It happens at least once a year. Somebody at work sends out an email, and inadvertently adds a monster distribution list to the “CC” field. The result, of course, is that about 80 billion people inside the company get an email which was really only supposed to go to five employees.
Now, this doesn’t actually bother me that much. Mistakes happen. Sometimes Outlook auto-fills your address line and you forget to double check. I get that. It’s a mistake, you try to avoid and correct, but it happens.
What drives me nuts is the inevitable resulting email chain.
10:53 AM – Joe Z sends out email. Subject line: “CRM Server Maintenance Schedule”. Sent to: Ed T, Susan Y, Bonnie F, and A Distribution List That Covers Half The Bloody Planet.
10:54 – The first response. Someone replies to all, saying, “Please remove me from this distribution list.”
The stage is set.
10:54 – Someone else replies to this message (and everyone else). She also wishes to be removed.
10:55 – Next message: “Please remove me also”
10:55 – “Me too!”
10:55 – “Please remove me from this distribution list. I don’t know why you sent this email.”
The snowball has begun rolling down the mother of all hills.
10:56 – A new email emerges. Subject line: “Do not reply to all”. It is, of course, sent as a reply to all.
10:56 – “Hi! Please remove me, too.”
10:56 – “Me too”
10:56 – “Stop replying to all.”
10:57 – “Remove me too, please!!! 😀 😀 :D” If that person could find a way to dot their “i”s with hearts in an email, they’d do it.
10:57 – “Remove me”
10:57 – “What is wrong with you people? Stop replying to all.”
10:57 – “Remove me please”
10:57 – “I think this email was sent to me in error. Please remove me from this list.”
10:58 – “Please do not reply to all when telling people not to reply to all.”
10:58 – “Hello – remove me, please.”
10:58 – “Me, too”
The storm approacheth. Small animals seek cover.
10:59 – “Remove me”
10:59 – “Do not reply to all. Just delete the message and move on.”
10:59 – “Hi, Ed! I was copied on this and think it may apply to you. Could you advise?”
10:59 – “STOP REPLYING TO ALL”
10:59 – “Stop it”
11:00 – “Please remove me also.”
11:00 – “I do not need to be on this distribution list. Please remove me.”
11:01 – “ARE YOU PEOPLE STUPID OR SOMETHING?!? STOP REPLYING TO ALL!!!!”
11:01 – “Hi everybody! Just wanted to get in on this game. Wheee!”
There are now 60+ emails in everyone’s inbox, on this thread alone. The earth begins trembling. Angels avert their eyes.
11:01 – “Hello team! Please remove me from this list!”
11:01 – “Me too!”
11:01 – “Me too!”
11:01 – “IF YOU PEOPLE DON’T STOP REPLYING TO ALL I AM GOING TO PERSONALLY COME TO YOUR HOUSES AND LAY DOWN A RIDICULOUS BEAT ON ALL OF YOUR ASSES.”
11:02 – “Hi – please remove me.”
11:02 – “Please stop replying to all.”
And we’re off. For the next 2 hours, there is a steady stream of emails flowing into my Outlook. At first, the little notifier in the lower-right of my screen struggles to keep up.
*bink* “New email message: ‘CRM Server Maintenance Schedule'”
*bink* “New email message:’CRM Server Maintenance Schedule'”
*bink* “New” *bink* “email” *bink* “message” *bink*
Outlook folds. If begins throwing up halfhearted notifications every few moments. “You have 32 new email messages.” “You have 46 new email messages.” “You have so many new email messages that I can’t actually calculate the number unless you upgrade me to SP2.”
The IT Helpdesk sends out a weak message, urging people to stop replying to all, to stop requesting to be taken off a distribution list. It’s about as effective as a basket weaver at Troy urging the Greeks and Trojans to please not fight.
Countless thousands of emails pile in. Amazingly, many of them still request to be taken off the distribution list. The responses become more vitriolic.
And then it happens. Time passes. Time zones shift.
Our counterparts there arrive at their desks to begin the day’s work. They check their inboxes. They respond. What was previously an avalanche of email becomes the Armageddon of electronic communication. The servers squeal under the strain. Legitimate messages grind to a halt.
I pack it in for the day. By the time I get back to work the next morning, things have died down. There’s still the occasional trickle – *bink*, *bink* – but for the most part it’s manageable. I dig out of the volcanic ash of email aftermath and begin my day, knowing that in another 6-8 months this will happen again.
Sometimes, I deeply fear for the future of our species.