Jeff Pritchard <jp / jeffpritchard.com> wrote:
>Isn't the root of the disagreement the fact that some of us only use the
>web portal and others choose to get the email version of the the list?

It isn't the difference between web and email, it is a different
presentation philosophy.  The same philosophy can be applied
to either web or email based deliver mechanisms.  It also happens
that each philosophy targets a particular style of discussion.

Quite frankly I view one (the typical style used by forums) as a
shallow approach to communications that pivots mostly on being
easy to learn (i.e., it is so simple there is nothing to learn);
while the one used by a good email reader is a very
sophisticated and well thought out method designed to promote
precise communications, but requires significant effort over
time to learn how to use in a way that can be called easy.

Typically people who want to chit chat with others for social
purposes have very little need or desire to put in the effort
required to learn how to make good use of a software package
that can produce precise communications.  Hence the web forum
style that has developed is quite effective as a tool for
"social gatherings".

But for detailed technical discussions common to academics,
scientists, engineers, etc., the more precise mechanisms are
much preferred.

Newsgroups where discussion is non-technical are much more
likely to be accepting of top-posting, while newsgroups where
technical topics are the norm are much less accepting of top
posting.

It is perhaps a common and obnoxious habit of pedantic techies
to boost their preferred style even in places where it is an
unnecessary burden on others.  It is perhaps an equally common
and obnoxious habit for those who top-post to do it in places
where it is not appropriate, just to rattle the cages of
pedantic techies.  (Shame on us all...)

>In a web forum setting, one typically reads down a thread from top to
>bottom and only occasionally needs to reference the quoted stuff when
>the context isn't clear from what they read up above.

There is virtually no continuity in context available in that
way.  Half the time it isn't even possible to determine exactly
which article is being referenced, much less what part of it.

That has a *very* significant limiting effect on the discussion
that occurs.  But given the editors typically available via a
web browser, few people would make use of the different style
anyway!

>I assume that when getting the new posting in an email it would be
>frustrating to get a long answer out of context, followed by a quoted
>question or part of somebody else's reply.
>
>The real question is why isn't either the web version or the email
>version clearly superior to everyone?  The two are quite different
>delivery systems, and yet there is no clear winner over time.  We
>continue to have VHS and Betamax for eternity.  That's what strikes me
>as odd.

See the discussion above.  There are indeed two mechanisms, but
there are also two targets.  Each mechanism was honed for a
different target.

-- 
Floyd L. Davidson            <http://www.apaflo.com/floyd_davidson>
Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska)                         floyd / apaflo.com