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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 10:14:47 -0700 (PDT)
User-agent: G2/1.0

On Aug 8, 8:19 am, Tim X <address@hidden> wrote:
> So, what your really saying is you just want to argue for the sake of
> arguing?


> If you can remember back to my original reply to the OP I
> merely said that HTML in e-mail was a bad thing. You also snipped how I
> suggested that he could do it if he wanted to. Of course, all you were
> interested in is grinding your own axe and looking for any place you can
> jump on a soap box!

Hum? I don't really see how we got into this.

I was saying, that html email is a good thing.

> Talk about pot calling kettle black. You wrote "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" - You freely admit you have
> not got any stats and that it is a guess. Maybe you should start doing
> some research yourself!

In my post where i gave percentages about html mail use, i also gave a
link to Wikipedia. You said my percentage is bogus. So retort that
they are not if one do research, and quoted the Wikipedia's stat about
html mail pervasiveness.

> If you do, forget about results from marketing
> companies that have their own axe to grind.

That's a bad attitude. How can you laugh at market research companies?
Major corps such as google, Microsoft, Apple etc, pays tens of
thousands dollars for their reports.

Are you getting into the attitude of all those conspiracy theories
that hackers love? All lawers are bad, all companies are bad, society
should be anarchy, government covers up UFOs, 9-11 is a act of US
government, etc?

> Go out and find out from
> users what they actually think. I suspect you will find that the vast
> majority of users don't really care and most aren't even ware that their
> mail is bieng formatted in HTML or that it could just be in plain text.

I forgot what exactly we are arguing about. What are we arguing about?

I suggest this: Emacs's rmail should have the ability to send and
receive html mail.

I've posted about 6 or so messages giving my reasons. If you say that
this should be a low priority for lack of manpower, then i agree. But
i think you and others emphatically say that html mail is bad, which i
don't agree.

> yes, and the following paragraphs are less than praising of the benefits
> of HTML. In fact, the very next paragraphs say
> "As HTML mail is more complex than plain text, however, it is also more prone
> to compatibility issues and problems with rendering consistently across
> platforms and software.
> Some popular clients do not render consistently with W3C specifications, and
> many HTML e-mails are not compliant, either, which may cause rendering or
> delivery problems, especially for users of MSN or Hotmail.^[3]"

sure, html mail is not perfect technology. I agree. On the whole, i
gave reasons that this is not a sufficient reason to say that emacs
should not have the ability to send/receive html mail.

For example, unix's X windows is truly the worst technology. But do
you suggest we ditch it?

See for example:
 The X-Windows Disaster

> and still, the real benefits in the sense of what HTML can give you that
> you cannot do with plain text and MIME are minimal and largely just
> fluff. I also find it ironic that the company that is largely
> responsible for the growth of HTML mail has now got the situation where
> customers using their mail systems (MSN/Hotmail) have problems with
> poorly formatted HTML e-mails!

Well, we can consider html as fluff from the tech geeker perspective.
Considered by the whole human animal society, it's not “largely just

I gave several paragraphs of examples illustrating how the education
industry, commerce industry, etc all need rich text in email. Please
see my other post here:

> >> 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.
> No, nothing to do with open source, its a commercial entity with a lot
> of education and research centres. Around 60% of the user base are on
> Wndows and a bit under 40% on Macs. The remaining couple of percent are
> Linux/BSD etc.

Ok. But anyway, you can still set your email app to receive and send
only plain text. If you are admin, you can set it at the server level.
The ability to read and send html mail doesn't force emacs users into
one way.

> > 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 you use it to sound like you are precise when your making a guess?
> Just admit your making a subjective guess and stop trying to make it
> sound like you have some authoritative knowledge or research.

well, if you interprete my use of percentage as trying to sound
authoritative, that's fine. I gave you reasons as to why i use it.

Also, as to authoritiveness, i do think i know about social issues
much more than... nevermind.

Perhaps we can more stick to topic? I suggest, that this thread to
argue about:
Whether emacs's rmail should have the ability to send and receive html

If we can all post with this in mind, that'll help.

Of course you many disagree that this or the way i phrased it should
be the topic. Suggest a good explicit topic then. We can be more
focused that way.

For example, if you suggest this: “HTML mail is comparatively not a
good technology”. Then no argument from me. Let's be more specific on
what exactly we are arguing about.

> > 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.
> So if its converted to HTML on receipt anyway, how is it soemthing that
> is beneficial to the end user as apart form something that just makes
> the web interface easier for the provider?

I don't know. It may be converted to html mail before transmission
too. But let's look at it from another perspective. These mail service
provides, gmail, msn, yahoo, are all using html. They perhaps account
for 90% of emails sent today. Imagine, people at google says “no,
gmail should not support html because HTML is a wart. It's spam,
bloat, inefficient, used by stupid people.”

> >> 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%.
> Your still mixing up cause and effect. Wikipedia also says that many of
> those mailers don't do a good or consistent job of rendering the mail
> and it makes reference to things like fishing attacks, which are made
> possible because of HTML mail. How much of the growth in HTML mail is
> due to companies adding that facility to try and get some sort of market
> edge? What proportion of users really care whether their e-mail is in
> plain text or HTML? How many would have switched to HTML if they actually
> had to change the default configuration if it had been set to plain
> text out of the box? How many users would be happier if they hadn't been
> caught by that fishing attack or their e-mail address had not been
> confirmed as legitimate to the spammers when they opened the mail or
> their download took only 1/3rd as long or their mailbox was able to
> handle 75 percent more messages?

You seems to have a geeker attitude towards corporations. Seems to
suggest whatever corporations do, is to make extra money, and
disregard users.

I think that's at heart many tech geeker's unrealistic view came from.
Companies exist to make money. They make money if people choose their
product. Ultimately, it's the masses of people, everyone all
considered together, that dictate trends and happenings in society.

If people prefer plain text, gmail would not have supported html. If
supporting html as default is some kinda corporate plot to add ads or
whatever, then it may backfire and people will stop using that

If corporations made html mail the default format for email, i simply
think that they decided, after extensive research on all aspects, that
it is what people want, and ultimately benefit the them.

> >> 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.
> and thats your argument to support making it worse? Just because there
> are security issues in some other area is a pretty poor arguement for
> adding additional issues in this one.

You are right of course. And of course, i'm not saying that we should
add whatever technology with lots security holes to emacs. I'm just
saying, of all thing considered, emacs's rmail or gnus, should support
the sending and receiving of html mail.

> > 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?
> Hogwash. You have to learn to be a bit more critical in your
> reading (I'm assuming you have read that somewhere). Statements like
> that are just emotional FUD filled rubbish.

Well, it actually happened to me. I don't know what planet you came
from. But when i was in the unix industry, managing servers with roots
to tens of servers... some sys admin refused to install emacs on the
server that's not under my control. It is brought up in a conference
with managers. Basically, i was telling them, if you don't install
emacs, i won't do it. You do whatever installations etc you have to

I mean, in my view, most sys admins are morons. (oops, execuse my
Thinking back, i shouldn't have been rather confruntational on that
issue. I could be more friendlier.

Anyway, this incident and similar, made me learn the basic of vi. See
for example:

> For a start, there is no one
> Unix - they are all different and have had different volnrabilities. You
> also need to distinguish between security issues due to misconfiguration
> and security issues that are a result of the fundamental design or poor
> programming. Sweeping statements like that mean absolutely nothing.

Well, i always thought, judging from your posts, that you are some
student. Over comp.lang.lisp last months or so you indicated that you
are 40 or 50 something? Ok, so i'm not sure you actually knew less of
unix then me. But you can check out my unix tutorial and commentary
here and get some inkling on what i know.

The Unix Pestilence

> Note also, its not bot-nets of UNIX boxes that spammers and a growing
> number of serious criminals are using - they are bot-nets of windows
> boxes.

Well, perhaps let's not start on the issue of Microsoft hatred ok?

Seriously, i consider Microsoft's OS far secure than unixes, when
considered on the whole of the OSes's history. See for example, i've
written rather detailed reasons on why i think it:

On Microsoft Hatred

The Microsoft Hatred FAQ

Before MS hatred, there was IBM hatred around 1990. I suppose before
that there was AT&T unix hatred. And now there's increasing bad
mouthing on google. I think tech geekers simply hate anything big or

> >> 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.
> As I said in the previous mail, HTML makes it harder to detect the spam
> because spammers can embed their message inside an image. You cannot
> detect it unless you use sophisticated image analysis software or OCR,
> both of which are too resource hungry to be of any practicle use on a
> production mail server. I won't even go into the issues of fishing
> attacks that HTML enables or the fact spammers can use embedded objects
> within the HTML to detect when you open the mail - verifying that it is
> a legitimate e-mail address and even recording the time it was opened.

Well, as i explained with many reasons, that i think it is
questionable that HTML is harder to detect as spam. For example, you
cite images. Well, in my mail box, images are simply turned off. It's
plain text i have to actually eyeball.

But anyway, let's get back on focus. Regardless whether it is easier
or harder to detect spam in html or plain text, it doesn't matter.
HTML mail is now the universal standard. It is good if emacs's email
reading facilities supports it.

> As to your reference to the "I love you" virus, that isn't what most
> people would call spam, but rather a virus.

well, what terms you like to call it doesn't matter. The point was
that bad things, happens in plain text too as frequently in html.

> Personally, it didn't bother
> me as I'm on one of those traditionally insecure Unix systems that is
> not affected by such things and even if someone did send me a virus that
> was able to run on my Unix system, it would only have minimal impact due
> to the clear seperation between user space and kernel/system space (a
> significant reason/cause of many of MS security problems).

Well, as i argued in the The Microsoft Hatred FAQ essay, MS OS got
more virus because it is popular, a decision made by all the people in
the world. In that essay, i expressed, that if overnight all MS OSes
and Servers switched to Unixes, the world would crumble down. If you
like to argue about the security of Microsoft OS vs Unixes, start a
new thread please.

> >> 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.
> Well, that certainly doesn't describe my grandmother, my mother or
> anyone else I've discussed it with. In fact, despite having helped a lot
> of people, I've not yet come across a single person who feels they just
> simply must have HTML e-mail. Many think its nice until you point out a
> few things, such as the spam stuff, the fact many mail readers don't
> render it correctly, the fact that some mail systems will block it, they
> fact its a lot larger etc etc and they almost always then ask how they
> can turn off HTML formatting of the messages they send.  In fact, the
> only time I've come across clients who have insisted on HTML e-mail, it
> was because they wanted to use the mail for marketing purposes and are
> still caught up in the old brochure midnset. Most of the time, once I
> explain some of the issues involved and suggest that a better approach
> would be to provide just a basic e-mail with a link to their sales
> information on their website, they are more than happy to go that
> route.
> > 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?
> No I'd just dump her for being a tasteless unimaginative
> cliche. Luckily, my current partner has better taste and while not a
> person even slightly interested in tech stuff, she is smart enough to
> understand the issues and has no problem with plain text.

So you are ditching the market of sweet sixteens? You know, they hog
on myspace with cellphones. Too bad for you.

> This is another point I've noticed with your posts. I think you
> unde-estimate people. You seem to have an attitude that anyone who has
> even a basic technical grasp of things is a tech geek.

Well, no. The tech geekers are thos who hog comp.lang newsgroups and
slashdots, for example. They are a class of people with no knowledge
in social sciences what so ever. They are the ones who said, i wrote
before, here:

(as a example of
a characteristic thought pattern of these people... one can image
are the type of guys who said computers should never adopt the mouse
(~1990), GUI (~1990), the web should not commercialize (~1995), web
should not have cookies (~1997), css or javascript (~1998), source
code should never have syntax coloring (mid 1990s), blogging is for
teens (early 2000s), Wikipedia is for morons (~2004). In their quite
strong opinion, these type of features or changes are a waste of
computing cycle, fad, or for kids or dumbing down society, when these
things were in their early days and their future is not certain.)

> In reality, many
> people have little problems understanding technology. Many are not at all
> interested, but thats different from not being able to udnerstand
> it. The teens and 20 somethings, technical
> understandning of computers, terminology and concepts is very high. It
> appears to drop off a bit in the 40 - 60s for those not that engaged
> with technology. Surprisingly, it seems to increase again in the above
> 60s. In fact, I've assisted quite a few retired people who have jumped
> in with both feet and are not only having no problems coming to terms
> with it all, are actually really enjoying the challenge and are often
> amazed at what they are finding out.
> >> > 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.
> You don't beleive it is a good solution, but you think it is needed
> because there is so much of it already - thats what I would call a
> popularist perspective. You would possibly argue it is just a pragmatic
> perspective - its there so we should just accept it and go with the
> flow.

It's not about popularity. Yes pragmatic. And it's not about “go with
the flow”. Consider technology and its history, adopting html mail in
a email app is very reasonable.

Let me make it clear. I consider, those who don't see this, or would
argue about it, as most did here, are completely ignorant of anything
about social or historical aspect of technology. COMPLETELY CLUELESS.
I mean, this is rude to say, and i'm sorry. I don't mean to be
disrespectful. I try to be on topic, and polite.

> My perspective could well be defined as being ideological, but unlike
> you, I don't see that as a bad thing as long as its not taken to an
> extreme. As I actually provided the OP with suggested solutions and only
> mentioned that it was a bad idea to use HTML formatted mail, I don't
> think my view is that of an ideological extremist.

The reason i responded to the beginning of this thread is the typical
plain-text-email fetish, added uncessarily when answering the original
poster's question about how to send html mail in gnus. This Luddite
attitude is very harmful and is popular among tech geeking communities
(e.g. comp.lang newsgroups, slashdot). As i gave examples above, these
attitudes typically are against any technology that are not useful to
hardcore elite programers, from gui to mouse to commercializion of web
to css to javascript to youtube.

So ok, maybe we have a heated argument. You say X, i say Y. How can we
resolve this argument? So, first i suggest we give explicit topic so
we can focus on it. I suggested one in this post few paragraphs above.
We can discuss that. Then, we can have a few, explicit sub topics.
Each we can gave reasons to agree or disagree. Research for facts,
find experts, etc.

> >> > 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?
> Yes, because the time I spend explaining such things doesn't cost you
> and everyone else money. The increased bandwidth, security problems,
> spam and added cost of trying to prevent it cost us all because
> providers need to cover these expenses somewhere and they do that by
> charging us more.

spending time to explain to others about tech details of html vs plain
text is costy. It's a human labor, one of the most costy thing.

Your other points... SIGH. Tim, i'm getting tired. I tried to type
very fast and reply very fast here. But i'm still getting tired. I
think i already spent 1 hour just typing continuously.

You are so silly. I gave you the award for being the silliest!

> > 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.
> Yet you can't resist jumping into a thread like this one to argue
> against any attempt to help inform people of such things. In fact, you
> often highjack such threads to push your own agenda with total disregard
> for the actual point of the question and I note you didn't even attempt
> to address the OPs question and conveniently cut out all the text except
> that one line which gave you the opening to get on your soap box.
> >> 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?
> I don't use rmail, so I don't know. However, VM, mew and I believe
> wonderlust and gnus do.

Well, i used vm with xemacs during 1998-2000. I don't recall it
support html but i might be wrong.

We can stop this conversation, or we can start with a focus on a
explicitly phrased topic. Then we can clarify which is opinion, which
is preference, which are facts, and create more explicit sub topics.
Then perhaps eventually we might agree, or agree to know, which points
exactly we don't agree.


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