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Re: Should mail and news converge or diverge?

1999-01-12 01:53:40
At 10.55 +0100 99-01-11, J. Scheerder wrote:
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?).

It is a well-known problem in both mail and news that
people who read and write messages/articles are often
unsure of their audience. I agree very much that user
interfaces should do more to help people in this respect.
This is however a difficult problem, there is no simple

Since IETF does usually not standardize user interfaces,
what we can do is to ensure that all the information is
there to the client software. The client software will know
whether it downloaded a message using NNTP or using POP or
IMAP. IMAP can be used to download both from private
mailboxes and public mail areas. I am no expert on IMAP,
but I hope that the client knows, when downloading a
message through IMAP, whether this is from a private
mailbox or a public area?

A particular area are messages sent to both mail and news
or gatewayed between these areas. I understand that the
USEFOR IETF group is going to propose clear identification
on such messages that they have been posted to both
carrying media lr that they have been gatewayed from mail
to news or the reverse. So this will give additional
information, which the client can use to tell the user of
the audience of a message.

The size and type of the audience need not be directly
depending on whether a message is sent to a newsgroup or a
mailing list. There are small specialized newsgroups, even
closed newsgroups within a single news server, and there
are very large mailing lists with public subscription. So
just telling a user that "this is a mail message" or "this
is a news message" need not give reliable information to
the user of whether the audience is small and closed or
large and open.

One hint on the audience is if the e-mail address of the
recipient can be found in the "To", "Cc" or "Bcc" fields.
If this is not the case, the audience is probably large.

The RFC 2369 will mean that clients more often will know
which messages come from mailing lists, and which these
lists are, which is also information the client can use
to give the user information about the audience.
Jacob Palme <jpalme(_at_)dsv(_dot_)su(_dot_)se> (Stockholm University and KTH)
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