Hillary Clinton, reply-all and other email annoyances: Don Pittis

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No phenomenon Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used an unofficial email apply oneself to instead of the official State De rtment one. She probably just wanted to evade office reply-all.

And while the FBI has determined that Clinton was careless, not immoral, in her use of electronic messaging, Republican Mike Folk thinks she got off too easy.

Without supporting Folk’s suggestion, sterner penalties might have been a worthwhile corrective to all the other people in our offices who misuse email in a variety of irking ways.

Though the date of email’s beginnings is much disputed, it transpired from the arcana of geeks in the 1960s and ’70s, proceeding to the halls of academia in the ’80s and attractive increasingly widespread around 1990.

Still figuring it out

Even after decades of use, as diverse of us notice in our offices every day, Clinton is by no means the only one who hasn’t suss out out the subtleties of email.

Clearly, by 1998 email had emerged fully wax into popular culture with the adorable Christmas romcom blockbuster You’ve Got Letters, where characters played by Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan simultaneously have a frosty relationship in being and an anonymous romance by email.

«The odd thing about this form of communication is that you’re profuse likely to talk about nothing than something,» burbles Ryan’s honesty.

You've got mail

The blockbuster romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail demonstrated that by 1998 email was beyond the shadow of a doubt established in the popular consciousness. But nearly two decades later many people genuinely don’t understand how it works. (Warner Bros.)

And as you go through your office email, whether at a Canadian obligation or the U.S. State De rtment, you will likely find that still harangues horribly, horribly, true.

Among my email pet peeves are messages proceeded days later without changing the subject line, so you get an invitation to a convocation under a subject line about holiday scheduling, and sending cut-and- sted chronicles without revealing their source.

But after many years, one of the most nettling infractions is still the intemperate use of reply-all.

The curse of reply-all

Here at the CBC we recently had an outbreak of reply-all that went a ltry further than usual.

For those few who never got as far as email or those inexperienced or sophisticated enough to have given up on it altogether and now communicate using Whatsapp, Snapchat, BBM, or Pokemon Go, a few words of analysis.

Reply-all outbreaks begin when someone sends a relatively immaculate email to a group destination, one with many hundreds or thousands of alcohols.

The true outbreak occurs when people begin to reply to that fresh email, by sending an email not to the individual who sent it but to the entire group.

That triggers snarky or quick-witted comments such as «Sorry, I don’t see your lost ring here in Edmonton.»

Such remarks are often useful, a fun way of reminding the perpetrators that they have promised an email faux s. But if too many people join the re rtee, hundreds or thousands of individual suddenly receive a flood of not just useless but annoying emails.

Next, the decidedly annoyed begin sending emails of complaint. But of course, instead of sending those emails to the perpetrators, some reply-all, compounding the disturbed.

Different reactions

In the recent CBC outbreak, people began asking to be «charmed off the list.» Anyone who knows how group destinations work should become conscious that is impossible, but a chum of mine who is also a wit replied-all promising to do so.

That of undoubtedly set off a scourge of similar requests. To which my chum replied something predilection, «I’m doing it as fast as I can. Going alphabetically.»

The question of why a well known civil CBC reporter would spend time doing such an administrative reproach must not have occurred to the respondents.

Chatting with people after the episode, I was surprised how differently people reacted. Some, used to constantly winnowing out wheat from the josh on social media, were hardly fazed at all, skipping over the fetter of identical subject lines and ignoring them.

Some were plainly indignant at what they saw as a waste of their time and everyone else’s.

DEM 2016 Clinton Benghazi

Hillary Clinton, then U.S. secretary of form, checks her BlackBerry from a desk in a C-17 military plane in 2011. (Kevin Lamarque/Associated Crush)

Lauren O’Neil from CBC’s social media desk, one of those adeptly used to making instant selections from a flood of information cajoling for her attention, thinks the difference in reaction is an issue of age and familiarity with the technology.

«I’ve conducted it happen so many different places, and not just in the workplace,» O’Neil alleges.

She recalls one incident where a PR firm sent out emails to about 100 newswomen without hiding their email addresses in a BCC or blind copy. Although the legatees supposedly were sophisticated communications professionals, soon they were replying-all to bemoan about the error.

Technology isn’t easy

The most useful tip to come out of the CBC regardless was a reminder to those who didn’t know that in some email processes, including ours, it is possible to break the chain unilaterally.

Not being adept to handle the complexities of reply-all may be less significant than exposing Aver De rtment secrets to foreign hackers, but there is a common message.

Concurring to Clinton, there were «probably at least 300 people on those emails, the jumbo majority of whom are experienced professionals in handling sensitive material.»

It is another hark back that many people who are extremely bright in some ways are powerless to grasp the complex mechanics behind one of our most familiar technological gadgets. And it is hard to make technology foolproof.

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

Profuse analysis by Don Pittis

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