When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

25 January 2009

Yes, we have no free bananas in the kitchen

Misadventures with e-mail distribution lists and reply-all, via PLEASE UNSUBSCRIBE ME FROM THIS LIST!!!!!!!! @ Metafilter:
...some poor underpaid secretary back in the UK had, on finishing her lunch, found that she had some fruit spare. Rather than see it go to waste, she helpfully put it in the kitchen of the floor she was in, and sent an email to everyone on her floor:

"Free bananas in the kitchen!!!"

Sadly, however (and yes - it's obvious where this is going), she sent it to the wrong list.

It didn't just go to her floor.
It didn't just go to her office.
It didn't jusk go to the UK offices.

It went GLOBAL.

What followed was the most ridiculous, slow motion email catastrophe I've ever seen.

First the UK replies streamed in - the standard emails that occur in this situation as already described by many posters above. The Out-of-Offices, the angry threats, the requests for removals, the threats to people requesting removals all - of course - fully utilising the "Reply All" and list functions.

Obviously the system collapsed and for hours the UK IT guys struggled to sort things out - everytime it came back up, email war would break out again and the situation would be repeated.

Finally, at about four in the afternoon, and thanks (I'm reliably informed) to the intervention of several members of the web team (who had been exchange administrators in a previous lives [sic]) they had just about managed to get things going again...

...just in time for the US IT guys to get THEIR servers working for the first time, at which point the flood of mails from US people demanding removal from lists etc. took everything down AGAIN.

This was to be the pattern for the next twenty eight hours or so. Thanks to a ridiculous lack of safeguards and indeed basic communication, every time one office somewhere in the world woke up, or managed to get a server back up it would kick off the whole email war anew and everything, everywhere would die a fiery electronic death.

For three whole days Senior Managers the world over were howling at people to stop sending emails (after about the second day they seemed to cotton on to the fact that doing this by EMAIL probably wasn't helping), IT departments the world over were howling in pain and frantically trying to sort things out and general users were engaging in an email war of global scale, with angry individuals flinging racially dubious emails across nations at each other to the horror of HR departments everywhere.

Finally, finally on the evening of the third day the crisis started to pass.

Workers the world over breathed a sigh of relief and newly calm managers and techies from across the globe sat down together to try and heal their wounds and come up with policies to prevent it from happening again - a kind of Corporate version of Versailles.

By day four, policies had been written and technical plans made, which they would begin implementing on day five. This would not happen again - the world would be saved and civilization would reign once more! "Peace in Our Time!" the newly created Head of Global IT proclaimed, waving a copy of Exchange Server For Dummies enthusiastically above his head...

...as at the same time, in his palatial office in the Headquarters back in the UK, the CEO (the rather old school UK establishment figure who will go unnamed) decided that what everyone needed after recent events was a little joke. Nothing fancy - just something to make everyone chuckle and break the tension caused by the previous few days.

Sitting down to his desk, he casually opened up his email and, chuckling at his own brilliance, typed five, simple words...

"Who ate the bananas then?!"

...and clicked "Reply All"

posted by garius at 6:36 AM on January 12 [243 favorites]

I've had days like that.

No comments: