[linux-elitists] Re: HTML in e-mail

Jeff Kinz jkinz@kinz.org
Wed Aug 20 10:16:21 PDT 2003


On Wed, Aug 20, 2003 at 12:55:52PM -0400, Bret Martin wrote:
> This is starting to bother me more and more.
> 
> How does an elitist properly deal with HTML e-mail?
> 
> In the past, I've had some success asking people to please at least set
> their MUA to send multipart/alternative messages with a text/plain part,
> explaining that then there would at least be a human-readable copy of
> their message.
> 
> Recently, some people have even started to resist that.  One person even
> cited a broken mailing list manager that he uses that somehow garbled
> multipart/alternative, but worked fine with text/html, as a reason for
> sending HTML-only mail!
> 
> Where does this fall on the be-liberal-in-what-you-accept/
> be-conservative-in-what-you-send spectrum?

In some of the redhat lists there is an autobot which sends an email to
the html originator asking them to not send html email to the list and
giving them info and pointers to info on how to set up their email
client to not send html.  Unfortunately recent version of AOl and some
MS email servers are aming it more and more difficult to get around HTML
mail.  

I've attached the template at the bottom of this email for your perusal.
Anything you can suggest to improve it would be appreciated.

This method does not interfere with their email and it requires their
cooperation to be successful.  Initially it was only sent out to the
person the first time they sent and html email to the list.  Later it
was discovered that sending it to them every time is MUCH more effective.
:-)

It has achieved an almost 100% conversion rate.  Most people switch
within 2 or 3 notices.


> Is HTML e-mail inherently annoying, or is it just the way it's been
> glued on the side of a traditionally plain text medium that is the
> problem?

Its inherently dangerous and inherently wasteful.

> Given that "$x considered harmful" is such a cliché, I was expecting to
> find various such manifestos against HTML e-mail, but I had trouble
> finding any.  Am I missing them?

One such manifesto can be found ine the RedHAt Install List Unofficial
User's Guide here : http://www.rhil.org
http://www.rhil.org/docs/rhil-guide.html

> 
> And, whom do we have to blame for HTML in e-mail?

MS and AOL.


Here is the template for the email which is sent automatically to HTML
email originators:

Begin
##########################################################################

Subject: sending HTML email to RedHat email lists 
From: <htmlautobot@kinz.org>

TO XXZZXXZZXXZZ:
Hello and welcome to the RedHat email lists.  This is an automated
response to an email of yours email containing HTML formatted email.

Because HTML email cause problems and increase costs for Redhat and members
of the list we are suggesting that you change your email setup so that
it doesn't post HTML email to the list.

To see how to correct your email program so it doesn't send HTML 
please see this document: http://expita.com/nomime.html

(page down 3 pages you will see a list of email programs.
If you click on your email program's name you will jump to the 
instructions on how to fix your email program.)

If you need help fixing your email setup  please reply to this message
with the word "HELP" on the subject line iand we will respond ASAP.

If you didn't send an HTML formatted email, please reply to this message
with the word "WRONG" on the subject line so the automated response
system can be corrected.  Please note that if you are using Outlook,
You definitely sent HTML even if you didn't mean to. This 'bot is very
accurate.

To understand why HTML should not be used in these lists please
see the RedHat email List Guide at :
http://www.rhil.net/docs/rhil-guide.html

The guidelines in this document apply to the RedHat email lists, 
and pretty much all other mailing lists on the internet.


####################################################################
Email formatting is very simple: plain text, around 72 columns wide.
Please avoid posting in HTML.  There are four basic reasons why HTML
is not used in these email lists:

1.	Readability 
2.	Security
3.	RedHat server traffic volume
4.	Metered Internet costs

1.	Readability:
As the author of an email you have no idea what kind of email program
people are using to read your email. Many can't read HTML.  This means
that there is no way of knowing if someone's email program can display
your email. If it can't - they can't help you.

Plain text is the only email format you can use that guarantees it will
be readable by all the people who receive it.

2.	Security:
Many of the most helpful and knowledgeable people on this list won't
even read your email if its in HTML format. Sorry, it's nothing personal,
its just too much of a security danger for them. HTML email has embedded
info gathering or virus dangers

3.	Traffic volume
On average the use of HTML email increases the size of email to be
moved by 300% The RedHat email servers are already heavily burdened by
the amount of traffic they move and the size of the email archives they
are supporting.  Eliminating HTML formattin gsignificantly reduces the
cost of providing this free service.  The RedHat email lists are available
to everyone in the world wether they are a RedHat customer or not and 
the service is provided for free.  If the cost of providing the service
becomes too high RedHat will stop providing it.

4.	Metered Internet costs
Many people around the world have metered internet access where they pay
for each byte of data they receive, including their email, on a per-byte
basis. MIME and HTML formatting increase the size of messages but don't
add any information to them. These users actually have to pay more to recieve
your HTML emails.  Try to help this list by not pushing their costs up.

Because of these issues you should not send HTML- or MIME-based email
to the RedHat email lists. (and you should avoid it whenever possible
in general). As a further benefit, not using HTML or MIME when you don't
have to will actually speed up how fast your email goes out--especially
if you use a dialup internet connection.

####################################################################
End



-- 
Jeff Kinz, Open-PC, Emergent Research,  Hudson, MA.  jkinz@kinz.org
copyright 2003.  Use is restricted. Any use is an 
acceptance of the offer at http://www.kinz.org/policy.html.
Don't forget to change your password often.



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