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Re: Editing email replies


From: Oliver Scholz
Subject: Re: Editing email replies
Date: Tue, 10 Sep 2002 14:36:04 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.090008 (Oort Gnus v0.08) Emacs/21.2 (i686-pc-linux-gnu)

"pd" <address@hidden> writes:

> "Benjamin Riefenstahl" <address@hidden> wrote in message
> news:address@hidden
>> Hi Peter,
>>
>>
>> Peter Davis <address@hidden> writes:
>> > Well, I know I'm probably in a minority here, but I actually think
>> > HTML e-mail is a pretty good idea.  You can get much more readable,
>> > and more *meaningful* content with HTML.
>>
>> Shouldn't that read "more meaningful form"?  HTML does nothing about
>> the content as far as I see.
>>
>> One could say that exactly because people should look at their
>> content, they should not distract themself and their readers with
>> extraneous form elements.  In my experience HTML is very, very rarely
>> an improvement in email (or Usenet) messages.
>
> I don't want to prolong this debate too much.  However, I couldn't help but
> notice that your reply has quoted part of mine, and contains two blocks of
> text with a blank line between them.  Is that form or content?  Answer:
> it's both!  The fact that text is divided into paragraphs, or that documents
> are divided into sections, possibly with headers in a different typeface, or
> that lists and nested lists can be structured by indentation, etc. are both
> form and content.  These things can not be separated as easily as some
> people think.  HTML can help to communicate these things more clearly than
> plain text.
[...]

I think, HTML-mail is rather a social problem. ("social" includes the
default behaviour of many MUAs here).

To have a html-tag or two for bold or italic text now and then is
something fairly innocent. And to have proper tables or visually
distinguished header-lines could be a real benefit. Sometimes, when
the information involved is very complex, even different font sizes
could be a good thing.

However, most HTML-mail I get is not that innocent. It takes usually
about three times the space the same mail takes in plain text. And for
what? For lots of unnecessary font- and size-specifications. I am not
interested in what the user at the other end thinks which is the most
readable font for her. And I am not interested in her favourite
background-color. I do know myself what font and what background color
are the best for my eyes. I hardly see any HTML-mail in which the HTML
is anything else but cumbersome and annoying.

It is possible to get much of the useful formatting with plain
text-messages: There is a simple, widely used markup-language for
*bold*, _underlined_ or /italic/ text.

+---------------+---------------+---------------+
|For tables     |we have        |this sort of   |
+---------------+---------------+---------------+
|tables         |with           |ascii-graphics.|
+---------------+---------------+---------------+

If I have to write a long text with headings and sub-headings I
usually resort to different levels of indentation[1]. Gnus users can
have images displayed inline in the message. With Gnus it is even
possible to get a different font and fontification for code-snipplets
in messages. And as soon as UTF-8 is more common, we get lots of
graphics in mail.

I admit that all this is only a workaround. I seem to recall that I
saw an Elisp package somewhere that allows to send HTML-mail with Gnus
using a simple Wiki-like markup-language. Something like this would be
nice: If HTML were used only when meaningful, it could be a great
thing. But since we won't change the major MUAs, we are right to frown
upon HTML in mail and news. My personal experience is that I can not
persuade my friends to use another (better) MUA, but that I can
persuade/force them to turn HTML off.

BTW: does actually anyone use text/enriched in mail or news?

    -- Oliver


Footnotes: 
[1]  And we have footnotes, too.

-- 
24 Fructidor an 210 de la Révolution
Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!


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