Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Spamalot (Rather, a Lot of Spam)

A 7-year-old girl with cancer. What could be sadder than that? Who wouldn’t want to help if they could? Especially if all they had to do was simply forward an email to 50 million of their closest friends? But, contrary to popular gullibility, uh, opinion, you can’t. Really. Need more information to back up my claim? OK, try looking here. Go ahead. I have time.

Had a look? OK. Now I’ll be the first to admit that there are numerous (‘numerous’ being somewhat of an understatement in this case) such urban legends and other similar tripe flying about from inbox to inbox these days. So why did I pick this one? Because this is the one that caused the huge email firestorm at work today.

I can't remember exactly what time it came through, but it was very early in the day, likely in the 8:30 am range (of course by then I'd been at work for two hours, but others come in later than I do). Somebody had gotten the "Amy Bruce" email from someone else outside our company and decided that it was worthy of forwarding ... to the entire company distribution list. This despite well published rules against using work computer resources for this type of thing.

Why did he do it? I don't know. I don't even know him. But maybe he was hooked by the part of the subject line that said "(This is local!)". A quick look through the email trail revealed that "local" in this case was reported to be somewhere in Kansas. Kansas doesn't even border Tennessee. How local is that?

But regardless of his reason, the response was quick and multiple. My personal response was to delete it, but the first "Reply to All" response that went out was actually in the right spirit. The respondent quickly pointed out that the message was indeed spam and that folks should, in the future, refrain from forwarding such useless drivel. Well that was all well and good, but then came a cascade of further responses in rapid succession. Some were pleas to "Please remove me from this type of distribution", which they of course sent to everyone in the company. Some were brutal assaults on the mental capabilities of the original forwarder, which were of course sent to everyone in the company. Then came the attacks on the "pleaders" and "assaulters" for sending their responses to everyone in the company. These were naturally sent to, you guessed it, everyone in the company.

In the space of about five minutes there were 14 messages that came into my inbox that were all related to the original spam. I would have found it amusing, except that it slowed my system down and even locked up the computer of the guy across the hall from me for a few minutes. That plus the time it took for me - and everyone else in the company - to identify and delete the plethora of mishapen missives. I do wonder how much wasted money that represents.

The IT department finally weighed in with a terse reminder that computer resources were not to be used in such ways and that the company has its own department which handles sending out well-screen company-wide announcements.

One thing I do wonder about, though. I only saw the responses that went back out company-wide. I wonder how many responses the perpetrator got from people who hit "reply" instead of "reply to all" to dress him down? I'm guessing that number is rather high. I'd also guess he got a personal note from IT about the whole brouhaha and his part in it. I wonder if he's crawled back out from under the nearest rock yet?

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