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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 mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:27PM (#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.

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

    by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:36PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:37PM (#42082495)

    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 demands to remove them from the mailing list. It finally died down, until the next shift came in and hundreds more e-mails came around. Again with the next shift after that.

    I expanded all the address groups, and then expanded all the sub-groups and so on, then pasted into a word doc and counted the '@'. About 10,000 people had received nearly 1000 e-mail each. It happened again a few weeks later.

  • Reply All Moved (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:44PM (#42082551)

    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.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:45PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 24, 2012 @02:52PM (#42082595)
    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.
  • Re:please (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @03:19PM (#42082739)

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

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

    by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Saturday November 24, 2012 @08:16PM (#42084203) Homepage Journal

    Something like: Are you sure you want to send to 2047 people?

    An even better approach would be for the software to present each of those 2047 recipients to the sender in a popup asking "Do you want to send this to ______?", with the "No" button selected by default. So they have to press the "Yes" button 2047 times. Actually, making "Yes" the default would even be useful, if managers insist on it, since they'd still have to hit Return 2047 times.

    Years ago, when email was first rising to the business world's consciousness, and I saw a company ask us (a software house that had supplied their email package) if we could do this. I had the fun of implementing it (a 15-minute job), and I saw a lot of "THANK YOU!!!!" messages from the client's people. I've never understood why later email packages didn't pick up on this simple idea. The software is always harrassing users with such verification popups; why not use them in a case where it will actually affect company productivity? ;-)

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"