Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fun with the public school system: 'Reply All' strikes again.

Yesterday, one of my favorite times of the year occurred right before we began our Thanksgiving Break:  A holiday that I like to call "Email Festivia." 

It is a subject that I have covered before, but this time I have decided to go into a little more detail. The following is the actual text from but a few of the massive deluge of emails that I and every other employee in my school district received.  It began, as usual, with a very odd request/demand:

-Good Morning. We are having the same problem starting up AGAIN with teachers not turning in breakfast basket/slip this is something I really have to account for.So please take your breakfast and send the basket/slip BACK we all have a JOB to do.If you do not send them back I will send your student back if they come down for your breakfast the following day they will need to bring your slip.

First of all, I am in no place to criticize grammar and typos, but that paragraph nearly caused me to have vertigo.  Secondly, I have no idea what a “breakfast basket” is (although it sounds delicious) or why it requires a slip.  After about 10 seconds of deductive contemplation, I realized that someone had meant to send an email out to their school, but somehow had mass forwarded it to the entire school district.

What happens next is where the real fun begins:  The mistaken mass email rage cycle.  The first few responses, as always, are fairly mundane:

-Good morning,
 I am at West Ashley High School and have no clue what this e-mail is regarding.  If this is for a different school, I regret to say you e-mailed the incorrect person.

-I am not sure what this is in reference to.... I believe that you have the wrong person.

-I'm at Liberty Hill Academy...wrong person.  Sorry!

-I was just thinking the same thing...I'm at Military Magnet…

-Wrong Reginald (I'm at Mitchell)

-Wrong Michelle as well.

At this point the confusion is frustrating, but at least there is a logical reason for it.  Some of these people thought that they were copied to the message because they shared a name with a person at the message's intended school.  Others were simply caught off guard; they did not have the benefit of seeing 1400 responses in their inbox to clue them in that this was a mistaken mass mailing.  Their confusion is understandable.  Afterwards, however, things get a little bit more testy.

-Basket slips?   I thought we were using the scan cards....Is this a message for Oakland teachers?

-I do not know what this message is about or who it is from

-Is it necessary to send these to the entire school district?  Please adjust your send list.

-Please take me off this list.  Its VERY distracting to receive all these emails.

-When you reply to this e-mail you really only have to "reply to sender" so that everyone who received the original message doesn't also have a mailbox full of individual replies...

-Hello everyone!
I think we can all agree that [name removed] accidently mass mailed people with information that probably does not pertain to your school.  To avoid everyone on that list getting repeated confirmations of this obvious fact:
#1 Either email [name removed] directly
#2 Just ignore the message


Of course, these ironic warning and admonishments not to hit reply all (that were also sent out to the entire school district) continued to go unheeded.  It is at this point that anger and desperation begin to set in.

-I would like to get off this email list please.  It's freezing up my computer and I have no clue what a breakfast slip/basket is.  Thanks. 

-Please, reply only to sender, not to all.  You are all cluttering up my inbox!

-Please stop hitting reply to all! This message is being sent over and over and over again to the entire email list. 

-This is a mistake message. 

-Please stop replying all!!!!! I believe she received enough messages by now about the wrong school. THANKS!




Tensions had now boiled over due to all these distracting emails about breakfast baskets...and all the emails from people instructing everyone to stop responding to the mass emails.  By this point, the ratio of "what is this?" to "STOP SENDING ME THIS"  was about even.

Caps and bold font were also actually utilized in the above emails to make the senders' points that much more clear.  

It was time for the school district to step in and handle things with this timely message:

-Good Morning Everyone,
I wanted to let you know that if you have received an email from "[Name Removed]" concerning baskets and slips, this is not a virus, but rather an email inadvertently sent to all teachers within the district.  While it might be tempting to reply to this email for additional information, please do not reply.  We've had numerous folks replying to "all" and this is causing other issues for our users.  So the best advise I can give you this morning is if you should happen to receive this email, simply delete it from your mailbox.  Thanks everyone.

Of course, this caused everyone that had somehow not yet seen the original source of all the confusion (or who were just discovering it) to join in on the fun:

-I do not who were trying to email but I am not the one. I am at JIES and I do not eat breakfast here. Thanks.


-I'm not sure why I am BC'd on this email. I have no idea what it is in reference to.

-It seems to me that a bunch of us got this email for no reason.  Could we please stop replying to all, because now it's really clogging up inboxes!  A reply to sender will do!  Thanks :)

Now normally, I dedicate myself to simply being an amused spectator during the ensuing chaos.  This time, however, I decided it my turn to get into in the holiday spirit by sending (to entire school district, of course) the following response:

-Just wanted to chime in and say that all of you who demanded everyone stop hitting reply all...and then also hit reply all...absolutely made my day :)

Have a good Thanksgiving Break, everyone!

This resulted in an awesome finale to Email Festivia that I will always cherish.  The first thing that occurred was my email inbox getting bombarded by automated 'Out of Office' replies and 'undeliverable' notifications.  Once that was done, the praise and adulation began rolling in:

-Ha Ha!!! And my response is to the sender only... This whole situation just adds another reason to my theory that we should have had the whole week off! Enjoy your break!!! 

-Mine too my friend! Hilarious.

-Finally, someone had the nerve to say this.  I was cracking up myself!  :)

-LOL at your response..Note, I only sent this to you!!

-Unfortunately, for email, there is not a "LIKE" button...because I totally would have done that for your email!

-The well known legend of your incredible teaching ability is clearly matched by your peerless wit.  It would be an honor to name my first born child after you.

Okay, that last one wasn't real, but the others (and many more that came in throughout the day) were real.  The other benefit to all this was that after I sent my email out to the entire district, the flood of "breakfast basketgate" related mass mailings stopped dead in it's tracks.  Today, I truly felt like a The Hero of Email Festivia amongst my coworkers.  


Happy Email Festivia and Thanksgiving to Everyone!