It Should Be Harder to “Reply to All” Than to Start a Nuclear War

I’m not going to deny that the “Reply To All” function in email clients is a useful and sometimes necessary function. However; I would like to submit that “Reply to All” is abused more often than any single function of any communications platform.

I have several methods to communicate, and quite a few email account, especially for work. I’ve got most of my personal email going through my gmail account, but for work I have two main accounts. I am a contractor to another organization, so I have to be on their email domain. That one is particularly annoying. Who, in an enterprise environment working on large programs can survive with a 50 MB email limit? Well, we’re supposed to, and I am constantly hitting it, especially on travel. I can access through the webmail client, but most of my functionality comes through one workstation devoted entirely to that network. I also have another email account through the company I work for, which my BlackBerry is tied to.

Somebody in my company had a baby today. Good for her; having babies is a wonderful thing. But it seems that everybody in the company had to “Reply to All” to say “Congratulations!” It seems that, while I was supposed to be in a meeting this morning, I spent the entire day deleting replies to the announcement of the birth of the baby. This drives me nuts.

I especially am annoyed when a meeting announcement is sent out to hundreds or more people in varying locations around the country and that one “impotent” jackass has to “Reply to All” to say “I shouldn’t be on this list.” That makes me want to reply to that person to say “I shouldn’t be receiving this.”

It’s even worse on my personal account when an email for a group I belong to goes out and other members of the group start a conversation using “Reply to All” that goes on for days, leaving me to spend the better part of my life deleting this stuff from my inbox. I just went though another aggressive filtering campaign in my gmail account so that I don’t get new message warnings for much of this “bac’n”.

Here is the solution that I propose. Obviously, there will be those times when every single person on an email message really does have a serious NEED for one person to Reply to All, but those are few and far between. I propose that if you want to send a response to an entire distribution list of people, you are welcome to individually type each and every one of their names into the address fields of your mail client. OK, I’m not that anal. You can select them from your address book, but you MUST select them individually. If you have a serious need to use the Reply to All function of your email client so that each person on the list has to see your reply, then you can go before a judge and state your case.

“Your honor, I got this meeting request from xxx organization to attend xxx meeting at xxx location. The problem is that I don’t work on that project anymore, and I have not been removed from the distribution list. I’m tired of spending the better part of my days deleting non-relevant email for a project that I am not involved in anymore. My current project generates at least as much traffic through my inbox, and 50 more messages just piled up while I’m talking to you. Crap, there go another 50. I simply do not have time to look at the “From” field to see who is sending these meeting invitations. I need to Reply to All to say I’m not involved and shouldn’t be getting these emails anymore.”

“Motion denied. You think those people have time to delete your whiny reply? Let 10 or 15 emails pile up while you’re looking at the “From” field, use “Reply” and ask to be removed from distribution. Then mark any emails sent from that distribution list as spam and ignore them.”

In the event that the judge is moved to grant your plea to Reply to All, then a nuclear launch-like cipher code will be broken apart by both yourself and the judge (think Crimson Tide), the two parts of the code will be joined together, and you will enter the entire code in the box that pops up when you hit Reply to All, but don’t wait too long or the code will expire and you’ll have to go back to court to get another one.

Please don’t bother to comment about how difficult this would be to implement. I’m a geek and I’ve already thought that through. This would never happen, but I find it a refreshing outlet for my frustration at the amount of self-important or inconsiderate people who think I (and others like me) have nothing better to do than delete their emails. Please, before using “Reply to All”, THINK. THINK about whether everybody needs to see your response.