# kev.md -rw-r--r-- 4.8 KiB View raw

#Response to Kev's "Use Plaintext Email"

Some of the feedback presented in Kev's recent article is on the mark; others are not. The website in question is 4 years old and is due for a touch-up, so I have made some improvements in part based on Kev's feedback.

"Strongly preferred" by whom? By nerds? By your grandma? By everyone? Given the fact that of the 18 email applications they recommend, only 4 of them have a GUI, I'm gonna go with the nerds.

I have improved the introduction to the site:

There are two main types of emails on the internet: plaintext and HTML. Many people, particularly in technical communities, strongly prefer or even require the use of plain text email from participants. However, your mail client may not have it set up by default. We'll help you get it configured, and introduce you to the norms and conventions of plain text email.

Yes, the page recommends 18 email applications, of which 4 are GUIs. The purpose of this page is to promote plain text email, and part of that involves promoting better support for plain text emails in mail client software. To this end, it includes a list of mail clients which do it well -- most of which, indeed, are CLI/TUI clients -- but also includes advice to mail client authors for improving plain text support and being added to this list.

Then we come on to the really opinionated parts, where it talks about top posting and content width.

The matter of content width (wrapping text at 72 columns) is indeed a reasonable critique of the website's advice, and this section begs improvement. I agree that it's not reasonable to require anyone to manually hard-wrap their emails for anyone else's sake. I have rewritten this section as follows:

Plain text emails are generally encouraged to be wrapped at 72 columns, by inserting a newline and resuming the content on the next line. This is encouraged to make email more comfortable to read and quote in many of the contexts where technical users may encounter it, such as terminal emulators. Of course, it's far too annoying to do this manually as you write — the recommended clients will do this for you, as well as any client shown above with "Wraps text or uses format=flowed".

Top posting is important to address, and requires users to change their habits. One of the main appeals of plain text emails is that it makes it easier to improve the discourse in this respect, and an important drawback of HTML email is the normalization of top posting.

I have rewritten the section on top posting to illustrate this better. Kev focuses on concerns like privacy and phishing -- valid concerns which are indeed addressed on the website -- but the social dynamics of email and how technology affects them is important, too.

While this is mentioned, the lion's share of the site is taken up with instructions on setting up plaintext emails and that motherfucking wrapping.

Like I said… completely misses the mark. 🤦

Of course the lion's share is devoted to configuring plain text mail clients. We cannot simply tell people to use plain text without explaining how, and there are so many mail clients that such an explanation necessarily takes up a lot of space.

That said, the "lion's share" certainly wasn't taken up by the comments on wrapping, which in fact took up just a single paragraph -- a paragraph since rewritten.

#A note on respectful discourse

Kev's article is very aggressive, dismissive, and disrespectful. Our tools are "awkward" and used by "3 other people on the internet", we are the "0.0001% nerdiest of nerds", and our preferences are dismissable given that we use "edgelord CLI software".

Certainly many might wonder if I'm the pot calling the kettle black by drawing attention to this kind of language. For what it's worth, I have strove to move away from this approach in my own writing. But, more importantly, each of my critical blog posts has come at the end of a process wherein I reached out to the communities or authors involved to offer constructive criticism and engage in a dialogue with them. Many topics which might have become critical articles on my blog never made it that far after a constructive dialogue with the communities in question brought about the necessary changes.

Kev, your tone is not appropriate and this approach to feedback is not constructive. Furthermore, I would have appreciated it if you had reached out to me in private to offer your feedback and seek insights on why the advice was written the way it is. There are instructions at the bottom of the page for how you can get in touch to suggest improvements.