Last night some enterprising spammer started sending mail to a distribution list (DL) at Microsoft. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue since most DLs don’t accept mail from addresses outside the company. Older DLs, however, often haven’t had this setting turned on. Now, there’s nothing especially remarkable about spam email, but when it occurs with a large DL, it arms one of the most entertaining corporate behaviors… the "me too" mail bomb.
There a few things you can do when getting an unwanted email:
- Delete it, move on
- Contact the DL owner, ask them to fix the issue
- Point out the problem by sending a mail to everyone on the alias
The first option is easy, but unsatisfying for most. The second option is effective, but requires work (and work is hard). The third option is useless, since most everyone else on the DL is in the same boat as you.
While it’s useless, the third option, when it happens on a big DL, is also frequently hilarious.
Here’s the basic sequence of events:
- Someone sends an off topic mail to a large alias
- Other members of the alias reply-all to the mail to commiserate, or offer a helpful solution
And then the fun starts
- A different set of alias members get upset about the off topic mail, and they reply-all… telling people not to reply-all
Once a DL reaches a critical size it will have a good cross section of the employee population. This is important because you need enough personality types to play the roles in the three steps above. I’d really like to know the threshold for list size… but the alias last night was plenty big.
The spam mails last night were sent to a mail list with over 28 thousand employees.
Sure, I wasted some time watching the mails go by. But they were all small, I knew I didn’t have to do any work, and best of all, I got to read statements like this:
Yes. All of those mails were sent with reply all. That tickles my funny bone and jabs my irony spleen.