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Re: Email Standards

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In a message dated 98-03-09 19:58:13 EST, nmends(--nospam--at)mt.net write:

>  After all, is there *no* point at which we should adopt a new 
>   technology, just as we've all obviously adopted this one?

That point is when the *vast majority* of participants, for whatever other
reasons, have adopted, or have access to, a technology, software package or
standard.  The killer app that made the Net take off in recent years has been
e-mail (much more so than the World Wide Wait), and garden-variety ascii e-
mail capability is what is universally found on pc's.  That is, and I believe
should remain,  the standard on this listserv until html e-mail capability
becomes as ubiquitous among subscribers as the ascii format.

This debate over formatting the work of virtual committees is putting the cart
before the horse.  We should focus on content first and foremost, not on
format.  Prettifying can be saved for final version of a product.   A
conversation I once had with a friend who was an english instructor at
Berkeley has stayed with me.  This was back in the late-seventies, when pc's
were just starting to be used by well-heeled students.  Most students at the
time still turned in handwritten essays and compositions, but some students
typed them, and a few actually turned in computer printouts written using
Electric Pencil or some other early word processor.  The printouts were always
easier on the eyes, and typically contained fewer grammar and spelling errors.
The friend said when she graded such papers, she made an effort to remain
focused on the content, style,and development of the students' thoughts, and
guarded against being subconsciously affected by the good looking printout.
She called it the VEBS effect, and it remains valid today when substance is
valued over form.  What's VEBS?  Well, the friend said if a paper is good,
it's good regardless of the visual presentation, and if a paper is BS, then an
impressive printout merely makes it Visually Enhanced BS.  The nice thing
about ascii e-mail is that, without possible VEBS effects, readers can more
readily and objectively evaluate the message.  In the rare instances when
format is important, we can always resort to using attachments.

Frank Lew, SE
Orinda, CA