Email: Are you writing emails in a proper etiquette?

Most of us use email rather frequently, however how email is used varies substantially across groups of people. The differences are especially noticeable when it comes to etiquette of quotation and threading of email, that in particular becomes important as the volume of information increase in order to keep track of the various threads.

Some groups are inherently better than others, and some email clients encourage better practices than others, but in the end it all comes down to the user choices being made. Not surprisingly, developers tend to have a better grasp at email etiquette, but what can we learn from this?

HTML emails:

Lets start off with HTML emails. I mean, seriously, disable this at once. Email should be text only, and if that isn't sufficient it likely should be an external reference or an attachment. HTML emails doesn't provide any obvious advantage over text email, but has many downsides, in particular external loading of resources leading to privacy issues and possibility to execute script files leading to security vulnerabilities. Having HTML, in particular in combination with scripting, or allowing external resource loading is as such only negative, not to mention you can't really work and compose a response offline.

If using HTML for the purpose of text formatting there exists common practices for styling plain text emails that removes most of the need for it. The following are a few of the tricks for bold, underlined and italic text that will have effect in sane email clients.

  • *bold text* , the asterisk will be treated to indicate bold
  • _underlined text_ , the underscore character on both sides of the text will be used throught the client
  • /italic text/ , slashes are useful too


Proper quotation

So, once you start writing proper emails in plain text only, the question of quotation comes to mind. Do you ever top-post? if so, why would you do such a silly thing? Wikipedia has some more information on this quoting style, but I prefer to keep to the basic:

A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
Q: Why is top-posting such a bad thing?
A: Top-posting.
Q: What is the most annoying thing in e-mail?

Reading in the opposite order does something funky with your brain, doesn't it? Why do you want your readers to suffer like that in order to try to get a context of a conversation, in particular if this is one of 100 different threads they are actually following?

Continuing form that; quotes should be properly nested using the ">" character. That is how it has been done for several decades, and newcomers to email not following the practice are just an annoyance. Proper email clients will interpret this and display it accordingly:


On that same note, remove information that isn't relevant when responding to an email, reading through non-related information just increases the workload of everyone of your recipient, so just... don't, the few seconds more it takes you to clear out the information that isn't related results in a N times amplification of savings for the readers depending on the number of people involved (and the times the email is accessed).


Etiquette also comes into mind with regards to threading. In some mailing lists this becomes vital in order to follow the discussion, and if someone is using an email client (such as Google's  Android standard email client that doesn't support In-Reply-To and References). A user that posts a message that breaks the thread can reasonable expect to be cursed upon and told to get a proper email client.


A sub-topic of proper threading is, if you during the course of the discussion create a sub-thread that actually focus on something different from the initial one, for crying out loud, change the subject of the email to reflect this to make it easier to keep track of and look back in the archives.

OpenPGP signature and encryption

I've likely said enough about this topic already, but any post about emails are required to cover the need for proper authentication, integrity and confidentiality of information. So if you don't use OpenPGP / GnuPG / PGP to protect your information (and going forwards, hopefully with a Memory Hole compliant client). Well, don't expect too much positive response from me at least.

The fall and decline of USA and the USD

It has been quite some time since I've written anything in this blog, primarily for two reasons:

  • I've been too busy with everything else
  • I really haven't had that much on my mind that was worth writing about

But today I felt different, so here we go with my little rant, hopefully there will be some comments to it.

USD keeps depreciating against the Norwegian Krone (NOK). We have had a 2.26% depreciation the past two days and USDNOK is now trading at 5.1899. If we look at monthly data we see that NOK gradually has appreciated since 2002, when USDNOK was at levels above 9. It passed the 1992-high of 5.20 in august 2007 and is now trading around 5.19. This marks a 46% appreciation which, I believe, most will agree with is a massive movement.

I have no doubt that we will see USDNOK continuing to decline, and we'll see the 4-number before or during 2009. I speculate that after this; presuming the US can get its act together, we'll see normalization around 2013-2015 at a 6-7-range. But we'll see if time proves me wrong or right on that one.

One thing is certain. with EURUSD at 1.5, with expectations to reach 2 by 2010-2011, USA loses international purchasing power. The upside obviously being gaining competitive strength again.

And being competitive internationally is something the US of A has neglected for quite some time. If we e.g. look at the the automaker industry and agriculture; the political reign has been dominated by protectionism and neglected modernization, supported by, to mention one factor, strong lobbying from worker's unions.

If we look at the auto-industry, consider the gas-efficiency and some americans complaining about 2-3 USD / gallon gas prices. As a comparison, the after-tax-price on gasoline in Norway is about 13 NOK a liter, or 2.45 USD / liter, or about 9.26 USD / gallon. Then, if we look at the crude oil prices, which currently trades at or above 100 USD a barrel. Or, converted for american's convenience (it is not like we can expect them to do arithmetic), 100 USD per 42 gallons of crude oil; 2.38 USD / gallon for the raw material.

I expect to see even higher oil prices in USD-terms over the next couple of years, as USD depreciates against the Euro. Taking into account an EURUSD of 2 (versus today's 1.5) we have a 133 USD/bl oil price on just forex fluctuations. An oil price in the 150-200 USD range isn't something I'd be surprised to see, and that would still be relatively stable in Euro-terms.

With an upcoming presidential elections we can only hope that Americans will take a stance for a sustainable long-term economy, rather than going for the easiest quick-fix and consequently the politician promising the most. Of course, such a hope is against my better judgement, but that is after all why it is called hope.

Until then; the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are what can help the global economy by supplying increased consumption. If we look at today's situation; where USA has a net negative savings rate (being indebted on average), China has a savings rate above 50%. Politicians are already trying to bring the savings rate down and support consumption rather than savings, in order to offset negative consumption growth from the US. And we are indeed seeing a slightly higher effort in savings, if only it had happened 15 years ago.

On Linux being anti-capitalistic

As most of those who knows me knows, I'm a GNU/Linux advocate. The GNU/Linux operating system is running exclusively on all my computers, and that is the way it will continue to be for a long time. This is what I'm happy with, providing me both the flexibility and the stability I want from day to day.

Today I was presented with a blog post at ShelleyTheRepublican that was, uhm, interesting.

Fortunately Microsoft have prepared a great deal of information to help computer users get away from this menace

Interestingly enough I wrote an article commenting on Microsoft's Get The Facts campaign not too long ago, which had 15,000 unique visitors in a day. Something tells me Tristan Shuddery, the original author of the article, was not one of them.

My favorite paragraph in the blog post is still

If you see a company using Linux, it may be that they have not paid for this software. Report them to the Business Software Alliance who have the legal authority to inspect any company's computers for illegal programs like Linux.

The Business Software Alliance's website states the following:

The Business Software Alliance is the foremost organization dedicated to promoting a safe and legal digital world. BSA is the voice of the world's commercial software industry and its hardware partners before governments and in the international marketplace. Its members represent the fastest growing industry in the world. BSA educates consumers on software management and copyright protection, cyber security, trade, e-commerce and other Internet-related issues.

Now, first of all. Using a product that is offered for free is still legal, no matter what Shelley seems to believe. For some reason she seems to believe that nobody is making money off of GNU/Linux. But has she considered that most pay more for support than the actual product? And people want to customize their packages to fit their company, giving programmers work to do. Companies, like International Business Machines (IBM) is making money and providing jobs for employees all around the world, including America which she seems particulary centered around.

Finally, remember to include Linux users in your prayers tonight. As individuals we may not be able to change people's minds, but the Bible teaches that God can make any sinner repent.

Well, its a good thing I'm non-religious then, and I have a hard time expressing how happy I am that this woman is unable to change my mind.

Tristan follows up on the story in a comment to the post stating

Thanks for posting my article Shelley; I submitted this to the mainstream IT press, but none of them wanted to know. It's shocking to learn that the same liberal bias that infects mainstream news-sources also affects the technical press.

Yes, Linux is a primative European clone; It is much less capable than Windows. In fact it omits features that were standard in Windows back in 1998; For example Linux has no built-in anti-virus or anti-spyware software.

You cannot even buy popular utilities like Norton Security to compensate for this fact. There are no tools for common tasks like defragging a hard disk. God knows what you would use to send a fax or make a website. You cannot even get Front Page for Linux.

Linux is that bad; The only explaination I can think for people using it is that it by-passes the protection given by American companies and the Dept of Homeland Security. It should be considered a terrorist program.


protect yourself against identity theft

Interestingly enough, Tristan's web log (blog) is hosted on, a service provided by Google. as "rj" states in some comments:

rj said...

Shelley, you'd do better to go research the matter yourself.

There's a good chance that runs on Linux. Maybe you should ask them.

Shelley said...

No way. is hosting on Windows!!!
I would not host my website on Linux either. It's disgusting.

rj said... is run by Google.

"What operating system (OS) does the Google Search Appliance run on?

The Google Search Appliance is based on the same software that is used in Google's datacenters. The operating system is a hardened version of Linux that is optimized for search, sometimes referred to as Google Linux."

Google Enterprise Solutions

"Google quickly outgrew the confines of its Menlo Park home, and by February 1999 had moved to an office on University Avenue in Palo Alto. At eight employees, Google's staff had nearly tripled, and the service was answering more than 500,000 queries per day. Interest in the company had grown as well. Red Hat signed on as its first commercial search customer, drawn in part by Google's commitment to running its servers on the open source operating system Linux."

Google Corporate Information

And to close up, the ShelleyTheRepublican website is itself hosted using the Open Source Apache running Linux.

Sorry, I think you are a liar.
Me and linux hosting? Never!

Ignorance is bliss.