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Re: Should mail and news converge or diverge?

1999-01-11 02:56:05
Jacob Palme:


Should we try to make e-mail and news
standards as close as possible?

[comments -- snip]

[argument lists pro and con -- snip]

Common counterargument: The separation between mail and
news is user-friendly, because it allows users to give mail
higher priority.

Counter-counterargument: Certainly users need filtering,
sorting and prioritizing of the incoming message flow. But
it is not always true that for a particular user all mail
messages are always more important than all news articles.

$.02: there is a _very_  important level of distinction that I feel
is overlooked here.

Yes, the technology is `close'.  This is, from the viewpoint of a
programmer, a strong hint to handle the similar tasks with the
very same code.  From the user's point of view, similar tasks
(i.e. composing messages for platforms with similar prerequisites)
need to be dealt with similarly.

Yes, one could expect some consistency in interface.  And some reuse of
code -- a message editor is a message editor, and offering news message
editing and mail message editing in a consistent interface, i.e. identical
for identical tasks, may be a good thing.

That is, however, all technology speaking.  But, and to me that's
a thing never to be forgotten: even though the technologies may
be similar, and the interfacing similar, the `media' are very different.
A mail message and a news message typically have a very different
audience.  That implies that they are written from a different outlook.

What I'm advocating here: regardless of whether Usenet and mail message
format get unified or not, at the user level it is essential to make
a 100% crisp clear distinction.  The user must at all times *know* where
a particular message came from (is it a personal message to me or not?),
and where a reply (or followup) is going to (is it a personal message
for Joe Shmoe, or am I writing for a generic audience?).

There is a surprising amount of software that obliterates the
distinction, making the mistake of not seeing the functional difference
in technologically similar tasks.

By itself, that observation is not an argument.  However, one can see
that full format unification increases the risk of obliteration of the
difference between the personal email and public Usenet, at the user
level, whereas divergence may give an incentive to `share' (inherit?)
the common technology and interfacing, while doing the differences
full justice (i.e. create differring instances of an interface class,
of an editor class, and so on, depending on context).


Since there are arguments both for and against convergence
between mail and news, we cannot conclude that we should
strive for full integration, or that we should disregard
the integration needs entirely. But we should strive for as
much convergence as possible, and we should have good
reason in cases where we intentionally define things
differently for mail and news.

I think that's a sound principle.  The danger of `blurring the issue'
should be kept in mind, I'd argue, when considering whether or not
integration is a good and worthwhile thing.

-- J.
The ideal is impossible... the idea of the ideal is essential.
                -- P. Taylor

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