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The Great Columbia J-School Email Mishap of 2014
January 10, 2014 7:58 PM   Subscribe

What it says on the tin.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch (66 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Please remove me from this list.
posted by gwint at 8:09 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


UNSUBSCRIBE
posted by Skwirl at 8:15 PM on January 10


Previously on Metafilter, Free Bananas in the Kitchen!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:16 PM on January 10 [24 favorites]


(The Washington Post)
posted by ddd at 8:16 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


Who ate the bananas then?!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:19 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Sheesh. It's 2014!!!!!!

Sent from my Apple ][
posted by Sys Rq at 8:20 PM on January 10 [9 favorites]


I never knew that something like this would trigger anxiety in me. Thanks for that datapoint, Mefi.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 8:20 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


I love, love, love Reply to All wars. A buddy of mine is a writer in my field and he's been in for over a decade so when he was moving on from one job, he let everyone know. Unfortunately he used CC instead of BCC. What came forth was amazing and hilarious, everyone from a low-level part-timer he met once to C-level execs all babbling at each other, making jokes, demanding to be removed, spinning off into conversations with people they hadn't seen in ages. Just amazing. At one point there were t-shirts made to commemorate it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:23 PM on January 10 [37 favorites]


Sorry to be a nag, but every time I hit refresh I'm seeing MORE comments. PLEASE remove me from this list.
posted by gwint at 8:23 PM on January 10 [19 favorites]


Actually, it's probably because it's 2014 that people have forgotten how listservs work. Does anyone outside of academia still use a listserv (moderated or unmoderated)?
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:24 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Actually, it's probably because it's 2014 that people have forgotten how listservs work. Does anyone outside of academic still use a listserv (moderated or unmoderated)?

I don't know, but I can tell you that my university has stupid default listserv settings that can't be modified via the list management page, only by issuing commands via email, so I've actually read the listserv documentation to figure out how the hell to get it to behave sanely. I can thus inform you that listserv commands feature mismatched parentheses. The whole escapade was deeply upsetting.
posted by hoyland at 8:26 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


Actually, it's probably because it's 2014 that people have forgotten how listservs work. Does anyone outside of academia still use a listserv (moderated or unmoderated)?

Fucking everything the Camarilla / Mind's Eye Society LARP group does is over listservs. One of the game settings that started in June of last year did everything using a Google Group (it's a novel setting that benefitted from having a central repository for documents), but if you're doing anything else- Vampire, Werewolf, Changeling, etc, you're learning how to use a listserv. I've repeatedly complained about it and offered to set up forums, but we have enough people who've been using the listservs since 1994 that it's impossible to get people to change.

The best part is the industrial-grade handwavium for for the in-character lists to justify why Camarilla vampires are emailing each other.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:28 PM on January 10 [6 favorites]


Fortunately the nation's journalists are a smart bunch.

Even if they are a little vague on that whole "less/fewer" thing.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:34 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


There are a ton of heavyweight open source projects that still use listservs, despite the availability of vastly "superior" solutions these days. Just off the top of my head, python-dev, the linux kernel, everything Apache, haskell-cafe, and probably a million others.

Mailing lists have the advantage of indifferent access; you can read it in mutt, or GMail, or Thunderbird. You can apply filters and rules, ignore individuals, and so on. This used to be more highly valued, but now everyone seems content to have everything in its own little app in its own little window. Indifferent access can really improve the workflow, though.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:46 PM on January 10 [12 favorites]


A year or so back I was working at a certain organization that shall go unnamed, and there was a Reply All war that went on all morning. (Someone had managed to cc everyone in the organization on a test message for something--45,000 people.) The message volume was well into the 200s before it finally stopped.

The best part was when my boss drafted (but did not send) a message indicating that the entire thing had been an evaluation of staff judgment, and anyone above a certain rank who had hit Reply All would fail their next promotion.

It was a wondrous thing; but if he'd sent it, he'd probably have lost his job (or failed his next promotion).
posted by suelac at 8:47 PM on January 10 [8 favorites]


Am I the only person here who's first reaction would be to immediately set up a filter for these messages?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:00 PM on January 10 [10 favorites]


Am I the only person here who's first reaction would be to immediately set up a filter for these messages?

Welcome to the lonely burden of having spent a few minutes learning how to use the tools provided to do your job.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:22 PM on January 10 [108 favorites]


Mailing lists have the advantage of indifferent access; you can read it in mutt, or GMail, or Thunderbird.

And it is pushed into your mail client inbox. You don't have to periodically remember to point your browser at a forum page and see if it has updated.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:25 PM on January 10


last spring my university had a security workshop where they were demonstrating the emergency alert system to trainees, and accidentally send out their joke alert to thousands of campus email accounts.

(Warning: cherry blossom drifts have reached dangerous levels, university may need to close...)

The best part was the sombre apology explaining how all was ok please don't panic about the cherry blossoms falling in the gentle breeze. If only it had been in haiku...
posted by chapps at 9:28 PM on January 10 [24 favorites]


Am I the only person here who's first reaction would be to immediately set up a filter for these messages?

Into a folder called "read at any opportunity" sure.
posted by griphus at 9:31 PM on January 10 [3 favorites]


The president of a company I worked for would send new policy updates to "ALL."

Someone spoofed email replies critical of these policies, seemingly coming from a user named "ALL."

The president then got into protracted debates, explanations, and justifications with "ALL" that made it clear that he somehow thought that the email conversation he was having was with the collective "ALL."

Of course, it was all being forwarded to ALL.

I still wonder exactly what kind of deliberative process he imagined was resulting in the collective consensus being expressed by the other party to this dialogue he was having.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:48 PM on January 10 [29 favorites]


Am I the only person here who's first reaction would be to immediately set up a filter for these messages?

No, but you're probably considering this at a macro level.Yeah, overall this is a terrible waste of time and not really the kind of traffic you want on the network, but for each individual there probably isn't a good cost:benefit ratio here, and setting up a filter in a hurry can be risky.
posted by ddd at 10:23 PM on January 10


I remember something similar happening once my freshman year at UT (Texas). For some reason there was an open list which went out to literally every student. That's approximately 50k people. The chaos was pretty spectacular.
posted by kmz at 10:31 PM on January 10 [2 favorites]


Actually, it's probably because it's 2014 that people have forgotten how listservs work. Does anyone outside of academic still use a listserv (moderated or unmoderated)?

Sure - the Dead Runners Society and the ULTRA list for distances longer than a marathon are on listserv, and have healthy numbers in their community. Many/most of us are not academics.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:31 PM on January 10


Deadspin has a funnier and more thorough recap of the event.
posted by retrograde at 10:47 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I had this problem back at UofM(ichigan) in '94. It was hilarious at the time, but I assumed it was because that list was mostly freshmen and it was the first time most of us had to use email in any serious capacity. Even funnier to see it still happening 20 years later.
posted by p3t3 at 10:54 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


Dealing with these listservs is stressful, because people get very upset if you do something they don't like to their email. And, eventually, you will make some config error or something, and be public enemy number one for a while.
posted by thelonius at 11:08 PM on January 10


Back in the day when UCSB was using Pine for it's email systems, I was on a couple e-mail lists where I chose to have everything compiled and waiting for me as a single message when I logged in. Every so often,somebody would go on vacation or lose their e-mail account, so when a message was sent out, their server would bounce along with a message "So and So cannot receive message". Which would be sent to the central listserv which would send it out to all recipients, only to be bounced back...

I would regularly come in to receive huge emails consisting of hundreds of "So and So cannot receive message" posts. Enough to crash my computer, enough to get messages from the administration asking why I was downloading megabyte files in 1995.

Good times...
posted by happyroach at 11:08 PM on January 10 [1 favorite]


I have a confession to make. It involves a rural cable television station, C-Span, the US House of Representatives, a young lad pursuing a BA in Communication that wasn't paying enough attention to what he was doing, and, the star of the incident, a little animated character from MTV named Beavis.

It was my Sophomore year, and I was working in the TV studio on a Friday before a 3 day weekend. Our TV station would take over the local cable company's C-span channel when we would broadcast our live and prerecorded shows. That evening I was assigned to 'run traffic', which meant I was the one who would come in, override the C-span channel, and run the old 3/4" videotape machines and a Video Toaster as master control to play that night's lineup of TV shows, and switch over to various sets of commercials when the taped show had its breaks, and run the FCC required station identification spots at the top and bottom of the hour. Usually, this meant 3 minutes of precisely timed actions in between 8-12 minutes of being forced to monitor a bunch of fairly boring student shows.

So I would work on my own video projects and assignments in between the commercial breaks. However, this time my projects were "Make copies of my friends archive of Beavis and Butthead episodes he had recorded over Christmas break" and "Mess around with the Stillstore DVE unit" (a fancypants way to say 'grab still images from the video for pranks on the live news team")

So things go great. I have a bunch of funny still images, the shows and commercials run without a hitch, and I have just enough time to get over to the bar and get some quality time in with my friends. I pack up my stuff, leave a still image of a lone Beavis sitting on his couch on the stillstore machine just to confuse the next guy who comes in on Monday, yank the cables that send our audio and video signal out to the cable TV station, and lock up and head on my merry way. Or so I thought.

In reality, I had only pulled the audio patch cables out. I somehow missed the video feed patch cable, and just left the tapes in the machine (they would stop themselves when the tape was done) and due to the way the 3/4" videotape machines were wired, if they were not playing, they would play whatever video was being sent to it. In this case, it was the stillstore machine.

So, for about the next 3 days or so, every cable customer for many miles around that tuned into C-Span heard every word of the US Congress debating, voting, and arguing in crystal clear sound. However, all they would see is the face of Beavis (weirdly enough, this is nearly the exact image), mouth open in mid-sentence, his unblinking, beady eyes staring right at them.

I found out about it late Sunday afternoon. Word had gotten around about the 'New Face of C-Span' and it had been entertaining stoners and poly-sci majors alike all weekend. No one knew how or why it happened, and most thought it was a mix-up by the small local cable company.

I calmly acknowledged the weird event, made my way nonchalantly out of my dorm, and ran like a maniac to the station. I thought I was in a fairly large amount of trouble, and irrational panic was in full force. This was just at the end of the time when the FCC was still an extreme stickler for the rules even with tiny TV and radio stations and our professors taught us that breaking those rules even slightly by not doing station IDs at the right times or letting your radio transmitter strength fall outside of your assigned wattage was something to fear, with the station and your entire future in broadcast media at stake. As I ran, I tallied up the violations, at least 2 per hour since it started just from not running the station IDs, with surely more violations to be added for rules I didn't even know existed.

I got to the station and pulled the offending cable out of the patch bay, and changed the stillstore image to the station logo. I thought about deleting the images, but I decided against it in my panic as I didn't want to add some sort of destruction of evidence charge in some sort of FCC court case. I finally settled down from the irrational panic an hour or so later, and laughed a bit at my own overreaction concerning my future doom at the hands of the FCC.

As it turned out, luck was on my side. Most of the administration and professors were out enjoying their 3 day weekend, the cable company's lone engineer was out sick the entire time, and other than some weird stories floating around, things returned to normal. Some viewers did call in to the college and the cable company, but by the time anyone was able to check on it, the 'New Face of C-Span" was long gone.

I'm certain that my professor and head of the college TV station had figured out what had happened, asked a few vague and rhetorical questions with a smirking, knowing look on his face but never asked me directly, and let that bit of residual paranoia that stuck around for a few days so that I would learn my lesson.

So what I'm trying to say is, as an IT guy with a BA in Communications with about 13 years of experience dealing with fixing technical goof-ups, is that as far as goof-ups go, journalism and communication majors can do far, far worse than ineptly using a listserv.

TL;DR - Once, by accident made Beavis the New Face of C-Span
posted by chambers at 11:19 PM on January 10 [393 favorites]


chambers if that comment doesn't make the sidebar there is no god.
posted by winna at 11:37 PM on January 10 [11 favorites]


StickyCarpet: "The president of a company I worked for would send new policy updates to "ALL.""

Please tell us the name of this company so we can short its stock.
posted by chavenet at 12:48 AM on January 11


There was an instance of this at my workplace once (well before I started working here, but the incident is well-documented) that got so out of control that it overwhelmed the corporate email infrastructure.
posted by silby at 12:59 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


This is why you never set the Reply-To header on a mailing list.
posted by mkb at 4:46 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


I had this problem back at UofM(ichigan) in '94.

I also had this problem at U of M a few years later. When the list administrators refused to remove him from the list, a friend of mine wrote a script that sent a "please unsubscribe" message to the list every two minutes (he warned them he'd do this beforehand). And then went home for Christmas break and left it running.

Suffice it to say that ITD was not amused.
posted by snickerdoodle at 6:54 AM on January 11


This happened at my workplace with a now infamous email called ALL OPEN DACO ORDERS. It somehow got sent to every single employee of a 60k employee multinational, plus all of the extensive dealer network. Every single reply was bounced back to every recipient. Replies were coming in French, Chinese, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and any number of Indian languages. My Outlook notifications were a constant buzz until I just shut everything down and took a walk around the factory, only to notice shop floor workers were talking about it too. It was hilarious when they finally had to shut down the entire email system to fix it.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:00 AM on January 11


Why on earth would you QUIET ADD hundreds of people to a listserv that was set to Send=Private instead of Send=Owner? Because it looks like that's what happened here.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:17 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


I don't know why, but back in 1998 or so I just figured by 2014 people would . . . know? Stuff? I guess.

Anyway can someone let me back in, I left my badge in the break room. Thx!
posted by petebest at 8:29 AM on January 11 [1 favorite]


A Luddite would have known better...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:33 AM on January 11


1996ish, Fort Gordon, Georgia (home of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, which means pretty much every Army computer-related job trains there) -- some genius sends an email to everyone on the Fort, as well as everyone on Fort Bragg (one of the largest Army bases in the world) and a couple others. And by "everyone," I mean each individual email user by name in the To line. And when some genius hit Reply All, the attached message included all of those thousands and thousands of names in the text; the next person doubled that. And so on. Within a day, each email demanding removal and begging people to stop sending emails was in excess of 4MB.

The next few days were blissfully free of email traffic as the admins tried to purge the systems.
posted by Etrigan at 9:04 AM on January 11 [2 favorites]


The real scandal is that it's 2014 and mailing list software still sucks.

I recently added myself to a US State Department notification list for travellers and got back this charming note:

You may leave the list at any time by sending a "SIGNOFF POST_BANGKOK" command to LISTSERV@CALIST.STATE.GOV. You can also tell LISTSERV how you want it to confirm the receipt of messages you send to the list. To send yourself a copy of your own messages, send a "SET POST_BANGKOK REPRO" command. Alternatively, to have LISTSERV send you a short acknowledgement instead of the entire message, send a "SET POST_BANGKOK ACK NOREPRO" command. Finally, you can turn off acknowledgements completely with the "SET POST_BANGKOK NOACK NOREPRO" command.
posted by Nelson at 9:46 AM on January 11 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: Stop Hitting Reply, It Will Cause Less Annoyances For Everyone.
posted by mazola at 9:56 AM on January 11 [8 favorites]


Someone collated the results of TCU's Great Paper Towel Dispenser Saga of 2003 and posted the PDF.
posted by telophase at 12:16 PM on January 11 [9 favorites]


In the late-ish 90's omebody accidentally sent a message about something of very limited interest to all the entire faculty @cornell.edu, a goodly fraction of whom replied-to-all with "Why am I getting this message?" Brought the email server to its knees, and it stayed down for the whole afternoon, IIRC.
posted by BrashTech at 1:10 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


This has nothing to do with "reply all". These people are replying to a list.

I think the lesson here is that you shouldn't add somebody to an email list they can post to, without first confirming that they want to be subscribed to the list.

The tweet makes me really angry for some reason. This is not a "listserv problem". The listserv is working like it's supposed to. The problem is that you assholes subscribed a bunch of semi-technical people without asking.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:43 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


> you shouldn't add somebody to an email list they can post to, without
> first confirming that they want to be subscribed


Back in the day, when people used Solaris on purpose and hand-edited sendmail.cf with their bare faces hanging out, in front of God and everyone, a BOFH who certainly wasn't me came up with what I consider to be the definitive solution to this problem: The Mailing List from Hell.

Nobody signed up to be on the MLFH. Instead, people got added to it by stroppy listserv admins for the crime of sending a clueless UNSUSCRIBE!!1! message to the posting address of some real mailing list somewhere (despite the instructions for properly unsubscribing being right there in the headers).

Pretty soon, they started to realize the were on the MLFH.

And they all... wanted... off.
posted by sourcequench at 8:16 PM on January 11 [11 favorites]


The Washington Post asking everyone else to not reply to an email chain they themselves are replying to means they're part of the problem.

(Count me as the third person who went to U of M and remembers the epic unsubscribe chains. There were 10,000 students in my class ('07) on the same freshman email list.)
posted by subdee at 8:46 PM on January 11


Am i the only one disappointed that it was just a reply fail? I was really expecting something bigger, like racism, sexism, just outlandish or something like that. This just feels "meh", and not "great" at all.
posted by usagizero at 10:24 PM on January 11


No, you are not the only one. I was hoping the story would touch on what one NYC journalist described to me as the reputation of Columbia J-school as a place that was the career equivalent of putting a pile of thousands of dollars on the ground and lighting it on fire.
posted by steinsaltz at 11:15 PM on January 11 [3 favorites]


When I was an undergrad, my college had a tradition where all of the final written work (all finals that weren't exams) were due on the same date, at 5pm, each semester: "Dean's Date." This meant that nearly every humanities major had scads of work due on one day (I think my record was around 100 pages), and, of course, that meant everyone stayed up the night before in varying states of blind panic. At around 4pm the day of, things turned into what was essentially a giant carnival, co-opted by the university from an undergrad theatre's tradition of watching the mayhem from a central location: bands played, kettle corn was doled out, students raced at 4:55pm to meet the deadline in each professor's box to the sounds of "Chariots of Fire" or on crutches for maximum dramatic effect. The same theatre group that started it all had another tradition, which was that everyone even vaguely involved with the group was placed on a "spam" list, which went for 24 hours as everyone tried to avoid work by sending links, cartoons, videos, jokes, and plenty of stories and other odd things. On a good semester, you would receive 1500+ emails in 24 hours.

As the semesters went on, this was gradually turned into a list-serv, but it started out as a "reply-all" email list. With the list-serv, we were able to cut back on the "remove me, oh god I'm trying to finish four papers" emails, but they came thick and fast in the earlier days. Once in a while, a professor with an unfortunately similar netid would be put on the list, to everyone's horror (especially if said prof was a "turn off email between 5pm-9am" person). Sometimes freshmen were pleased to have The List thrust upon them, sometimes they were terrified.

My favourite reaction, though, came during my sophomore year, with the "reply-all" list. We'd had the usual flurry of "take me off!" followed by people doing so in their replies, and then people responding to the old list, and so on, but things had finally calmed down. Then, a freshman, who I can only surmise had decided to take an early "power nap" after dinner that turned into sleep, arose some time around 1 or 2am. Blearily, he regarded the hundreds of emails suffusing his inbox, and became enraged. He did the only thing he thought he could do: angrily responding to the VERY FIRST EMAIL. With all the original people still on it. With one line:

"WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS FUCKING BULLSHIT?!?!"

Pandemonium.

I'd like to think we still all managed to turn our work in on time.
posted by ilana at 2:04 AM on January 12 [13 favorites]


What's a listserv?
posted by KChasm at 2:28 AM on January 12


A listserv is a piece of software that manages and maintains a list of email addresses. When you send to the listserv's email address, it sends your message to everybody on the list.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:42 AM on January 12


...and $20, same as in town.
posted by jquinby at 6:55 AM on January 12


Am I the only person here who's first reaction would be to harvest all these live media contacts for future use? Seriously, where's the actual data?!
posted by Scram at 8:30 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]


I *LOVE* when this happens at work, about once a year. It exposes all the morons.

The misconfigured list usually gets fixed in about 20 minutes, but for those 20 minutes it's time to get up and walk around and take a nice break, because I'm certainly not going to be able to focus on work. Also, power off the Blackberry/mobile email device, 'cause it'll just be buzzing constantly.
posted by intermod at 9:50 PM on January 12


I just had something like this happen on a much smaller scale. I've mentioned the Luddite nature of my parents before, but this was something NOT of their doing.

My parents have become "snowbirds" lately and are now on their way to Florida for a couple months. They got a laptop just this year, and have been proudly using it to update people from the road. Their first night on the road, they sent an email out to a few of us - me, my brother, a couple family friends, my mother's cousins - letting us know their progress. My mother's cousin wrote back, teasing my parents about their email a bit, and signing it "Cugina & Poopy Face Boy".

....My mother's cousin did not realize she had hit "reply all" until one of my parents' other friends responded demanding to know the identity of "Poopy Face Boy". My mother's cousin has not replied to that question as of yet.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 AM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I must confess that after 25 years in IT (including too much time admining various mailing lists), I had my first misguided "reply all" mishap recently.

For the, oh, 10th time a particularly obnoxious sales rep, very junior and 20 years my junior, sent over a "please drop whatever it is you little people are doing and fill out this 40 page RFP that I've had for two weeks but haven't bothered to send over. Oh, and being Friday, it's due Monday close of business. In England (I'm on EST). And I won't be free to assist as I'll be in France/Spain/Greece having far more fun that any of you ever will. It's a big deal, so be good dears and get on it.". I had intended to reply to my colleague with some minor snark about what a *surprise* to have another last minute drive by from Ms. Salesthing, but was foiled by outlook and replied to all, which included several levels of sales management. Uncharacteristically, my reply really was fairly innocuous, and would have merely been a slight embarrassment and cause for me to buy the next round of beers in penance had not the sales rep in question decide to also "reply all" back with a full-blown, expletive laced meltdown about how had she worked (pub crawls and jetting off to the beach do take it out of you), how we didn't understand the sales process (we do), that we should shut up and do our job (which isn't filling out RFPs) and various other put downs (digging a dark hole deeper).

Approximately 8 minutes later, a note from the sales director for Europe arrives to the effect "please accept my apology for the completely inexcusable behavior of my sales rep. We will address both that and the continuous abuse of the RFP process immediately". Europe has been very quite recently. Bullet dodged.
posted by kjs3 at 2:35 PM on January 13 [10 favorites]


...Did anyone else catch that the author was Timothy B. Lee and do a quick Google to make sure he hadn't joined Al Gore in the switch from inventing the internet to journalism?
posted by maryr at 8:11 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I love a good replyallcalypse. Somebody I know compared it to playing "the quiet game" with large group of people who keep asking for clarifications of the rules and whether or not the game has started yet.
posted by HeroZero at 4:22 AM on January 14


TL;DR - Once, by accident made Beavis the New Face of C-Span

Was this before or after the Beaver and Buffcoat incident?
posted by entropicamericana at 12:41 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


TL;DR - Once, by accident made Beavis the New Face of C-Span

Wow, that was like reading a story about myself from my early 20s (when I was doing similar work as you describe), only the ending of your story is much better than anything I've got. Also, "Stillstore DVE" brought back so many memories (including how to run one, which I didn't even realize I had forgotten) and now I can feel the braided patch cables in my hands. Bravo.
posted by davejay at 1:37 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Oh, I do have a reply-to-all story, though, previously shared.
posted by davejay at 1:41 PM on January 14


And previously shared here, too. Apparently this haunts me more than I'd realized.
posted by davejay at 2:24 PM on January 14


This outcome is no surprise.
  1. "Reply-To" Munging Considered Harmful
  2. “Reply-To” Munging Still Considered Harmful. Really.
posted by vsync at 11:05 PM on January 14


"Mess around with the Stillstore DVE unit" (a fancypants way to say 'grab still images from the video for pranks on the live news team")

Oh! I suppose that must be what "Put this up on Stillstore, Cambot" was referring to. I'd always vaguely wondered.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 12:05 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


"Reply-To" Munging Considered Harmful
“Reply-To” Munging Still Considered Harmful. Really.


The problem here isn't reply-to being munged, it's a mail client's reply-to-all function. Someone sends something to a list, reply-to set to them. Someone hits reply-to-all, which puts the reply-to:, from:, and cc: in the to: field, and then sends. If you set to: or cc: to Everyone@example.com, and someone hits reply-to-all to that message, what reply-to is set is immaterial. Everyone at example.com is getting that email.

This is *not* an MTA issue, this is a MUA and user issue.

IOW, this is reply-to-all considered harmful.
posted by eriko at 8:01 AM on January 18


I think in this case it's the MTA setting Reply-To:. The very first mail in the exchange contains the stupid awful idiotic header

Reply-To: jschoolcareerexpo@lists.columbia.edu

It doesn't matter whether the user hits "Reply" or "Reply to all" in their MUA; either way it's going to send the message by default to the whole mailing list. Because the IT guy at Columbia is the true idiot in this particular story, because the mailing list is munging Reply-To. Which is harmful.

(The larger issue is the design of email, and mailing list software. This stuff confuses even expert sysadmins, no surprise individual users get mixed up.)
posted by Nelson at 8:56 AM on January 18


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