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Companies Disabling 'Reply-All' Button, Rather Than Dealing With Inane Email Threads

from the one-way-to-deal-with-the-problem dept

Last month, the US State Department made plenty of news for threatening to punish employees who misused the "reply-all" button on their email clients. That, by itself, seemed a bit extreme, but Jeremy Wagstaff alerts us to the fact that some organizations are going a step further and figuring out ways to disable the reply-all button entirely. The latest to do so is Nielsen, which did so with a cheery memo to staff explaining why this would "reduce non-essential messages in mailboxes, freeing up our time as well as server space." That's one way to think about it.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Ima Fish, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    I'd fire any employee too ignorant or stupid to figure out why you should not use "reply all." Three violations, you're gone.

     

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  2.  
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    Norm, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:18pm

    What if the employee...

    ...was your boss? It's more likely the IT staff did this as a way to gently prevent management from doing so.

     

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  3.  
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    Slackr, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    I'm with Fish on this. It screams, "cater for the lowest common denominator". Honestly if people are this stupid, don't employ them. And if you already employed them - stop using the Reply All button fool!

     

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  4.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:24pm

    Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    In 15 years+ of doing IT support I have seen too many times when people just can't seem to get that reply all is not good. But then again there have been ways for years and years to prevent people from replying to an email with x amount of recipients. Sorry but IT is at fault more than they are, why? Because we should know better than allow it.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    I think there are many valid cases where reply to all SHOULD be used, and this causes unnecessary effort to continue those styles of communications.

     

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  6.  
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    :Lobo Santo, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    Re: Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    Yep, let's just take all freedoms away from stupid people... that'll fix em!

    Oh, and then they'll never learn anything...

    Hey! And then we could enslave them and say it for their "security!"

    Let's do it!

     

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  7.  
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    smg, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    it seems to me that sometimes reply all is a pissing contest.

     

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  8.  
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    verucht, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    People are people

    The company I work for came up with an annoying but semi effective way to deal with it. They left the reply all function intact but moved it to a sub menu that you have to take time to select. Annoying if you work in projects where reply all is not only legitimate but essential from a CYA perspective.

     

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  9.  
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    Ken Zutter, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:30pm

    I don't get it

    Why is it said that reply-all is not good. Sometimes it IS appropriate to Reply-all.

    Yes, yes, there are dufusses, but that is what training is for.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:31pm

    When it's your boss doing the reply all, you can't really fire him for it can you?

    It's quite common for people high up in companies (typically the higher the more likely I've noticed) to think that what they have to say to something is important for everyone to hear it, when really it only affects 2-3 people.

     

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  11.  
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    Reply - All User, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:32pm

    I use Reply to All extensively FOR work. Often times, I need to keep my co-workers appraised of the latest development on a particular issue. It basically becomes a sort of online collaboration tool.

    The only people I've seen mis-use it, were the less savvy senior management.

     

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  12.  
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    Joseph Durnal, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    Problems and solutions

    90% of my career has been centered around e-mail systems. Yes, when used improperly, the reply to all button can be trouble. But imagine a complex e-mail thread involving several people from different teams all working together, and how much time will be wasted when each person has to re-enter all of those e-mail addresses.

    Sure, it would be better done via a multi party IM session, but seriously, do you think that an IT department that takes away the reply to all button would have a decent instant message strategy, especially one that is accessible to everyone involved?

    The best thing to do would be to higher smarter employees and make sure that they don't have all this extra time on their hands to worry about an erroneous e-mail that would take far less time to ignore than to reply to. Then have your IT department implement instant messaging, presence, and online meeting spaces.

     

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  13.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Re: Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    Sometimes stupid people need to be protected from their own stupidity. Look at the DUI laws.

     

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  14.  
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    :Lobo Santo, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    DUI Laws exist to make money for your fascist gov.

    If there were really a concern about DUI safety, the cars would know when you're drunk and pull you over--no "black perros" involved.

     

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  15.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    Don't be a dumb mass. Yes they do generate revenue but really they are about protecting people from their own stupidity.

     

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  16.  
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    GGUY, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:52pm

    Try MS Groove

    We've been trying to get in the habit of using Groove for MULTIPERSONAL communications involving our projects. Granted I don't work for a large company and the program has it's fall backs. But a few of tools, and the ongoing chat feature, can potentionally eliminate many interoffice email messages altogether. Then again people may just start mis-using Groove; nevermind.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    dui laws, when properly implemented, exist to protect smart people and pedestrians from stupid people.

     

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  18.  
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    ehrichweiss, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    You obviously have never worked in IT. I can safely say that 97% of all people in any office are completely and totally willfully ignorant about security issues of any sort.

    At a firm I used to work for there was an employee who could not keep from opening every attachment that was sent her way despite being told not to open anything that didn't come directly from us or one of our clients(this was before spam got really tricky).

    Our solution? We setup the mailserver to send the mail to us first to be approved and then we'd have the server resend it to her. There was simply no other solution short of firing her. These days, I'd have recommended the latter and been done with it.

     

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  19.  
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    :Lobo Santo, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    You believe that?
    Are you sure DUI laws don't exist to "save the children"?

     

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  20.  
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    Relonar, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:22pm

    ... ... newsgroups? forums? write your own script? ... This is why companies have IT departments. To look at what is happening, in terms of information and communications, and try to figure out a way it could be done better.

     

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  21.  
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    d, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:34pm

    Just separate the buttons...

    My company did the same thing, but I could never understand why they just couldn't separate the two buttons more...

     

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  22.  
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    Nick, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:40pm

    If you really need to "reply-all" that critically for REAL WORK, then you need to learn about something called a "Mailing List Manager".

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    Send em an executable that would send an e-mail out to everyone saying "I Quit this stinking job"

    And verify that it sends a copy to personal.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:53pm

    Re: Problems and solutions

    I agree; I use reply to all extensively for this reason. But every once in a while some moron hits "reply to all" on an email sent to the global address list (over 25,000 addresses), and then the chain reaction starts. Dumber morons reply to all saying "stop replying to all!", and even dumber ones reply to all saying "stop it!" The last time it happened, I set up a filter to send anything with the subject to my deleted items and mark them as read. I had over 400 by the end of the day.

     

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  25.  
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    Overcast, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 3:01pm

    If you really need to "reply-all" that critically for REAL WORK, then you need to learn about something called a "Mailing List Manager".

    Not really. I'm working on a rather large project at work now, sometimes we have members of many different teams working in tandem to get a task done. It can be three people or 30 people...

    When some messages come in, it's important to use 'reply to all' so that all the people in the message get the reply. It certainly saves me time, that way I don't have to CTRL-C and CTRL-V.... plus it helps to eliminate missing people on the list, etc...

    As parts of the project are in different areas of the country and/or support personnel change, there's no way to really do a distribution list - since it would change almost daily.

    Speaking of which, the employees will soon learn to be adept at copying and pasting - which would make all the time wasted on eliminating the 'reply to all' button a huge waste.

    It's really a matter of user training; not the email applications - they only 'reply to all' when you tell them to.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Oh, the stupid people I have seen.

    I said properly implemented. sadly many people abuse them and as such they lose meaning.

    using DUI laws to keep the people who swerve all over off the streets is good, using them to lockup or fine the guy sleeping it off in the back of his car is bad.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 3:08pm

    Re: Re: Problems and solutions

    that is why global lists should be sent blind copy. the problem there is with the people creating the email just as much as the people hitting reply to all.

     

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  28.  
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    Joe Smith, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 4:23pm

    Lots of stupid people in the world

    It should be harder to send widely distributed emails just to protect the idiots and everyone around them.

    I work with one a*****e who regularly sends to everyone in the firm emails attaching articles that he thinks we should all read to make us better people.

    I was involved in a transaction where an email went out laying out in a matter of fact way some problems that had been encountered in negotiating a deal and one of the recipients immediately sent a reply all that started "tell those a*****es" that ..." not realizing that the other side had been included in the original email.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 7:04pm

    Reply All is Useful

    when there are 5 or 6 people you don't normally email involved in the discussion and it is actually relevant. That said it can be annoying but spamming people back usually works to stop their blantant abuse of the system

     

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  30.  
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    Jasen Webster (profile), Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 7:34pm

    Gmail

    I took extra measures to add the Google Lab in Gmail so the Reply All button appears by default. :)

    In the business world, the Reply to All button should be removed from the quick menu bars but not the actual drop down menus. This doesn't prevent the use of reply to all, but rather makes it a more conscientious decision.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 4:36am

    Reply All doesn't annoy me as much as idiots who can't strip hundreds or even thousands of email addresses and headers out of a forwarded message before sending it. I get emails all the time on my blackberry that are nothing but forwarded headers that cause the message to be truncated. And then it's usually a one or two sentence message that wasn't worth scrolling down for in the first place.

     

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  32.  
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    chris f (profile), Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 7:54am

    Zappos.com Reply all hat

     

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  33.  
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    S, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 8:35am

    Wy can't you....

    Well, with reply all disabled, why can't you just copy and paste the recipients?

    Ctrl-C & Ctrl-V disabled too?

    Can't make anything idiot-proof because idiots are so ingenious.

     

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  34.  
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    Mark Rosedale (profile), Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 9:34am

    Reply All is essential to work

    I work in IT, but even if I didn't there are many times (and I mean many) where reply all is essential to work. I think the problem would be when people reply all to a distribution list that includes most, if not all, of the workers for that organization. This is simple to fix you make the list private and those using it include it in the BC and have their own address in the to. Then if someone replies all it will go to the original sender. Beyond that it is well within an organizations rights to send out memo or require user training to avert such behavior.

    I would be annoyed when someone cc's a bunch of people who will all want the reply and I have to hand enter every email address. Clearly this company is only looking at the problem and forgetting that the solution may be worse than the initial problem. You would think someone in their IT department would tell them a better way or of the values of reply all.

     

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  35.  
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    Brian Carnell, Feb 4th, 2009 @ 4:31am

    The Real Problem Is With Mass E-mail Distribution Lists

    "that is why global lists should be sent blind copy. the problem there is with the people creating the email just as much as the people hitting reply to all."

    I'd go further and say it is *entirely* on the folks who insist on e-mailing dozens or hundreds of people in the CC field.

    In many cases not only is this annoying but it is downright stupid because it reveals information that the recipients don't need to know about the rest of the recipients.

     

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