Just because I don’t deny something doesn’t make it true

There are a number of tricks people try to pull, and I hate them. Today's trick is one of the many varieties of the BCC trick (sometimes less surreptitiously—but still annoyingly—done as a CC trick).

Occasionally, I will be quietly added to an email discussion, typically via BCC, without any indication as to why I was added. After reading the discussion (which can be quite lengthy), I realize that they are pulling the "Raymond didn't deny this, so I'll assume this is true" trick. They are adding me as a way of obtaining my approval for a claim made in the discussion.

"The Widget does not immediately fire a ColorChange event if it has been hibernated. It will fire the ColorChange event when it is resumed." (Secretly BCC'ing Raymond for technical review and fact-checking. He'll reply to the thread if any part of this statement is not true.)

Sometimes the secret BCC is made overt by an explicit CC. In this case, the person is announcing to the thread, "See, I CC'd Raymond and he didn't say anything, so therefore I am right and you are wrong."

Another variation on the BCC trick is to send a question to a discussion group and secretly BCC me (or overtly CC me) in order to say, "I'm asking the discussion group for help, or maybe Raymond can answer it." Or even worse, "I'm using Algorithm X, and maybe the discussion group can tell me whether it's the correct algorithm. (And even if they can't decide one way or another, then certainly Raymond will tell me if I'm doing it wrong!)"

Comments (26)
  1. Brian G. says:

    Do you have the ability to BCC this post to everyone who's ever pulled this stunt on you? Because I'd love to hear about the fallout. From such a thermonuclear conflict resolution.

  2. Joshua says:

    Since Raymond does not always call blatent errors in comments, we already knew this. Still good reading though. They deserve what fallout they get.

  3. Brian_EE says:

    And just because Raymond blogs about this doesn't mean that he's being passive aggressive.

  4. Sockatume says:

    Isn't declaring you hate something is being passive-aggressive? I wonder where the line into conventional aggression lies if that is not the case.

  5. Sockatume says:

    Raymond please don't approve my comment I made a dog's dinner of the grammar.

  6. John says:

    I see this at work from time to time as well, however I take it as a complement, it usually indicates that they think highly enough of my opinion to include me on their issue.

    OTOH why should anyone take my opinion as fact or the final word? While not expressed explicitly by Raymond I think he'd probably agree. Even the best of us are wrong some of the time.

    Not to mention it does take time out of my day as well to look at their issue, taking away time from other projects that maybe more pressing. (my manager loves that!)

  7. Kramii says:

    Just because this comment doesn't explicitly agree with Raymond that doesn't mean that I don't.

  8. Anonymous says:

    It's descriptions like this that make me glad I left MSFT for a smaller company. I had to unlearn a bunch of passive-aggressive email tactics. My life has been better without them.

  9. Douglas says:

    > Isn't declaring you hate something is being passive-aggressive?

    The passive-aggressive type doesn't declare anything. They seek revenge in some way that can't be traced back to them, or to the event that upset them.

  10. Daniel Bryars says:

    Is the second link in the article correct? I don't understand how it is related.

    [The linked comment says "Raymond didn't deny this, so I'll assume this is true." -Raymond]
  11. Mike Shawaluk says:

    "There are a number of tricks people try to pull, and I hate them."

    The first time I read that line, I thought "wow, that's a bit harsh." Then I realized that Raymond was saying he hated the *tricks*, not the *people*.

  12. JamesNT says:

    I have had clients and even my own boss do this to me.  I truly despise it.


  13. alegr1 says:

    >Then I realized that Raymond was saying he hated the *tricks*, not the *people*.

    Just because Raymond doesn't say he hates people, doesn't mean he doesn't hate people. (BCC: Raymond Chen)

  14. EGAN Medical says:

    Wasn't it V.I. Lenin who once was quotes as saying that a lie repeated enough times without being refuted becomes truth?

  15. JM says:

    Sneaky. I can't say this has ever happened to me. People do pull the "but maybe JM can tell us exactly about this" card, but when they do, I've always been in the To (and not replying would be rude, even if it's just to say "I have no time for this now, sorry"). It may help that I make it standard policy to not reply when I'm in the CC unless I have to (that is, not chiming in to would leave us heading for the apocalypse). If I'm in the *BCC*, I never reply. Ever. I figure you BCC'd me for no other reason than that you wanted me to see it. I saw it. Let's move on.

  16. Well, I always hate this kind of trick when it is used. I often find it used in two situations.

    The first is when someone is unsure about what they are talking about, so they use Person X as some support to their side of the discussion. Doing this also allows them to deflect blame/fallout if they turn out to be incorrect.

    The second is to use this as some flawed logical starting point for their side of the discussion. Again, the inclusion of Person X is also meant to add more weight to things.

    Well, I'm sure a high percentage of people are guilty of this, at least in their thoughts. I know I am.

  17. Boris says:

    Whenever I see 'MSFT', I think of 'MVP' or other specialized acronyms. It takes a few seconds to register that the writer meant 'Microsoft'. A web search confirms that this acronym is mostly used in relation to the stock exchange. Remember, not every blog reader is following Microsoft's stock price.

  18. JamesNT says:

    Another situation similar to this (similar in regards to people trying to get the answer they want to hear and screw everything else) is when a client or my boss asks me the same question over and over again hoping to eventually get me to cave in to giving them the answer they want to hear.  Many times the wording of the question is changed to throw me off, but it's still the same question.  

    My personal favorite when it comes to people getting the answer they want is when my boss asks me a question with a client standing right in front of us thereby putting me in the spotlight.  "So James, how long do you think it will be before we get that data migration done, again?"  The answer everyone wants to hear is in the next day or so.  The correct answer is in about 9 days.  

    Needless to say that since I adopted a more Raymond like personality toward these things, the conversation starts going downhill very fast.  I have almost broken people of the habit of doing this to me.  Almost.


  19. Stefan says:

    I've had this happen to me a number of times. The last time it happened, I replied to all (and moved everybody from CC to To) with the very simple question: "Why am I receiving this?". Nothing more, nothing less. In some of the work I do I operate on a strict need-to-know basis (with respect to myself: If I don't need to undertake action I don't want/need to know).

    It still happens, but a lot less :-)

  20. Marc K says:

    @JM: I agree about BCC.  If I'm BCC'd, it's because the author didn't want the other people on the email to know I was copied.  I'm certainly not going to ruin that by replying.

  21. Anon says:

    @Marc K @JM

    When I BCC someone, it is because I'm saying "Look at this idiotic request" or the rare "If I have something blatantly incorrect here, it is important that it be called out, but there's no reason to drag <BCC> into this hundred-email chain otherwise."

    It only takes one non-blind CC to get someone into a chain, but it takes dozens of emails for them to get out.

  22. alegr1 says:


    There are similar groups in US, who call themselves "sovereign citizens".

  23. Engywuck says:

    In germany there are several (really really small, some dozen people max) groups that claim *they*, and not the federal republic of germany are the true successor of the germany that capitulated[1] in 1945. They also claim that the USA/UN/allied high council/whatever "regognized" them in their status.

    The "recognization" goes analogue to the way mentioned by Raymond: They send a letter to the institution they want to be "recognized" from with several dozen pages essentially claiming two things: "we are the REAL germany" and "if you DON'T recognize us please reply in the next <short time period>".

    Since most of the time such obviously lunatic letters maybe get a good laugh at but no response (and surely not in the set short time period) they have their "recognization": the USA/UN/allied high council/whatever didn't say they weren't, so they obviously are.

    Quite insane.

    [1] well, most (all) of these groups claim that only the Wehrmacht capitulated, not germany. Their claim derives from some obscure way that the (to them) non-capitulated government made someone their sucessor, who made someone their successor, who …. The leader of one of these groups was made "Reichspräsident" while being prisonmate to the "former" one, IIRC.

  24. Mark S says:

    It only takes one reply-all from a BCC recipient to learn never to use it again and always forward instead.

    (In other words, the BCC recipient replies to all, and in so doing unwittingly reveals that you had added them to the BCC list)

  25. Gabe says:

    alegr1: I believe the dissimilarity lies in that "sovereign citizens" think they are their own government (separate from the US), while the German groups think they are the *real* German government.

    And when I BCC something, it's either "I think you will be amused by this" or "You should know this email was sent but need not be party to replies". I don't think I've encountered any "I want your opinion without explicitly asking for it" emails.

  26. tocsa says:


    "Just because Raymond doesn't say he hates people, doesn't mean he doesn't hate people. (BCC: Raymond Chen)"

    Because Raymond didn't reply to this one, can we assume that he hates people? :D

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