First, there is no end to the debate on
Secondly, I should disclose that I am a top-poster.
Thirdly, the obvious pathos of the message notwithstanding, I have never seen a more perfect, self-contained demonstration of the failings of bottom-posting than the following, which appeared on a mailing list ten days ago:
When it gets past the “Bottom-posting is better”, “No, it isn’t!”, “Yes, it is!”, “No it isn’t!!” stage, bottom posters produce three arguments to defend their practice, arguments that are outlined after the jump.
In the years that I have been following this debate and in which my own habits were formed, bottom-posters have relied on three arguments, two spoken and one unspoken.
- People have bottom-posted from the beginning. It’s tradition. It’s the badge of my geekdom, the sign of my tribe.
- Bottom-posting follows more naturally the conventions of a conversation or narrative. You get a more natural flow by bottom-posting.
- (Unspoken). Microsoft’s email clients encourage top-posting. Only by bottom-posting can we resist the ever-encroaching darkness.
Only the second argument has enough substance to warrant a reply.
I think that it has its origins in the early years of the Internet, when email was a new thing. “What’s an
I don’t find this argument convincing in theory or practice.
In fact, the metaphor of email as letter or transcript sucks.
Internet communication is more like a notice-board or the bits of paper on the front of your fridge. The most recent, currently-important stuff is on the top. Blogs understand this. They top-post. Some discussion boards and forums understand this. News sites understand this. They have a better metaphor; they all top-post.
In practice the situation is just as bad. Bottom-posting means scrolling down past inches of text that you already remember or don’t need to know, in order to read the poster’s contribution. The Mighty Mouse gets a good work-out, but it’s a bad result for efficiency or sensible communication. Imagine burrowing down to the bottom of the pile of notes on your fridge to find the newest. Who would put up with that?
What’s more, it leads people to top post that there is a bottom post.
All talk of
It’s polite. It’s respectful of the reader’s time and intelligence.
It’s just better.
Being a reasonable, open-minded person, known to swing both ways, I am open to being persuaded by other arguments for bottom-posting that I may have missed or misunderstood.
Literary Appendix (Satirical)
It is allowed on all hands, that the primitive way of breaking eggs before we eat them, was upon the larger end: but his present Majesty’s grandfather, while he was a boy, going to eat an egg, and breaking it according to the ancient practice, happened to cut one of his fingers. Whereupon the Emperor his father published an edict, commanding all his subjects, upon great penalties, to break the smaller end of their eggs.
The people so highly resented this law, that our Histories tell us there have been six rebellions raised on that account, wherein one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown…
… It is computed, that eleven thousand persons have, at several times, suffered death, rather than submit to break their eggs at the smaller end. Many hundred large volums have been published upon this controversy: but the books of the Big-Endians have been long forbidden, and the whole party rendered incapable by law of holding employments.
During the course of these troubles, the emperors of Blefuscu did frequently expostulate by their ambassadors, accusing us of making a schism in religion, by offending against a fundamental doctrine of our great prophet Lustrog, in the fifty-fourth chapter of the Brundecral (which is their Alcoran). This, however, is thought to be a mere strain upon the text: for their words are these; That all true believers shall break their eggs at the convenient end: and which is the convenient end, seems, in my humble opinion, to be left to every man’s conscience, or at least in the power of the chief magistrate to determine.
- The sorrows of top-posting despite oneself
- Gruber’s bottom-posting scripts for Mail.app
- An ode to bottom-posting
- Bottom posters rejoice! QuoteFix plugin is here
- Joe Kissell on top- vs bottom-posting
Tags: bottom-posting, email, Jonathan Swift, metaphor, top-posting