NYU Endures “Reply-Allcalypse” with Student Emails
On Monday night, New York University sophomore Max Wiseltier sent out what was in every way an average, harmless email as a response to a message from the college’s Bursar’s office. But when he did, Wiseltier accidentally sent the email to every student on the college mailing list. All 39,979 of them.
“I was trying to forward the message to my mom, to get her input on the paperless tax forms,” explained Wiseltier, “but all of NYU was cc’ed accidentally.”
After realizing that he had hit “reply all” instead of “forward,” Wiseltier quickly tried to send out an apology email, but that only made matters worse. Wiseltier’s simple mistake quickly cascaded as the entire campus simultaneously came to the same realization: anyone could press reply-all. What would follow quickly became known as ”Reply-Allcalypse,” as NYU’s students realized that they now had the unique opportunity to troll the entire student body of their university at once.
What happened next was a torrent of emails bearing content generally reserved for Reddit, including pictures of Nicholas Cage, requests to borrow a pencil or a copy of the movie Good Burger, and people asking “would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses, or 1 horse sized duck?”
NYU Local’s tech editor, Ben Zweig, explained that the reason why this was able to occur was the result of certain departments at NYU using an outdated Listserve email system for mass emails.
“NYU uses something called E-Mail Direct for most mass emails. That system is meant for one-way emailing. E-Mail Direct does not allow for reply-alls, therefore you cannot respond to most mass emails. Several NYU departments still rely on the older, discussion-based ListManager program, however. ListManager also sends mass emails, but allows discussions (in the form of reply-alls), unless the settings are adjusted, disabling group discussions and only permitting emails from admins.”
Unfortunately, “Reply-Allcalypse” ended today after David Vogelsang of NYU’s Student Resource Center sent out a new email, stating:
“I’m the culprit behind the Lyris blunder. I was assisting the Bursar with an email message and in populating one of the SRC Listserves did not realize the list I was using was one that allowed for responses and thus the “replyallcalypse”.
This morning I deleted everyone on the list. ITS had disabled around midnight, but there were so many that responded, emails were still in the que. Thanks to ITS, the que was cleared and the listserve deleted. We are monitoring for any residual emails.
And yes, you are absolutely correct that I should have used Email Direct instead of Lyris.”