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Re: Proper nettiquette for citing email messages




Hi Jim,

I notice your method of citing emails is _not_ the norm on the
Emacspeak mailing list, and for those using speech display, T V gave
an elegant and preferred method using a Emacspeak command to hide
cited lines; when spoken, the lines will be read in a different voice
preserving the conversational flow inherent in email.

This is not a criticism, only a comment from someone with a background
in communications and culture studies (also a long friendship with the
McLuhan family), and as someone who has been using email daily for
over 17 years.  Effective use of email _requires_ a warm-media
conversational style, like captured moments from an IRC chat session,
a radio interview talkshow, or a plain ordinary conversation (POC).

To do otherwise goes counter to the nature of the media itself and
restricts your effective use of the method.  It is important to
recognize that email is not simply digitally delivered snail mail and
should not be forced into an old-media mold any more than the web can
be forced into the television mold. Email is a new media, and more
akin to radio and direct conversation than to any prior print media.

I am not certain what we can do for Braille display; my guess is our
best approach would be the same text folding that is done with
Emacspeak (the 'j' key in vm) --- it seems odd to me there should be a
problem since cited text is most often indented and is always prefixed
with strings matching the regexp ^\w*[>:]{1} --- this seems something
easy to spot, even with the fingertips and most certainly with
software.

IMHO, which is only my opinion since I do not actually rely on voice
or braille technology, it would seem easier to change your own system
through proper programming than to demand the entire net culture to
adapt its traditional method, a method which is built-in to most if
not all email programs, to your requirements.  Requesting conformance
to a 'split screen' method of citing forces a different narrative
style, it forces snail-mail structure on a conversation and requires a
good deal of extra work on behalf of your correspondent, and this
would conspire to discourage people from communicating with you.

How often do people in a conversation wait for the speaker to finish
completely before they comment?  How often are comments later
retracted in a conversation when someone finally hears the full story?
How often, at a conference or dinner party, do you forget 90% of what
a speaker said in a long boring soliloquy? Here's the kicker: Which
accomplishes more knowledge sharing, exploration and progress? Is it
conference talks or dinner conversations?(grin)

On the other hand, if you trap that cite-flag regexp and prefix these
expressions with some clearly noticeable character, couldn't a braille
reader quickly recognize the character and, if they are uninterested
in the context of the responses, quickly skip forward?

Such practice would, of course, disrupt the flow of the conversation
and thus render most messages even more incomprehensible.  It frankly
confuses me to imagine that anyone would want to read a screenplay by
clipping out all lines said by the other characters.

The best formatting for email is probably be a mixture of a screenplay
and IRC format rules, only this needs to be done in software rather
than done by wetware.  For example, I can see where the following:

    J> When reading with speech or Braille display, it is much easier
    J> to have the new comments before the quoted material from
    J> previous posts.

That text quote could be confusing if the speaking software was not
prepared to recognize the tab J angle-bracket sequences.  On the other
hand, it would make more sense to me if the software recognized the
prefixed lines and rendered them in a screenplay format such as:

Jim writes: When reading with speech or Braille display, it is much
    easier to have the new comments before the quoted material from
    previous posts.

Gary replies:  The problem I see with requiring authors to cite text
    in this format, rather than have the software parse the traditional
    cited lines and render them such, is the software now has no clear
    way to speak these lines in distinct voices.

This second style of citing in screenplay format is not only clumsy to
write, but it is lossy.  It loses information about which lines belong
to which speaker and complicates the parsing heuristics which may
attempt to do this for us.  It also leaves too much room for errors
that would further frustrate the parsing; what if I use 4 spaces
instead of one tab, or if I fail to add a blank line at the end of one
speaker's statement? 

The traditional method, on the other hand, clearly marks what is mine
(with no prefix) from what is yours (with the prefix) and it is just a
simple matter of text transformation to make this either more braille
friendly, more speech friendly or more visually friendly.  Everybody
wins.

Again, this is not a complaint, just an observation and comment; it
seems to me that a more flexible and useful solution to your problem
is not to change the way email is used by others, but the change your
email software presents what they write.

-- 
Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@canada.com>  TeleDynamics Communications Inc
Business Innovations Through Open Source Systems: http://www.teledyn.com
Linux/GNU Education Group: http://www.egroups.com/group/linux-education/
"Computers are useless.  They can only give you answers."(Pablo Picasso)

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