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This is not a feature. It's a bug.

Oh dear. I had thought they'd fixed one interesting "feature" of the CLS bulk-mailing system that was a consistent thorn last year. It used to be that when a professor bulk-mailed a class, anyone hapless enough to hit the "reply" key would email not the professor, but the entire mailing list. This counterintuitive feature led to great annoyance and occasional hilarity last year.

I'd thought the problem had been thoroughly fixed. At least for the alumni, it seems not. There must have been a lot of alum with 60+ pieces of email yesterday:

Then the dean did what sounds like an innocent thing. He sent an email to all graduates, that is, alumni and alumnae, of Columbia Law School, with the entire editorial embedded in the email. In fact, I assume that the reason he reprinted his entire editorial in the email is that putting a link in the email wouldn't work because of the Sun's subscription requirement for Web access.

Perhaps you technology-weary can guess what happened next. Among the hard-working graduates of CLS were several lucky souls who were on vacation and had turned on out-of-office autoreply messages. Now, I just located the original message and hit "reply" (without sending, mind you!) to see how a return email would be addressed. It appears that, if one uses "reply" and not "reply all" that responses should go only to the sender. For some reason, however, those autoreplies, once they went back to the dean, were forwarded to the list. As were all the responses by all the people who became increasingly shrill as they received more and more and more email in response to the initial demands for removal.

Ah well. Multiple emails discussing the same thing with accidental replies sent to the whole list? For recent alumni, it must merely have invoked feelings of nostalgia...

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Comments

At times like these we must all be thankful for those early pioneers who invented the header annotations which prevent autoresponders from replying to other autoresponders.
Jesus. This was a known issue? And this guy was at the top of his class at Yale (at least undergrad)? It makes the debacle seem even more amateurish.
First of all, I don't know if what happened here is the same thing that happens frequently to students (or at least, did last year). After all, I'm not an alum, I didn't receive the email. But it's certainly not foreign to the student's experience. But secondly, let's stay cool here. I mean, this is an easy mistake to make, and lots of folks have made it. Let he who's not made a huge internet goof in their life cast the first stone, eh?
Then I'm excluded from stone throwing, as I accidentally mass-mailed my first legal writing assignment to the entire section. At least people replied with polite advisories to mail it to the teacher, or even This looks good; thanks for sending it in time for me to revise mine! instead of with abuse. Are you sure that problem got fixed? I suspect that you haven't seen it only because the 2Ls know better now, as my classmates made similar bloopers well into the semester. (So much for my being a horrible warning...) Still, my favorite from this year has to be the guy who emailed studentevents to say, "Listen people, I'm getting really annoyed by your forwarding of multiple e-mails about identical events. Do you really think there is any legitimate purpose to sending the same e-mail twice within five minutes. It overloads my mailbox and wastes my time even if I just delete the stuff, not to mention trying to read it and see whether there is any information therein that somehow modifies what has already once been sent. It is irritating and makes you look like spammers. STOP IT !!! Seriously." I heart LLMs.
Certainly anyone can make a mistake once or twice. But this was a known issue. Also, none of us had voluntarily subscribed to a mailing list, or were told we were on one. I think that's a different situation.
I got all of them yesterday. And I used to get them all the time in law school. It looks like it's exactly the same issue; the listserv address is the "reply to" address, so any response gets forwarded to every recipient. Apparently tech servs or whoever designed the system was _not_ on the recipients list. I can't imagine anyone in possession of a remedy could have gotten as many of those things as I got without feeling compelled to fix it. Highly unpleasant.

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