The "reply-all" option is probably one of the most misused inventions of mankind. Inventions that seemed like a good idea at the time but opened a whole can of worms, e.g.: CFCs, breast enhancements, Duckworth-Lewis Rule, polythene bags, etc.

On September 11, 2006, a sociology student at the University of Michigan posted an invitation for a "Ladies Bible Study". Quoting from a quote in the original email - Who Can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies?

The mail might not have been such a bad idea, but sending it to almost every single listserv on campus certainly turned out to be not such a good idea. The email probably went out to atleast 10,000 students who were members of some listserv or the other. While the student can hardly be blamed for the umpteen nincompoops who hit (mercy me!) the 'reply-all' button asking to be (guess) taken off the list and then the bigger unsolicited guardians-of-the-flame who replied to all asking people 'DO NOT HIT REPLY-ALL'.

This soon snowballed into a 2-week 'mail storm' which has not abated. It did bring out a number of parallel threads which involved jokers, anonymous annoying personalities and the administration to vent their anger against the church, the First Amendment and stupidity of Arts Majors. Yesterday, some bright spark designed a T-shirt to commemorate the event which reads "DO NOT REPLY ALL!" at the back.

Since this whole episode can be an interesting study of public response to such provocation, my friends and I created a wikipedia article this morning presenting the entire episode and its various flavours on Wikipedia (where else?). Already, there is a request to have the page marked for deletion. So while it lasts, check out Ladies Bible Study


Update: It's official the article has been now deleted. The discussions are very interesting. Democracy in action!


Ashutosh said...

That's pretty hilarious, and also the 'how a mail storm begins' chart. I am actually finding it really funny that the article's slotted for deletion! But this is also a common occurence. Once or twice, I have hit the reply button and not the reply-all, but still because the mail was from the list, the reply naturally goes to the list. Surprising how people don't think before hitting buttons!

Hirak said...

The article has created a storm among the Wikipedians. There are the purists and then there are others who want more latitude in the definition of what is an encyclopedia.

Anonymous said...

Thats a hilarious incident ! Too bad the Wikipedia article is up for deletion, it is an entertaining read...particularly the "Socio-scientific classification". It is like the academic equivalent of the "Star wars kid"

Anonymous said...

Enough "latitude in the definition of an what is an encyclopedia" and Wikipedia ceases to become useful as anything more than a giant collection of stuff someone thought was interesting. Which is also interesting, and perhaps useful as entertainment, but not even close to an encyclopedia. (Besides, it's been done before.) Notice how yours is the only blog that talks about this? Notice how not even the Daily wrote a story about it? That's why Wikipedian "purists" want to delete your article.

Hirak said...


It has ceased to be "my" article. It's a collaborative effort.

I agree that the some edits were frivolous, but the whole incident does not need to be dismissed.

It's a pity that the Michigan Daily did not publish the story. Given all the trash that they publish does the Daily's validation or not really count?

PS: I would appreciate if you used your name or a moniker, and not signed off as an anon.