Monday, August 17, 2009

E-mail tutorial - u needz it

So, today around 11:30 I got an e-mail solicitation from some company offering protein purification services to the NCI. I usually delete them, since I'm no longer in the lab; they're pretty rare and it's generally not worth my time to try to figure out how to "unsubscribe" - other than FDLI, I don't think I've ever gotten more than one from the same company.

Well, one person at NCI hit "Reply All" instead of "Reply" with a response asking to please take them off the mailing list. Note that this wasn't even the correct way to unsubscribe; there was an unsubscribe e-mail addy at the bottom of the message. This started the snowball rolling: a bunch of other people thought that that must be the correct way to unsubscribe from the mailing list, so they all hit "Reply All" as well to ask to be taken off the list. Note, however, that this mailing list included the ENTIRE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE.

A couple administrative people who didn't understand what was going on thought that someone had contacted them to take them off the list, and REPLIED ALL to say that people needed to contact the company directly, not them, to be unsubscribed. Then the people annoyed with seeing their e-mail inbox flooded with e-mails started to hit REPLY ALL to tell people "PLEASE DON'T HIT REPLY ALL" (oh the irony). I did appreciate the moxie of the guy who changed the e-mail subject line from "Protein purification services from {company name}" to "HEY MORONS" on his REPLY ALL. Yet the messages still kept coming, even after computer services sent out a NIH-wide e-mail saying "Please don't reply to this e-mail, you are making the problem worse." I deleted 100 messages in 3 hours before they managed to squelch it.

Someone in my office thought maybe this was a denial of service attack. I informed him of Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

1 comment:

Emily said...

That's awesome... and it without-a-doubt trumps my USGS e-mail tale of woe.