I've been emailing on the Internet since 1990. I use the one true quoting style when responding to emails, dating back to at least the earliest days of Usenet. It allows people to carry on a conversation in email.
Hello Kodos, I'm glad things are going well on Rigel 4. Thanks for writing back, wanted to answer a few specific things.Reading this snippet it's easy to see the conversation. Previous relevant text is succinctly quoted with >, you can chain the > to indicate history. This style is so ingrained in the Internet culture I'm amazed to find myself explaining it.
>The thing I miss most about Earth is tasty human flesh.
>>I'm concerned about Kang. His antennae look sick.
But it's disappearing. I frequently get emails from people now who don't understand it. They gamely try to follow my style by writing a full reply on top of my email, or inventing their own mechanisms like replying in ALL CAPS or inserting random other markup. I'm not surprised when non-tech people have trouble with email quoting. Frankly I'm glad my lawyer is on email at all, so I won't quibble. But lately I've even seen a fair number of Google employees who don't get this, either. We're supposed to be the most savvy of the net savvy!
Part of the issue is cultural dilution: you can't increase the Net population 10,000x and expect the culture to stay the same. I also think it's technological. Outlook, Gmail, etc all encourage bottom quoting by starting you out in an email reply with the original message below where you're typing. Wrong choice. And modern email technology often does away with the notion of line breaks entirely, making the line-oriented > quoting mechanism fail.
We need to find something that works for everyone.
math owie was on this issue back in 2001.