Email threading and breaking it

One thing that has been annoying me over the past years is that on mailinglists people with Outlook or Outlook Express clients tend to start a new thread by replying to an email in another thread. They remove the body, perhaps some cc: information, change the subject, write their body and send it off. Since Outlook supports completion for to: and cc: fields, it seems a bit of a timewaster to start a new topic like that.

But leaving all that aside, the worst part is that Outlook doesn’t show you all headers, in particular it leaves the References header intact, which means it is now a reply to an earlier post in another thread. And so threading is broken. You might think “why be annoyed over it”, well, the problem is that online mailinglist indexes use this information for proper navigating through a thread. Typically they provide a ‘next by thread’ and ‘previous by thread’ hyperlink to navigate, but the logical flow of the thread is now broken.

So whenever I see someone with Outlook do this, I send them a note about this in private and most often they adjust the way they work, since, like I stated earlier, starting a new message is actually even faster.

2 thoughts on “Email threading and breaking it

  1. Very noble!

    Ik used to do with people who don’t now the difference between “to” and “bcc”. But I gave up teaching people about the difference. Feels like a lost cause. Just have to keep you spam filters up-2-date and all stays well.


    P.S. Check you email .. :-)

  2. I hope you don’t mind if I revive this very old post of yours. . . .

    I’d say that keeping “online mailinglist indexes” working properly isn’t “the problem”, as you stated it. It is, instead, “a problem”. There are others. For instance, some of us who receive traffic from several high-traffic mailing lists rely on the functionality of threading email clients to help organize our inboxes. Breaking up the logical flow of a thread by hijacking it the way you describe causes problems for a lot of people like me who may never even visit an online archive of the list.

    In short, I guess what I’m saying is “I agree — but even more so.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *