When you are posting to a list, there is a time lag and a distance that needs to be overcome. It is similar, but not quite the same as a face to face conversation. Retaining relevant material and interspersing responses comes as close to a conversational, question and answer interchange as possible, given the medium of exchange. It also helps bring people in to the conversation who either are participating in numerous conversations and need to be reminded of which one it is or are new, but valuable, to the conversation.
I'm more of a lurker on the questions list, although I chime in when I see something I can help with. I've been reading this through and I don't think anybody has pointed out one important topic so far, although touched upon by your point abut the time lag. It is that these messages get archived! Not just in various people's mail clients (I frequently search the ~13,000 messages in my archive when I encounter what might be a common issue) but on multiple websites around the globe. Indeed, the FreeBSD website itself holds searchable archives of all the lists, which I am sure it probably recommends somewhere that you scan before asking.
So, when you have a problem, and you search the web for FreeBSD + your particular error message, you are very likely to come across a mailing list message. (I know I do anyway.) This could very have been written yesterday, or six years ago, and you have likely have no idea of context.
Having the entire subject available in that first message you find - original problem, suggested solution, results of that solution, follow-ups, etc - means you have there an instant resource that is very valuable.
Having to trawl through a poorly threaded web-based archive to try and find out if it was the same problem you had when your search only gets to to the solution, (when the posters trim too much) or through masses of intermediate junk (when a topic gets big like this, and it's ALL quoted) is pretty hard work.
Certainly, interleaved or (at worst) bottom posted text makes life a great deal easier when coming across a post in isolation like this. You can read through and you get the questions and answers, in context, in time-line order.
Now, for personal emails, I quite accept that everybody has a personal preference, and there is going to be a lot of "when in Rome.." Certainly when there is little delay between message and reply, everybody knows the history of the dialogue, and nobody is going to stumble across it several years down the line, and you are all happy with the posting protocols, then it doesn't really matter does it?
As for MUA... My ex-employer (anybody want an IT support/installation engineer in the UK?) decided to move everybody and all our clients to MS Outlook and Exchange. Because "that's what people want". And that's another topic....
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