Email line lengths
Thu, 8 Oct 1998 08:42:03 +1000
"Robin Whittle" <email@example.com> wrote:
>2 - Its my impression in my Internet usage since 1993 that this
> problem [sic!] of email clients sending each paragraph as a very
> long line has only arisen in recent years ...
>3 - Is anyone aware of any arguments for each paragraph being
> a very long line terminated by a carriage return, in terms
> of it being more convenient or more communicative?
We're in danger of getting stuck in an early 1900's time-warp.
Carriage-Returns/Line-Feeds were a necessary feature of the mechanical /
electro-mechanical typewriter and telex. They were carried into the
computing era because the original 'terminals' (early-mid 1960s) were
'glass teletypes' - you always invent the future using concepts and tools
from the past, etc.
So *I* reckon it's a problem to have to use a line-feed to end a para., and
to create space between paras.; and it's an even worse problem to have to
use one to end a line! [Now for a couple of carriage-returns ...]
The principle we've been working to for the last couple of decades is that
presentation is a matter for the client not the server; hence in email
terms, for the recipient not the sender. So the way the content hits the
eye should be determined by the receiving email-client.
(Okay, so there's a dramatic tension between that ethos and the multi-media
publishing frenzy, where it's all under the control of the creator /
producer / publisher, and the recipient is a consumer rather than a
participant; but heck, this is a quick response, not a treatise).
I'm betting that we shortly see a standard emerge that incorporates
multiple media inside an email (or a web takeover of email - which would be
a worry; or a maturation of the web to support both pull/http and
push/smtp capabilities, using a common display facility - which, depending
on who prepares the standard, could be an even bigger worry).
So I think we'd be putting a puny finger in an ever-enlarging gap in a
bloody big dam if we were to try to restrict email to fixed line-lengths.
That said, we're in an interim phase right now - the excitement of MUDs,
IRC and the web has deflected development effort away from email for more
than a decade now. So my Eudora window is set to 75 chars (to allow for
the reply function to extend it a bit and still handle 80 chars). Most
people seem to use >= 80 (many use > 80, due to presumptions by dumbo
developers that their customers always use a single, full-size window on a
13" or 14" screen ...).
Roger Clarke http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916 mailto:Roger.Clarke@anu.edu.au
Visiting Fellow, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology
The Australian National University Canberra ACT 0200 AUSTRALIA
Information Sciences Building Room 211 Tel: +61 2 6249 3666