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Re: Can anybody tell me how to send HTML-format mail in gnus

From: Xah
Subject: Re: Can anybody tell me how to send HTML-format mail in gnus
Date: Fri, 8 Aug 2008 06:11:20 -0700 (PDT)
User-agent: G2/1.0

On Aug 7, 10:54 pm, Tim X <address@hidden> wrote:
> Xah <address@hidden> writes:
> > Tim X wrote:
> > «In general, HTML in mail messages is a bad thing.»
> > HTML in email is a very good thing.
> I disagree
> > From the technology point of view, it is far more powerful. For
> > example, it can contain links, bold text, coloring, embedded images,
> > etc. The bulkier than plain text in size, of course, but in today's
> > youtube days, this doesn't matter. Also not, if my 10 years old email
> > transmission protocol knowledge is not outdated, then email is still
> > sent by first converting to a ascii encoding. This is invented by the
> > unix folks, which is extremely inefficient.
> Nobody can predict the future with any accuracy. When e-mail was firs
> implemented, nobody realised how big it would grow and how pervasive it
> would become. It is very easy to be critical with the benefit of
> hindsight. for example, basing it on 7-bit characters failed to consider
> the needs of languages that won't fit within a 7 bit representation, but
> rightly or wrongly, internationalisation of software didn't become a
> real consideration until much later.. Even worse, nobody had the
> foresight to consider the scurge of spam.
> There are a lot of things that could be improved concerning e-mail and
> its basic infrastructure, but adding HTML to the mess is certainly not
> one of them and I'm a long way from being convinced that if we did want
> to add additional control over presentation of e-mail messages that HTML
> is the answer.

I agree HTML is the not best technology for rich text in email.
However, it is just the world's standard.

> > From the social point of view, HTMl is also far more useful, and
> > people wants the ability to have colored text, embed images, etc. I
> > don't have stats on this, but it is my guess that 80%, or perhaps even
> > 90% of email traffics today, are in html. Human animals, collectively,
> > want it.
> You frequently like to quote these bogus percentages. If you don't hae
> any real figures, they are completely pointless.
> You also need to
> acknowledge that your subjective experiences are not the same as
> the rest of the world. It is these sorts of unfounded claims and bogus
> facts that undermines many of your arguements. I suspect it also
> diminishes what many think of your opinions and is likely counter
> productive to what you want to achieve.

It's not bogus. If you take the time to research, i think you wouldn't
call them bogus.

For example, in my last post i linked to Wikipedia
which contains this paragraph:

Since its conception, a number of people have vocally opposed all HTML
e-mail (and even MIME itself), for a variety of reasons. While still
considered inappropriate in many newsgroup postings and mailing lists,
its adoption for personal and business mail has only increased over
time. Some of those who strongly opposed it when it first came out now
see it as mostly harmless.[2]

According to surveys by online marketing companies, adoption of HTML-
capable email clients is now nearly universal, with less than 3%
reporting that they use text-only clients.[3] A smaller number, though
still the majority, prefer it over plain text.[4]

> Up until recently, I administered an e-mail system that processed
> gigabytes of mail per day. While there was a fair amount of HTML based
> mail, it was less than 50% and nearly 80% of that was just spam. I will
> readily admit that this is just what I observed in my small corner of
> the world and this only represents a user base of just over 30,000
> accounts.

What comapany or type of company? i mean, what context?

for example, if you admin some Open Source oriented community, sure
there's a lot plain text.

Of the most largest email hoster in the world, gmail, msn, yahoo, are
probably some 80% market share in terms of email traffic. (again, a
rough guess. You can do research on the web i think the result is in
agreement. I use percentage just to be precise, instead of the more
fuzzy “majority”, “large number”, etc.)
So, i'd say if you examp gmail, msn, yahoo, probably the bulk of their
email format is html. In fact, the email account prob default to html,
and or, any email received is converted to html anyway.

> I disagree with your suggestion that HTML is technically superior. You
> can't just make a sweeping statement like that without actually defining
> what it is that e-mail is supposed to provide. As someone else pointed
> out, an F16 is technically superior to a bicycle, but if allyou want to
> do is go to the corner shop, that technical superiority is not only a
> waste, but also a handicap.

HTML is simply technically superior. Sure, F15 is better than bicycle
but ridiculous. However, HTML is better than plain text in email is
not ridiculous. It is the standard the world uses by large, and people
want rich text in email. Wikipedia says the support for html email in
email programs is 97%.

> HTML based e-mail has also had the negative tecnical consequence of
> increasing the number of security issues and exposing users to more
> vulnerabilities.

Yeah, so does lots tech has security issues. Some sys admin refuses to
install emacs an production server, and i was pissed. Did you know
that unix is traditinoally the most insecure system?

“Fast Food The UNIX Way”

> It has also wasted huge amount of resources due to the
> huge increase in message sizes, provides extremely difficult spam
> detection problems (i.e. using pictures to embed spam text, making it
> almost impossible to detect effectively via a scan for known spam text)
> all of which resulting in the need for more bandwidth, more mail servers
> with more memory and storage and more hardware to perform anti-spam
> processes - all of which leads to higher costs for all of us. It also
> ignores the fact that there are still millions of people who don't have
> broadband and for whom every extra byte of data is an issue.

Spam happens regardless whether html email is used.
Perhaps you are suggesting that HTML email increases spam. I disagree.
I think spam frequency has little to do with email format.
Perhaps you are suggesting that it is easier to detect spam in plain
text email. I disagree on this too. There was the I LOVE YOU trojan,
one of the most damagig bad thing that happened in computer viruses.

Few years ago, i get few hundred (or was it thousand?) spam per day to .

> My experience has also been that the majority of people who are
> insistant on using HTML in the mail have little substance in their
> content. If what you write has real substance, the formatting is almost
> irrelevant.

True. I heartily agree. See for example:

But you can't tell your grandma what to do.

Grammarian pundits cries and pains and tells you how you should use
punctuations, and how you should improve your writing ability to
convey attitude and emotions instead of using smilies, and so on. In
general, these are not realistic or not applicable.

Suppose your girlfriend send you a email with the line “i ♥ u!!” with
the heart in bold and large and color red. Are you gonna bitch how it
is abuse of fontification and lack of knowledge in writing and waste
of bandwitth resource?

> > Arguably, another format, such as rich text that is espoused by Apple
> > computer's email progrm ( ~2002 to ~2006 and no support for html
> > mail), is a better tech than HTML for rich text in email. But for
> > whatever social reasons it didn't catch on. Html is the de facto
> > standard today for rich text in email.
> There are lots of things that become defacto standards, but this doesn't
> make them necessarily a good thing. Your arguements appear to be very
> much of the popularist variety - lots of people do it, therefore it must
> be good or the correct way. In reality, most people don't care and don't
> even know its going on.

suggesting the ability for email rmail to support html email is not
based on popularity or fashion. It's more like real world need versus
ideologiest's view.

> > Also, as i mentioned before, tools used by tech geekers usually have 5
> > or more so years lagging in catching up with any tech that are being
> > adapted in the commercial world. For example, HTML email has basically
> > became the standard in Microsoft since maybe 2002?, and html is widely
> > supported or in fact default format for commercial web based service
> > provider since many years ago too.
> It is true that Microsoft is very much responsible for the growth in
> HTML based e-mail. This is largely due to the fact that it was at one
> time the default setting. I have found that often, when I've asked someone not
> to send e-mail in HTML format, they are actually surprised to find out
> that they were i.e. many people don't even realise their mail is being
> formatted in HTML. The point is that just because many people use it
> you cannot conclude they are doing so because they want it. In fact, the
> number of HTML e-mails that are anything other than a very poor
> formatting of just text far outweighs those where the author is actively
> formatting their text with features provided by HTML.

efficiency has to be considered on the whole. The time spend to talk
to these people about the merits of plain text, is a use of resource.
Is this resource, for you to teach, and for him to learn, less
valuable than the seconds or bytes HTML email consumes?

arguably, the world could be a much better place, where everyone
understand all techonolgy and details, and always choice the most
efficient format. That's a great vision.

Thomas Sowell calls it The Vision Of The Annointed.

> My emacs mail client gives me the choice of viewing mail in HTML or
> plaiin text. I choose plain text because it is faster and because the
> HTML version doesn't give me any added value. Note also that links in my
> text messages are clickable and just as convenient as they would be in
> HTML, but without all the additional overhead. I can also view image
> attachments etc. So, all that HTML can really give me are possibly
> different fonts and colours - I prefer to manage those myself and not
> have someone else dictate them and as mentioned above, few people
> actually use these formatting features anyway.

does rmail support viewing html?



> If/when I decide to
> process my e-mail on my phone, I also want it in plain text because I
> don't want to have to have additional software to render HTML for simple
> messages that I'm reading on a small screen. I wold rather be using my
> limited phone memory, processing power and battery to do things that are
> necessary and not waste it on fluff that gives no real added value.
> > Emacs's rmail, should adopt the ability to send HTML mail. It is my
> > guess, that it will adopt it eventually. The question is just how many
> > more years later?
> This may happen. Then again, there is a growing user base for 'markdown'
> rather than markup, which is remarkably similar to the concepts of 'rich
> text' and has the added benefit of still being quite readable without
> being rendered. The growth of things like IM, SMS, Twitter etc could
> also see a complete change in the landscape and e-mail as we know it
> will begin to morph into a completely different format that is better
> suited to smaller personal devices, such as PDAs and mobile phones.
> I'm skeptical we will see much of an adoption of HTML in emacs mail
> clients for sending of e-mail. There just isn't any real benefit. There
> are also far bigger issues with e-mail that will need to be addressed
> and I suspect we will see a complete change in the landscape before we
> see much happen with respect to authoring of e-mail in HTML. If we do
> see something along the lines of a full markup language, lets hope its
> something easier to format and process, such as XML.
> tim
> --
> tcross (at) rapttech dot com dot au

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