Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Reply All

Okay, I'm going to be controversial here. I don't want to freak you out, or offend you, or cause unnecessary stress, but it's time we dealt with this. Actually, it's past time.

So, you know when you get an email? And it's to you, and lots of other people? Maybe it's a forward full of humorous and/or inspirational musings. Perhaps it's an invitation. It could even be, oh I don't know, an email letting people know about a change of address.

Anyway, there you are, reading the email. Perhaps you chuckle and/or get inspired, perhaps you think "damn straight I'll be there", perhaps you think "congrats on the move". Regardless of the motivation, you wish to respond.

Now, here's where you need to take a moment and pause.

You need to think very carefully about whether your comment of "so funny!" or "great, I'm there!" or "I'll come and visit!" is directed at the person who sent you the email or at the entire list of people the email was sent to.

There are a few factors that can help you with your decision here. Quickly go through the following list in your head:

  1. Do I know every single person on this email list?
  2. If I do know all these people, am I certain that these are all personal email addresses, and not work addresses?
  3. Is my comment both relevant to the conversation and necessary to send to everyone?
  4. Really?
  5. Seriously, really?

If all of these questions are answered with a firm and decisive yes, then you may proceed with caution to the reply all button and send your response to all the people on the email list.

If the answer to any of these questions is "no" or an "I'm not sure" or an "um, maybe?", then this is the time you want to click on the reply button. It's right there beside the reply all button. Go ahead! Make your witty and/or informative comment to the sender of your email. They'll be happy to get it, I'm sure.

Perhaps you'll initiate an engaging and diverting email conversation that will enrich both your lives. Won't that be fun?

If you can't answer these five questions with a yes, then these people don't want to hear from you. They don't know you. They're at work and will get in trouble for excess personal emails. They don't care if you're going to be at the party.

And the person who sent the email in the first place? They're probably going to be annoyed with you for inflicting this chain of email on their friends/family/co-workers.

Sure, in a perfect world we'd all bcc: emails to lots of people. But it's not a perfect world, is it?

Reply all is annoying. Don't use it unless you have to.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Just to expand on this concept, here are links to other abuses of email and related items:

Ham Sandwich

Your boss may be spying on you


There's a bazillion other links I could include. Basically, the "reply all" function is dangerous, and must be used with caution.