Recently an email (sent to an obscure user group I'm on) triggered a cascading series of replies-to-all, reminiscent of some of the classic exponential mailstorms I witnessed in the early days of the Internet. After an initial confused newbie note came a trickle of "What does this mean?" messages ... followed by an outpouring of "Why did you send that to the whole group?" missives ... a torrent of "Stop replying to everybody!" admonitions ... and then a flood of "Don't post messages telling everybody to stop replying to the list!!" screeds. Within a couple of days, thankfully, everybody got tired (or died laughing) and the echoes faded away.

After a parallel incident last year a comrade (EMV) in another part of the governmental bureaucracy explained the algorithm that his colleagues use for handling unexpected email:

Read title in hopes that it doesn't apply to you. If necessary read the first sentence or paragraph, but as soon as you realize that it's somebody else's problem forward the email. Think of several meanings of the tiny portion of the email that you've actually read. Forward the email to anybody who could possibly be thought of as having something to do with any of these several meanings.

Special rule: if somebody forwards an email to you because they followed this procedure, it obviously means that the email contains a task that somebody is trying to pass off to somebody else. Immediately forward the email, without reading it, to as many people as you can think of. Delete the email and wipe it form your memory. If asked, claim you "must have deleted it."

(see also WebbyFootprints (21 Feb 2001), AmigaCheck (19 May 2004), ...)

TopicHumor - TopicOrganizations - TopicSociety - TopicPersonalHistory - 2005-02-05

(correlates: FactorAndFactotum, OnOneFoot, ThingsThemselves, ...)