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Some guy emails all of Microsoft and causes email shitstorm
30 points by fiona57 on Feb 6, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 19 comments
This morning someone at Microsoft accidentally emailed the whole company - yes, all of Microsoft - and started receiving a bazillion replies from people asking to be removed from the thread. How it is possible to accidentially email the company I do not know, but it seems that permissions on certain distribution lists may need to be tightened.

What happened next is where the story gets interesting and perplexing. People started replying all to tell everyone else to stop replying all, thus perpetuating the problem in an attempt to stop the mass email. You can't make this stuff up. "GOOD GOD STOP REPLYING ALL" is just one of the headlines from the reply-all emails that were sent out trying to get people to stop replying all. Its kind of a paradox, if you think about it.

Thinking that some people might not be getting the message to stop replying all, a new email was created with a different subject with CAPS instructions to stop replying all, which added to the overall slowdown, and essentially duplicated the original mistake and amplified the load on exchange servers through MS.

Emails to and from Microsoft employees have been bouncing back all day long. No report yet on when the problem will be resolved.

Reminds me of this story that happened just a few months ago:


This has happened at Google, too, to similarly hilarious effect.

An excellent writeup of the incident (by someone else): http://rachelbythebay.com/w/2012/01/16/replyall/

Can this story be substantiated anywhere credible?

Unfortunately, this has happened before. And not only once. Here's a description of a previous instance: http://blogs.technet.com/exchange/archive/2004/04/08/109626....

(It doesn't seem to have been the entire company -- about half of my team was spared -- but I'm sure it was a good chunk.)

I have a fantasy that this is tied into midyear reviews, and that anyone responding automatically drops a point on the review scale...

I had a similarly hilarious experience a few years back, related to a distribution list but compounded by trying to recall a message. Someone from accounting had both Outlook Web and personal web mail open at the same time. He was composing an email about SOX compliance to all managers in the US for a large national company. Apparently he was also composing an explicit personal email to his girlfriend about what he had planned for the bedroom that night. Somehow his wires got crossed and the explicit email got sent to all the managers (I assume his girlfriend got the SOX email). I wouldn't have even read the email had he not tried to recall the message, which on some clients deletes the message, but on others, it just sends another email about trying to recall the email. Needless to say, he was fired on the spot.

It's not the email shitstorm of all time until someone makes t-shirts. Any Bedlam DL3 references in those replies? =)


IT this morning suggested that it was "probably worse than Bedlam". Haven't seen any shirts yet though.

I have seen similar email "storm" a couple of times when I was working in HP. It was not the whole of the company but a large business group probably a tenth of the company. It would start with a mail send to a large email list. People would start replying to all asking to be removed from the list or saying that they are not the intended recipient of the mail. After that it would be the "Please dont reply to all" mails. And that will go on and on . I remember a particular one that went into over a 100 mails.

It is interesting how a large group of smart people end up doing this.

Nobody I talked to on the Microsoft campus tonight knew of this, so no, not "all of Microsoft". Flagged as cruft.

The emails didn't affect everyone, just a few dozen thousand. No biggie.

This happened on an eBay company-wide mailing list a few months ago.

The funniest/worst thing was the people at former subsidiaries who were still on the list, but couldn't log into the list-manager and remove themselves because of course they didn't actually have corporate network accounts any more.

Same thing happened at my company (~40k employees) about 2 years ago. Fortunately it is split across a couple of timezones, but after about 300 'Please do not reply-to-all' replies-to-all, apparently the exchange server crashed and took care of the problem :P

"yes, all of Microsoft"

No, not all of Microsoft.

and everybodys phones going off all day, all over?

I can't believe people don't know the many problems created by e-mails with visible (i.e. CC) lists of addresses. Here's my article on this topic:


(It was a broken mailing list, not an explicit list of addresses.)

Yes -- that would explain why hitting "reply all" was the focus of the controversy.

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