It is the nightmare that virtually all email users dread: accidentally hitting “Reply All”.This week, one student at New York University took the all-too-simple error to the next level, when he inadvertently discovered a bug in the school email system that allowed anyone to “reply all” to a generic university email, bombarding nearly 40,000 people with his answer.
The resulting 24-hour flurry of emails – later dubbed by university officials as “replyallcalypse” – saw every NYU student’s inbox quickly fill with replies ranging from the jokes (“does anyone have a pencil I can borrow?”) to pleas for the mass emails to end (“SHUT THE F*** UP PLEASE”).
The email meltdown began when sophomore Max Wiseltier, along with the rest of the student body, received a generic message from the NYU bursar’s office about tax forms.
He attempted to forward it to his mother with the question “do you want me to do this?” – but instead of hitting “forward”, hit “reply all”.
Quickly realising his mistake – as other reply-all culprits often do – he hurriedly sent a “sorry” email, once again replying all.
However the damage was done. An archaic bug in the school’s archaic email system saw the messages fly in 40,000 different directions.
Some students were slow to realise what had happened, responding with simple: “Sorry, but I think you have the wrong person” messages.
Other, more mischeivous students quickly saw the potential for humour. One person sent the student body an image of actor Nicolas Cage. Another seized the chance to rant about the school’s “exorbitant tuition”, while yet another sent out a plaintive – and presumably tongue-in-cheek – “does anyone want to be my friend?”
David Vogelsang, head of the NYU Student Resource centre, took responsibility for the gaffe. In a statement to local media, he wrote: “I was assisting the Bursar with an email message and in populating one of the SRC Listserves did not realise the list I was using was one that allowed for responses and thus the ‘replyallcalypse’… I take full responsibility for this blunder and offer my sincere apologies for the frustrating situation that was created.”
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