W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-webplatform@w3.org > October 2012

Posting Guidelines: One Topic Per Email

From: Doug Schepers <schepers@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2012 11:11:25 -0400
Message-ID: <507ECA9D.1010803@w3.org>
To: public-webplatform@w3.org
Hi, folks-

I think over time we should gather our posting guidelines for this list 
into a place on the wiki, but for now, I just wanted to suggest the 

Only post a single topic per email.

It's tempting to just list several things you've noticed with the site 
into a single long email, but I've found through years of standards work 
via email that this practice has some serious downsides in a large 
collaborative environment.

1) People tend to put off reading long emails, delaying (or even 
preventing) the conversation;

2) People tend to respond on only 1 or 2 points, and usually at least 
some points get lost (even important ones);

3) It's hard to follow conversations that have multiple threads in the 
same email;

4) Short emails with targeted points more often lead to quick 
conclusions and immediate action, while longer emails tend to result in 
longer conversations without conclusions or actions;

5) It's harder to find archived conversations that don't have a clear, 
simple thread (and a good descriptive subject line), when you go back 
and look later;

6) Emails with multiple topics are more subject to "topic drift", in 
which some related point is raised from one of the points, and the 
conversation goes off on a tangent leading even further from any of the 
original points.

Inevitably, someone will post an email with multiple topics. When you 
respond to these, an effective strategy for keeping focused is to only 
respond to one of the points, trim out the rest of the email, and change 
the subject like from "Re: Here's a braindump" to "The Foo Issue (was: 
Here's a braindump)".

On a final note, I want to emphasize that posting emails with multiple 
topics is not "bad behavior"; it's not breaking netiquette, it's not 
rude, it's not trolling, and it's not antisocial. It's just less 
effective than posting one topic per email. So, don't feel bad if you've 
done this, but do consider this suggestion when writing future emails on 
this list.

-Doug Schepers
W3C Developer Relations Lead
Received on Wednesday, 17 October 2012 15:11:33 UTC

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