When NYU sophomore Max Wiseltier received an email from NYU's Bursar office last night about a new, electronic tuition form, he wasn't sure what to do so, naturally, he forwarded the email to his mom. "do you want me to do this?" was his exact response. There was one small problem, though; instead of hitting "Fwd" he clicked "Reply all," accidentally sending the message to all 39,979 NYU students on the list.
Wiseltier quickly realized his mistake and reply all'd again, writing "SORRY!!!!!! Gmail switched my reply to reply all!" At that point, of course, it was too late. The results were not unlike any corporation wide email (or party invite) in which people keep adding their "Thanks!" or additional stupid ideas, except this was 40,000 college students simultaneously realizing their power to be obnoxious. One of the emails' many recipients was NYU grad student and Buzzfeed staff writer Allison McCann, who posted some of the better emails earlier today.
There were Nicolas Cage jokes:
Inquiries about the classics:S
Then people started to get pissed:S
These were just some of the better ones Buzzfeed received; there were thousands and thousands of others.
NYU Local's tech editor Ben Zweig explained the initial problem:
"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."
An NYU Student Resource Center employee, David Vogelsang, was responsible for the mishap. Vogelsang wrote into NYU Local earlier today:
Hi everyone - 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.
I take full responsibility for this blunder and offer my sincere apologies for the frustrating situation that was created.
NYU Student Resource Center
As for Wiseltier, the kid who started it all, it turns out he's a Computer Science minor, a fact which he now finds "a little ironic given my flop."