|Flickr user Angelskiss31, Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0|
You know these. You receive one that’s clearly not intended for you, like “RE: SYSTEM DOWNTIME 2 A.M. FOR SUBDIVISION A IN NEBRASKA #00243.”
Sometimes, bleary-eyed from the firehose of email you receive every day, you reply
“TAKE ME OFF THIS LIST” or even
“STOP SPAMMING ME.”
But if you hit the wrong key, and the list is sufficiently flexible as to who can send, suddenly you’ve emailed the entire world – “REPLY ALL.”
And then, the strange paradox that they too will hit the same button – “REPLY ALL.”
Until everyone is emailing everyone, insisting that they stop sending emails.
Some take on the role of schoolmarm: “STOP REPLYING ALL, IT’S NOT HELPING”
Some find long-lost friends from high school: “HEY, HOW’S IT GOING IN TIMBUKTU?”
Others issue vague yet meaningless warnings: “IF THIS DOESN’T STOP, I’M CALLING THE CIO.”
|Flickr user cdresz, Creative Commons BY-NC 2.0|
Somewhere in the back and forth an IT person makes an appearance, at 3 a.m., after getting the phone call with someone likely screaming “FIX THIS NOW #$!@#$!@#$”
And so these eloquent words appear, not coincidentally, in a “reply all”:
“THIS IS THE HELP DESK. STOP HITTING REPLY ALL.”
I’ve seen this happen a few times over the past ten years or so and it’s one of those disasters that people love to laugh about.
But even if you lock down the mail list, you can’t put a lid on the #1 law of email which is:
“EMAILS ARE MEANT TO BE FORWARDED.”
Even if it’s just sent to ten friends, like the ‘70s commercial “they tell their friends, and their friends, and their friends.”
And so on – potentially leading to a major PR disaster.
Worse yet, when the content of the email is particularly juicy, it is inevitable that email law #2 kicks in:
“THE MORE SENSITIVE THE EMAIL THE MORE LIKELY IT IS TO BE FORWARDED.”
Marking the email with some language that says it is sensitive could stop the recipient from sending it. Maybe or maybe not – you’re relying on human nature.
One thing is for sure. When the Internet gets its hands on a good corporate email it’s like they’ve had a great day at fishing. Who can forget:
· The “physically together” Yahoo anti-telecommuting missive
· The “epic” Whole Foods resignation letter
· The “Fox Mole”
I still like email as a means of corporate communication, don’t get me wrong. It gets to the inbox. It’s actually meant to be forwarded around.
But at the end of the day, an announcement board is more efficient. No muss, no fuss, no mistaken spamming and you can make corrections or broken links.
Of course this takes some of the fun out of work. But not to worry – there will always be other things to laugh about. As we, being human, will always find other ways to screw up.
* All opinions my own.