We gotta break up these digests

Eric Bohlman ebohlman at netcom.com
Tue Sep 21 07:33:59 BST 1999

On Mon, 20 Sep 1999 roddey at us.ibm.com wrote:
> Is there any way we could break these digets up a bit? They were already so long
> that I've given up doing any realistic reading of them, which is unfortunate but

Though I don't subscribe to this list as a digest, I just started
subscribing to XSL-L as a digest, and there I'm running into the same
problems, only worse.  The typical XSL-L digest is about 50K, for two

1) Failure of participants to trim down the material they're quoting.
It's becoming increasingly common, apparently because of the way
browser-integrated mail clients and newsreaders work, for participants to
post their reply followed by a quote of the *entire* previous message.  On
the comp.lang.perl.misc newsgroup, we call this "Jeopardy-style quoting"
(from the US TV game show where participants are given an answer and have
to come up with the question).  The result is that a digest will often
contain an answer followed by the original question, and later in that
same issue another answer followed by the *same* original question, and
then a followup to one of the answers, followed by the answer, followed by
*yet another* copy of the original question!  As a result, digests are
typically three times as long as they need to be.

2) The inclusion of duplicate text and HTML messages.  If you're using a
browser-integrated newsreader, *turn this feature off* when posting to a
list!  This isn't so much a problem on this list, presumably due to the
high technical sophistication of the participants, but it is a problem on
XML-L and XSL-L.

Some simple discipline in quoting is really the key to keeping digests
down to a usable length.  Unless the original message is extremely short
(i.e. no more than one paragraph) there's almost *never* a reason to quote
the whole thing as an entire block; quote only those points that you're
specifically replying to, and only enough of them to provide context, and
intersperse your replies between the quotes. Use a notation like '[snip]'
(or '<snip/>') if there's any concern that trimming down the original
material might provide a misleading picture of what the original poster
said.  If you're not going to reply to certain points, succinctly say so
and mention why (e.g. "I'm not addressing your argument about WG
confidentiality because my opinion there isn't fully formed yet").  

At the *beginning* of a response, always identify the person being
responded to and include the date the original was posted and any other
identifying information.  This will enable anyone who wants to see the
entire original message to find it in the archives.  And *please* use a
quoting convention that makes it clear who said what!

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