Microspeak: Recycling bits or recycling electrons


To recycle bits (or recycle electrons) is to take an old piece of email and use it to answer a similar (often identical) question or discussion on a mailing list. This is usually done by simply replying to the thread with the two-word message "Recycling bits" (or "Recycling electrons") and attaching the original email message.

An important aspect of the use of this term is that the attached email message definitively answers the question or resolves the discussion. Usually, the attached email message comes from the very same mailing list that is hosting the current discussion. For example, consider this question:

From: X
To: Q Discussion
Subject: How do I do X?
Date: February 8, 2011

Blah blah blah blah? Blah blah. Thanks.

An example reply which earns maximum style points would go something like this:

From: Y
To: Q Discussion
Subject: RE: How do I do X?
Date: February 8, 2011

Recycling electrons.

<Attached message>

From: S
To: Q Discussion
Subject: RE: How do I do X?
Date: October 31, 2010

You first need to frob the blurble and then blah blah blah blah.

----Original message----

From: R
To: Q Discussion
Subject: How do I do X?
Date: October 30, 2010

Blah blah blah blah? Blah blah. Thanks.

Since the question asked on February 8 is identical to the question asked on October 30, the answer from S can be re-used verbatim. (This of course assumes that nothing has happened in between to invalidate S's original answer.)

See also: "I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer given some moments ago."

Comments (11)
  1. Brian LaPierre says:

    I've been known to do this at times, but I usually copy and paste the text and hint to the fact that I've already sent the exact same message before.

  2. Chriso says:

    So, that means leveraging old emails to effort someone a take-away to their ask in a dialogue? :-)

  3. Mike Versteeg says:

    Ha ha ha. I have no idea what this is about, but thanks for the laugh :)

  4. Christopher Allen-Poole says:

    Now, if only StackOverflow were able to do something like that.

  5. Mike Dimmick says:

    Christopher Allen-Poole: Stack Overflow allows for questions to be merged. Flag the duplicate for moderators' attention.

    meta.stackoverflow.com/…/merge-question-after-finding-it-as-a-duplicate-feature-request

  6. MS says:

    Someone once replied to an email of mine with a question I had answered in the original email.  I just replied with the original email bolded.  (Well, the relevant section at least.)

  7. Bolt says:

    Even more bonus points if person R and person X are the same person!

  8. Cheong says:

    For this situation, I'll more prefer to use "OP"(Old posts).

    The special requirement for use of "OP" (in certain BBS) is the answer to question exist within 3 pages in thread topic view. Implies the origional poster does not do basic homework of quick-searching within the forum/discussion group he/she is going to post first. The board masters may issue warning to the origional poster if this is explicitly written as a no-no in board rules.

  9. Hardt says:

    But how many electrons do you use to search through your mailbox archives in order to find this oooold answer?

    Probably much more than you want to recycle ;-)

  10. Worf says:

    @Hardt: None, unless you own a particle accellerator. Otherwise electrons get recycled and reused. It's hard to use up an electron… &grin*

Comments are closed.

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