emails are unlikely to read your email, probably because they'll never see it.

So, instead of just replying, take the time to start a new email.

Remember, a badly formatted email hurts both the email's author and the email's reader(s).

If there's anything here you disagree with or think I should add, just post a comment (although I'm sure you would've anyway).

Google Fame

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I had some free time today so I was thinking, how famous, according to Google, am I? So I did a search for 'hadfield' and found that the first page referring to me was way down at 110. Needless to say I was a little dissapointed, so I've now made it my new goal to become #1 on Google when people search for 'hadfield'. I don't plan on "cheating" to do this, but instead, just become more famous, yes it might take me a long time :-). Especially since I've got to beat out the Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield.

So anyway, what I did was write a Google Fame Calculator that lets someone calculate how famous they are relating to a specified topic according to Google.

To use it you'll already need to know some information about the link google will find for you. For me, I know that will be the first link about me, so under the identity field I put ''. If your name is rare (like for Ariane) you could search 'khachatourians' as the topic and 'ariane' as the identity.

The Illegal VCR

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So it appears that the US has just passed the INDUCE act (‘‘Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004’’). To sum up, this act aims to make anything that can be used to "intentionally induce" copyright infrigement illegal. It's an attempt to kill P2P networks such as kazaa and such from sharing music.

Now, this is a wickedly wonderfull act. Because how do you determine if "a reasonable person would find intent to induce infringement" because of a particular product? You determine it if company X has more money to spend on lawers than company Y. This means that all VCR's, MP3 players, CD Burners, etc. are illegal. This is merely the tip of the iceberg, here's an example from slashdot...

Three rings for the elven kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for mortal men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Now, according to this bill, Dell, Viewsonic, NVidia, SFU, Movabletype and Mozilla all "induced" me to infringe on this copyrighted work. Hrmm... I'd say, at least this is only the US, but it might not be for long..

Our good old Ministry of Canadian Heritage made recommendations stating that we should
"make it illegal to sell software that cracks through the copy-protection coding." and
"make internet service providers (ISPs) subject to liability for copyrighted information."

Although this is just slightly further reaching than the US's DMCA it's just one step closer to making any product that can and might be used for copyright infringement illegal.

The EFF has a great piece on a mock lawsuit describing just how far reaching this bill is. Suing apple for making the ipod, cnet for reviewing the ipod, and Toshiba for supplying hard drives for iPods.

New Gentoo Developer

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That's right folks, you're reading the blog of a brand new gentoo developer. You can now email me at hadfield at gentoo . org, if you feel so inclined. My dev website is here so I'll probably add any gentoo related stuff I have up there shortly. I'm pumped about this :-).

EDIT: Here's a link to the email sent to gentoo-dev mailling list welcoming me and two other new dev's.

Copy and Paste

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People who copy and paste entire functions deserve to be shot. Why the fuck do you think functions were invented in the first place!?!?

I've already removed 600 lines of code from a 2600 line source file and I've got probably another 1000 lines more that can be removed because the dumbass was copy and paste happy.