This document was originally written in response to the following question:
Why don't people like "top posts"? I find it far more difficult to read a thread when people "bottom post". It means that I need to scroll virtually every message I want to read.
What is the reason to quote at all? Consider it. It shouldn't be to allow people to scroll down to see all earlier discussions. If the news client is a bit smart, fetching the older articles from the server should be just as easy as to "scroll down". If a thread goes forth and back some times and earlier quotes accumulate, an article including all those quotes might get five-ten times larger than a posting without quotes, this wastes bandwidth and hard disk space. Therefore, IMHO, no quotes are far better than a posting at the top of all old quotes.
Ot the other hand, it's very easy to lose the context in a posting without any quoting at all. Letting the reader understand the context is very important for easy reading. Therefore there should always be some few lines reminding the reader about what kind of discussion he is into.
If a person has to scroll down to read the new information, there are probably too much quotes in the article. A person that is good to use quotes never quotes more than some few lines at once. If I can't find the right lines to quote, I often replace all the quotes with a short summary of the discussion so far. Actually I can agree that it is more annoying when complete articles are quoted with a small "yes" or "no" at the bottom than to read a top-post.
There is also another very important aspect with quoting that shouldn't be underestimated; the quotes should tell what parts of an article you're replying to. Often you have some viewpoints about some parts of an article, and other viewpoints about other parts of it. The best way to solve that is to quote a little bit, come with some comments, quote some more, and then write some comments to that as well. This can't at all be done in a top-posting.
Also, I get very annoyed when I send an email with a lot of questions, and somebody (using the top-post method) replies to the first or the last question, but forget the rest. Even from the poster's point of view it should be better to do it the preferred way, as it's easier to keep track of what you've commented and what you still haven't commented.
There is a small danger in the preferred way of quoting: it's easy to overlook the completeness of an article, and start nitpicking about the details instead. People wanting to get something positive out of news should be very careful not to waste too much time on useless, counter-productive discussions anyway.
Top-postings became popular when the mass started using Internet and particularly mail. Ordinary, clueless people quote all the article, or quotes the article below their own posting/mail because it requires less time, because they haven't thought much of the purpose of quoting, and because their software are optimized for such use. As the growth of "ordinary" users using Internet has been far greater than the speed of public "education", top-postings has, unfortunately, become a de-facto standard in emails, mailing lists, as well as quite some non-technical newsgroups.
This document is based on
a Usenet article posted by
Tobias Brox (
to comp.programming and news.misc 2001-04-28.
I have turned it into this Web page with his permission, and I have
tried to limit the changes to typo fixes and other purely
I think that this document nicely complements
other treatises on Usenet and netiquette,
such as the longish explanations listed below.
Other Web pages discussing the same topic:
This page was last modified 2003-11-03. Jukka K. Korpela.