It started with a blank email, sent out by a random person and copied to a large number of press-related addresses.
“PLEASE UNSUBSCRIBE,” The enigmatic subject line trumpeted. A few minutes later, someone shot a helpful question, asking if the original sender had been looking to unsubscribe from an Extension Media publication. This, of course, was quickly followed by puzzled requests to be removed from the email chain, a few groans and amused foreshadowing of the upcoming catastrophe.
The minutes ticked on. As more people awoke and looked into their swelling inboxes, the replies began to pile up.
“HOW DID I GET HERE AND HOW DOES IT STOP”
“Everyone just stop replying all and this will send.”
“I DON’T KNOW ANY OF YOU!!!!!!”
Responses from the many recipients, all members of either technology or video games-oriented media outlets, seemed evenly split between quiet irritation and mounting, impish glee.
“A PR list that accepts any email address without validation and lets anyone spam everyone on the list? That’s just fantastic. Great job, sandboxr.”
“So I can’t believe the great timing here but I wanted to let you all know about a great opportunity. I’m currently sitting on a huge lump sum of cash (give or take $250,000) that i can’t get out of an account without first transferring it to someone else. All I need is your bank account numbers and your SSN and you’re all good to go. Of course, I can’t let you keep all the money but how doest 200k sound? Let me know if any of you guys are interested.”
“Get me off the list please.”
“I love you all please don’t stop posting messages in this thread this is the closest thing to human contact I will have today”
And in spite of cries for all involved to stop hitting that damn “reply all” button, the original email thread proved relentless. By the end of the first hour, the chain had undergone rampant agamogenesis, splitting like the heads of the mythical Grecian Hydra.
The recipients continued growing more irreverent, more irritable.
“I miss my parents.”
“Oh, wow. iJustine is here? Now’s my chance to ask her out.”
“Anyone want to check out my résumé?”
“Blocking every single email address in this message. this is beyond ridiculous and highly unprofessional.”
“Keep calm, and have a pint.”
Sometime during the last three hours, a representative from Sandboxr, the 3-D printing company whose list of press contacts apparently started the whole mess, showed up. The company promised an end to the insanity, which had at that point made its transition onto Twitter in the form of a hashtag: #replyallnightmare.
We apologize!! We will ensure this never happens again. We are working on it!
— Sandboxr (@sandboxr) February 3, 2014
But nothing good lasts forever. Three hours after the initial onslaught, the chaos is slowly trickling away, marked only scattered tweets about why the news cycle was just that much slower today.
Photo via ~jah/Flickr