Reply-All, Microsoft and Bedlam3

I found this to be an interesting discussion and thought you might also enjoy it. You can find the original post here.

On the morning of October 14th, 1997 a Microsoft employee looked at their entry in the company Global Address List. They noticed that in addition to distribution lists for their team, their department and some social email lists, they were on a distribution list called “Bedlam DL3.” The employee was as mystified to the purpose of Bedlam DL3, or Bedlam3 as it became known internally.

They decided that they were not comfortable being on someone else distribution list. And they took the absolute worst possible action to address the issue.

To: Bedlam DL3

Subject: Why am I on this mailing list? Please remove me from it.

That doesn’t sound so bad does it? It wasn’t just bad, it was awful. Everyone on Bedlam3 got a copy of the “Please remove me” email.

Some of them hit Reply All.

Yeah, take me off too.

And that message went to everyone. And soon others were joining in.

Me too!

This is what’s known as a Reply All Storm. With Exchange 5.0 there was no way to stop it once it started.

Of course, the easiest way for it to stop it is if everyone will stop Replying All to the thread. So, several people started saying that.

Stop using REPLY ALL. You’re just making it worse.

And of course, these messages also went to everyone.

Bedlam3 generated a storm of epic proportions. It was one of four Bedlam distribution lists. Each Bedlam DL included the names of one quarter of all Microsoft employees. The Bedlam DLs were never intended to be used for email. They were set up by the IT department to map employees to Windows Server security groups, and as general catch-all groups. Bedlam3 had 13,000 names on it.

The storm quickly flooded the network and completely shut down the mail servers.

Before it was done, it’s estimated that over 15 million emails were generated in the space of about an hour.

The storm pushed 195 GB of data around the network during that hour. Most of it was messages saying “Me too” and “Stop using Reply All.

I wasn’t one of the 13,000 people on Bedlam3. So, I didn’t see my mailbox fill up with Replay All messages, but since I had to use the same email servers as everyone else, none of my mail was being routed either.

It took 2 days to clean up the mess. And, of course, this being Microsoft they had t-shirts made. The front said “I survived Bedlam3.” The back said “Me too!”