[Israel.pm] multipart/alternative added

Gaal Yahas gaal at forum2.org
Thu May 27 10:46:07 PDT 2010

Hi Mikhael,

It is my understanding that this change was made for two reasons: the
possibility of embracing Hebrew as an acceptable language for posts on this
list, and the related technical questions regarding the difficulty of
transferring Hebrew correctly over plain text email.

The first reason can afford social debate. As Gabor pointed out, there are
people on this list who don't know Hebrew and it's perhaps discourteous to
them to accept another language. But this is offset by the fact that this is
a local Mongers list, and there is no other forum on the internet where
people who are uncomfortable with English can participate and have a
conversation about Perl in Hebrew. The list can debate this more but
personally, I think this is a perfectly fine goal, even if I'm quite likely
to make my own posts in English due to personal preferences.

The other is technical. It is simply impossible to get all email clients to
work correctly in bidi languages using only plain text. Alignment is the
least of your problems. If you mix Hebrew and English in the same paragraph,
it is almost certain that garbling will occur. In prose this is just very
annoying. In technical discussion it can render text completely unreadable.

Examples of garbling include reversed parentheses, misplaced punctuation,
reversed number segments. These have potential to do real damage to
coherence of the text. Unicode offers some technology to help with this, but
it is just not sufficient for email when used in plain text. There are
underspecified features that are interpreted differently by clients, and
regardless, these mechanisms are hard to use, even for a technical user.

HTML is not perfect, nor is it particularly elegant, but it solves the
problem adequately. I used to read mail in mutt and had no problem with
multipart/alternative correspondence. Perhaps you can tweak your settings to
make the defaults work better for you. There are also tools that strip the
HTML if it is unwanted for processing of some form.

Regarding the size costs: in the past year, this list has seen 271 of
gzipped text. Let's call that one megabyte, uncompressed. Let's further
assume that HTML mail is a blowup factor of four. So we waste 3MB *
#subscribers of storage a year, let's say there are around 300 of us. Let's
even say that with the popularity of Hebrew the list doubles in size, making
the problem worse -- in short, this change costs 2GB of storage a year for
everybody put together.

There are other costs to size bloat (bandwidth, processing time), but at
these figures they are simply negligible. Not that the storage cost isn't.
At disk prices today, that's 60 cents. Or if you prefer highly available
cloud storage, that's $3.6/year on Amazon S3. Remember, I'm talking about
everyone's costs *put together*. One beer. You know what, it's on me.

Now, there's a distinct possibility that you knew this perfectly well all
along and you were just trolling. In which case I believe you owe me that
beer, not the other way around.

On Thu, May 27, 2010 at 5:34 PM, Mikhael Goikhman <migo at homemail.com> wrote:

> On 27 May 2010 09:28:07 +0300, Gabor Szabo wrote:
> >
> > Now I also added text/html to the non-filtering.
> Looks like a serious degrade to me.
> If previously only one text/plain part was sent by the list and the
> message was clearly readable without any parsers, now 3 content parts
> are sent from people who insist to use html (text, html and the list
> footer that is now sent as a separate text/plain "attachment").
> Actually it is more complex than just 3 parts. Count how many
> Content-Type: headers old-style messages had. One. The new style
> message (i.e. the one I reply to) has 5 (five!) of these headers.
> Please take a look how such new messages with all these "attachments"
> look in mutt(1) compared to the previous version. At least consider
> to remove the list footer. The list headers already provide all
> information about the list, seems redudant to add it as content too.
> And allowing html makes the message size grow uncontrollably. If
> previously many of the small messages on this list were under 1KB,
> now it is trivial to get to 6KB, And since now every garbage html
> generated by various graphical mailers is passed as is, it will be a
> norm for an overhead of dozens of killobytes per message.
> And all this for what? Which problem was solved exactly?
> > זאת שורה בעברית
> Am I supposed to send html now to satisfy those who want this line to
> be right aligned? Because if I continue to stick to plain text, all
> previously used html is thrown away. So this problem is not solved.
> I can't say I am happy about this trend. Instead of asking Google to
> fix their gmail client to have sane options (automatically align
> Hebrew lines in text if the user wants this; be able to reply by
> plain text to the configured addresses regardless of the last message
> type sent), people prefer to change the format of mail messages and
> even make html "attachements" to be the new mail standard.
> In short, I see serious usablity problems now and no problems solved.
> </rant>
> Regards,
> Mikhael.
> --
> perl -e 'print+chr(64+hex)for+split//,d9b815c07f9b8d1e'
> _______________________________________________
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Gaal Yahas <gaal at forum2.org>
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