When your vice president tells you to stop replying to a mail thread, you probably should stop replying to the mail thread


Some time in the early part of this century, somebody sent a message to the Windows NT Development Announcements mailing list at Microsoft. It went something like, "My car was parked in «location X» and somebody ran into it and didn't leave a note. Does anybody have any information about this?"

Now, one thing you need to know is that the Windows NT Development Announcements mailing list has the entire Windows division as members. We're talking thousands of people. And the sort of announcements sent to the alias are not the "somebody dinged my car" type of announcements. They are announcements like "We will be reformatting the scratch server on Tuesday." Important stuff that everybody on the team needs to know. And it's most certainly not for discussions.

Anyway, somebody replied to the message saying something like "Yeah, my car was parked in the same area and it got damaged, too." And then somebody else decided to be silly and wrote, "I parked my car in Germany once and it got damaged. I wonder if that's related."

Before things could spiral out of control, Jim Allchin, vice president of Windows, stepped in and sent a message to everybody. "Stop replying to this thread."

That shut the thread down really quickly. Nothing like your vice president telling you to shut up to get you to shut up.

There was one reply that came through, though. It was a reply to Jim's message saying to stop replying. The person wrote, "Yes sir, captain sir. Saluting as I type, sir."

I have no confirmation that anybody ever saw that person alive again.

Bonus history: Today is the 14th anniversary of the infamous Bedlam Incident.

Comments (11)
  1. John Topley says:

    Maybe Jim was the one pranging the cars?

  2. barbie says:

    I have no confirmation that anybody ever saw that person alive again.

    I find this sentence disturbingly close to the journalist ones from yesterday. All in jest, I know, but still…

  3. benjamin says:

    Jim Allchin, perpetrator of vehicular damage?

  4. Captain Obvious would like to point out that Location X was not, in fact, in Germany, despite the use of angle quote marks.

  5. Thomas says:

    We Germans tend to use „these quotation marks,“ at least when doing it correctly. «This» is more of a Swiss thing, although you may occasionally see »this« being used in Germany; this is more commonly used in novels.

  6. Gralof says:

    Not that I as one person get thousands of unimportant mails from Microsoft about some freaky new thing I don't care about. Lets blame the people who send one mail to thousand other about a criminal act happend to them.

  7. Michael G says:

    Those "Swiss/German" quotation marks are called guillemets. Knowing this has never once helped me.  The wikipedia page has all sorts of information about them, including which countries use them pointing in, and which use them pointing out.

  8. David Hall says:

    We have a similar thing happen on one of our internal mailing lists once a month or so. There's usually a couple of "sensible" replies followed by a few jokey ones before some big wig (or someone who thinks they are, anyway) steps in and shuts the conversation down.

    Personally the latter always leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Some people take email way too seriously.

  9. Deduplicator says:

    The problem is simply, that all the guys who want to/should get work done have to do your emails first, because they come though the no-nonse this is serious stuff list, which all the thousand or more coworkers simply have to read. Additionally, there's a really dangerous slippery slope to making the list unusable for its assigned role. You like wading though tons of spam every day?

    So, whats your alternative to one of the big wigs taking the big hammer and shutting that drain down, before it spirals out of control?

    (You may keep the hyperbole, if there was any).

  10. Battaile Fauber says:

    I did an "email all" at my first programming job complaining about the AC at our location.  I didn't last much longer there. :(

  11. David Hall says:

    Deduplicator – valid points, all, except in my organisation it's usually two or three emails max. Hardly "tons of spam" to wade through, but some people seem to react as if it is. I'm not saying these things should get out of hand but what's five or so emails a month between friends (or colleagues)?

    Personally, I use inbox rules to filter mailing list emails into folders so I can peruse them at my leisure, when I get the time.

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