Email Penalty #1 – Too Many Men on the Field

As I stated in my previous post, I’m starting a series of posts on “Email Penalties”…football style.  For the first penalty, to get into the swing of this, I thought we’d warm-up with one that happens every day and we all can relate to…

Too Many Men on the Field (5 yards)

More directly, too many people on the cc: list.

Several months ago, I came in to work to an email from Payroll that had been sent to a long list of distribution lists, informing us of new timekeeping processes.  Only one problem … I did not use the timekeeping system in question, but another one altogether. So, I did what any sane person would do … I ignored it.

I guess I was not the only person who had received this email in error. But apparently I was one of the few sane ones.

Throughout the morning, I received 3 or 4 emails from others like me, protesting that this did not apply to them and asking to be taken off of whatever email list had incorrectly tagged them. Fair enough, but only one problem.  Instead of replying directly to the sender only, they had hit “Reply All”, so I and everyone else on all these distribution lists now knew that Joe Smith (name made up) did not use this timekeeping system. What a waste!

The emails stopped around noon and so I figured this was over. I was wrong. This was only the tip of the iceberg and there was much more to come.

You see, a totally unrelated event had occurred that day.  There was a Blackberry outage so all the Blackberry users without email access had not seen this email. About 5pm the outage was resolved.  And thousands of Blackberry users checked their email and discovered this erroneous email sitting in their in boxes. And so, with fingers furiously striking tiny keys, they started to “Reply All”.  Peter had wandered into my office to discuss a technical issue, but every few seconds another email would interject from someone else that they “did not use this timecard system and please take me off the distribution list”.

This had become an event.

It was obvious after 15 minutes and dozens of emails that “Reply All” was not a good idea. There were numerous individuals sane and brave enough to admonish others not to “Reply All’ … in an email that they sent by hitting “Reply All”!!! Duh.

One person sent a “Reply All” that said “The Yankees are going all the way this year.”

Another said “Greetings from Virginia” to which came the reply “Greetings from Florida”.

“I’m not like all those others.  ADD ME TO YOUR LIST!!!!”

“I haven’t seen a reply from President Bush yet–or did I miss that one?  Go Sabres/Bill”


One person referenced the poster on Idiocy, “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

I packed up to go home, a 20 minute drive, and found 200 more emails waiting for me. Eventually, the torrent subsided.

The next day, the entire company received an email from the CIO informing us that the previous day’s email “generated 15 million unnecessary emails” throughout the company.

harry the ASIC guy


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