Reply-All RIFF’ed

Lost: The privilege to reply-to-allWhen I read this one, I had to wonder if April 1 had come early.

Nielsen Deletes Reply-To-All Button

But it’s true. Nielsen’s CIO sent a memo alerting all Nielsen employees that that they “Reply to All” feature from Microsoft Outlook, their corporate email client.

Oh, the irony if the memo had been an email.

Reading this reminded me of a parent taking away a toy after the inevitable eye poke. Or the classic line about driving being a privilege, not a right.

Anyway, this happens on the heels of similar action taken by the  State Department to curb zombie reply-alls. The topic of reply-alls is quickly becoming my one of my favorite distractions. It happens a lot, and when it does, it really gets people going. You can almost feel the pent up rage on the other side of the ‘tubes, pounding away at the keyboard.

I haven’t changed my opinion on the whole thing; I find these reply-all stories very  amusing, since I do not share the level of annoyance that most feel for them. Like junk mail, email spam and telemarketing calls, reply-alls fail to annoy me, which is saying a lot for me.

I’m really surprised at how much effort and time goes into fixing the reply-all problem. Maybe other places are different, but I don’t feel like I lose any productivity because of a few extra emails in my inbox. But, different strokes for different folks I guess.

Aside from the policy, the IT aspects of removing a button from Outlook for all of your users sounded tricky. But I dug around a bit and apparently, you can do this type of thing in Outlook. I don’t use Outlook and never will. So, there’s no obvious fail here.

What’s your take? Do you feel like reply-alls ruin your productivity? Any general thoughts you’d like to add?

You could email us instead.




  1. can I just tweet you?

    I think I'm like you, I don't get what all the hub-bub is about. While it isn't the best tool in the world for communicating, most people know how to use it and following a conversation isn't all too difficult. Most of my reply-alls are for informational purposes (discussing a technology related question for instance), I'll just reply-all if it's something the group should know (even if they do already).

    My 2 cents.

  2. The problem with reply-all is fear. Fear that you won't include all the right people (CYA), and fear that you're not being included. It's very easy to reply-all without thinking, which is why it becomes second-nature, even to mailing list mails, which usually generate the most annoyance.

    Your point about Twitter is solid. Tools like blogs and Twitter are much better for information sharing b/c they keep a thread (mostly) and are subscription based via RSS.

    RSS may be the most useful technology that no one gets. I really think investing in training/forcing people to use RSS would cut down on email problems by at least half.

  3. I'm with you Jake. I see these are funny and as a “teaching moment” for the person who screws up but attempting to solve bad behavior with technology just backfires. It's like the discussion on whether HR should have to put “wash your hands” notes up in the bathroom. If people are not going to wash their hands a note isn't going to get them to do it.

  4. My guess is that most people who fail at reply-all only do so once, based on the amount of hate mail they get in reply.

    Wash your hands notes in the bathroom make sense for food service restrooms, not so much for other places 🙂 We do like to tell people what to do, e.g. the green footer, don't print this email unless you really hate the Earth.

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