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Companies Getting Rid of Reply-all

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the please-please-please dept.

Businesses 248

An anonymous reader writes "An article at BusinessWeek highlights an issue most corporate workers are familiar with: the flood of useless reply-all emails endemic to any big organization. Companies are beginning to realize how much time these emails can waste in aggregate across an entire company, and some are looking for ways to outright block reply-all. 'A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."' Software developers are starting to react to this need as well, creating plugins or monitors that restrict the reply-all button or at least alert the user, so they can take a moment to consider their action more carefully. In addition to getting rid of the annoying 'Thanks!' and 'Welcome!' emails, this has implications for law firms and military organizations, where an errant reply-all could have serious repercussions."

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248 comments

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please (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082285)

please take me off this distribution list

Re:please (2, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | about 2 years ago | (#42082739)

I am just replying here to everyone to tell you not to reply to everyone. Send a direct message, instead!

Everyone should use IRC instead (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 2 years ago | (#42082287)

It is the superior protocol for group communication. Also, spaghetti is the superior food and New Jersey is the superior state. Above all, China is the greatest place on earth you shitheaded american imperialist chauvinist goatfuckers.

So much fail ... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082297)

... I don't know where to begin.

Mailing lists (3)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#42082301)

The majority of reply-alls can be replaced by using mailing lists.

Re:Mailing lists (2)

jhoegl (638955) | about 2 years ago | (#42082327)

A while back I actually looked for a way to remove Reply-to-All buttons and found that through office, it was seemingly impossible.
I tired the VBA methods people proposed, but we I found that it didnt work at all.
I taught people sending out notification emails, even the ones that needed a response to BCC emails out.
The problem is people forget, dont think about it, or dont care. So forced denial is the only way to be sure.

Re:Mailing lists (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082385)

Could the server be set to convert cc to bcc perhaps?

- hoot hoot

Re:Mailing lists (1)

MLBs (2637825) | about 2 years ago | (#42082833)

A better choice would be to confirm in cases where more than N recipients.
Something like: Are you sure you want to send to 2047 people?

Re:Mailing lists (4, Informative)

jgrahn (181062) | about 2 years ago | (#42082427)

The majority of reply-alls can be replaced by using mailing lists.

+1. The lack of real (archived, opt-in) mailing lists is part of what drives useless reply-all usage. Let workers who are interested in topic Foo look at the archives for the Foo mailing list, decide if they like it, and sign up if they do.

At my workplace we're going even more retro. On Monday I'm going to sign up on the internal IRC network, and try to convince others to do the same. Our Enterprisey IM software simply doesn't support the way we work (when it works at all, that is).

Extra price system administration (4, Interesting)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 2 years ago | (#42082559)

The majority of reply-alls can be replaced by using mailing lists.

That requires someone to administer the mailing lists, or to set up a process to let it be administered automatically. Reply-all, on the other hand, empowers small ad-hoc groups to form instantly around an issue, without red tape delay or extra expense that might provoke middle-management nipping-in-the-bud.

I've just started a contract at a very small company. (My work there is unrelated to I.T.) They contract their system administration from an individual supplier. Getting anything done is extra cost, so it doesn't happen unless it's critical.

On the project where I'm working we're in the early design discussions. Everybody on the project is in on everything. Reply all works just fine for what we need. (Indeed, the early problems with it were OMISSION of people who SHOULD have been on it.) Removing reply all would just mean most of the people in the group would spend extra time copying email addresses (and occasionally drop one, interfering with communication). Yes we might end up with a "please drop me" later in the project. But for now we're far better off with reply-all than without it.

I've been in companies where reply-all explosions were a problem. The solution was not to kill reply-all, but to create mailing list aliases and procedurally restrict who could mail to them. Then doing a reply-all to a message on a department-wide or division-wide mailing resulted in a bounce on mail to the big list and/or a reply just to the originator of the mail. Problem solved.

Size matters (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | about 2 years ago | (#42082597)

Agreed. But the real problem is that most mail server software doesn't allow or isn't configured to allow arbitrary users to create and share their own mail lists. Reply all is a horrible feature if you have the entire Microsoft Redmond campus being e-mailed. (Saw it happen around 2000, the 'please remove me' from this thread reply email would bring all the mail servers on campus to their knees for a day or so.) It is a great feature if you have ten people you are carrying on a conversation with who don't have access to a shared mailing list. Also, like most tools, this feature is really only dangerous in the hands of idiots. Until every mail server/client allows sharable delivery lists, we are going to be stuck with this feature.

Re:Mailing lists (2)

arekin (2605525) | about 2 years ago | (#42082681)

Can be yes, but the less than technical people in the office don't get that concept. Not a day goes by at work where people are replying to a message that clearly says "DO NOT USE REPLY ALL TO RESPOND TO THIS REQUEST" with a reply all giving away either their personal information, or a clients personal information. Generally speaking since we cant email out of the company it means that client info is not in danger (we can all look it up anyway) but it does mean in cases where the employee was giving out their info they spammed it to everyone. A while back we had to submit direct deposit info to HR for updating info and in the letter it clearly said, not only "do not reply to all" but also "do not reply with this information, come get a form from HR." sure enough a half hour later we had no less than 20 reply alls with employee direct deposit info.

Re:Mailing lists (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082747)

Nonsense. Unless you want to generate an ad-hoc mailing list for each list of half a dozen people who care about issue $x. It really depends on how matrixed and flexible your workplace is. If you're part of a team that works on a few projects, then a team mailing list, and a mailing list for each project, will probably satisfy your needs.

Many of the emails I send are addressed to 4-6 people, and say things like "I want to make this change - it might impact your system. Give me an opinion." A group discussion is the right format for that answer, rather than individual emails to me, but there's no way I want to ask the question on an integration mailing list which might go to 50-60 people, half of whom will chime in with comments which are either asinine or reveal that they didn't understand the question.

Next week, it'll be a different set of 4-6 people.

Re:Mailing lists (3, Insightful)

ccguy (1116865) | about 2 years ago | (#42082859)

The majority of reply-alls can be replaced by using mailing lists.

reply-all aren't the problem. The problem is the (huge amount of) idiots who insist on CC'ing every one in the first place. If someone emails with a a tiny thing and for some reason CC's my boss of course I'm going to do a reply-all, and I reserve the right to CC his boss, too. And this is the problem.

If you remove reply-all then you will force me to add everyone manually (wasting a lot of time), and most likely leave someone important behind.

Instead of removing reply-all: Prevent people from being CC'ed in the first place *unless they are needed*.

asking for trouble (5, Funny)

bigdavex (155746) | about 2 years ago | (#42082307)

A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."'

I hope somebody replied to all, quoting this entire memo and putting "OK" at the bottom.

Re:asking for trouble (5, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#42082355)

A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."'

I hope somebody replied to all, quoting this entire memo and putting "OK" at the bottom.

Ok

Re:asking for trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082387)

I agree.

Re:asking for trouble (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about 2 years ago | (#42082463)

Thanks

Re:asking for trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082585)

I agree with MightyMartian, way to go team!

Re:asking for trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082741)

A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."'

I hope somebody replied to all, quoting this entire memo and putting "OK" at the bottom.

Ok

I'm selling a 2001 Ford Escort. $2800 or BO.

Re:asking for trouble (1)

Penguin Programmer (241752) | about 2 years ago | (#42082553)

I think you mean at the top.

A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."'

I hope somebody replied to all, quoting this entire memo and putting "OK" at the bottom.

Re:asking for trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082645)

Thanks!

I think you mean at the top.

A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."'

I hope somebody replied to all, quoting this entire memo and putting "OK" at the bottom.

Re:asking for trouble (1)

ewieling (90662) | about 2 years ago | (#42082709)

No, at the bottom so the reader must scroll all the way to the bottom to see the reply.

Fewer embarrassing/career-fatal events (1)

CrowdedBrainzzzsand9 (2000224) | about 2 years ago | (#42082589)

At least three times I've seen an off-color joke sent in a reply-all, that included a company-wide address in the list that the sender didn't notice. Once, I similarly received an excel file with all salaries (very small company).

Except for the caberet, I say 'good riddance' to reply-all.

Re:Fewer embarrassing/career-fatal events (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082773)

Oh, it doesn't need reply-all. I recently asked a colleague for the details of the person in charge of $x. He replied, giving me an email address, and generally disparaging $x and the people that worked on it. He copied the email to the person in charge of $x - he must have typed the person's name into the CC field in his mailer to do an LDAP lookup, and then not deleted it....

Re:asking for trouble (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082813)

A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."'

I hope somebody replied to all, quoting this entire memo and putting "OK" at the bottom.

My personal favorite reply-all response; which is always followed by a flood of "me toos:"

Please remove me from this mailing list.

Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (5, Insightful)

Br00se (211727) | about 2 years ago | (#42082311)

I welcome this trend, a few extra confirmation boxes would help.

Can we also get rid of excessively long sigs, embedded graphics, comic sans and outlook stationary too? Or at least made them more difficult to automate.

Re:Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (2)

Meshach (578918) | about 2 years ago | (#42082397)

Can we also get rid of excessively long sigs, embedded graphics, comic sans and outlook stationary too? Or at least made them more difficult to automate.

Amen. I bet if you added the bandwidth spent transmitting large sigs/wallpapers/stationary and showed it to most CFOs they would agree.

Re:Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082595)

I worked at a Fortune 500 company that decided to limit each employee's email storage to 100MB. The email announcing this measure came from a VP who had a digitized image of his signature in the email. His email was well over 1MB is size, using up more than 1% of everyone's storage just to let us know we had to be more efficient in our email storage.

Re:Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 years ago | (#42082671)

I worked at a Fortune 500 company that decided to limit each employee's email storage to 100MB.

Almost certainly this company used Exchange / Outlook.

It is *trivial* to either manually move Inbox content to local folders, or automate the process.

My guess is that you can do this with non-MS email systems as well.

So, really, 100MB is just a way to make you think about learning to managing your email.

We use Exchange / Outlook where I work, and honestly, the "size" of my Inbox is irrelevant, as if it's something I want to keep, it ends up in a local folder anyway, and the rest of the cruft gets deleted.

Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082755)

The solution is to set up a filter that auto-trashes mails coming from that VP.

Re:Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (2)

SimonTheSoundMan (1012395) | about 2 years ago | (#42082439)

Most of that can be fixed by only allowing plain text e-mails.

Re:Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (5, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | about 2 years ago | (#42082603)

Right, but do you know what happens if you send a plain text e-mail to a business person? They'll print it out, highlight a few places with a color marker, add comments in pen, scan it, put the image into a Word document then send it to you with a subject of "Sending e-mail message" (apparently Word's default subject, might be translated differently in English versions).

The first time I received a mail like this, I hoped this is a joke done on purpose. After seeing this multiple times from different people from far away parts of the country, from different business sectors, I think I really don't want to live on this planet anymore.

Re:Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (3, Informative)

Penguinisto (415985) | about 2 years ago | (#42082511)

Can we also get rid of excessively long sigs, embedded graphics, comic sans and outlook stationary too? Or at least made them more difficult to automate.

I'd love to, but corporate policy requires that we include our name, all relevant phone numbers (desk, mobile, fax), company name (in company font and color, naturally), a trite environmental statement, and the 2-paragraph automated legalese BS that gets latched onto each and every outbound (outside the company) email.

Re:Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#42082663)

Add overly big fonts, all caps, colours other than black for text and white blank for background to that list.

I suggest that a popup confirming the content, that goes something like.
"You realise you are about to look like an idiot with your choice of formatting, right? Click confirm to send anyways."

Re:Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (1)

adolf (21054) | about 2 years ago | (#42082733)

Can we also get rid of excessively long sigs, embedded graphics, comic sans and outlook stationary too?

I don't see any of that stuff in Pine.

Re:Can we get rid of long sigs as well? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#42082763)

That stuff is banned where i work, but people still do it since there are no repercussions, yet.

Welcome (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082313)

Welcome

HR worst offenders (1)

doesnothingwell (945891) | about 2 years ago | (#42082317)

Mindless drivel is their filler, when they can't make any real work. Tell the CEO studies show employees are fooled into thinking they have value when engaged in useless activities.

Terrible news! (1)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | about 2 years ago | (#42082329)

Yes, it will reduce the number of accidental, serious information breaches. It will also reduce the amount of co-worker spam (I call that bologna, since it's not quite spam).

But sometimes, the awkward and accidental reply-all is the only source of amusement in an otherwise uneventful day at the office.

Fix the people not the tool! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082333)

Those people who constantly send out large blasts of useless email are just not sufficiently harassed by their fellow employees to stop. Reply all serves a very important function when running large multi-day problem resolution threads that require large amounts of collaboration on a global scale. To remove the reply all means that everyone has to remember to constantly add back everyone "important" to the thread. Reply all is a tool, the problem is that sometimes the people using the tool are tools themselves. Fix the people not the tool.

Re:Fix the people not the tool! (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082525)

Absolutely correct. Too often, managers will try to address the symptom of a problem rather than the underlying problem. Dealing with staff issues is hard, it is easier to skip it and come up bad policies. This kind of avoidance destroys a good work environment. I use reply-all regularly, but responsibly. Rather than get rid of the feature or severely limit it, deal with the individuals that abuse it. Or maybe hire competent office workers and managers -- but that might be too much to ask.

Re:Fix the people not the tool! (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about 2 years ago | (#42082527)

Buttons don't reply all. People reply all.

Re:Fix the people not the tool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082605)

Today I have mod points. And I would have modded you up for this. Go make an account and be part the /. community.

Re:Fix the people not the tool! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082797)

Exactly. Reply-all is exceedingly useful to keep contacts in different companies and departments in the loop in a support thread, in a way that a mailing list cannot straight-up replace (what, am I supposed to subscribe hardware manufacturer technical contacts to our internal mailing lists now?)

And Mailing Lists (2)

Greyfox (87712) | about 2 years ago | (#42082337)

Mailing lists and reply-to-all are a lethal combination. 2/3rds of the E-Mails I get are dups -- someone will start a ticket, which E-Mails a list. Everyone who has something to say will reply-to-all, which will mail everyone and the ticket system, which will then bounce the mail out to the list. You can't get off the list because your boss thinks that even though 99.9% of the list traffic doesn't involve what you do in any way, there might some day be one that might require your attention. The only problem with that is that one message will get lost in that flood of crap, so it's pointless to be on the list anyway.

Re:And Mailing Lists (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 2 years ago | (#42082373)

2/3rds of the E-Mails I get are dups

Simple solution: Use an email client that automatically eliminates dups.

Re:And Mailing Lists (1)

KiloByte (825081) | about 2 years ago | (#42082621)

They differ by headers and the exact spelling of "me too" above the quoted text.

Wow, if I was on the MS Exchange Team... (1)

DarthVaderDave (978825) | about 2 years ago | (#42082339)

I would love to hear this. A button to disable it? How draconian, what are we in the dark ages? In Exchange each message thread has an ID --- why not simply make a pointer to the one copy of the message - whether the user is pulling off the server or in the .pst file? Boy, I guess these guys never heard of the concept of DEduplication.

Re:Wow, if I was on the MS Exchange Team... (2)

jimicus (737525) | about 2 years ago | (#42082481)

It's not disk space that's the issue (and indeed, it's my understanding that Exchange already does this and has done so since at least the days of 5.5), it's the fact that when it's an internal email, it's not immediately obvious that it's not terribly useful until you actually open it and read it.

That's time you won't be getting back.

Sure, it's only a few seconds at a time. But when you've got people who seem to think the only reply button they should ever use is "Reply All", people who followup every tiny little conversation with an email to confirm and people who have a tendency to CC in everyone from the CEO downwards in an attempt to fashion a teflon overcoat for everything they ever do, those few seconds add up.

Re:Wow, if I was on the MS Exchange Team... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082683)

And yet I waste 100x more time on slashdot, while my cube-neighbor is on the phone talking about her cats.

Re:Wow, if I was on the MS Exchange Team... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082499)

Re:Wow, if I was on the MS Exchange Team... (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 2 years ago | (#42082787)

I would love to hear this. A button to disable it? How draconian, what are we in the dark ages?
In Exchange each message thread has an ID --- why not simply make a pointer to the one copy of the message - whether the user is pulling off the server or in the .pst file? Boy, I guess these guys never heard of the concept of DEduplication.

Send your email to a central server, and send a link to the recipient. What could go wrong?

it's about time... (1)

alienzed (732782) | about 2 years ago | (#42082343)

Thanks!

errant reply-alls (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 years ago | (#42082345)

Here's [slashdot.org] last year's attempt to do something about it. Maybe something is happening this time?

Oh and,

this has implications for law firms and military organizations

Not to mention for terrorist organizations [go.com] ...

Feature/Bug in Outlook (5, Informative)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | about 2 years ago | (#42082347)

Person A sends you an email.
You reply.
You forgot something, and reply again.

With Gmail, it will reply to A.
With Outlook, it will reply to yourself.

The broken solution is to use "Reply to all", which will only reply to A and not to yourself.
If you remove "Reply to all", please fix "Reply" first.

Re:Feature/Bug in Outlook (4, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 years ago | (#42082377)

Yup. Also, I've found that it is much easier to hit reply-all and then trim the list down, than to just hit reply and try to think of everybody who really should be copied.

Emails can be annoying, but what's the alternative? Walk down the hall? Uh, good luck with that - I can't remember the last time I was on a project where more than about two people on the team were even in the same building. Schedule a meeting? Good luck - everybody is booked through to next Friday in meetings. Pick up the phone? Good luck - they're not going to answer because they're all in those meetings that I just mentioned.

Email and IM work. The former is asynchronous, and the latter can be discretely used while in meetings.

Re:Feature/Bug in Outlook (2)

Galestar (1473827) | about 2 years ago | (#42082557)

Other advantage of gmail is it actually groups "conversations" so you don't end up with 100 emails for a long running converstation. Email becomes like a thread that you are subscribed to (with reply all) instead of a cluster fuck of messages all over the place. If people are smart about it you can easily take people in and out of the thread (we usually start emails with -Somebody or +Somebody when we do that).

Re:Feature/Bug in Outlook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082791)

Person A sends you an email.
You reply.
You forgot something, and reply again.

With Gmail, it will reply to A.
With Outlook, it will reply to yourself.

The broken solution is to use "Reply to all", which will only reply to A and not to yourself.
If you remove "Reply to all", please fix "Reply" first.

I believe the correct way to do this in Outlook is to use the 'resend' function

Get rid of top-posting while you're at it (3, Insightful)

Chelloveck (14643) | about 2 years ago | (#42082357)

I don't mind Reply-All so much, but can we get rid of the yahoos who top-post and quote the whole damn email chain?

Re:Get rid of top-posting while you're at it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082421)

Except that it's actually useful in the following situation:

Ed,
I'm escalating this issue to your attention. As you can see below, Andy, Betty, Carl, and Daphne are just pointing fingers at each other with respect to resolving the email list handler for deduplication. Perhaps they all need some training by HR that their role in a service organization is to provide service to the customer. Thanks for your timely attention to this matter,

Xerxes.

copies of stupid emails all saying "it's not my problem, it's theirs"

Re:Get rid of top-posting while you're at it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082631)

I also use it to keep the email trail. That way I can trash the earlier messages.

Re:Get rid of top-posting while you're at it (2)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about 2 years ago | (#42082765)

That would be just about everybody at my company, including myself... And for our needs, it is actually easiest way to keep the email chain (which is quite necessary when adding more people to the chain) without having to scroll to the bottom of the email to read the latest comment.

but can we get rid of the yahoos who top-post

actions become automatic (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082361)

People working at large tech companies have been exposed to email since the 1980s, and email itself has been around since the 1970s. It isn't something new. You'd think that by now, people would have learned to be careful. I think I made this mistake once in the late 1980's, and it was sufficiently embarrassing (and I got enough nasty replies about minding "R" vs "r" in mailx) that I learned my lesson and haven't done it since then.

Reply All serves a useful purpose for small ad-hoc email discussions between groups of 5 engineers let's say. If you put the button behind some "protection" such as described, that will work for a little while, up until clicking past the protection becomes an automatic action. Then it'll be as if there was no such protection. This happens with other things too, like the Windows "you SURE you want to run this virus??" dialog boxes, where people reflexively click past the warnings without paying them any attention.

Really though, given 30+ years of email now, why are people still making this mistake? I can understand it during maybe the first year you've seen email and you're still learning what it is and how it works. But it's been ubiquitous for decades. Approximately nobody is new to it any more.

easy company solution (2)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 2 years ago | (#42082383)

what you do is charge the sender in your currency
1 X to do a reply all (AT ALL)
2 Y for each person sent to
3 W for each KB the message takes (single copy)
4 +60% if the response contains the ENTIRE previous email
5 Z for each time the Company Sig appears in the email

If W X Y and Z are high enough this could be a Profit Center for your business

Good start (0)

roman_mir (125474) | about 2 years ago | (#42082389)

They could also block the rest of the buttons and only have them activate when a certain key sequence is pushed. Email is often used by people without looking at the message, having all of the previous messages in every new reply, sometimes it seems like people really need a wiki like communication system rather than email.

I work at Nielsen ... it doesn't work. (5, Informative)

bramankp (1774866) | about 2 years ago | (#42082405)

Through domain policy, they were able to disable the button in Windows XP but when folks switched to Windows 7 it was back again. Plus, it doesn't affect Mac or Linus users. Regardless, most people just learned to use the keyboard shortcut instead of clicking the button and it's as easy to Reply-All as ever. Mostly we still get the same amount of spam as usual and whomever got paid to come up with that suggestion should be let go. What a complete waste of a paycheck.

s/Linus/Linux/ (1)

bramankp (1774866) | about 2 years ago | (#42082433)

bleh ... typo

Re:s/Linus/Linux/ (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082699)

Time to fire everyone named Mac or Linus for disregarding company policy

Re:I work at Nielsen ... it doesn't work. (2)

corychristison (951993) | about 2 years ago | (#42082509)

Sounds to me like a web based system would be beneficial in regards to this problem.

I expect Google and Zimbra and other commercial solutuons to provide the option to disable Reply-all in their domain administration panel very soon.

Personally I use Thunderbird at home and work (the rest of them use Outlook). We use straight IMAP/SMTP though.

Nielsen outsourced there IT so that fingers (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 2 years ago | (#42082627)

Nielsen outsourced there IT so that figures

I know (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | about 2 years ago | (#42082407)

You tell me, working with all those Big consulting shit companies where no one has a clue what they're really doing there and spamming mails with dozens of CC's. end the funny shit is that the reply all grows on each strike.

I'd do the opposite (4, Insightful)

daffmeister (602502) | about 2 years ago | (#42082431)

My personal peeve is people that hit Reply when Reply All is required. I deliberately included those other people in the original email, because they need to be part of the discussion, don't cut them out. You've just forced me to add them all back in again on my reply.

Re:I'd do the opposite (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082549)

My personal peeve is people that hit Reply when Reply All is required. I deliberately included those other people in the original email, because they need to be part of the discussion, don't cut them out. You've just forced me to add them all back in again on my reply.

The number of people who abuse Reply-All at my company are vastly outnumbered by those who keep neglecting to use it when it is necessary and repeatedly cutting people out of the information loop. It gets really annoying having to re-add them all in my replies and annoying for them to be only getting every 2nd or 3rd email in the chain.

Re:I'd do the opposite (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#42082635)

I agree complexly. I have never been in a huge corporate environment, so never encountered this reply-all spam but I have had to take time to forward many a email to the others in a convo when someone hit reply instead of reply-all.

My suggestion is a user interface change (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | about 2 years ago | (#42082437)

When "reply all" is chosen. Instead of opening the message with all users listed as recipients. Change the command to "reply multiple"

When chosen, open a window with a checklist containing all the recipients unchecked by default.

Ask the user, to check each recipient they want in their response message, and click OK. Only the recipients they manually checked will appear in the reply message.

And Send, too! (4, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | about 2 years ago | (#42082465)

My God. I don't know what's more sad - that we live in an age where some people feel the need to police the use of "Reply All", or where some corporation will actually go to the expense to remove it.

In days of yore there would have been a pretty simple solution: if you misused it your boss would sit you down and tell you never to do it again. Case closed.

Now, can someone tell Gmail that it would be handy to be able "Resend" a Sent message that bounced or was deleted at the other end by mistake?

Re:And Send, too! (2)

N1AK (864906) | about 2 years ago | (#42082769)

You're absolutely right about some companies using policy to do what management would solve. If someone keeps responding to my emails without including others then I'll reply to them saying something like "You haven't included x, y and z on the email could you let them know?" it's slow progress but you can make it easier for people to do it right the first time and be reasonable about it and they'll get better.

When I changed roles loads of people had me on distribution lists that I repeatedly asked to be taken off. After about 6 weeks of asking I created rules for them that deleted they sent me and sent them a polite reply saying due to the unwanted emails I was rejecting all emails from them, that they would get a mail saying this each time they send me one, could they please remove me and let me know by phone. Of the 7 hold outs 5 worked it out eventually. Ultimately making doing it wrong more annoying than doing it right works.

Re:And Send, too! (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#42082817)

In a large company today, its not a case of 'some people feel', but instead is a legitimate problem that does cost time, resources, and productivity.

The worst part is often times even the IT dept cant manage to properly reply to group emails, its not just the end users.

Corporate silliness (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082485)

This will last until someone does a study on the time people waste having to re-add recipients to replies that actually do need to go to more than one person. Then the pendulum will swing back the other way. Yes, Reply All gets abused. Yes, in some instances, it can be replaced with distribution lists. No, removing Reply All is not the answer.

Incidentally, disabling the Reply All button in Outlook the way Nielsen did does not remove the functionality. It just forces people to learn one to the many other ways of accessing that particular function. (menus, key strokes, etc...) It also has no effect on anyone using other email clients.

Just link the button to a resignation letter... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082487)

that gets sent reply all so that its the last thing they ever do in the firm.

Google's solution (4, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | about 2 years ago | (#42082493)

I really like the solution to the "reply all" problem that is used at Google. It's part social and part technological. The social part is that people make an effort to trim TO and CC lines -- though "reply all" is the default, and for good reason. The technological part is "mute".

Since Gmail already groups all e-mail conversations into threads, it's easy for it to provide the user with a means to opt out of a conversation, even if they're still on CC. I use it all the time... if a thread is clearly no longer relevant to me, I just hit "m", and I never see that e-mail conversation in my inbox again. It's still in my archive and I can always search for it (including seeing all subsequent messages after I muted it)... but other than that it doesn't bother me.

Gmail also does an awesome job of collapsing quote text. It's there if I want to click on the "..." to see it, but otherwise it's out of the way, and it works equally well with both top- and bottom-posting. For that reason, the general practice is not to trim quotes. They're invisible when you don't care about them, but preserving them provides full context for any newcomers to the conversation.

It's still not ideal. I think the ultimate business communication vehicle will look something like a cross between e-mail and a web forum, but in practice Gmail is pretty darned good. Which is a really good thing, because Google runs on e-mail, and Googlers get massive amounts of it. Between direct e-mails, automated system status notifications and internal mailing lists (some are general discussion lists, others are focused on specific projects, or teams, or technologies), I get >2000 e-mails per day. Filtering, priority inbox and selective muting are all essential to making it manageable.

Re:Google's solution (2)

adolf (21054) | about 2 years ago | (#42082725)

I think the ultimate business communication vehicle will look something like a cross between e-mail and a web forum

This thing you refer to; I think we used to call it "Usenet".

Weapon of Unintentional Mass Spam (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082495)

At my company, someone sent an e-mail to several groups asking a question. Several dozen replies came back saying that they weren't the right ones to be asked. Scores of replies followed, all asking to be removed from "this mailing list". Then hundreds. Followed by threats to report people to HR if they keep "replying to all" (sent to "all", of course. Followed by hundreds more. Followed by a very high up threatening to send people to HR if they keep "replying to all". Followed by hundreds more requests and demands to remove them from the mailing list. It finally died down, until the next shift came in and hundreds more e-mails came around. Again with the next shift after that.

I expanded all the address groups, and then expanded all the sub-groups and so on, then pasted into a word doc and counted the '@'. About 10,000 people had received nearly 1000 e-mail each. It happened again a few weeks later.

A couple of things to trim e-mail (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 2 years ago | (#42082513)

  • Make it more difficult to use reply-all. There's times when you really do need everyone on the original recipient list to see your response, but it should take extra steps to do that.
  • Enforce top-quoting and trimming of text. We have e-mail clients that can thread messages and maintain history. We don't need the entire thread in every single message. If the message text hasn't been trimmed, the e-mail client should insert an extra step to insure the user actually intended to quote the entire original message. Top-quoting helps enforce that by putting the cursor at the bottom of the message instead of at the top. That forces the user to either change locations or trim text to get their reply seen. If you're quoting so much of the message that your reply isn't visible from the top of the e-mail, you're probably quoting more than's needed.
  • Start using wiki and forum software to replace mailing lists. They offer notifications and alerts (so you know when people have responded to a thread you're involved in), RSS feeds (so you can conveniently see new and updated threads) and all the bells and whistles. They're not hard to set up. And best of all, they don't get purged (and the information lost) as mailboxes get cleaned up. Institutional memory goes a long way towards heading off future problems. It's a lot easier to deal with issues when someone can go "I think I remember something like this, lemme do a quick search... oh right, that's what it was, and we did X last time, let's try that.".

bcc to the rescue (4, Informative)

Salo2112 (628590) | about 2 years ago | (#42082533)

If you put the distribution list in the bcc field, the only person inundated with stupid replies is the sender, which serves them right. It's also a way of saving idiots from themselves when the reply is....inappropriate.

Re:bcc to the rescue (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082647)

That breaks filters

Reply All Moved (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082551)

After a massive Reply All storm involving our whole firm over someone getting offended too easily, our COO jumped in to tell everyone to knock it off and the Reply All button was moved to the far right end of the toolbar. This has helped for the most part.

Good stuff (1)

kipsate (314423) | about 2 years ago | (#42082569)

This is brilliant. Hope my company adopts this as quickly as possible. I don't have time to read time wasting work-related mails at my job. In case you missed it it's the season and I have my hands full doing on-line shopping and hunting down coupon codes. I already hardly have any time left to read the frickin' news sites. And I guess if you think your mail is so important, just put a request at the bottom to consider forwarding it to the next member of the department or project team, so each person who receives it can make a balanced decision whether to bother a next person with your mail, that interferes with other priorities.

I like reply alls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082617)

Based on the replies I think I'm alone, but I lose way more time trying to reproduce emails that I never received than the 1/10th of a second or so that it takes to delete emails I received that I don't need. Especially if they say something like, "Thanks" it can't be more than a second of wasted time. Please, send me everything, I'll filter through it.

How about.... (3, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#42082625)

Not sending emails in the first place to the entire company if you do not want to waist their time?

It sounds to me that either the originators of the email is at fault, or there is something very wrong with how all these people use email. And technical solutions never solve personal ignorance.

If someone actually reply-alls to an entire company saying "thanks!" then they are not qualified to use email in a profession setting.

Mass mailings are stupid (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#42082637)

An email sent to more that 5 to 10 people probably doesn't need to be sent at all. Daily I get between 10 and 20 emails ranging from "Please read this update to our employee handbook, we just clarified that viewing porn, even while remoting in from home, is bad" to "Please donate some money to X charity so we can claim that we, as a business donated the money misleading our customers into believing that the company contributed when it actually was our employees." and lastly my favorite "XYZ application that you never use, have never heard of, and could care less about will be rebooted at 12am and have no effect on anyone what-so-ever"

I don't need any of it. For the love of god make it stop. If you're email is to notify me of something I might not care about and I do not need to take any action on it, then I do not want it. Don't send it for fucks sake. I have work to do and reading a 3 page email about a blood drive that you wont let me go to unless I use my lunch anyway is a waste of my time.

Re:Mass mailings are stupid (2)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 2 years ago | (#42082689)

There are some emails that should go to a large group, but not many. UI changes can help - put the reply all far from the reply button so people don't hit it accidentally.

Even better (if technologically practical) would be to have different thresholds of numbers of people who will receive an email. For more than say 10, you need an extra confirmation, for more than 100, something more complex.

I'd also like to see different spelling / language checks for different recipients, the sort of language you use with friends may no be appropriate to an email to your entire department.

Don't Forget The Broadcast Email Addresses (1)

assertation (1255714) | about 2 years ago | (#42082745)

Seriously, in every big org I've worked out there is some senile old asshole high up in the company that doesn't realize that people on the other coast don't need to know about his open golf date.

Its about time (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#42082761)

I have been advocating this for years. Don't remove it as it is needed in some cases, just make people think before they use it.

I would prefer that people could properly use email, but that isn't going to happen so its 'babysitting' time.

This means we will ... (2)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#42082841)

... deprecate unit of time known as the OhNo second [urbandictionary.com] .

nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082845)

old news; this has been done since (at least ;-) the last century

Better and easier solution.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42082887)

BCC by default, only To and CC when explicit action taken by the first mailer.

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