Free bananas in Berkeley
March 25, 2015 2:13 PM   Subscribe

"Thousands of Berkeley voters got stuck in an email storm last week after a technical glitch became a viral meme that prompted around 70 residents to hold a potluck picnic Sunday."

"It all started late last Tuesday when Nigel Guest, president of a Berkeley community group called the Council of Neighborhood Associations, attempted to send an email to himself that mistakenly hit the inboxes of thousands of registered voters.

The brief email, with the subject line “test,” included a single character: “x.” Instead of ignoring the message, some of the recipients responded to ask why they gotten it. And, rather than replying only to Guest, they made the fateful, likely unintentional, decision to reply all."

A gallery of screenshots from the Berkeley Spampocalypse; the Facebook page for the CNA Survivors Picnic.

Previously.
posted by rtha (47 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Metafilter: For God's sake I'm an old man and I want to be left alone. I live in Mexico. I ...
posted by exogenous at 2:22 PM on March 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


“In what may be the greatest act of trolling of all time, one email recipient sent an email to the listerv with fake instructions on how to unsubscribe.”

I want a "subscription terminate" button pretty badly.

The fact that this spawned a potluck warms the coldest part of my heart.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:22 PM on March 25, 2015 [22 favorites]


The above-the-fold text in the FPP reads like a mad-lib.
posted by dry white toast at 2:25 PM on March 25, 2015 [29 favorites]


I almost forgot my favorite part - that the very second reply contained somebody's subject line which seems to be "Who can protest an injustice but does not is an accomplice to the act."

which is (a) so Berkeley to me and (b) so hilariously appropriate for a "reply all" clusterfuck.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:29 PM on March 25, 2015 [25 favorites]


This gave me horrible flashbacks. Back when I worked for an ISP, in the dawn of internet civilization, I was in charge of setting up a majordomo mailing list that we could use to alert our customers to events, downtime, etc. Majordomo was fairly new. I was certainly new to Majordomo. I set up the list with the options set incorrectly, sent out a notice, and the next thing I knew, people were replying to it, and it was going to everyone, and they were freaking out and/or pointing out that the person who set up the list didn't know what they were doing. It only went on for about half an hour before I got it under control, but I still remember the horror and mortification that I had let that happen. I wanted to crawl under my desk and DIE.

If I remember those 30 minutes this vividly more than 20 years later, I can only imagine what Nigel Guest experienced when he woke up to that nightmare.
posted by instead of three wishes at 2:30 PM on March 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


Please unsubscribe me from this thread.
posted by BrashTech at 2:36 PM on March 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


How wonderful!
posted by jaguar at 2:39 PM on March 25, 2015


Some of these are gold!
"Communicate like it's 1999!"
posted by Omnomnom at 2:40 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


This happens about once a year at my workspace of several hundred employees and it pretty much just tanks our email system for the day. It's absolutely infuriating how many people are incapable of judging something like whether an email was actually intended for them or not and then reply all to ask, "Why did you send me this?" Then you get the storm of a hundred people simultaneously sending "QUIT REPLYING TO ALL" emails.
posted by skycrashesdown at 2:44 PM on March 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Just in case not enough people found the bananas post in the previously link, here it is. Because it's my favourite mefi anecdote ever.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:47 PM on March 25, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm kind of amazed that some enterprising (ahem) person hasn't figured out a way to disable 'reply all' at the corporate level, at least. Given how not-infrequently this happens, seems like it should be a standard option.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:47 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The brief email, with the subject line “test,” included a single character: “x.”

Test... failed.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:47 PM on March 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Bedlam DL3 will never die.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:50 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I use it as a interview question. "When it is appropriate to use "reply-all" to an email?"

The answer, of course, is never.

Nope. You're wrong about that. Reply to the OP, have them tell the group.

Nope, You're wrong about that, that's not important enough to tell the whole group. Tell the two people who need to know directly.

Nope, that will get you *fired*, for pete's sake don't do that.

Seriously. Treat Reply-All as a nuclear weapon. Everyone has it, and thus, has the ability to destroy the company utterly, but wise people *never use it, even once.*
posted by eriko at 2:51 PM on March 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


Oh, and by the way...

How were the bananas?
posted by eriko at 2:52 PM on March 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


People here live by reply-all, getting rid of it is not going to work. A pop-up when the list of recipients gets too long saying "Are you sure you want to annoy this many people?" might make sense, though.
posted by ckape at 2:52 PM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


How were the bananas?

slow clap
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:54 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well that was just really sweet. This was good:

"Each of us had a moment where it dawned on us that this was more than an annoyance. It had become something crazy, random and hilarious. That is why I’m blowing off another potluck I was going to in order to attend the CNA Survivors picnic."

I have this vision of Berkeley now as a land of endless potlucks.
posted by emjaybee at 3:00 PM on March 25, 2015 [23 favorites]


Yeah, I am on a couple of team-specific lists here at work where not replying-all means that within ten minutes, everyone else will reply-all to make sure it's been seen/will be responded to shortly. But they are small lists, not all-company horrors.
posted by rtha at 3:00 PM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I worked at 80000-employee-megacorp, this happened once or twice a year. It had the potential to royally screw up my inbox, but by quickly making an Outlook rule to direct all replies to a spam folder you can avoid it easily. I still found it highly entertaining to observe, because, as a global company, you could watch the various countries waking up and heading into the office, only to reply to the rest of the planet various iterations of PLEASE REMOVE ME FROM THIS LIST. First it would be Pennsylvania, then the rest of the US and Mexico, then Japan and China would come online, and when I got back in the morning there would be droves of emails from India and Eastern Europe. Sometimes these things would last for weeks on end.
posted by Existential Dread at 3:04 PM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I use it as a interview question. "When it is appropriate to use "reply-all" to an email?"

This is not the fault of the "reply all" option, or the people who used it in this case. When you send an email to a list, you send it to yourself, and bcc the list. To do it any other way will guarantee a "reply all". It is known.
posted by Brocktoon at 3:16 PM on March 25, 2015 [20 favorites]


I think the first time I saw this happen was, uh, 1992. Good times, MSFT internship, good times.
posted by GuyZero at 3:18 PM on March 25, 2015


I'm sure the level of butthurt will catch the attention of the FBI any day now.
posted by dr_dank at 3:21 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is better than an Onion satire.
posted by nikoniko at 3:30 PM on March 25, 2015


I remember sometime in the mid-90s I subscribed to a local email list, I think for the SF Opera or Symphony? To receive monthly emails.

One month someone on the list had a vacation email set up that responded to the whole list that they were out of the office. Immediately people started up reply all "Why am I getting this?" "Why do I care about your vacation?" "Please take me off this list!" etc etc.

Finally some guy wrote to everyone: "You people are all a bunch of jackasses."

That completely silenced everyone. I still laugh when I think about it.
posted by JenMarie at 3:30 PM on March 25, 2015 [15 favorites]


I deployed this disable reply all outlook add-in at my old employer. It was a land of peace, where milk and honey flowed. Then I moved to my new place, about level 2 of 30 levels of IT management. So I'm cut off from being able to deploy things. And it's abused. We poll the entire office for ideas about what to name products, notices about the kitchen, on and on. There are not strong enough rules for ignoring the crap. I've yet to experience a company wide reply-all clusterfuck but I can feel that ticking bomb as the group list is just sitting in the GAL, waiting for some ambitious newsletter sender and clip-art connoisseur to abuse. Even worse, it probably has a publicly routable SMTP assigned to it, that someone will inevitably distribute to a mailing list for free bananas.
posted by msbutah at 3:34 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


This used to happen at Microsoft all the time when I worked there.

Someone would accidentally cc an email alias intended for some kind of mass news-blast (like "stock" which went to all fulltime employees), and people would reply to the same alias, ask why they were on the list (because everybody was), how to get off the list (you can't), and eventually the Outlook servers would all die.

This never happened once at my next company because they locked down the settings properly on who was allowed to send to those special addresses and make a mass announcement.
posted by w0mbat at 3:36 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


The best part was how doing these reply-all clusterfucks would bring old Exchange servers to their knees when the distribution list was big.
posted by GuyZero at 3:56 PM on March 25, 2015


Hello, Nigel. BCC (Blind Copy) is your friend. And yet, so many people remain innocent of this useful tool.

I once derailed a temporary manager by 'accidentally' replying all, which included manager's manager, when manager was being a portentious ass. Then I ate the bananas.
posted by theora55 at 4:01 PM on March 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


My company has less than 200 employees. We have HDTVs on the walls that show various information about everything from productivity metrics to upcoming chili cook-offs and after work whiskey tastings. The most important display is the "days since last reply-all incident" counter.

It gets reset about once a month now. It used to be every couple of days.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:07 PM on March 25, 2015 [33 favorites]


Subscription terminate. Genius.
posted by olya at 4:15 PM on March 25, 2015


Finally some guy wrote to everyone: "You people are all a bunch of jackasses."

That completely silenced everyone. I still laugh when I think about it.


At the last really big company I worked at Something Happened and the CEO decided to send a "personally composed" email to everyone about it. Unfortunately, either he accidentally used his personal "for actual communication" address about it (instead of his advertised "official" addy) and didn't use BCC, or he meant to just send it to the executive team only for feedback. But another executive, Bob, with no reason not to think the latter, immediately hit reply all with basically, "Looks great to me!"

While the rest of us sat there thinking, "Uh, did I just get an email from the CEO's actual address?" my boss - due to retire at month's end and admittedly having fun with that - had a different thought. He probably stalled all the HR reps, exec assistants, and the like probably desperately composing just the right text to tell the boss "what just happened" with an e-mail right on the heels of Bob's: he replied to all 30,000 employees with, "Whoa! Way to be a kiss-ass there, Bob."
posted by barchan at 4:19 PM on March 25, 2015 [35 favorites]


Wait, people still use email? I thought no one under 30 used it for personal communication. And isn't Slack going to take over all work and project related usage? Oh I hope so.

If you are still stuck with email, and you manage an email system, please read and absorb the lesson of "Reply-To" Munging Considered Harmful. Never ever ever set the Reply-To from a mailing list to the mailing list address. No, really, never. At least that way your users have to willfully press the Reply-All button to commit an atrocity.

Also related: groups.io, a new startup with a modern mailing list service to free us from the dominance of Google Groups. It's by Mark Fletcher who many many years ago built ONEList, then bought by eGroups, which because Yahoo Groups. And somehow he hasn't learned his lesson and is back! To the benefit of us all.
posted by Nelson at 4:29 PM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


I use reply all at least once a week thanks to outlook being an annoying piece of software, particularly on the mac. If you hit reply on an email you've sent someone you end up sending yourself the email, but if you instead hit reply all it replies to the original recipient instead. It's a nice work around to a dumb feature, along with another reason I curse at outlook.
posted by Carillon at 5:02 PM on March 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Gmail's "mute" option is pretty much one of the best things in the world.
posted by Itaxpica at 5:09 PM on March 25, 2015


I use it as a interview question. "When it is appropriate to use "reply-all" to an email?"

The answer, of course, is never.


Are you talking about an email to small group of people who all need to talk about the same thing or an entire company email? Because, for the former case, a "never reply all" approach where I work would create needless conversation forking chaos. "Oh, you weren't looped in on Bob's reply? Here, let me forward it you, cc'ing Bob, and then you can do so the same to Carol and Joe if appropriate, but cc me if you add any interesting commentary or they have anything of note to say about it." I'd much rather get a few replies I'm not interested in than deal with that kind of tangled mess.

You could make the case that everyone who needs to talk about an issue among a small group of people should be using slack or some other near-realtime collaboration tool, but that's just idealistic crazy talk if your entire senior management and executive teams haven't fully bought into it.
posted by treepour at 5:37 PM on March 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


treepour: You could make the case that everyone who needs to talk about an issue among a small group of people should be using slack or some other near-realtime collaboration tool, but that's just idealistic crazy talk if your entire senior management and executive teams haven't fully bought into it.

Also that doesn't exactly work if you need to be conversing with people outside of your organization. Most of the group email exchanges I end up CCed on involve clients.
posted by brundlefly at 6:23 PM on March 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


unsubscribe
posted by klangklangston at 6:49 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


please remove this thread from my Recent Activity.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:53 PM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, we had a spampocalypse awhile back when someone spammed half the town to let EVERYONE know that Bill Clinton was coming!!! (Note that probably most of the people who got this thing would have had to be working during the event.) It was hi-larious between the outrage and the jokes. And also that ALLLLLLL of the e-mails were being delivered at 4 a.m. for some reason.

However, Berkeley takes it a step farther with a potluck reply all.

I have this vision of Berkeley now as a land of endless potlucks.


Hippies always be potluckin'.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:12 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Every once in a while this happened at West Point while I was there. Yep, even America's supposed best and brightest are susceptible to the reply all nonsense.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 9:09 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


A send-to-all related internet disaster hit a local gov't organization I briefly worked for on my very first day, and I'm pretty sure it was salacious, too, because we were told not to talk about it and it was some kind of "DIDN'T LAST NIGHT MEAN ANYTHING TO YOU" thing that immediately had a retraction email sent out that was supposed to make the first one disappear but it was one of those Microsoft Exchange or something else that was awful products and so it just added another message. Fun!

Reply-all is useful, though, in some cases. I send my artwork links to both my parents sometimes and Dad replies to both of us and Mom always asks me, several days later, if I got what she sent me, but she always replied only to Dad. I end up regularly forwarding stuff to all because someone on a planning email or something accidentally replied only to me.
posted by NoraReed at 11:19 PM on March 25, 2015


On a related note, I always find it amusing when a Twitter user replies to some famous person's tweet with "your tweet woke me up!"

Like, what else did you expect when you allowed your phone to notify you of tweets by a global superstar, and then didn't silence your twitter notifications when you went to bed?!
posted by mantecol at 12:28 AM on March 26, 2015


I use reply all for coordinating the group blog I work with--in fact, my usual error is to not hit reply-all when I mean to, which means that whoever I accidentally directly responded to gets multiple emails as I scramble to get the original email out to everyone. Small, ten-person listservs are actually pretty useful. Bonus: for a group of twenty-somethings who don't work in tech and have never had much reason to hear about Slack, none of us has to learn an entirely new system or set up new accounts to get stuff done.
posted by sciatrix at 7:40 AM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bump.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:31 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


PLEASE REMOVE THIS THREAD FROM MY RECENT ACTIVITY.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:13 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


About 15 years ago I was on a film discussion listserv that had lost its moderator/founder somehow. I don't know whether he/she lost interest or fell off a cliff or what but the thing was unmoderated. At one point some poor soul ended up subscribed to the list against their will. How, I don't know, but they were not happy. They started spamming the list demanding that they be unsubscribed.

"Unsubscribe me now! I don't want this filling up my inbox!"

"Just send the list an email with UNSUBSCRIBE as the subject line." (or whatever the hell it was)

"I didn't subscribe to this and it shouldn't be my responsibility.* Unsubscribe me now!"

"We can't do that for you. The only person who could would be the moderator and they're MIA."

"UNSUBSCRIBE ME NOW OR I WILL SUE YOU ALL"

It was so bizarre.

*WTF?!
posted by brundlefly at 2:34 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


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