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Stopping the Horror of 'Reply All'

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the slip-of-the-thumb dept.

Software 256

theodp writes "The WSJ's Elizabeth Bernstein reports that Reply All is still the button everyone loves to hate. 'This shouldn't still be happening,' Bernstein says of those heart-stopping moments (YouTube) when one realizes that he or she's hit 'reply all' and fired off a rant for all to see. 'After almost two decades of constant, grinding email use, we should all be too tech-savvy to keep making the same mortifying mistake, too careful to keep putting our relationships and careers on the line because of sloppiness.' Vendors have made some attempts to stop people from shooting themselves in the foot and perhaps even starting a Reply All email storm. Outlook allows users to elect to get a warning if they try to email to more than 50 people. Gmail offers an Undo Send button, which can be enabled by setting a delay in your out-bound emails, from 5-30 seconds, after which you're SOL. And AOL is considering showing faces, rather than just names, in the To field in a new email product. 'I wonder if the Reply All problem would occur if you saw 100 faces in the email,' AOL's Bill Wetherell says."

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Tales of old. (5, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430802)

That's a nice email storm infographic they have. One time back in the 90s at Indiana University when people were mostly still using pine, a secretary at the College of Arts and Sciences sent out an email to several thousand students and put all their addresses in the two line. The headers themselves were a megabyte alone and it took a minute to open the message. Several people started replying to all and asking to be removed. It culminated with UCS terminating the mail in the queues and inboxes and suspending several user accounts. One guy replied saying something like "I just wanted everyone to know that Jim Smith takes it in the rear".

Re:Tales of old. (3, Interesting)

Whatsisname (891214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430858)

People would occasionally do that in my University classes of several hundred. I couldn't resist a reply-all with a simple "what", or better yet, "hey josh, what did you get for problem 7", then the ensuing storm of people reply-all messages saying not to do that, etc.

I love reply-all, I have gmail setup to use it by default. In my opinion it's a lot easier to avoid accidentally sending messages to everyone if your default behavior is to reply to everyone.

Re:Tales of old. (4, Interesting)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430944)

I like the solution in K-9 Mail (android app) better.

The on screen menu has 'reply', you actually have to tap another button to get to 'reply-all'. It can be tedious, but it has prevented the reply-all issues in my case.

Re:Tales of old. (4, Funny)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430964)

damnit. That was supposed to go to Whatsisname, not all of Slashdot!

Re:Tales of old. (1)

MrMarket (983874) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431312)


Re:Tales of old. (-1, Offtopic)

Whalou (721698) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431462)

That was a "Reply" vs. "Reply All" joke.

Re:Tales of old. (0)

tigre (178245) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431698)

That was a "Reply" vs. "Reply All" joke.


Re:Tales of old. (0)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431710)


Re:Tales of old. (0)

Deekin_Scalesinger (755062) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431730)


Re:Tales of old. (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431766)

So was "What?" ;)

Re:Tales of old. (3, Funny)

SBrach (1073190) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432162)

Please remove me from this distribution list.

Re:Tales of old. (2)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431440)

The solution is making people pay attention where they click, not "hiding buttons because users can't read", that same though is making popular software crappier every day.

Re:Tales of old. (3, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431656)

You need to understand that mistakes can and do happen, and it's a very simple UI fix to prevent. As reply-all is something that should only rarely be used, it shouldn't be as easy to click as the single reply button, something that is probably used 99% of the time instead of reply-all, that's simply poor user interface design to do so. There is no need to have one rarely needed button with possibly serious consequences directly adjacent to the more benign button that most people intend to click anyway.

Re:Tales of old. (5, Insightful)

Eevee (535658) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431890)

As reply-all is something that should only rarely be used

There's a difference between "should only rarely be used" and "I rarely use." Just because it's not part of your way of doing business doesn't make it wrong. I find reply all essential for keeping a team of people together, particularly when there needs to be coordination of tasks.

The real problem is people don't use BCC [] more for mass distributions. If you don't have the addresses, you can't spam them back with a reply all.

Re:Tales of old. (2)

EvanED (569694) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432124)

As reply-all is something that should only rarely be used...

"I don't use it" doesn't mean "other people don't use it". I'd actually say that half the emails I send are reply all.

Re:Tales of old. (1)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431756)

There is not one solution. Some people pay attention to everything and want a ton of tiny targets so that every task can be accomplished in one click. Other people want the 3 most common tasks instantly available, and the rest hidden behind a contextual menu so that deviation from routine forces a moment of thought before acting, decreasing the likelihood of making a mistake. Neither of those perspectives is wrong.

Re:Tales of old. (2)

digitig (1056110) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431914)

Yes, and the button in an aircraft cockpit to fire a missile shouldn't have a little red flap over it, because the users should be looking at what buttons they press. Er...

Re:Tales of old. (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431982)

In my business it is often for the various layers to request quotes for parts. From the customer to the manufacturer there can be 3-6 different people involved. Most of them don't know what bcc, or reply to all are let alone how to use them.

Or even customers requesting a quote from various suppliers. Most often one name is in the TO: field while the rest are BCC:(if they know how to use it, or CC: if they don't)

while techies know the difference, I can't tell you how many times I have given a simple email lesson to my customers so that such things don't happen. They aren't all old people either some are 20-22 years old.

Re:Tales of old. (3, Interesting)

chameleon3 (801105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431192)

agreed. I use 'reply all' every time, mostly because it's imperative to not leave people out of important emails. If my boss was CCed on an email to me, say, if I don't CC him on the reply, it looks like I'm avoiding him or didn't want him to have this information.

Re:Tales of old. (2)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431458)

Aside from what you stated, there's also that fact that if you Boss was CCed, NOT replying to all, would mean deliberately "kicking" him from the conversation. People should have common sense "does everyone need to know my response?" It's as simple as that.

Re:Tales of old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35432096)

Me too!

Re:Tales of old. (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430950)

Occasionally someone at my place of business somehow manages to send an email out to everyone in the department, or division, or even the whole company. Even on modern hardware the network will struggle if you send an email out to several hundreds or even thousands of recipients. But that wouldn't be so bad, what really finishes off the network are the several dozen people who feel the need to Reply All just to say "please remove me from this email last". Of course, after a dozen or so of those go out, you end up with two or three people sending a Reply All just to say "please stop sending your removal requests Reply All" The last one went out to 500 employees and I ended up with 40+ copies of the email in my inbox because of people being absolutely stupid.

Re:Tales of old. (1)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431776)

Unsubscribe; stop;

Re:Bedlam DL3 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430984)

Me Too! []

Re:Bedlam DL3 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431332)

Wow... that URL wasn't focus group tested beforehand. I read that as MS sex change team. Hmm... not I'll think of that every time I read about Microsoft Exchange. msexchange: It'll cut your dick off!

Re:Bedlam DL3 (2)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431678)

I had to stop reading with Osterman's comment: "But even though Exchange is a REALLY good email system..."

Re:Tales of old. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35432076)

One company I worked for recently went so far as to forcibly remove the reply-all button from Outlook via a policy push. Unfortunately, it was not the brilliant solution they had hoped for. Seems there are many legitimate uses for reply-all. (big surprize) Took a few days for knowledge of workarounds via hot keys and such to make it's way through the organisation. Those of us not using Outlook due to our choice of OS just sat back and watched.

Bottom line - Reply-all is a power tool. Like most power tools, if you use it without paying attention, you will get hurt.

Re:Tales of old. (5, Funny)

anyGould (1295481) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432098)

My favorite reply-to-all story (which is 100% true; I was there, I participated, and I got in trouble for it at the end).

My high school had just got "email" (in the "you can email your teacher and other students" sense - they didn't trust us with outside links, or didn't trust the outside with us, one or the other). First Class, if you know the software. A few interesting facts:

  • You could see everyone who was online at the moment (and select the name(s) to send them an email).
  • When you recieved email, it made a nice loud "ping" (and since everything was internal, it was near instant from "send" to "ping").
  • From one of the walkways (that had computers for homework-use), you had a clear view/hearing to three different labs. (Just a quirk of the layout).
  • This was '94, and the first experience most of these kids had with email.

Combine these facts, and you can mess with an entire school at once:

1. Pull up the list of everyone online, select all, send an email saying "Hi!"

2. Listen to the near-synchronous "ping" sound from three labs as they all receive the email.

3. Wait about ten seconds - at least two people will hit reply-all and say "who is this?" or similar.

4. Listen to a double-dose of "pings".

Wash, rinse, repeat - our best day we managed to have a continual storm of pings as emails whizzed back and forth. It only stopped when they sent teachers to the labs to instruct everyone to hit delete and leave it. (Which lead to getting in trouble part - although I think we got in more trouble for bogging the server down than for disrupting three classes *shrug*.)

The only better story I have is using Waterloo MacJanet's inability to delete a message without opening it first, combined with the ability to use alias to send an email to the same guy twenty times (as in, I hit send once, he gets twenty copies), to completely bury a friend's email account.

Leave Reply All along (3, Funny)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430840)

Just think of it as an opportunity for Darwinism.

Re:Leave Reply All along (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431102)

Just think of it as an opportunity for Darwinism.

Yeah, yeah, yeah - only stupid people do this - right.

When you've been working hard, crunch time, 12+ hour days and longer, you're tired, a little loopy, concentrating on something that just isn't going your way and all of a sudden, you get one of those emails addressed to the whole crew. It's something not that important but someone decides that now is a good time and it's that you respond to just the get the fucker out of the way so you can go back to getting your work done and on time - something probably from HR about benefits or whatever that HAS to be decided NOW because THEY think it's important or because they've procrastinated with some "team" building mumbo jumbo horseshit.

So, you bring up "Thunderbird" and with blurry eyes click on the first "Reply" button you see - they ARE right next to each other - and compose your email. It's late, you're tired, and this email is just yet another not-so-important distraction in your work life. You fire it off and maybe with a little snarky comment about how you're under a crunch period and don't they realize it and couldn't they just fucking wait another goddamn week?!

Ta-da! You just made a corporate faux-pas that will result in a weeks worth of "sensitivity" training from 9 to 5 and then from 5 to 11 every night getting your shit done.

Re:Leave Reply All along (-1, Troll)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431502)

That's a really crappy excuse "the buttons are next to each other and I'm tired". So what happens if a friend and my boss are next to each other on my cell phone? That mean you call the wrong at the middle of the night one too? "Oh, the fire alarm lever was right opposite the light switch" Pay attention to what you do; period.

Re:Leave Reply All along (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431118)

It has its uses. I've been using it more in the last week than probably the rest of my life combined. I've been doing group work over email with a small handful of people and reply all is a god send for that. The big problem is that there isn't typically a sanity check for when the list of addresses grows longer or a message asking if you really want to send it to everybody. Plus the buttons are often times right next to each other meaning that you can easily click the wrong one if you're not careful.

Re:Leave Reply All along (3, Interesting)

idontgno (624372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431216)

That's like arguing we should be attracting dinosaur-killer meteor strikes to weed out the weak and unfit. A reply-all storm that size obliterates communication for the affected infrastructure for days. That's followed up by a fair bit of forensics, trying to backtrack the crapstorm to its initiating email, THEN followed by executing the guilty. Or not. If it's an executive secretary, it's probably just a mild talking-to.

OTOH, I've forgotten how many lulz there are to be had trolling in such a mailstorm, if you can get away with it.

Oh, BTW, epic fail DHS, but good work flushing out the Iranian spy*. Not that he was that good of a spy; if surreptitiously monitoring a DHS email list is equivalent to the Monty Python "How Not to be Seen [] sketch, asking the group "'Is this being a joke?" while signing your email with your real-world credentials ("Amir Ferdosi Sazeman-e Sana'et-e Defa' Qom Iran") is the same as the guy at the beginning of the aforementioned sketch who stands up from behind cover when asked to (and gets shot).

*Yeah, I know, he's probably not really a spy. But seriously, Homeland Security, why are you letting foreign nationals from adversary nations subscribe to your email lists? WTF?

Re:Leave Reply All along (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431772)

Leave it along?

Do you ever feel like your life is a game of blind man's bluff?

maybe reply-all should automatically be bcc? (1)

Marrow (195242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430844)

At least that way the email addresses do not get spammed to everyone. Or maybe that should be an additional dialog:
Do you want everyone to see all email addressees, do you want to hide email addresses with bcc, or do you want to cancel.

Re:maybe reply-all should automatically be bcc? (2)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431004)

There are plenty of cases where that is bad - collaboration via email, it support with multiple groups, etc. I prefer options that require an extra bit of effort for the reply all, that usually works well enough.

Re:maybe reply-all should automatically be bcc? (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431784)

Any user that currently uses "reply to all" without paying attention will just hit ENTER if you add that dialogue.

Doctor, it hurts when I do this. (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430864)

So don't do that.

Corollary: Fire the ones who do it more than once.

Re:Doctor, it hurts when I do this. (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430994)

Devil's advocate: Software should make it hard to do stupid or dangerous things without really intending to.

That said, I find it to be an annoying tool more than anything else, because it makes it far far too easy to have lots of people hear discussions that really only need to involve 2 of people on the email. People don't seem to notice that the cost of CC'ing 10 people is as much as 2 minutes per person per email.

Re:Doctor, it hurts when I do this. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431186)

No, and that's probably my biggest complaint about Windows. The engineers are telling me what I should be able to do, rather than making me raise my privileges to do whatever dangerous things I want to do. Admittedly that has changed and I believe that they finally got it more or less right with 7, but even up to about Vista they still hadn't gotten it right. And up to XP it was nigh impossible to get work done without being an admin account or doing some serious haxxoring of the system.

Something like UAC is probably about as good as it gets. The main problem they had with UAC was a lack of discrimination in what should warrant user intervention, but the idea itself has worked well for many years in other OSes. Personally, I prefer a well set up *BSD or similar box where a lot of that is handled with groups and group permissions rather than handing out root control of the entire box.

Re:Doctor, it hurts when I do this. (1)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431222)

I disagree. The level of difficulty is high enough: you have to make a specific effort to click reply-all instead of reply. If people are too lazy or stupid to put a few seconds' thought into it, that is their fault, not the UI's fault. There's no reason to penalize the people who will want to legitimately use reply-all (by making them expend extra effort) just for the failures of a few.

Re:Doctor, it hurts when I do this. (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431834)

I agree. Don't make people-who-read pay just because they're a minority.

Re:Doctor, it hurts when I do this. (2)

dwillden (521345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431720)

Reply all is great when organizing some family activity. Rather than make sure you remembered to include everyone in your reply, you just hit reply all and everybody gets the email. There is a reason Reply all exists. Perhaps the real issue isn't reply all but rather people doing massive corporate emails using cc: instead of bcc: which prevents the reply all fiasco. But then again wasn't there a /. article not that long ago claiming that bcc: was dead and useless? Death of BCC []

So first we have a discussion about how bcc is dead and useless, and now we have a discussion about the supposed risks of "reply all," which risks would be substantially reduced through the use of bcc.

Re:Doctor, it hurts when I do this. (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431806)

Software is a tool to be used by humans, not something to do it's job and human just turn knobs.

Why do we even have that lever? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35430908)

I understand that reply all has a use case, but when I think the times I've legitimately used reply all are just about equal to the times I've accidentally used it. Can anyone tell me why reply all should have equal weight to reply, instead of being hidden in a menu somewhere?

Re:Why do we even have that lever? (4, Interesting)

medlefsen (995255) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431046)

Do you use email as part of your job? I am always a part of at least a dozen or so email conversations between groups of people. Reply-All is my default since I usually want to be talking to everyone in the conversation.

Re:Why do we even have that lever? (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431220)

Hidden isn't necessary, but it should come with a pop up asking if you're sure you want to reply all. Also the button shouldn't be right next to the reply button. As somebody else mentioned you don't have to hide the thing you can require an additional click to use it so that somebody is less likely to accidentally click on it when the mean to click reply.

I think Reply All is very useful (3, Interesting)

C_amiga_fan (1960858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430922)

Like if I'm sending "free books" or whatever to friends, I just click reply-all on an older email, trim out the 2-3 non relevant persons, and send off the email to all ~50 friends.

I've been fortunate never to have a "reply all" mistake at work or other embarrassing place. If anything I tend to hit "reply" by mistake, when I meant to include "all" the participants.

Re:I think Reply All is very useful (1)

Marc_Hawke (130338) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431198)

"If anything I tend to hit "reply" by mistake, when I meant to include "all" the participants."

This is me. Every time I've ever hit 'Reply All' it was immediately preceeded by clicking 'Reply' and shouting 'D'oh!'

Re:I think Reply All is very useful (4, Insightful)

data2 (1382587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431852)

Please stop doing this. Hitting reply-all on old emails destroys threading on pretty much all clients that support it. Your email client might have an address book and groups as an alternative.

Duh? (1)

shawnhcorey (1315781) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430936)

Just make the "Reply" button bigger than the rest, and the "Reply all" smaller. Then separate them so they're not side by side.

Re:Duh? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431042)

One could also set a threshold(either just a number of addresses or, in places with more sophisticated metadata available, number of different departments, etc.) beyond which the Reply All requires an extra step to activate.

The exact parameters would obviously depend on the user and use case; but it generally seems to be the case that the more users that "reply all" would imply the less likely it is that you actually mean to hit "reply all".

Senders could also do their bit by using the BCC field, rather than having a combined TO and CC field consisting of several hundreds or thousands of addresses...

On the other side of the coin... (1)

JW CS (1593833) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430958)

I usually have the opposite problem. I want to reply to everyone included on the email, but I forget to hit reply all. I need to have an option to have the computer ask me what I intended to do every time I reply to an email with multiple recipients. It would be annoying, but that's the price I pay for my absent-mindedness.

Let it be. (2)

lwsimon (724555) | more than 3 years ago | (#35430960)

Let it be, guys.

This is nothing more than social Darwinism. If you're dumb enough not only to send a nasty email, but to hit reply-all, you deserve what you get.

Reply all for vendors who can't figure out BCC (4, Funny)

wheeda (520016) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431006)

I love the reply all button. When vendors send advertising to everyone without out using BCC, I reply all. The vendors usually stop doing that. I've even replied all with contact information for competitors.

Mainly an Outlook problem. (1)

sunfly (1248694) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431032)

My Yahoo mail account does not even have a dominant Reply All button, you have to use a pull down to use it. Seems a small interface change on Microsoft's part could make this a non issue.

Re:Mainly an Outlook problem. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431234)

There are 2 buttons to control it. People just mash whatever to get done what they want.

Also it is not 'mainly' an outlook problem. I have over the years used several dozen email programs. It is an organizational problem. One organization *NO* one would reply all. As reply all with that origination meant the whole company of 20k. Different organization and everyone does reply all. Everyone needs to know what is going on. It creates a very spamy environment. The admins set the rules. No admins no rules...

Re:Mainly an Outlook problem. (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431308)

Yeah, in GMail it's in the dropdown menu under the arrow next to the regular reply button. (used it intentionally when communicating with group project teams)
In the Zimbra implementation I'm looking at, it's right between Reply and Forward, but anyway, Reply All never cropped up as a problem for me anyway, sending or receiving.

Re:Mainly an Outlook problem. (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432020)

Why do you say on microsoft's part? Hotmail, I belive, has a very small amount of users compared to yahoo and gmail.

Default Reply All (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431058)

I've trained myself for years on Gmail with my default reply all button. I always know my email is going out to everybody.

What's the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431062)

I didn't RTFA. Someone did something stupid, and wants a technological measure enacted to stop them from being stupid?

Can they just keep this feature in Windows Mail + Outlook please?

Easy fix (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431082)

Make it so it asks you at least twice

Are you sure? Yes

Positive? Yes

Really? Yes!

Really really? Godammit!

Last chance... AAARGH!!

Okay, here goes... Make it stop!

Too late...

Re:Easy fix (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431800)

As you indicate, that just trains people to click through them all.

Instead, your mail program should be able to learn what e-mail aliases you're in by checking the To and Cc headers against your actual address. The more mails you get addressed not explicitly to you, the more likely the address they are addressed to is a list (usually the To address rather than a Cc). Thus, whenever you do a Reply All, it uses the learned weights of addresses to present you with a list of the recipients with any aliases presented more prominently.

Alternatively, since Bcc can skew the data, you could train the mailer with the known bulk remailer addresses in your organization. The mailer could also be trained to track the history of a conversation and flag it when a reply to your mistress will instead go to your wife or other crossing of social sets (sending corporate secret communications to a Yu Gi Oh mailing list).

By restricting the prompts to only those situations where there is a statistical likelihood that the message is misaddressed, you reduce the likelihood the user will blindly click through the alerts while preventing communications from going astray.

And of course Facebook says fuck you (5, Insightful)

alex_guy_CA (748887) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431098)

The only reply in Facebook is "Reply all." You can't escape.


Re:And of course Facebook says fuck you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431490)

No it isn't. You just didn't look hard enough.

Re:And of course Facebook says fuck you (3, Informative)

g253 (855070) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431548)

Not true. The default is reply to all, but there's a tiny "Reply" link next to each message, which allows you to reply just to the sender.

This is a test (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431136)

Please ignore this message.

Maybe... (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431148)

Maybe the dumbfuck to sends the mass emails in the first place should learn to BCC

The worst I've seen (3, Funny)

GC (19160) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431196)

Our CEO at a company I used to work for sent out an all-employee mail detailing a salary freeze for all employees and voluntary redundancies. Moments later the CFO sent out an email to his accounts team detailing that their pay-rise would not be affected and that they should not consider redundancy... needless to say, the hapless git hit reply-all...

Simple Interface Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431230)

This could be solve with a number of very simple interface design solutions... you know... like not putting the reply all button right beside the reply button.

Or putting the reply all button on the right side of the tool bar and the reply button on the left.

I'm sure someone could come up with thousands of ways that don't require a lot of actual effort in implementation.

News for nerds? (1)

pep939 (1957678) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431348)

In nearly a decade at The Wall Street Journal, Bonds columnist Elizabeth Bernstein has covered education, philanthropy, psychology and religion - all areas in which personal relationships loom large. [...]

Somehow, I really don't think this article should be on slashdot...

The reply-all function might be a problem for your daily office employee, but c'mon, have you ever read an article that said "Hey people, guess what, when you type rm -rf / it deletes everything! Imagine the consequences..." ?
I mean, it clearly says "REPLY ALL" on the button, that's: 1. reply 2. to all ...

In my opinion, the problem is more a lack of knowing how to use the tool, rather than the tool itself. You'd be surprised how many people who work with computers every day don't know how to handle very basic functionality, let alone what every button on their screen actually does.

Not a technical issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431352)

If people are firing off "rants" they don't want other people to see, then they shouldn't be writing the rant. It's a fairy simple rule most people ignore, "Don't write it down if you don't want people to read it."

Microcharging? (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431354)

It would all be solved if we could microcharge for email. At $0.001 per email, no sensible use of email would build up a significant cost, even for the very poor. But if your message to the whole company cost $5, you might think twice. And the spam industry, of course, would become much less viable. I don't know how you could do it safely, reliably, unfraudably, but it would be nice to try.

Re:Microcharging? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431956)

I don't think this would really solve the problem unless it was enacted by companies themselves as an internal policy. Nobody would accept being charged to send email that only uses their internally managed devices.

Re:Microcharging? (1)

hobarrera (2008506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432110)

I'd never trade MY freedom to send e-mails in exchange to avoid people making STUPID mistakes, sorry, that's just WRONG. I don't care if it's just $1 in a lifetime, it's a matter of principle.

Low tech equivalents (4, Interesting)

RogueyWon (735973) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431400)

"Reply to all" is great for career-imperilling fun, but you can replicate the effect perfectly well with good old dead tree and snail-mail. Indeed, the closest thing I've had to a genuinely career-ending moment so far happened during my first year in work and was entirely down to a dead tree circulation mistake. Even now I still look back on it and cringe, even though I've since changed employers.

I needed to send two documents to different recipients in the (large) organisation I worked in, both of whom were based in different buildings in different parts of London. One was a routine, dull minute of a meeting. The other was a sensitive personnel-related document (relating to a staff disciplinary matter - I was in HR at the time). I decided to deal with the former first. I printed it out, put it in an envelope and put it in the out-tray for our internal delivery service (which had multiple collections daily and moved dead tree around our sites within about 30-60 minutes, depending on traffic). I then went back to find a secure mail pouch for the the personnel letter - only to find that the piece of paper I still had on my desk was the meeting minute. I look around and see the delivery guy vanishing into the lift with all of the internal mail.

Cue a 30 minute dash (and I do mean dash - literally running) across central London to beat the delivery van to our other site and intercept the envelope before the addressee could open it. I made it - by the skin of my teeth. Had I failed to, my career could have... well... turned out very differently - and not in a good sense. In a way, it was a good learning experience - I've been incredibly careful about what I put into envelopes ever since.

But it just goes to show that you don't need fancy new-fangled modern technology in order to ruin your career with a mis-addressed mail.

Slashvertisement (1)

rogueippacket (1977626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431410)

I work in an organization with 32 000+ employees. There is only one "Reply All" storm per year, and it's usually the fault of the sender for not using BCC in a distribution email. If this is a common thing at your workplace, you need email etiquette training or your mail admins need to get off their asses and properly administer distribution lists. Or even better, delegate the ability to manage the dist lists to group managers.
This is nothing more than an advertisement for a new AOL "feature".

too tech savvy? (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431430)

'After almost two decades of constant, grinding email use, we should all be too tech-savvy to keep making the same mortifying mistake, too careful to keep putting our relationships and careers on the line because of sloppiness.'

If Lamar Odom can still make bonehead mistakes and pass it to the opposition a few times a year after playing basketball for 20+ years, some schlub in an office can still mistakenly hit Reply All.

The horrors that can be (1)

hilldog (656513) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431468)

Ah yes I remember years back getting an inter-office memo from a director telling us of a visit by the new VP of the company. I stupidly thinking I was just replying to a few co-workers sent back 'I'm so happy I'm popping a woody'. Imagine my chagrin at finding out the VP was part of the reply all and BCC to boot. Couple years later I got promoted and the VP jokingly mentioned the 'woody' statement so guess it did not hurt.

Easy in Thunderbird to fix (3, Interesting)

satch89450 (186046) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431550)

After reading a couple of standard SlashDot "shoulda do this" comments, I pulled up my mail program, Thunderbird, and customized my toolbar so that "reply all" is to the right of the Thunderbird "search" bar. Far away from "reply". 15 seconds to do, 10 seconds to check that it was "sticky."

Stop bellyaching. Start fixing.

Oh, way, this is SlashDot...

Don't use company email for personal conversations (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431552)

I keep my business-related conversations to my dept. account. I keep my university conversations to my university account. I keep my personal conversations in my gmail account or through instant messengers.

Keep the spheres separate and life will be easier.

Re:Don't use company email for personal conversati (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432054)

true,and completely impractical.

really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431592)

Is it really that hard to hit "reply" instead of "reply all"?

Is it really that easy to confuse the two, or mash the wrong button, that this is a common problem?

Sure, I've heard the horror stories... And everyone makes a mistake now and then... But is it really so common that we're looking to redesign software?

I've been stuck using Outlook at work for years now... And I've got two buttons - reply and reply all - right next to eachother. I've never hit the wrong button.

Computers never make mistakes (1)

ItsLenny (1132387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431596)

...only people make mistakes. The simple answer is sllloooowww down, take a breath then hit reply (or reply all if applicable). Yes, I've hit the wrong button by mistake in my life, but that doesn't mean that we need to hide the reply all button or even pop up a window that makes me have to click twice to reply all. Thats just plain inconvenient. To those saying it's a outlook problem no it's not. I use Mac Mail on my Mac and thunderbird on my Linux systems and they both have reply and reply all right next to each other. I assume outlook is the same (I haven't used it in about 5 years). However at the end of the day the error isn't the program it's the user that clicks the wrong button probably because you're in too much of a hurry. No e-mail is THAT urgent take a deep breath and relax... think about what you're clicking and everything will be ok.

And all the non tech people will hate it (1)

Original Buddha (673223) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431636)

Been there. Done that. At my previous company we removed the Reply All from the Notes template and made people take another step to get to it. It did achieve it's main goal of reducing the amount of mail sent but it also generated thousands of calls to the help desk. Non techies hate when something is changed. Highly paid non techies think it's their duty to complain constantly about minor changes.

yet another bad idea from aol (1)

jsepeta (412566) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431750)

I wonder how long it would take your mail to download if there were 100 faces in the message. WHAT A BAD IDEA. thanks, AOL.

Assume that anything you write will be read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431778)

by your worst enemy, then forwarded with commentary to your spouse, your parents, and your boss.

pop-up warning box listing all recipients (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431786)

You make that the default to Reply-All.

So disable the "Reply to All" button... (1)

Mr_Silver (213637) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431790)

Open Outlook, load up the Visual Basic Editor and put this into a new module:

Public Sub ToggleReplyToAll()
ActiveInspector.CurrentItem.Actions("Reply to All") = Not ActiveInspector.CurrentItem.Actions("Reply to All")
End Sub

Then open an email and add a button pointing to that macro. After that, if you want to disable "Reply to All" then press the button. To re-enable, press it again.

Note! Only works on emails sent within same organisation. Only works on emails read on Microsoft Outlook. "Reply to All" is still enabled on other email clients (such as their Blackberry or OWA). Can be circumvented with a little VBA knowledge - however this will be beyond most people. Not completely foolproof, but will stop a lot of people.

Re:So disable the "Reply to All" button... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431940)

You can also disable the button by editing the group policies. This doesn't disable the function - you can still reply all with Ctrl+Shift+R, but will prevent accidental mouse clicks. The following works on Outlook 2003, but I think you can download templates for any version (search MS's download site).

1) Download the "ADM, OPAs, and Explain Text Update" (
2) Extract the templates to a folder (e.g. C:\ORKSP3AT).
3) Open the Group Policy Editor (Start, Run..., gpedit.msc).
4) In the Group Policy Editor, right-click the Administrative Templates folder under User Configuration in the left hand pane, and choose Add/Remove Templates...
5) Click Add... then browse to the folder you just extracted the templates to, select outlk11.adm, and click on Open.
6) Close the Add/Remove Templates... window. There should now be a new folder, Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 under the Administrative Templates folder.
7) Under this new folder, select Disable items in user interface, then Custom.
8) In the right hand pane, Double click on Disable command bar and menu items.
9) Change the radio button selection from Not Configured to Enabled, which un-greys the Show... button below.
10) Click Show... then Add...
11) Enter "355" (without the quotes), click OK on all dialogs, and exit the Group Policy Editor.
12) Restart Outlook

Only trouble with Reply-To munging on lists (1)

data2 (1382587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431884)

I have much more trouble (and have been burnt by) the reply-to munging on some e-mail lists. What it does is rewrite the Reply-to to the mailing list address instead of the original sender, so that people with semi-broken clients without reply-to-list feature can just hit reply-to instead of having to type in the address of the mailing list on a reply.

It's not cc: (1)

crackspackle (759472) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431896)

It's cyb:

Maybe we should just (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#35431912)

become mature enough to stop pounding out angry rants?

I amost always use Reply All. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35431944)

I even use Reply All when replying to messages sent only to me. The only exception is when the sender is broadcasting a question to be potentially answered by everyone, where the answers are not mutually interesting or outright private. (In that case I will still use Reply All, but I've trained myself to look at the list of recipients in consideration of the nature of the reply and trim it).

Reply All is the default, correct reply command, and Reply is just for the above special case.

If you habitually use Reply, you will end up fragmenting discussions, by excluding people on the Cc: loop. Failing to keep people informed is a mistake almost as bad as sending to unintended recipients.

simple is better (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35432000)

How about a simple counter on the send button or next to the TO: field?

FROM: Anonymous User
TO: (250 recipients) user1; user2;....user250

PEBCAK (4, Insightful)

neurovish (315867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432012)

Or you could try not being an asshole at work and keeping all of your correspondence in line with how you should present yourself. It is not the software vendor's fault if you are a moron or never evolved socially past middle school.

Two different issues (1)

RapmasterT (787426) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432028)

These are two different, and UNRELATED issues.

Accidental "reply all" is just that, an accident. Muscle memory, inattention,'s going to happen for a variety of reasons. It could be handled as simply as a reply all having an extra "are you sure" dialog that includes a count of how many people will be receiving it.

reply all mailstorm is completely different...that is a result of INTENTIONAL behavior. people are INTENDING to reply to all, usually to show their idiocy by saying "stop replying to all". No amount of "are you sure" or other cute crap is going to stop people from intentionally, but inappropriately replying to all.

hopeless (1)

hb253 (764272) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432044)

Technology can't prevent stupidity. Either we remove the ability to reply all or we live with the consequences.

Extended version of the "reply all" commercial... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35432086)

There's also an extended version of the Bridgestone commercial [] . Even better!

Burying "reply all" in the UI: big mistake. (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | more than 3 years ago | (#35432116)

The reply-all command is the main, default way of replying.

Reply-single is for the rare special case when a question is broadcast to a list of people, such that the answers are private or mutually uninteresting.

Reply-all is critically important for most e-mails involving multiple people, because without it, you fragment the discussion. You the end up with the "what, you didn't get the e-mail???" type situations.

More than 90% of all replies that I send on a daily basis require Reply-All, and I use it habitually even for e-mails sent only to me. Why would I want to hide this behind an extra menu, or otherwise make it harder to invoke?

The best practice is to hit Reply All and train yourself to double check the list of recipients in light of the nature of the reply. If anything, it's the Reply command that ought to be harder to invoke, or eliminated entirely.

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