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Email Bedlam

I love meeting new people, and email is a fine way to do it.  When a friend sent out a change of address notification to his address book the other day, he accidently put the entire list on the CC line instead of the BCC line, allowing anyone who replied all to mail to the whole list again.  Some of us regarded this as a golden opportunity.  Others got bent out of shape, and began mailing the whole list asking to be removed from all future replies.  Ultimately a futile exercise, I’m afraid, as each replier hit the send button before the request arrived in their inbox.  It was quite fun as a whimsical conversation about our collective opportunities to be offered a bebo-like ransom for our companies ensued.

No harm done, except that a few self-absorbed individuals had a few extra pieces of email in their inboxes.  Chill, dudes and dudettes!

Now, it could have been worse.  During the late 1990’s at Microsoft there was a famous incident where a mailing list called BEDLAM DL3 was used in a similar way.  BEDLAM DL3 was an experimental list being used by either IS, or the Exchange team themselves.  It had over 25,000 names of Microsoft employees on it.  When one employee discovered the list, and wondered why she had been included on it, she mailed the list asking to be removed — a common error.  That set of a storm of Reply All’s saying “Me too”, followed by another storm of Reply All’s saying “Stop using Reply-All, it bogs down the email system, and so on…

In a matter of an hour, 15.5 million messages, representing 195 Gigabytes of bandwidth, passed across the network, bringing the entire email system to its knees.  Following that, the Exchange team implemented limits on the size of the reply all list.  Oh, and of course, t-shirts were made.

Hmmm… perhaps it’s time for a trip to Café Press, and get some t-shirts made…

Feel free to email or call me anytime. 

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Shannonp July 12, 2006, 11:47 am

    For some reason the "Bedlam" debacle came up in a recent conversation with a bunch of ex-MSFTies. In all it ended up being close to a business week before the problem was resolved. We all agreed that there is nothing better for a product team to learn from something like that before a customer site had the same experience. The T-shirts were widely worn at the time on campus.

  • Alec July 12, 2006, 12:02 pm

    It's funny the things you remember, isn't it? I'd love to have one of those t-shirts now.

  • Curious July 12, 2006, 2:17 pm

    Hmmmmmm … what 'bout iotum-enabled relevant email …..

  • Alec July 12, 2006, 2:46 pm

    We've certainly been asked for it, Curious.

  • Euan Semple July 13, 2006, 4:25 am

    Nice to know I wasn't the only one to have that reaction. You'll enjoy the comments thread btw!

  • Jon Husband July 13, 2006, 6:43 am

    Hey Alec – when you get around to making the T-shirt I get the 1st one free (XL) .. since I was the asshole who started it all.

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