Postings guide for mactalk

By: Josephine Morris-Turner

Firstly, you may want to ask ‘Why does how we post to mactalk matter?’.

Other MUGS and forums (fora) may not have the same ‘thing’ about posting etiquette, and that is their choice. But, here in mactalk, it has been agreed that, actually, it does matter, so, we ask that anyone who ‘chooses’ to join us, tries really hard to get it right.

We don’t cart people off to the gallows if they don’t get it right, and we don’t want anybody- ANYBODY! – to feel nervous of posting if they can’t understand how to do it. That cannot happen!

The only thing which really bugs us is when people choose, of their own free will, to join us and then repeatedly and deliberately don’t even try to apply the postings etiquette, because they don’t agree with it or can’t be bothered. I like to think that it’s because they have never really understood the logic behind it.

This terrific forum is available to the membership thanks to a team of hard-working people who, freely and often on top of their regular work, make it what it is and facilitate an arena where huge amounts of problem solving and technical advice can be shared in friendship.

The rules have been agreed for genuine reasons, so we should give it our best shot and at least try to get the postings etiquette right.

So, why does it matter? What is the logic? Read on….

Firstly, bottom posting creates a logical, progressive flow through a thread, rather like a conversation. If you write the reply before the post or, indeed, one or more separate parts of a post, to which you are replying, it’s a bind and it’s clumsy. So, ‘Bottom posting is the business! Yay!’

Secondly, we ask you to drastically – and we mean drastically! – edit your posts. What does this mean? Well, think about it: Jo Bloggs posts a new topic and we all read it in the forum. So, everyone, it is out there! It’s in our inboxes! We get it! It only needs to be printed in its entirety once! If anybody gets part way through a thread and thinks they’ve missed something, they can go right back to the original, full-length post by Jo Bloggs!

Thirdly, leading on from the above, if people don’t drastically edit when they respond to a post or involve themselves in a thread, the inboxes are unnecessarily clogged up and bandwidth is unnecessarily used. So, the aim is to edit the posts to which you are replying to the barest minimum for things to make sense when you add what you want to say.

To be fair, it is a bit of an art learning how to edit to a bare minimum, so all I would say is this: When you think you have trimmed Jo Bloggs’ post to just those bits to which you want to respond, ask yourself if there is anything else of that quoted text which you could cut out for what you want to say to still make sense.

You might be surprised! Look at the threads conducted by ‘old-timers’ who do this and see how little they actually reproduce from Jo Bloggs’ original post. The editing request isn’t about what YOU write, it’s about how much you and the next person, and the next, unnecessarily repeat when responding to a previous post.

Other people in mactalk have slightly different ways of achieving the same end as I when it comes to bottom posting and editing, and you may eventually find a different way which works for you. That’s fine.

The following sequence is how I do it – and it works. If it gets you to a place where you feel confident about how to post as mactalk has asked, my work is done! My philosophy and, indeed, that of mactalk, is that we are here to help each other, not to criticise or censure without offering the hand of friendship and guidance. mactalk is inclusive and exists in order to help, educate, share and boost confidence, irrespective of skill level or ability.

A suggestion: pick one or two of the ‘regular’ posters who understand and post ‘correctly’, follow how their threads are presented and just try to get your posts to follow the same format. If you have any problems, do feel free to give me contact me on my email address. I contribute very little by way of meaningful technical expertise, but how to bottom post is something about which I am confident! WooHoo for me! My following guide will help you. Take it step by step and you won’t go wrong.

How to achieve Bottom Posting

Jo’s ‘Idiot’s Guide’

  1. Hit ‘Reply’.
  2. Look at the email to which you are replying and locate the specific, or first specific, line, comment etc to which you want to respond.
  3. Highlight everything preceding it except for the intro – eg, On July 10th at 16.44 Jo Bloggs wrote: – and delete it all. This is so that we can all know to whom you are responding, so don’t forget – leave the ‘On July 10th etc…’ bit in!
  4. Move your cursor to immediately after the last relevant word to which you are responding and hit the Return key several times, so you create a space for you to type what you want to say. However, before typing, this is important:
  5. You will see that there is a vertical coloured line next to the left of the quoted text posted by Jo Bloggs (and others, in different colours, if it’s a multi-post thread). It is very important that you now come out of this area because, if you don’t, your typing will be in the same colour as the quoted text, when you want a) your text to be in black and b) for others to be able to follow the thread easily and not lose what you are saying in with all the coloured stuff! In short, anything you type in the same block marked by that vertical line to the left of the quoted text, will appear in the same colour as that text! You – and we – don’t want that! So, make sure you have no such vertical line next to your own text. In order to do this, after Action 4, I simply use the ‘Arrow up’ key, on the bottom right hand corner of the keyboard, in order to get my cursor into the clear space, well away from any vertical coloured lines.
  6. Now you are in the clear space, type what you want to say. Then, if necessary, keep repeating this sequence if you want to respond to other things Jo Bloggs wrote – or any other person, for that matter, because we do sometimes have situations where quotes from different people in the thread may be necessary. Just get into the habit of drastically editing the quoted text to the bare minimum for it all to make sense.
  7. When you have typed your last response, you need to delete everything below your name, after you have ‘signed off. This deletion must include the standard blurb ‘mactalk, your cache for questions…’ through to, and including, ‘…the bits you leave behind’.

    Why must you delete all of this? Simple, really. That blurb is a standard, automatic inclusion when emails come through the system and are posted in the forum. If you don’t remove the one which came with Jo Bloggs’ post, when your email is posted, JB’s blurb will still be there because it will have become part of your post!

    The system cannot recognise that that is the same blurb as the automatically added one, so we’ll end up receiving two lots of the blurb when your reply is posted!! If the next person does the same, the repeats of blurb could go on ad nauseum! So – NO NEED TO WRITE ALL THE END-BLURB! It’ll appear with your post all by itself! Tony has created it to do that.

    For me, after appending my name, I find it easier to scroll down to the end of the blurb, highlight upwards until I reach my name, and then hit delete – it saves me from forgetting to delete the blurb!

That should suffice for the main issue about how to bottom post and I hope that, if you follow it like ‘painting by numbers’ you will realise how easy it is. If you don’t, don’t panic – ask for more guidance. It’s FREE!

A tip: take a post by someone, one to which you might like to respond or ask a further question, and hit ‘Reply’. Then, before following my sequence above, delete the mactalk address in the ‘To’ box. Now you can play with the following of my guide to your heart’s content, safe in the knowledge that it won’t accidentally go anywhere! Once you are happy with it, if you intend sending it, just enter the mactalk address again and send – “Shimples”!

Other stuff:

OT: is a caption which appears in some topic titles and, if you don’t know what it means, it stands for OFF TOPIC. It can seem to be a bit of a minefield, so here is an expanded explanation which, in case you get bogged down, I will précis at the end.

In ‘plain speak’, OT means that it is nothing to do with technical, computing or Mac stuff; it is about something outwith that category, along the lines of, say, a personal experience or request – such as advice being sought about something unrelated, like energy supplier experiences or holiday insurance. Sometimes it comes as a direct, new OT topic; sometimes it develops from something picked up in an existing Mac thread.

When that happens, it is important to annotate the topic or ‘new’ topic with OT in the subject line. Eg: if it’s a brand new topic, ‘OT: Advice requested about home insurance companies please.’ If it has morphed from an existing thread, please put ‘OT Was..(whatever the topic/thread was)’. Eg: Out of a post about, say, a problem someone had with their laptop, iPad or iPhone when on a train, you might want to respond about the train network itself. In that case, the item would instantly become OT, which is fine. Eg ‘OT British Rail rant. Was iPad issue on train’ (or whatever the actual title of that thread was.)

Some people do not want to be bothered with OT posts and so anything with that in the subject heading can be easily deleted, or a rule set to reject or redirect it without it cluttering up their inbox. This is particularly important for people who receive mactalk in digest form, rather than emails coming in randomly – which I suspect is the norm for most of us.

Others enjoy a bit of OT stuff, and many of us feel that there is some benefit from friendly OT interaction, be it about motorbikes, homemade cookies etc, with wit and banter jollying things up a little. It makes us become real people with personalities and experiences and IMHO (read below in a moment!) it makes us something of a MacFamily. A few retorts in the thread truly don’t go amiss, as we have all seen and enjoyed, but commonsense prevails so it doesn’t get too out of hand.

Sometimes people get caught up in the moment and forget to adjust the title until a nudge comes from someone else – it happens, it’s not a crime, we just apologise and write 100 lines: ‘I must remember to write OT, I must re….’! Grin!

New technical topics can sometimes arise from a current thread and it is important to adjust the subject heading when, clearly, you are making a new topic as a result of the original one. This would not require OT, because it would still be a bona fide technical query or post. Eg: the initial topic may have been, say, about an upgrade problem with El Capitain. If, from that, you wanted to talk about a different upgrade issue, you could either a) post a completely new topic without reference to the El Capitain one, or you could divert from the El Capitain post, when it might read something like ‘Further upgrade query. Was: Upgrade problem with El Capitain.’ From then onwards, others could choose the part of the thread to which they wanted to respond – yours or the original one.

With all of the above having probably blown your mind, the nitty-gritty is this: ask yourself…..

  1. ‘Is what I want to write about a brand new topic, and, if so, is it bona fide technical stuff or an unrelated OT subject? If non-technical, use OT in the title. Eg ‘OT, travel insurance advice request’
  2. ‘Am I responding/contributing to a bona fide technical thread or morphing into a different technical post? If the latter, no need for OT but will need a new title and ‘Was….’ Eg ‘Another upgrade query. Was: El Capitain issue.’
  3. ‘Am I responding to something non-technical/computing-orientated from the current thread?’ If yes, use OT and ‘Was….’ Eg: ‘OT TalkTalk rant. Was: Broadband speed affecting download.’

Sounds complicated? It really isn’t, it just needs a bit of logic and rational thought.


Quite a lot of acronyms appear and some people use more than others, leaving the rest of us baffled! The main ones are:

TIA – thanks in anticipation
AFAIK – As far as I know
HTH – Hope this/that helps
YMBTD – You may beg to differ
IMHO – In my humble opinion (also IMO – In my opinion, and IME – in my experience)
ICBW – I coud be wrong
ICYMI – In case you missed it

I hope that all of this has helped you with your knowledge about the matter of posting to mactalk. I have drifted here and there, but the intention is to appeal to, frankly, the lowest common denominator, meaning people like me, who are not as skilled as our regular and brilliant ‘gurus’, and who – unlike me! – are nervous of sticking their head above the parapet in order to ask.

There may seem to some that there is a clique of regular posters, but I must assure you that this is not so. Yes, there are people who regularly enjoy being active in mactalk, but they most certainly are not a clique. Many have never, in donkey’s years, actually met in person, but they have formed a familiarity over time which may belie that to the onlookers and quiet lurkers in the membership. (We know they are there, oh yes we do!)

We are all the same insofar as membership is concerned, the only differences being levels of ability and personalities. Not one person in mactalk knows everything, and not one person who is a member must be afraid to ask for advice because of a wholly unnecessary fear of seeming to be dense. You are not! We’ve all been there at some time or other!

Happy Posting!

Jo Morris-Turner

The mactalk ‘family’