Re: Flames and Replies- A Reminder

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Fri, 10 Feb 1995 12:25:43 +1000

Lief M. Hendrickson wrote:
> A good point was recently made by someone on another list
> about how flames and replys to long messages can affect others.
> A controversial message was posted that was approximately 150
> lines long. Someone was offended and posted a flame that had the
> original message attached with a ">" at the beginning of each
> line. A half dozen or so replies to the flame followed and each
> again had the whole message sequence attached. The total number
> of lines for the combined messages at that point was well over a
> thousand. Multiply this by the number of people on the list and
> you can see the tremendous waste of bandwidth.

Lief raises an important issue.

Bandwidth is one consideration, but as a "common good" it is one that
may not sway many people. A more practical consideration is that,
if you want your messages to be read by people, you have to make them
look good! If I come across a reply to something where the new text is
hard to find amidst pages of quoted material, I may just give up on it.

I go to some trouble with posts to USENET and messages to mailing
lists, making sure that I'm quoting the "right" amount of material.
(How much is right is subjective, obviously, but the extremes are
often clearly wrong.) Until we have radically different news/mail
system which supports automatic switching between archives and current
material and has good support for threading, the ability to quote
well will be a valuable skill.

> Message traffic congestion affects everyone on the list and on
> the internet as well when nodes get bogged down with a high
> volume of information that must be relayed to different parts of
> the world.

Does anyone know how big a mailing list has to become before it
becomes more efficient to turn it into a newsgroup? My guess is that
anthro-l would be close to the turnaround point, though there are,
of course, other reasons we might not want it to become a newsgroup.
(An interesting issue this; one which really brings to the fore
questions of elitism and the relationship between academia and "the
masses", as well as raising questions of the social legitimation of
human intellectual endeavour. I may write more on this later.)

Danny Yee.