Creative naming in pursuit of subverting the no-fun zone

For a time, the Information Technology department at Microsoft cracked down on what it believed to be frivolous mailing lists. All mailing lists inside the company had to have a valid business purpose.

The nascent wireless networking team found a way to circumvent this rule: They created a mailing list for discussion of non-business topics but officially said that it was for discussing Wireless Networking Interference.

Comments (16)
  1. Colin Dellow says:

    And don't forget the triathletes, who discuss all things relating to swimming, biking and running on the "sbrteam" alias (that's Small Business Reports Team, to you, Mr. IT guy).

  2. markpar says:

    During this time, we wanted an alias for organizing Quake 1 CTF games in the evening.  So, we in XL created the "Single-queue calc tree functions" alias.  Short name, "q1ctf."

  3. pete.d says:

    Yup.  There were several "SOC" mailing list owners who simply defrauded their way past that absurd rule.  As the then-owner of the mailing list for pilots at Microsoft, I made the mistake of thinking that the IT group would listen to reason, and tried to explain to them why the policy would simply increase the network overhead (their stated reason for instituting the policy).

    I was, of course, not only rebuffed but threatened with termination (of employment) if I didn't cease my attempts to identify and converse with the manager in charge of creating that policy.  So much for the much-heralded "open door" policy at the company.

    As part of my efforts, I did a little research to find out whether list owners were indeed just going to shut down their lists or if they would in fact move to locally hosted mailing lists (which would be less efficient).  It was during the course of that investigation that I found numbers of owners who had simply re-described their mailing lists.

    My favorite was "Big Time Internet Projects".  I don't recall the exact name it had prior to the policy, but it was a mailing list the sole purpose of which was to organize meet-ups at Big Time, a local pub in the University District.  Tack "Internet Projects" onto your mailing list name, and ITG was fine with it.

    Idiots.  (ITG, not the Big Time pub crowd).

  4. Joshua says:

    The engineering response to a perceived useless restriction is to make it appear the restriction is working.

  5. Steve says:

    I can tell you that it was quite an honor to be working on Microsoft's Big Time Internet Projects back in 95.  Such important work.  (And even now, some of the BTIP crew still convenes at the Big Time!)

  6. Cheong says:

    I simply don't understand what's in the management's mind… Even companies such as CSC encourages recreation groups within the company (there's lots of groups in company portal), what good does it bring to kill these mailing list? Afterall, it's just a mailing alias. Nothing stops someone from creating distribution list in his/her Outlook and export the list to some network share for others to import. It'd just let people spend their precious worktime (to company) to figure out what/how to do instead of adding an ordinary mailing list.

    It'd be just better if they require some prefix attached to these non-business related mailing list if they want to seperate them out.

  7. Simon says:

    Heh… we've had issues in my office with over-zealous IT managers in the past. But they never win – not when the developers know almost as much about system administration as the administrators, and outnumber them them twenty-to-one. These days, there's a comfortable truce – they don't make our jobs unnecessarily difficult, and visa versa.

  8. Cheong says:

    @Simon: That's a point. If the developers cannot workaround the over-zealous measures themselves when given local administrator right, they're probably not smart enough to do their job. (Except web filtering – which probably cannot be broke without violating company policies if properly set.) (Hint: Hints to workout differnent situations on the web)

    P.S.: It seems somehow the "controls" of comment section is not English for me… :O

  9. Gabe says:

    Cheong: I think it was ITG was being run by my mother-in-law. She takes the fun out of everything.

  10. Worf says:

    @pete.d: so what was that flying group eventually called? Real World Flying in Flight [Sim]?

    And most good managers know an off-topic mailing list is a good thing for morale and such. We have one that's opt-in and in comes good stuff (coupons to local eateries/invitations, food in kitchen pre-announcement, etc posted by anyone and everyone on the list). Also a good way to see the pulse of the company. And those not interested, don't subscribe.

    Either a DL, or a manually managed list of people and Reply All. DL's are trivial to sort and de-prioritize with rules, hint hint.

  11. Bulletmagnet says:

    I simply don't understand what's in the management's mind

    Objection! Assumes organ not in evidence. (…/Quirk-objection.html)

  12. Jon says:

    At least you still had the option to do mailing lists. Corporate has decided that people in our company can't send email to someone in the same building. Instead of forwarding something like a quote from a vendor or a support request from a customer, you have to save the email onto the file server then give the person you're sending it to a call so they know where to look for it.

  13. APardoe says:

    @Karellen: The joke is that the mailing list interferes with the work of the Wireless Networking team. Every mail to that list is by declaration Wireless Networking Interference.

  14. Karellen says:

    OK, I was hoping someone else was going to ask this, but it looks like no-one will, so, just what is the pun or "creative naming" part of "Wireless Networking Interference"? Whatever it is has just *woooosh*ed over my head.

  15. lefty says:

    "I made the mistake of thinking that the IT group would listen to reason"

    That's the funniest thing I've read in a long time. Like the HR group, IT is not here to serve you – you're here to follow their policies.

    Don't you forget it.

  16. Anon says:

    The AD and the Exchange group have it easiest. We have a mailing list, but nobody knows it exists ;-)

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