Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is the Reply-All Button Making Us Stupid?

I've taken on technology -- PowerPoint, email, Google, among others -- as making us stupid.

I think the Reply-All button, a subset of email, deserves its own shout out.

Last night, a glitch in an email distribution list from Jason Calacanis, made a lot of people stupid.

Calacanis has had a high profile career, including stints as founding editor of Silicon Alley Reporter, a founder of Weblogs, and a former Entrepreneur in Action, at Sequoia Capital. Currently he serves as the founder of Inc., and his email distribution list is his contrarian way to communicate his thoughts and influence the conversation instead of blogs. Which he says are dead.

So the glitch: somehow, people were able to respond to Calacanis' latest email -- about why we shouldn't trust Facebook (he says they're out to exploit our privacy). Perhaps the initial group of responses thought their emails would go only to Jason.

But there was that glitch.

So that everyone on Calacanis' distribution list received every single reply.

I don't blame the original responders, who might not have known their emails were hitting everyone's in box.

But some people quickly realized, and used the glitch to promote their own companies and agenda.

I think that shows initiative but also bad form; and a bunch of people responded telling the offenders -- and everyone -- that they thought it bad form. (I did not respond via the email, only on this blog.)

Then a bunch of others got upset.

And this is where the real stupidity came in.

A new wave of emails went out asking people not to spam everyone else on the list. For example, the guy who wrote, "Stop f--ing replying all you f--ng idiots." (I know it's the Internet, but my kids might read my blog.)

The folks complaining to the entire distribution list about not wanting to get spammed could have taken a better route. They had the offending spammers' email addresses; they could have just responded to the spammers directly. Instead, they hit Reply-All, and spammed the rest of us.

By definition, those people complaining by email about getting spam were also sending spam.

Making it more annoying for the rest of us who patiently waited for Calacanis to resolve the issue. (Which he has, a dozen hours later.)

I think that's incontrovertible evidence that the Reply-All makes us stupid.


Anonymous said...

I can assure you that Calacanis is FAR from being a current member of the team at sequoia capital, that is not accurate. I think he left (or more likely was asked to leave) there a while ago.

Norman Birnbach said...

Thanks, I clarified Calacanis' employment record to make it clear what his previous jobs had been.