Reply/All



  • Someone who was in charge of corporate email lists managed to accidentally delete a corporate wide email list, and all its child lists. Someone else needed to use one of the child lists and couldn't wait until the recipient list could be reconstructed, so they sent out a company wide mail: "Dear All: The email list I need was accidentally deleted, and this needs to be done before it can be recovered, so with appologies to those for whom this isn't appropriate... If you should be involved in xxx please reply to me."

    Naturally, the first ten geniuses replied - to all 900 people on the list. About ten of us replied to all: "People, the REPLY button is right next to the REPLY ALL button; please use it!".

    Naturally, the next hundred geniuses hit REPLY - to OUR emails instead of the original one, and so ten of us are randomly receiving their replies. We laughed and decided that it was useless to fight this big a wave of stupidity, and so just started forwarding the replies to the person who actually needs them.

    Is this a new concept? For how long has email been around? WTF?!

     



  • I think email clients should produce an alert when you Reply All: "Warning, you are replying to all 900 of the following people: ..." Of course, there would have to be an option to disable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.



  • Yup.  Had the same thing happen at my last job


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @morbiuswilters said:

    I think email clients should disable the Reply All button and have an option to enable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.
    FTFY



  • @PedanticCurmudgeon said:

    @morbiuswilters said:
    I think email clients should disable the Reply All button and have an option to enable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.
    FTFY

    The problem there is that many users will enable it because they need the Reply All functionality but will accidentally use it in the future when they just mean to hit Reply. Better to make it an alert, maybe with a 5 second wait.



  • Switch to Lotus Notes and then the server will crash often enough so you won't be annoyed by too many emails.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @morbiuswilters said:

    "Warning, you are replying to all 900 of the following people: ..." [...]but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.
    You reckon? I assume you've heard of Bedlam DL3?



  • @PJH said:

    @morbiuswilters said:
    "Warning, you are replying to all 900 of the following people: ..." [...]but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.
    You reckon? I assume you've heard of Bedlam DL3?

    I have heard of that. It made me realize that my warning wouldn't work, though, because the list will just show as a single recipient. In fact, a normal, non-all reply here would cause problems if the recipient ends up being the list..


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    The real answer is to have the original post put the list in the bcc, and some of my more enlightened co-workers actually do this.



  • @PedanticCurmudgeon said:

    The real answer is to have the original post put the list in the bcc, and some of my more enlightened co-workers actually do this.

    What are they putting as the To address, then? And this doesn't work if people actually do need to reply to the list.



  • This happened at my company with one of its new tech forums it created for technical people to discuss technical solutions across the corporation.  The forum had a brillant feature where it would send an email notification to everyone in the tech forum when someone unsubscribed from the forum.  This setting of course would default to being on when you had an account created.  When the forum was created everyone in any technical coded job automatically had an account created (linked to your corporate email account). Note this occured with a large corporation with thousands of 'technical' people.  People very rarely used the forums if ever, and then one faithful day someone decided to unsubscribe from the forum.  The forum doing its duty (rather poorly) sent one email out with a few thousand people on the To: line letting them know that someone left the forum.  Then some idiot seeing the message replied with the following: "Could you unsubscribe me from this forum too".  Two mistakes with what he did.  First the email was an automated message and it would ignore your email, second he used the reply all.

    The chain reaction then began.  Upon people seeing his email, the following reactions occurred:  The lemmings started hitting reply all asking to be unsubscribed from the forum too.  The semi intelligent people then started chiming in (reply all of course) how to properly remove the alert or to unsubscribe yourself.  At this point people being armed with knowledge started to properly unsubscribe themselves thus creating more of these automated messages for everyone who had not yet unsubscribed.  New lemmings then stepped up to keep the cycle going.  Thanks to everyone the looping pattern became self sustaining and exponential.  This started happening as I was about to leave for the day, so I ignored it.  By the time I came in the next morning my mailbox was overflowing with all kinds of interesting emails as people were getting progressively frustrated with people using the reply all.  I of course decided to contribute to the problem by unsubscribing myself from the forums.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @morbiuswilters said:

    What are they putting as the To address, then? And this doesn't work if people actually do need to reply to the list.
    It's been a while since I've used Outlook, but Lotus Notes will let you leave the To address blank. And if people really need to reply to the list, I would say that email isn't really the right format for the discussion.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @morbiuswilters said:

    And this doesn't work if people actually do need to reply to the list.
    Submitted without comment. I'll just go get some popcorn....



  •  @morbiuswilters said:

    @PedanticCurmudgeon said:
    The real answer is to have the original post put the list in the bcc, and some of my more enlightened co-workers actually do this.

    What are they putting as the To address, then? And this doesn't work if people actually do need to reply to the list.

    You don't put anything in the To field (or if it is required you could just put your own e-mail there, I suppose; then just have a message filter that auto-deletes anything sent from you to yourself).  If there is a list of people that recipients are expected to reply back to then include them as Cc recipients (I couldn't imagine a situation where you are e-mailing 100 people whose replies need to be seen by all 99 other people on the list, but if such is the case then use Cc; or better yet use some other intermediary like a forum or discussion site). 



  • @PedanticCurmudgeon said:

    And if people really need to reply to the list, I would say that email isn't really the right format for the discussion.

    Bullshit. I use lists all the time to manage conversations between multiple people. Seriously, how else would you do something like this?



  • @PJH said:

    @morbiuswilters said:
    And this doesn't work if people actually do need to reply to the list.
    Submitted without comment. I'll just go get some popcorn....

    How is that relevant? That pages just suggests that Reply-To not be rewritten, which I agree with. In that case, you would use Reply All to reply to everyone on the list (since the list is one of the recipients). Two totally different situations.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @PedanticCurmudgeon said:
    And if people really need to reply to the list, I would say that email isn't really the right format for the discussion.
    Bullshit. I use lists all the time to manage conversations between multiple people. Seriously, how else would you do something like this?

    I would say that sometimes using To: is appropriate and sometimes using Bcc: is appropriate.  If it's intended as a discussion medium, definitely To:.  If I'm a corporate drone sending out some corporate information to everyone, probably Bcc:.



  • I subscribed once to a mailing list where you had someone manually approve / remove subscription. The guy once decided he would not manage it anymore. No one left to unsubscribe people. In the end, 20% of emails were related to mailing list, 70% were "please unsubscribe me" "no stop asking it doesn't work" emails, and 10% left where discussion about who we could find out to kill this mailing :)



  • In order to promote improved awareness/knowledge of safety policies and procedures we started a contest.  Once a month I would send an e-mail to everyone with a question.  Everyone who replied with the correct answer would be entered into a drawing for various prizes, typically a gift card to a local store (Best Buy, Home Depot, etc).  The idea of course was that people would look up the appropriate procedure to find the correct answer.

    Unfortunately, there were at least one or two people every month who sent their answer with Reply All.  But it was slightly entertaining when someone sent out a wrong answer that way.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    I think email clients should produce an alert when you Reply All: "Warning, you are replying to all 900 of the following people: ..." Of course, there would have to be an option to disable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.

    As previously observed, the alert wouldn't stop a fool. A list of checkboxes when replying to more than 6 people might be enough for 99.9% of fools to realise that it's not really worth sending their reply to everyone.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @PedanticCurmudgeon said:
    And if people really need to reply to the list, I would say that email isn't really the right format for the discussion.

    Bullshit. I use lists all the time to manage conversations between multiple people. Seriously, how else would you do something like this?

     

    With a collaboration tool. A forum perhaps. Much like the one we are using right now. Email is not a collaboration tool.



  • The problem is the original sender didn't put the names in BCC. What is he, a moron? Of course people are going to hit "Reply All", using BCC prevents that from spamming the universe.



  •  Function ReplyAll(list) {

    array outList;

    for(address in list) {

     if( confirm("Do you really want to email " + address ) ){

       outList.add(address);

     }

    return outList;

    }

     

    Problem solvered? Oh, and I have no idea how many languages are referenced in that pseudocode. I really didn't think about languages.



  • There should also be a warning for hitting reply to sender when there is a difference between the buttons.



  • @pjt33 said:

    @morbiuswilters said:
    I think email clients should produce an alert when you Reply All: "Warning, you are replying to all 900 of the following people: ..." Of course, there would have to be an option to disable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.

    As previously observed, the alert wouldn't stop a fool. A list of checkboxes when replying to more than 6 people might be enough for 99.9% of fools to realise that it's not really worth sending their reply to everyone.

    A list is only going to show as a single recipient.



  • @havokk said:

    With a collaboration tool. A forum perhaps. Much like the one we are using right now. Email is not a collaboration tool.

    What is wrong with you people? I'm not saying a forum isn't a good idea in certain circumstances, but there are plenty of times when an email thread makes far more sense. For one thing, the visibility of a forum isn't nearly as good as email.



  • @havokk said:

    With a collaboration tool. A forum perhaps. Much like the one we are using right now. Email is not a collaboration tool.

    Email's a communication tool and - if used rightly - can be used to collaborate work. I suspect the way in which related emails are presented in some clients facilitates/challenges that collaborative aspect.

    @morbiuswilters said:

    What is wrong with you people? I'm not saying a forum isn't a good idea in certain circumstances, but there are plenty of times when an email thread makes far more sense. For one thing, the visibility of a forum isn't nearly as good as email.

    I was thinking the other way around - I find it easier to locate and follow information in a forum than email (but that's probably down to effective forum moderation v lack of thread view in email, plus lazy email etiquette in my organisation)



  • @blakeyrat said:

    The problem is the original sender didn't put the names in BCC. What is he, a moron? Of course people are going to hit "Reply All", using BCC prevents that from spamming the universe.
     

    What BCC doesn't prevent is someone reading the message, thinking "I know some people who should receive this and I don't see their names on the distribution", then forwarding it to a whole bunch of people who already have it.



  • @da Doctah said:

    @blakeyrat said:

    The problem is the original sender didn't put the names in BCC. What is he, a moron? Of course people are going to hit "Reply All", using BCC prevents that from spamming the universe.
     

    What BCC doesn't prevent is someone reading the message, thinking "I know some people who should receive this and I don't see their names on the distribution", then forwarding it to a whole bunch of people who already have it.

    Summary: nothing is idiot-proof because idiots are ingenious.

    TRWTF is the continuing pursuit of technical solutions to behavioural problems.



  • @PedanticCurmudgeon said:

    @morbiuswilters said:
    I think email clients should disable the Reply All button and have an option to enable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.
    FTFY

    Just yesterday I wanted to unmap reply (not all) from my mail client (and was disappointed that I didn't find an option to modify keyboard bindings). Because 99.99999999% of time all email should be replied to all, company-wide emails being the only common rare exception. Because if the mail is sent to multiple people, the other recipients usually need to know about the follow-up (and if the mail is sent to just one, the actions are equivalent). If not, clueful senders will use Bcc.



  • @da Doctah said:

    What BCC doesn't prevent is someone reading the message, thinking "I know some people who should receive this and I don't see their names on the distribution", then forwarding it to a whole bunch of people who already have it.

    Well considering that nobody in the history of the entire universe has ever done that ever... I'll take that risk.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @da Doctah said:
    What BCC doesn't prevent is someone reading the message, thinking "I know some people who should receive this and I don't see their names on the distribution", then forwarding it to a whole bunch of people who already have it.

    Well considering that nobody in the history of the entire universe has ever done that ever... I'll take that risk.

     

    Yeah, because nobody ever uses the forward option do they? Am I right?



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    @pjt33 said:
    @morbiuswilters said:
    I think email clients should produce an alert when you Reply All: "Warning, you are replying to all 900 of the following people: ..." Of course, there would have to be an option to disable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.

    As previously observed, the alert wouldn't stop a fool. A list of checkboxes when replying to more than 6 people might be enough for 99.9% of fools to realise that it's not really worth sending their reply to everyone.

    A list is only going to show as a single recipient.

    In that case your solution is no better.



  •  >there would have to be an option to disable it for advanced users<

    1. Option should be sent to to disabled by default.

    2. Process to get it enabled requires signature in blood on policy document containing rules ofuse.

    3. One instance of abuse of "Reply All" causes option to be permanently disabled.



  • @snoofle said:

    Is this a new concept? For how long has email been around? WTF?!

     

    The problem is not with the technology; it is with people. It doesn't sink in. Ever.

    The most aggravating part is that I know plenty of people are fully aware of what they are doing, but they still do it anyway - under the pretence "it is not MY responsibility to make sure the IT stuff works properly..."

     



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    I think email clients should produce an alert when you Reply All: "Warning, you are replying to all 900 of the following people: ..." Of course, there would have to be an option to disable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.
     

    You're assuming users possess basic reading and comprehension skills.

    We just did a big update for our Silverlight-based product. Many of the back-end web services changed and are no longer API-compatible with the old Silverlight version. We put something in that allows the Silverlight site to detect this and provide a popup stating that a newer version is available and please refresh the website to run the updated one. Simple, right?

    Not really. Because people refuse to close the website. Ever. There are a number of people who just leave the site up 24/7 on their computers. I can look into our sessions table in the database and see that many of them have sessions that started six weeks ago and haven't been interrupted since. And they came into work yesterday morning (we updated everything Friday night), saw the popups, dismissed them, and tried to work normally without refreshing. Of course the site doesn't work anymore because it can't communicate with most of its web services and ends up throwing all kinds of exceptions. So they call in and complain about the website not working because they refused to follow the instructions on how to make it work again.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @da Doctah said:
    What BCC doesn't prevent is someone reading the message, thinking "I know some people who should receive this and I don't see their names on the distribution", then forwarding it to a whole bunch of people who already have it.

    Well considering that nobody in the history of the entire universe has ever done that ever... I'll take that risk.

    In your universe, possibly.

    We have someone who is on an external list and then forwards received emails to an internal list. I asked why we couldn't jsut add the internal list address to the external subscriber, but apparently that's too tricky, we need to have someone to verify it and ensure it gets to the right people.

    TRWTFs?

    - He still forwards it to the same internal distribution list, irrespective of appropriateness to whom on that list;

    - looking at the headers he actually sits on it for a few days too, so he's actually delaying notifications;

    - when he's out of the office, nobody receives any communications;

    - he once told me about the usefulness of outlook rules

    - someone else once did the task before him, and some external lists haven't been changed over to him... so she receives the circular, forwards it to him, who then forwards it to the internal distribution list. All in a matter of microseconds, right?



  • @mott555 said:

    So they call in and complain about the website not working because they refused to follow the instructions on how to make it work again.

    "What? It doesn't work? Oh... I know. Silverlight should have updated.

    I bet some moron saw the popup and just dismissed it without reading it, meaning that the automatic upgrade didn't take place and now you're suffering as a result of that idiot's behaviour. Honestly, some users, eh? No worries, I'll get it sorted here, but it could take some time--

    --actually.. you know what would be quicker? I can forward the instructions along if you want to have a go at it yourself - at least then you'll ensure that no brain-dead twunt can interrupt the process when it's underway. That sound good? Great... just close your browser now, wait 15 mins, then fire it back up and I should have triggered off the upgrade process by then...."



  • This happened near the start of every year at my college when the freshman class was apparently learning how to use email for the first time.

    Some freshman would send an email to the entire campus about some cause or political issue or charity. Then she'd get tons of reply-all responses about how dumb she was. Then one of my more devious friends would reply-all saying something like "This is a very serious issue and I feel for you, click this link to learn more" which would go to a website that alert()'ed you the lyrics to Never Gonna Give You Up, one line at a time. This caused the IT department to reply-all saying that the email now contained MALWARE and no one should click the link. Then students would reply-all and ask how to uninstall the malware.

    It happened every year, hilarious stuff.



  • @pjt33 said:

    @morbiuswilters said:
    @pjt33 said:
    @morbiuswilters said:
    I think email clients should produce an alert when you Reply All: "Warning, you are replying to all 900 of the following people: ..." Of course, there would have to be an option to disable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.

    As previously observed, the alert wouldn't stop a fool. A list of checkboxes when replying to more than 6 people might be enough for 99.9% of fools to realise that it's not really worth sending their reply to everyone.

    A list is only going to show as a single recipient.

    In that case your solution is no better.

    I know, which is what I said here



  • @Cassidy said:

    I was thinking the other way around - I find it easier to locate and follow information in a forum than email (but that's probably down to effective forum moderation v lack of thread view in email, plus lazy email etiquette in my organisation)

    How do you not have thread view? What decade is this? But, yeah, email is a push medium and a forum is a pull medium. To get updates from the forum I have to remember to stop what I'm doing and refresh every so often. I guess you could subscribe to the forum, but now you're just adding the overhead of having to delete the notification emails without the advantage of being able to reply directly.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    How do you not have thread view?

    Dunno. I probably have it, but not used it (or rather, didn't know it existed in emails. Mainly because I don't spend a lot of time following email conversations, I tend to follow threads on forums (yet I'm not using threaded view here...)



  • @Cassidy said:

    Dunno. I probably have it, but not used it (or rather, didn't know it existed in emails. Mainly because I don't spend a lot of time following email conversations, I tend to follow threads on forums (yet I'm not using threaded view here...)

    I like posts that boil down to, "man I'm an idiot."



  • @Cassidy said:

    @morbiuswilters said:

    How do you not have thread view?

    Dunno. I probably have it, but not used it (or rather, didn't know it existed in emails. Mainly because I don't spend a lot of time following email conversations, I tend to follow threads on forums (yet I'm not using threaded view here...)

     

    [totally unexpected CS rant]

    I get forum updates to my gmail, which threads replies automatically. It makes for a handy thread reader for when I don't feel like clicking through to the forum. (Or when some UTF tag crashes my playbook browser... a whole other wtf right there).

    But CS has the habit of randomly and inconsistently adding  or removing "Re:" from the subject line-- which breaks threading, and I end up with two conversations in GMail.

    [/totally unexpected CS rant]

    {checks above} Hmmm... needs more bile.  Shit mc fuckity shit fuck ass cocker.

     



  • @PJH said:

    You reckon? I assume you've heard of Bedlam DL3?
     

    I keep telling myself that I'm the one that started that. I was working on the IE4 test team at the time and got fed up with this pile of messages.

    Wish I could be sure. I'd love to be part of a legend like that.

    MArk B.



  • @lettucemode said:

    This happened near the start of every year at my college when the freshman class was apparently learning how to use email for the first time.
    When would college freshmen not know how to use e-mail?  1983?


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @El_Heffe said:

    @lettucemode said:

    This happened near the start of every year at my college when the freshman class was apparently learning how to use email for the first time.
    When would college freshmen not know how to use e-mail?  1983?

    REAL email, not toy bullshit email. Frankly, my email send rate curve started off fairly high back in the days of Dialup, dropped to near-zero with the rise of broadband, and only started coming back up in college (to the point that now I'm prettymuch just paid to send emails telling people that I'm too busy replying to their emails to actually get to their requests)

     

    All these morons we have coming up through college today who never knew a time where residential bandwidth didn't come by the megabit have probably never sent an email in their lives. Some of them might not even know it's not a receive-only medium.



  • @mott555 said:

    You're assuming users possess basic reading and comprehension skills.

    We just did a big update for our Silverlight-based product. Many of the back-end web services changed and are no longer API-compatible with the old Silverlight version. We put something in that allows the Silverlight site to detect this and provide a popup stating that a newer version is available and please refresh the website to run the updated one. Simple, right?

    That's TRWTF. Right there. Assuming people will follow instructions in a popup is wrong. They never will. Not because they can't read, but because the bazillions of totally stupid and useless popups everywhere taught them to not care about anything written on a popup.

    Besides, if you can create popup, you should be equally able to simply refresh the page. Like, I don't know, call location.refresh(true) instead of alert(whatever_crap), perhaps?

    @mott555 said:

    Not really. Because people refuse to close the website. Ever. There are a number of people who just leave the site up 24/7 on their computers. I can look into our sessions table in the database and see that many of them have sessions that started six weeks ago and haven't been interrupted since. And they came into work yesterday morning (we updated everything Friday night), saw the popups, dismissed them, and tried to work normally without refreshing. Of course the site doesn't work anymore because it can't communicate with most of its web services and ends up throwing all kinds of exceptions. So they call in and complain about the website not working because they refused to follow the instructions on how to make it work again.

    Because they didn't read the message box and it's not there any more for them to read it now that they find out it's not working. If you've instead put a banner at the top of the page saying "Reload the page to make it work again", than people would first realize it stopped working, than read the error message and most of them would actually reload the page. But the popup is gone, so they can't.

    Don't complain about stupid users when you created abysmal user experience in the first place.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

    A list is only going to show as a single recipient.

    On reflection, this isn't a problem provided that the list manager is qualified to manage a list. In that case, they'll set up any list with more than a handful of people to require moderation, and they'll be the only person swamped with unsubscribe requests.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @morbiuswilters said:

    I think email clients should produce an alert when you Reply All: "Warning, you are replying to all 900 of the following people: ..." Of course, there would have to be an option to disable it for advanced users, but it would stop stupid Reply All shenanigans.

    Back when people used Usenet, the newsreaders had this feature.  It didn't help then; it won't help now.

    Plus, in my experience, half or better of the time I'm replying to email I need to hit reply all anyway, because I'm in a multiple-person conversation, and I don't want to be nagged that I am attempting to do something I want to do.


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