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Companies Getting Rid of Reply-all 248

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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  • by Br00se ( 211727 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:06PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:11PM (#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 Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:15PM (#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?
  • by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:19PM (#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 daffmeister ( 602502 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:27PM (#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.

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

    by rueger ( 210566 ) * on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:31PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:40PM (#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 @02:40PM (#42082527) Homepage Journal

    Buttons don't reply all. People reply all.

  • Re:please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Concerned Onlooker ( 473481 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:42PM (#42082541) Homepage Journal

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

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:44PM (#42082549)

    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.

  • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:53PM (#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.

  • How about.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:58PM (#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 Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Saturday November 24, 2012 @03:05PM (#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.

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

    by ccguy ( 1116865 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @03:43PM (#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, Insightful)

    by aztracker1 ( 702135 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @03:53PM (#42082919) Homepage
    Just remember, if you make something idiot proof, they will build a better idiot.
  • by multisync ( 218450 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @06:10PM (#42083653) Journal

    Today I have mod points. And I would have modded you up for this. Go make an account and be part the /. community.

    If you use whether the poster was logged in as a factor in your moderation decisions, you're missing the point of moderation. The goal is to promote worthwhile comments, while burying some of the useless "noise." I'd rather read the former by an AC than the latter by a logged-in user.

    ACs *are* part of the /. community.

  • Re:please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sortius_nod ( 1080919 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @08:13PM (#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.

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @08:40PM (#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.

  • Re:please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chiguy ( 522222 ) on Sunday November 25, 2012 @02:30AM (#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.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost