Paul Buchheit
Should Facebook Remove Subject Lines from Messages? -
Should Facebook Remove Subject Lines from Messages?
I tried to remove the subject in Gmail, but people revolted. I really like that FriendFeed (and Twitter) don't have a subject -- it's just a message. - Paul Buchheit from Bookmarklet
How do you know on FriendFeed? - Paul Buchheit
I think email would be better if they removed the body instead of the subject. - Jim Norris
well, I can guess what's spam on gmail by the subject line. Since I never got spam on facebook's inbox... that could take things right to the point. - Caio
Friendfeed removes the body from most messages, so you have to do the 'write a comment on your own message' trick to put it in - Kevin Marks
That's a good point Kevin, a lot of people treat the first comment by the author as the subject line. - Eric Florenzano
Which makes the feed API annoying for longform stuff - Kevin Marks
People are using "pseudo tagging" on FF with the [something] syntax just to provide the "context" for their message. So, yeah, title is here to stay (where used). - Claudio Cicali
summarize, FTW! - Claudio Cicali
+1 for Otto's comment. - COMPLICATED MR. NOODLE
Twitter has just the subject line, no body. ;) - Amit Patel
It's the other way around Amit, which is why Twitter is better than Atom/RSS (RSS has titles, Twitter is just short messages). See for an example. - Paul Buchheit
"Twitter is better than Atom/RSS"?!? - splutters! - Tim Tyler
it is very useless btw you also have to change the share box to old way.. It is very difficukt when you want to share a message to another user not to your profile - Atif UNALDI
Instead of no subject, i often send email with no body, or the same in both. only use body when I need long form. - David Stratton
Twitter and ff exclude the long-form use case. For email, subject lines should at least be an option. I don't use fb enough to comment on their messaging. - Bruce Lewis from fftogo
No subject does totally work. Sometimes I really stuck trying to fill Subj form. Just have no idea how to summarize words like ”How d'ya do”. What's the subject here? No fkcng subj needed, for real. - Кто это тут у нас
Bruce, the solution is to simply make the "subject" a part of the body, so that there is a smooth transition. - Paul Buchheit
If there's one general problem I have with Gmail, it's the institutional attitude that they know what's best for the user. e.g. "You don't need to be able to sort by columns." I'm thankful they didn't let you dump the subject, Paul. - Ken Sheppardson
How do you get users to do that? People don't naturally start long-form messages with concise summaries. Not that a subject line nails this problem, but at least you can prompt the user if it's blank. - Bruce Lewis from fftogo
People don't write concise summaries anyway Bruce :). Ken, sorting by something other than date in nonsensical in a conversational context. - Paul Buchheit
Facebook having a proprietary system that mostly competes with email, but is mostly incompatible with it is kind-of feeble. - Tim Tyler
Paul: Perhaps, but people aren't always operating in a "conversational context" when they're dealing with email. For something as flexible as email, or messaging systems of any sort, I find it annoying when the system tries to dictate what my workflow and thought processes should look like. - Ken Sheppardson
Maybe it's a dying use case, but subjects are really great for automated messages that are guaranteed to have a useful subject line. I can scroll through server notices, security advisories, and so on quickly and download the full message if I need to know more. The fact that you can download just the subject line (or rather, the email header) before downloading the entire email is still pretty useful to me. - Mark Trapp
Ken, I'm referring to the UI. For example, sorting by sender doesn't make sense when there are multiple senders, as is the case in a conversational ui. The ui was designed to solve use-cases, not fill feature checkboxes. - Paul Buchheit
Also, Gmail wasn't meant to cover all possible use cases. I think it's better to have a product that's very good for many people than mediocre for all people. It has open interfaces (such as IMAP) so that it's easy to use other clients. - Paul Buchheit
I agree 100% with Ken. I almost always sort my e-mails by date, then subject (in Evolution, I can actually group them by thread, which is really nice). If I just kept all of my e-mails sorted strictly by date and none of them had subjects, I would have no idea which ones were related to each other. It's completely counter-intuitive to remove the subject line from an e-mail. Further, it's really annoying when people start new e-mail messages or change the subject line rather than just replying to the message that prompted their response. - COMPLICATED MR. NOODLE
It's not meant to cover all use cases, but it's meant to be interoperable, right? If email originating from Gmail is not supplying subject lines (because they're hidden/downplayed/discouraged), but everything else relies on subject lines (like IMAP clients) to weed through the email list, the spirit of interoperability seems to be violated. - Mark Trapp
I get that, Paul (re use cases vs features) and was just about to mention that I'm thankful for IMAP support, so I can use Thunderbird, Outlook, etc for those instances where my workflow calls for sorting by size; sorting a set of messages with well-formed subjects by subject; using sorting as a quick, visual proxy for search, etc. - Ken Sheppardson
Mark, I didn't say that it wouldn't supply a subject line :) - Paul Buchheit
What would it be? The first n bytes of the message? I guess that could work. - Mark Trapp
i rarely use the subject line in my email - andy brudtkuhl
it doesnt mean it is the best way if you use something in a way for a long time. i think no subject for emails is a good approach if you really think on it. it is the change scares us. - Eren Emre Kanal from iPhone
The business world relies on subject messages for threading and sorting, and I anticipate will do so for some time. I would keep it. - Louis Gray
Doesn't anybody ever take any business communications classes/training any more? Email without subjects lines is like a meeting without an agenda. Oh, and get off my lawn. Humbug. - Ken Sheppardson
a direct message? no subject line. an email-like message? subject line for sure. - Jim #teamFFrank
This is why ultimately we may need to abandon email. It's broken in many ways, but difficult to change. - Paul Buchheit
If by "broken" you mean "people don't take the time to learn how to use it effectively", I agree. ;-) - Ken Sheppardson
For something meant to be so essential to communication, it shouldn't take time to use effectively: it should be a natural extension of what we do. If we're relying on everyone to use it correctly, that's not very efficient. - Mark Trapp
ya i dont no why anybody wood half to lern how to do stuff it shuld all be natural - Ken Sheppardson
Is it the norm to expect everyone to be bilingual? Why not expect electronic communication media to be an extension of the one form of communication that we all spend years to master? Why is it necessary to have to spend another large tract of time to learn another form of communication? - Mark Trapp
Paul, do you think Google Wave will solve this problem? It doesn't have a subject line and it's much more different than email. - Eren Emre Kanal
Eren, I don't know what will happen with Wave. It's a very interesting concept, but I suspect that it still needs a lot of refinement. - Paul Buchheit
Now I'm curious what the subject-free gmail would have looked like, especially messages to/from other email systems. - Bruce Lewis from fftogo
It's less different than you would imagine Bruce. The biggest change is in the composer. Gmail already kind of merges subject with body in the inbox. Unfortunately I didn't figure out the right ui until sometime after wanting to remove the subject. If I had thought of it sooner, we might have been able to do it. - Paul Buchheit
At least I (mostly) got rid of it on reply though :) - Paul Buchheit
Writing concisely, knowing what a paragraph is/should be, understanding what a "topic sentence" is, and being able to summarize a document in a single sentence aren't skills that are unique to email. Blog posts, reports, books, magazine articles all have subjects... except we call them "titles". Seems like the people I work with all use email in a ways that's fundamentally different than some of you. I don't really get where the idea that subjects are superfluous is coming from. - Ken Sheppardson
Ken, when I call up a friend or family member, I don't start the call with "This phone call will be about the weather. Hey Dad, how's it going?" Conversations are not written prose, and the premise being put out is that emails are extensions of conversations. - Mark Trapp
That's a great example Mark. Subjects are very formal. - Paul Buchheit
As is most business communication. - Ken Sheppardson
Email is formal, chat isn't... - Johnny
^^^ also, email is often searched by subject, and the body text may be quite long. - 9000 from IM
Mark: I notice that most if not all the entries on have subjects/titles. Why? - Ken Sheppardson
Ken, because they're prose, not conversations. - Mark Trapp
Paul - the fact that you say you "mostly got rid of it on reply" is exactly why subjects are so necessary. How else do we keep those conversations inline when dealing with other e-mail clients? Not all e-mail clients are able to thread conversations the way Gmail and Evolution do. With most of them, we have to rely on being able to sort/group by subject in order to keep related conversations together. As long as that functionality is broken, the concept of a subject has to stay in place. - COMPLICATED MR. NOODLE
Curtiss, I'm not talking about removing the RFC822 header, I'm talking about changing the ui so that people don't have to waste time thinking about subjects. - Paul Buchheit
Paul, I have to disagree with eliminating email. It's VERY useful for me in the way that I use it and for the people with whom I correspond. Of course, I don't have Wave yet so I may be eating my words soon. - Jim #teamFFrank
OK, I'm out. Y'all can continue to imagine this sort of topicless/subjectless world where email's just about "conversations"... good luck with that. - Ken Sheppardson
But, somewhere that subject still needs to originate. Especially when we are talking about formal business communication, all of our messages (assuming you are using a snippet from the beginning of the message as the subject) would have a subject of "Greetings, _____" or "Dear ________" which would be completely counter-intuitive. - COMPLICATED MR. NOODLE
Imagine a typewriter. - Paul Buchheit
In the old days, when letters didn't have subjects, there was no easy way to automatically file them together or find one you were looking for. I would hate to go back to that. - Gabe
Imagine, if you will a typewriter NOOOOOOO!!!! I'm so glad computers came along! I had a temp job working on a selectric, on a 3-carbon forms. It was a nightmare. - anna sauce
What would be a great innovation is if an email program let you assign a subject to email conversations that the original sender wasn't polite enough to write for you. - Gabe
repeating how the ui might play out: snippet of body becomes the subject for a long form email, or short form email message is completely scannable in the message list. - karl dotter
I agree with Kevin. I know I'm late to this thread but to answer Paul's "How do you know on FriendFeed?", the original post in FriendFeed/Facebook is in a lot of ways like a subject. It generates an overall topic that makes replies the body. When dealing with large conversation flows such as FF/FB, this tells the reader whether it is worth reading beyond. In many ways Twitter is the opposite, it is either all Subjects or all bodies (depending on your view), there is no real order to the flow of information except chronological. This is the very reason why so many 3rd party tools have been developed, because the core information stream of Twitter is awful to consume information in a structure way humans tend to read. - manielse (Mark Nielsen)
To add on, FriendFeed/FB Walls are in a lot of ways equivalent to being the flat file view of a message board's group of discussions/topics. Without subjects, it's just a bunch of unstructured data. - manielse (Mark Nielsen)
Subject in a email often serves as a micro-summary. A chat message usually does not need it, for it is way shorter and woven into the conversation context more tightly . - 9000 from IM
There's the expectation of the subject field to be there - it's a hard habit to break now - and it does give a bit of context and scanability to mail clients. But the process of labeling up mail could be migrated into place - 'mail tags', so to speak. Which could work for both sender and receiver and could make mail archives more like a folksonomy - and thus offer more integration with other web services. - zeroinfluencer
I second that David, i was thinking along the lines. I would rather see the subject line being replaced with tags. Just keywords, no summary. Less thinking needed to summarize the message into one sentence, thus more productive and even useful for e. g. semantic purposes. - Tibor Holoda
Hey - getting back on topic (we all got derailed there for quite a while) - I see no reason that Facebook really needs subjects on their messages. Since the messages are basically only used inside of the proprietary Facebook platform, which already threads the messages anyway, there's no real need for the subject. - COMPLICATED MR. NOODLE
For what it's worth, Wave takes the first couple lines and makes it a pseudo subject, from what I can tell... It made it bold in the body of the wave (is it called a body?) and then added a dash in the inbox. Check out this example: all i did was type "Hi Louis!" as the first line of my wave and it did the rest - Frankie Warren
Nope, don't need subject line. Instead, use labels (tags) to filter content (folders / views) - Susan Beebe
For Facebook messages, the subject line isn't important; context doesn't need to be set. For "business" messages (Gmail/Outlook), it's more important, because the subject line is (usually) used as the first method of filtering/prioritising. - Andrew Terry
yup, subjects with small updates is clumsy and noting but extra line that is not needed at all - testbeta
Yes. - Meryn Stol
Yeah! Why do we always need to be formal?? Huh!? Is It social networking thingy or office networking thing? Lol! Good question, they should remove this. :) - Mohammad Abdurraafay from iPhone
The whole argument is pointless because in FB the subject is optional. - Jason Williams from iPhone
Wow, so much complaining. For subject haters, is it really that much of a problem to leave the box blank? - Rebecca Sun
Furthermore, if you're writing just to say "hi" or whatever, put it on the wall! (Unless you're trying to keep your relationship a secret) - Rebecca Sun