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Companies Getting Rid of Reply-all 248

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-please-please dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An article at BusinessWeek highlights an issue most corporate workers are familiar with: the flood of useless reply-all emails endemic to any big organization. Companies are beginning to realize how much time these emails can waste in aggregate across an entire company, and some are looking for ways to outright block reply-all. 'A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."' Software developers are starting to react to this need as well, creating plugins or monitors that restrict the reply-all button or at least alert the user, so they can take a moment to consider their action more carefully. In addition to getting rid of the annoying 'Thanks!' and 'Welcome!' emails, this has implications for law firms and military organizations, where an errant reply-all could have serious repercussions."
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Companies Getting Rid of Reply-all

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  • please (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:01PM (#42082285)
    please take me off this distribution list
    • Re:please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:42PM (#42082541) Homepage Journal

      Do I look like I'm made of time?!

      http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2003-04-06/ [dilbert.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Seumas (6865)

      I am just replying here to everyone to tell you not to reply to everyone. Send a direct message, instead!

    • Re:please (Score:5, Funny)

      by HyperQuantum (1032422) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @03:01PM (#42082951) Homepage
      Me too.
    • Re:please (Score:5, Informative)

      by xclr8r (658786) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @03:06PM (#42082985)
      One of the things that can be done is restrict who can send to certain distribution lists. i.e. If you have something important enough to send to the entire student body or staff you have to basically send the original e-mail to a designated person and they send it "on behalf of x"
    • Re:please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sortius_nod (1080919) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @07:13PM (#42084185) Homepage

      Yet again corps can't see the forest for the trees. The tool (reply-all) isn't the problem, it's the people using it. Most companies don't train their staff well enough (or at all) in computer etiquette, maybe start there.

      • Re:please (Score:5, Insightful)

        by chiguy (522222) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @01:30AM (#42085437) Homepage

        Hmmm, this argument sounds familiar: "Don't use centralized policies to enforce good behavior. All it takes is education. It's the parents' fault. Don't restrict me from doing something I want to do."

        Like in the real world:
        * Education quality varies: not everyone has the resources of a Fortune 500 company
        * Even the best education does not necessarily change people's core sensibility: some people are just bad/stupid
        * Deterrence is preferable to punishment: it's cheaper to force near universal compliance than to capture, punish, and cleanup after offenders. Costs may be high when you consider possibly valuable information getting to the wrong coworkers, employees, customers, vendors, etc. In a corporate context, the possible punishments all seem too severe for what is essentially a single key press.
        * Mistakes happen. Design systems to disallow mistakes: People are human

        Sometimes, a central authority has to make policies that restrict people's freedoms for the better of the group. Whether it's mandatory seat belts, air bags, back up cameras, unleaded gas, brake lights, or removal of reply all, protecting society can make sense.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:04PM (#42082297)

    ... I don't know where to begin.

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:04PM (#42082301)

    The majority of reply-alls can be replaced by using mailing lists.

    • by jhoegl (638955)
      A while back I actually looked for a way to remove Reply-to-All buttons and found that through office, it was seemingly impossible.
      I tired the VBA methods people proposed, but we I found that it didnt work at all.
      I taught people sending out notification emails, even the ones that needed a response to BCC emails out.
      The problem is people forget, dont think about it, or dont care. So forced denial is the only way to be sure.
      • Re:Mailing lists (Score:5, Informative)

        by machine321 (458769) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @03:47PM (#42083221)

        With Microsoft's NoReplyAll [microsoft.com] add-in with Exchange a user can disable reply-all (or forward) on a per-message basis. That page has links to the documentation on how to do it.

    • Re:Mailing lists (Score:5, Informative)

      by jgrahn (181062) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:26PM (#42082427)

      The majority of reply-alls can be replaced by using mailing lists.

      +1. The lack of real (archived, opt-in) mailing lists is part of what drives useless reply-all usage. Let workers who are interested in topic Foo look at the archives for the Foo mailing list, decide if they like it, and sign up if they do.

      At my workplace we're going even more retro. On Monday I'm going to sign up on the internal IRC network, and try to convince others to do the same. Our Enterprisey IM software simply doesn't support the way we work (when it works at all, that is).

    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:45PM (#42082559) Journal

      The majority of reply-alls can be replaced by using mailing lists.

      That requires someone to administer the mailing lists, or to set up a process to let it be administered automatically. Reply-all, on the other hand, empowers small ad-hoc groups to form instantly around an issue, without red tape delay or extra expense that might provoke middle-management nipping-in-the-bud.

      I've just started a contract at a very small company. (My work there is unrelated to I.T.) They contract their system administration from an individual supplier. Getting anything done is extra cost, so it doesn't happen unless it's critical.

      On the project where I'm working we're in the early design discussions. Everybody on the project is in on everything. Reply all works just fine for what we need. (Indeed, the early problems with it were OMISSION of people who SHOULD have been on it.) Removing reply all would just mean most of the people in the group would spend extra time copying email addresses (and occasionally drop one, interfering with communication). Yes we might end up with a "please drop me" later in the project. But for now we're far better off with reply-all than without it.

      I've been in companies where reply-all explosions were a problem. The solution was not to kill reply-all, but to create mailing list aliases and procedurally restrict who could mail to them. Then doing a reply-all to a message on a department-wide or division-wide mailing resulted in a bounce on mail to the big list and/or a reply just to the originator of the mail. Problem solved.

      • by jc42 (318812) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @07:40PM (#42084317) Homepage Journal

        ... I've just started a contract at a very small company. ... Reply all works just fine for what we need.

        You've probably fingered an important part of the problem. In a small organization, where people know each other and are cooperative, reply-all can easily work just fine. The occasional "Oops!" moment is an occasion for good humor, not something that drags down productivity. What you described is exactly what reply-all was designed for.

        But in organizations with more than a few hundred people, it can easily escalate out of control. This is especially true when there are many levels of management, since it's normal for managers to see the length of their collected lists of email addresses as a measure of their importance, and mere workers can easily be afraid to fight the problem by asking to be taken off lists. It's difficult to fight anyway, since the reply-to mechanism typically has no way for people to opt out.

        In a rational world, they'd use a set of mailing lists. But that would take more rationality than you find in the management of most corporations. And it would mean paying someone to manage the mailing lists, to keep them working right.

    • Agreed. But the real problem is that most mail server software doesn't allow or isn't configured to allow arbitrary users to create and share their own mail lists. Reply all is a horrible feature if you have the entire Microsoft Redmond campus being e-mailed. (Saw it happen around 2000, the 'please remove me' from this thread reply email would bring all the mail servers on campus to their knees for a day or so.) It is a great feature if you have ten people you are carrying on a conversation with who don't
    • by arekin (2605525)
      Can be yes, but the less than technical people in the office don't get that concept. Not a day goes by at work where people are replying to a message that clearly says "DO NOT USE REPLY ALL TO RESPOND TO THIS REQUEST" with a reply all giving away either their personal information, or a clients personal information. Generally speaking since we cant email out of the company it means that client info is not in danger (we can all look it up anyway) but it does mean in cases where the employee was giving out t
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nonsense. Unless you want to generate an ad-hoc mailing list for each list of half a dozen people who care about issue $x. It really depends on how matrixed and flexible your workplace is. If you're part of a team that works on a few projects, then a team mailing list, and a mailing list for each project, will probably satisfy your needs.

      Many of the emails I send are addressed to 4-6 people, and say things like "I want to make this change - it might impact your system. Give me an opinion." A group discussio

    • Re:Mailing lists (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ccguy (1116865) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:43PM (#42082859) Homepage

      The majority of reply-alls can be replaced by using mailing lists.

      reply-all aren't the problem. The problem is the (huge amount of) idiots who insist on CC'ing every one in the first place. If someone emails with a a tiny thing and for some reason CC's my boss of course I'm going to do a reply-all, and I reserve the right to CC his boss, too. And this is the problem.

      If you remove reply-all then you will force me to add everyone manually (wasting a lot of time), and most likely leave someone important behind.

      Instead of removing reply-all: Prevent people from being CC'ed in the first place *unless they are needed*.

    • Re:Mailing lists (Score:5, Informative)

      by Natales (182136) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @03:30PM (#42083119)
      The majority of mailing lists can now be replaced by internal company-only social engines. My company (14K people approximately) switched to Socialcast and the amount of email lists related traffic and reply-all problems virtually disappeared. I generally HATE social networking, but this particular system when properly implemented can really be a game changer in the dynamics of internal communications.
  • by bigdavex (155746) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:06PM (#42082307)

    A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."'

    I hope somebody replied to all, quoting this entire memo and putting "OK" at the bottom.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:14PM (#42082355) Journal

      A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."'

      I hope somebody replied to all, quoting this entire memo and putting "OK" at the bottom.

      Ok

    • I think you mean at the top.

      A company that's come close to abolishing Reply All is the global information and measurement firm Nielsen. On its screens, the button is visible but inactive, covered with a fuzzy gray. It can be reactivated with an override function on the keyboard. Chief Information Officer Andrew Cawood explained in a memo to 35,000 employees the reason behind Nielsen's decision: eliminating "bureaucracy and inefficiency."'

      I hope somebody replied to all, quoting this entire memo and putting "OK" at the bottom.

      • by ewieling (90662)
        No, at the bottom so the reader must scroll all the way to the bottom to see the reply.
        • No, at the bottom so the reader must scroll all the way to the bottom to see the reply.

          Nope, best way would be obviously to reply to all, NOT quote the original mail and just write "OK".

  • by Br00se (211727) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:06PM (#42082311)

    I welcome this trend, a few extra confirmation boxes would help.

    Can we also get rid of excessively long sigs, embedded graphics, comic sans and outlook stationary too? Or at least made them more difficult to automate.

    • by Meshach (578918)

      Can we also get rid of excessively long sigs, embedded graphics, comic sans and outlook stationary too? Or at least made them more difficult to automate.

      Amen. I bet if you added the bandwidth spent transmitting large sigs/wallpapers/stationary and showed it to most CFOs they would agree.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I worked at a Fortune 500 company that decided to limit each employee's email storage to 100MB. The email announcing this measure came from a VP who had a digitized image of his signature in the email. His email was well over 1MB is size, using up more than 1% of everyone's storage just to let us know we had to be more efficient in our email storage.
        • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:05PM (#42082671)

          I worked at a Fortune 500 company that decided to limit each employee's email storage to 100MB.

          Almost certainly this company used Exchange / Outlook.

          It is *trivial* to either manually move Inbox content to local folders, or automate the process.

          My guess is that you can do this with non-MS email systems as well.

          So, really, 100MB is just a way to make you think about learning to managing your email.

          We use Exchange / Outlook where I work, and honestly, the "size" of my Inbox is irrelevant, as if it's something I want to keep, it ends up in a local folder anyway, and the rest of the cruft gets deleted.

    • Most of that can be fixed by only allowing plain text e-mails.

      • by KiloByte (825081) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:53PM (#42082603)

        Right, but do you know what happens if you send a plain text e-mail to a business person? They'll print it out, highlight a few places with a color marker, add comments in pen, scan it, put the image into a Word document then send it to you with a subject of "Sending e-mail message" (apparently Word's default subject, might be translated differently in English versions).

        The first time I received a mail like this, I hoped this is a joke done on purpose. After seeing this multiple times from different people from far away parts of the country, from different business sectors, I think I really don't want to live on this planet anymore.

        • Most of my customers pick up inline replying soon enough, but often keep jumping through hoops to achieve what is so simple once you just fall back to plain text emails. I am sure that a lot of time is also wasted on deciphering top replied to email, etc. but still this is the most popular way of writing emails in my experience.

          As for reply-all: as soon as there are more than 3 people actively involved it becomes messy and a forum / mailing list / wiki might be a better solution (in my experience).

          Email is

    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:39PM (#42082511) Journal

      Can we also get rid of excessively long sigs, embedded graphics, comic sans and outlook stationary too? Or at least made them more difficult to automate.

      I'd love to, but corporate policy requires that we include our name, all relevant phone numbers (desk, mobile, fax), company name (in company font and color, naturally), a trite environmental statement, and the 2-paragraph automated legalese BS that gets latched onto each and every outbound (outside the company) email.

      • Well, official policy requires that I include a 20MB image, name, phones, logo (a second image), department, identification number and a few other things that I probably forgot about.

        My sig includes my name and department. (Oh, and I must remember to update my department by monday, it changed about a month ago.)

    • Add overly big fonts, all caps, colours other than black for text and white blank for background to that list.

      I suggest that a popup confirming the content, that goes something like.
      "You realise you are about to look like an idiot with your choice of formatting, right? Click confirm to send anyways."

    • by adolf (21054)

      Can we also get rid of excessively long sigs, embedded graphics, comic sans and outlook stationary too?

      I don't see any of that stuff in Pine.

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      That stuff is banned where i work, but people still do it since there are no repercussions, yet.

    • by gander666 (723553) *
      You are my hero. Please, can we wipe Comic-Sans off the face of the earth?

      I have a colleague who insists on using comic-sans for all his presentations, and even the site newsletter. Nothing screams unprofessional like Comic-Sans font.
    • All "sigs" automatically added by your email client.

      "This message has been scanned for viruses ..."
      In one recent email this sig appears 7 times.

      "Send from my iPad" and "Sent from my iPhone"

      These sigs are all just shameless advertising.

    • Long signatures are ego version of little man syndrome.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:11PM (#42082333)

    Those people who constantly send out large blasts of useless email are just not sufficiently harassed by their fellow employees to stop. Reply all serves a very important function when running large multi-day problem resolution threads that require large amounts of collaboration on a global scale. To remove the reply all means that everyone has to remember to constantly add back everyone "important" to the thread. Reply all is a tool, the problem is that sometimes the people using the tool are tools themselves. Fix the people not the tool.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:40PM (#42082525)

      Absolutely correct. Too often, managers will try to address the symptom of a problem rather than the underlying problem. Dealing with staff issues is hard, it is easier to skip it and come up bad policies. This kind of avoidance destroys a good work environment. I use reply-all regularly, but responsibly. Rather than get rid of the feature or severely limit it, deal with the individuals that abuse it. Or maybe hire competent office workers and managers -- but that might be too much to ask.

    • by somersault (912633) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:40PM (#42082527) Homepage Journal

      Buttons don't reply all. People reply all.

    • by godrik (1287354) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @03:03PM (#42082957)

      I think you misunderstood the article. They are not talking of removing the reply-all button entirely. They are mainly talking about putting a security to make sure people don't reply to everybody without realizing it. In other word, they want to make reply all more difficult than reply. It is the office equivalent of --i-understand-that-glxgears-is-not-a-benchmarking-tool

    • Don't blame the user.

      They aren't taking Reply All away entirely. They're just putting up some obstacles.
  • by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:11PM (#42082337) Homepage Journal
    Mailing lists and reply-to-all are a lethal combination. 2/3rds of the E-Mails I get are dups -- someone will start a ticket, which E-Mails a list. Everyone who has something to say will reply-to-all, which will mail everyone and the ticket system, which will then bounce the mail out to the list. You can't get off the list because your boss thinks that even though 99.9% of the list traffic doesn't involve what you do in any way, there might some day be one that might require your attention. The only problem with that is that one message will get lost in that flood of crap, so it's pointless to be on the list anyway.
    • 2/3rds of the E-Mails I get are dups

      Simple solution: Use an email client that automatically eliminates dups.

  • errant reply-alls (Score:5, Informative)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:12PM (#42082345)

    Here's [slashdot.org] last year's attempt to do something about it. Maybe something is happening this time?

    Oh and,

    this has implications for law firms and military organizations

    Not to mention for terrorist organizations [go.com]...

  • by BlackPignouf (1017012) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:13PM (#42082347)

    Person A sends you an email.
    You reply.
    You forgot something, and reply again.

    With Gmail, it will reply to A.
    With Outlook, it will reply to yourself.

    The broken solution is to use "Reply to all", which will only reply to A and not to yourself.
    If you remove "Reply to all", please fix "Reply" first.

    • by Rich0 (548339) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:19PM (#42082377) Homepage

      Yup. Also, I've found that it is much easier to hit reply-all and then trim the list down, than to just hit reply and try to think of everybody who really should be copied.

      Emails can be annoying, but what's the alternative? Walk down the hall? Uh, good luck with that - I can't remember the last time I was on a project where more than about two people on the team were even in the same building. Schedule a meeting? Good luck - everybody is booked through to next Friday in meetings. Pick up the phone? Good luck - they're not going to answer because they're all in those meetings that I just mentioned.

      Email and IM work. The former is asynchronous, and the latter can be discretely used while in meetings.

    • by Galestar (1473827)
      Other advantage of gmail is it actually groups "conversations" so you don't end up with 100 emails for a long running converstation. Email becomes like a thread that you are subscribed to (with reply all) instead of a cluster fuck of messages all over the place. If people are smart about it you can easily take people in and out of the thread (we usually start emails with -Somebody or +Somebody when we do that).
  • by Chelloveck (14643) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:15PM (#42082357) Homepage
    I don't mind Reply-All so much, but can we get rid of the yahoos who top-post and quote the whole damn email chain?
    • That would be just about everybody at my company, including myself... And for our needs, it is actually easiest way to keep the email chain (which is quite necessary when adding more people to the chain) without having to scroll to the bottom of the email to read the latest comment.

      but can we get rid of the yahoos who top-post

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pclminion (145572)
      The fact that the most recent information is posted at the top means you can easily disregard the information further down. Bottom-posting forces the reader to scroll to the bottom and makes it harder to find where the most recent information begins. We are communicating here, not writing a novel. There is no need for the most recent information to come after older information. Only a crazy person could argue that putting the most recent nfrmation at the bottom of an email is appropriate.
  • by RobertLTux (260313) <robert@lauren c e m a rtin.org> on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:21PM (#42082383)

    what you do is charge the sender in your currency
    1 X to do a reply all (AT ALL)
    2 Y for each person sent to
    3 W for each KB the message takes (single copy)
    4 +60% if the response contains the ENTIRE previous email
    5 Z for each time the Company Sig appears in the email

    If W X Y and Z are high enough this could be a Profit Center for your business

  • by bramankp (1774866) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:23PM (#42082405)
    Through domain policy, they were able to disable the button in Windows XP but when folks switched to Windows 7 it was back again. Plus, it doesn't affect Mac or Linus users. Regardless, most people just learned to use the keyboard shortcut instead of clicking the button and it's as easy to Reply-All as ever. Mostly we still get the same amount of spam as usual and whomever got paid to come up with that suggestion should be let go. What a complete waste of a paycheck.
  • You tell me, working with all those Big consulting shit companies where no one has a clue what they're really doing there and spamming mails with dozens of CC's. end the funny shit is that the reply all grows on each strike.

  • by daffmeister (602502) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:27PM (#42082431) Homepage

    My personal peeve is people that hit Reply when Reply All is required. I deliberately included those other people in the original email, because they need to be part of the discussion, don't cut them out. You've just forced me to add them all back in again on my reply.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      My personal peeve is people that hit Reply when Reply All is required. I deliberately included those other people in the original email, because they need to be part of the discussion, don't cut them out. You've just forced me to add them all back in again on my reply.

      The number of people who abuse Reply-All at my company are vastly outnumbered by those who keep neglecting to use it when it is necessary and repeatedly cutting people out of the information loop. It gets really annoying having to re-add them all in my replies and annoying for them to be only getting every 2nd or 3rd email in the chain.

    • I agree complexly. I have never been in a huge corporate environment, so never encountered this reply-all spam but I have had to take time to forward many a email to the others in a convo when someone hit reply instead of reply-all.

    • by dj245 (732906)
      My personal peeve is people that hit Reply when Reply All is required.

      I had a customer who always did this to his sales rep (me being the engineer responsible for the customer). The sales rep got to the point where he was specifically requesting "please reply all because..." in every email. It didn't help at all and the customer continued as usual. Over drinks one night, I found out that the customer didn't like the sales rep very much and was doing it just to spite him.
  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:27PM (#42082437)

    When "reply all" is chosen. Instead of opening the message with all users listed as recipients. Change the command to "reply multiple"

    When chosen, open a window with a checklist containing all the recipients unchecked by default.

    Ask the user, to check each recipient they want in their response message, and click OK. Only the recipients they manually checked will appear in the reply message.

  • And Send, too! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) * on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:31PM (#42082465) Homepage
    My God. I don't know what's more sad - that we live in an age where some people feel the need to police the use of "Reply All", or where some corporation will actually go to the expense to remove it.

    In days of yore there would have been a pretty simple solution: if you misused it your boss would sit you down and tell you never to do it again. Case closed.

    Now, can someone tell Gmail that it would be handy to be able "Resend" a Sent message that bounced or was deleted at the other end by mistake?
    • by N1AK (864906)
      You're absolutely right about some companies using policy to do what management would solve. If someone keeps responding to my emails without including others then I'll reply to them saying something like "You haven't included x, y and z on the email could you let them know?" it's slow progress but you can make it easier for people to do it right the first time and be reasonable about it and they'll get better.

      When I changed roles loads of people had me on distribution lists that I repeatedly asked to be
    • by nurb432 (527695)

      In a large company today, its not a case of 'some people feel', but instead is a legitimate problem that does cost time, resources, and productivity.

      The worst part is often times even the IT dept cant manage to properly reply to group emails, its not just the end users.

    • In the days of yore, computer operators were skilled workers. When you give a full desktop to every idiot in your org, you are going to have a lot of idiots emailing.
    • if you misused it your boss would sit you down and tell you never to do it again

      "If you left the vehicle in drive when you got out and it rolled down a hill, your boss would sit you down and tell you never to do it again."

      OK, but shift-interlock on key-removal is still a good idea. Any system that can be designed to reduce errors without reducing productivity should be.

  • Google's solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:36PM (#42082493) Homepage Journal

    I really like the solution to the "reply all" problem that is used at Google. It's part social and part technological. The social part is that people make an effort to trim TO and CC lines -- though "reply all" is the default, and for good reason. The technological part is "mute".

    Since Gmail already groups all e-mail conversations into threads, it's easy for it to provide the user with a means to opt out of a conversation, even if they're still on CC. I use it all the time... if a thread is clearly no longer relevant to me, I just hit "m", and I never see that e-mail conversation in my inbox again. It's still in my archive and I can always search for it (including seeing all subsequent messages after I muted it)... but other than that it doesn't bother me.

    Gmail also does an awesome job of collapsing quote text. It's there if I want to click on the "..." to see it, but otherwise it's out of the way, and it works equally well with both top- and bottom-posting. For that reason, the general practice is not to trim quotes. They're invisible when you don't care about them, but preserving them provides full context for any newcomers to the conversation.

    It's still not ideal. I think the ultimate business communication vehicle will look something like a cross between e-mail and a web forum, but in practice Gmail is pretty darned good. Which is a really good thing, because Google runs on e-mail, and Googlers get massive amounts of it. Between direct e-mails, automated system status notifications and internal mailing lists (some are general discussion lists, others are focused on specific projects, or teams, or technologies), I get >2000 e-mails per day. Filtering, priority inbox and selective muting are all essential to making it manageable.

    • by adolf (21054)

      I think the ultimate business communication vehicle will look something like a cross between e-mail and a web forum

      This thing you refer to; I think we used to call it "Usenet".

      • by swillden (191260)

        I think the ultimate business communication vehicle will look something like a cross between e-mail and a web forum

        This thing you refer to; I think we used to call it "Usenet".

        USENET plus good threaded readers have some nice characterestics, yes, and those memories probably guide my perceptions. However, you need a version of USENET where not all conversations are public. Each conversation needs to be available to all of its participants, and it must be possible to add participants at will (and for participants to remove themselves, or at least avoid being notified). E-mail accomplishes those things very well, and USENET does not, but USENET provides full history for anyone wh

  • by Anonymous Coward

    At my company, someone sent an e-mail to several groups asking a question. Several dozen replies came back saying that they weren't the right ones to be asked. Scores of replies followed, all asking to be removed from "this mailing list". Then hundreds. Followed by threats to report people to HR if they keep "replying to all" (sent to "all", of course. Followed by hundreds more. Followed by a very high up threatening to send people to HR if they keep "replying to all". Followed by hundreds more requests and

    • Make it more difficult to use reply-all. There's times when you really do need everyone on the original recipient list to see your response, but it should take extra steps to do that.
    • Enforce top-quoting and trimming of text. We have e-mail clients that can thread messages and maintain history. We don't need the entire thread in every single message. If the message text hasn't been trimmed, the e-mail client should insert an extra step to insure the user actually intended to quote the entire original messag
  • bcc to the rescue (Score:5, Informative)

    by Salo2112 (628590) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:41PM (#42082533)
    If you put the distribution list in the bcc field, the only person inundated with stupid replies is the sender, which serves them right. It's also a way of saving idiots from themselves when the reply is....inappropriate.
  • Reply All Moved (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    After a massive Reply All storm involving our whole firm over someone getting offended too easily, our COO jumped in to tell everyone to knock it off and the Reply All button was moved to the far right end of the toolbar. This has helped for the most part.

  • This is brilliant. Hope my company adopts this as quickly as possible. I don't have time to read time wasting work-related mails at my job. In case you missed it it's the season and I have my hands full doing on-line shopping and hunting down coupon codes. I already hardly have any time left to read the frickin' news sites. And I guess if you think your mail is so important, just put a request at the bottom to consider forwarding it to the next member of the department or project team, so each person who re
  • How about.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @01:58PM (#42082625) Homepage

    Not sending emails in the first place to the entire company if you do not want to waist their time?

    It sounds to me that either the originators of the email is at fault, or there is something very wrong with how all these people use email. And technical solutions never solve personal ignorance.

    If someone actually reply-alls to an entire company saying "thanks!" then they are not qualified to use email in a profession setting.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:01PM (#42082637)
    An email sent to more that 5 to 10 people probably doesn't need to be sent at all. Daily I get between 10 and 20 emails ranging from "Please read this update to our employee handbook, we just clarified that viewing porn, even while remoting in from home, is bad" to "Please donate some money to X charity so we can claim that we, as a business donated the money misleading our customers into believing that the company contributed when it actually was our employees." and lastly my favorite "XYZ application that you never use, have never heard of, and could care less about will be rebooted at 12am and have no effect on anyone what-so-ever"

    I don't need any of it. For the love of god make it stop. If you're email is to notify me of something I might not care about and I do not need to take any action on it, then I do not want it. Don't send it for fucks sake. I have work to do and reading a 3 page email about a blood drive that you wont let me go to unless I use my lunch anyway is a waste of my time.
    • There are some emails that should go to a large group, but not many. UI changes can help - put the reply all far from the reply button so people don't hit it accidentally.

      Even better (if technologically practical) would be to have different thresholds of numbers of people who will receive an email. For more than say 10, you need an extra confirmation, for more than 100, something more complex.

      I'd also like to see different spelling / language checks for different recipients, the sort of language you use wi

  • Seriously, in every big org I've worked out there is some senile old asshole high up in the company that doesn't realize that people on the other coast don't need to know about his open golf date.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Worse yet, e-mail systems with mailing lists and a wold card selection possible for all mailing lists. This happened to Boeing some years ago. Some PHB figured everyone needed to hear the wisdom of his musings. But instead of using the 'Send-All' button, somehow he managed to send to every mailing list. As many people like myself were on at leat a dozen different mailing lists, the company system was swamped.

      Worse yet, one could 'Reply-All' to all mailing lists. This had an exponentially worse effect. More

  • I have been advocating this for years. Don't remove it as it is needed in some cases, just make people think before they use it.

    I would prefer that people could properly use email, but that isn't going to happen so its 'babysitting' time.

  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:38PM (#42082841)

    ... deprecate unit of time known as the OhNo second [urbandictionary.com].

  • by erp_consultant (2614861) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:58PM (#42082937)

    How about making it mandatory to mute everyone on a conference call? It never fails...you get on some big call with maybe 100 people and there are kids screaming or dogs barking in the background. The moderator asks people to mute their lines (#6 or some such) and most people do...except for the idiot with the screaming kids and barking dogs. Then we all sit around waiting until finally the moderator puts everyone on mute. Huge waste of everyone's time.

    At the beginning of the call just mute all the lines. Tell people how to un-mute the line if they have a question or comment. Problem solved, time saved, happy day.

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