Imagine working for an enormous global oil conglomerate. Now imagine you were trapped in a reply-all chain thousands of your coworkers—stretching across continents and timezones.

This morning, we got a tip from a BP employee about just such a globe-trotting, time zone-spanning reply-allpocalypse. The reply-all "OMS Navigators Users" distribution list—consisting of many hundreds of people—consumed the company for most of the day on Friday, sustained by new workers awaking hourly to the flood of emails–it was truly a global phenomenon. (Pity those poor souls whose phone alerts were pinging all through the night.)

Anyway, we got our hands on the emails from BP's first international incident of the year.

It all began with a simple request to remove a transferred employee from an email list:

Hi Shahid,

We have removed Anant Prakash from the OMS Navigator Users distribution list. Let us know if you have any concerns.

Of course, the initial sender had accidentally sent his message to the email list for, well, pretty much everyone at BP. As so often is the case, the authorities tried, uselessly, to stop the madness before it started:

Dear All,

Kindly ignore last email from navigator team. By mistake ,we sent it to all users.

But it was too late. The storm had already begun.

Please stop copying everyone please

Do we all really need to be cc'd in on this??

Some recipients, not realizing that they were on a listserv with everyone else one of the largest multinational oil corporations in the solar system, thought that perhaps someone with a similar name should have received the email. Others were under the simplistic delusion that an emailed request to be removed from the list would actually do anything.

And Im afraid you may have the wrong David Burns sorry

Similarly I think I was added to the distribution in error

I have no idea who this is and can you remove me from this email

Please remove me also.

And so on, and so forth. Soon, a backlash started:

Ok we have all been added in error and the guy who sent the original email has already recognised his mistake!

Can we all stop sending the same message!

No one heeded the request to ignore the mass email, because humans are stupid.

OK it is ignored


I don't need to be copied – I not of this forum!

Recipients tried to take the matter into their own hands. But, as those of you who have been caught in a reply-all maelstrom know, that will only end in failure and tears.


I think someone should break the chain of email and start the subject over again with the people who really should be involved.


Soon, the discussion became self-aware.

How long is this thread going to get?

I everybody who has been added by mistake obliged to CC EVERYBODY ???

CAN YOU ALL STOP SELECTING 'REPLY ALL' ...... just reply to Patsy.

Keep me in the loop please, I love this madness! :)

Things got heated.




Who on earth are all you people and why are you bombarding my inbox?

One enterprising recipient even tried to accomplish several goals at once. But as we all know, trying to get humans to listen to reason is silly.

Dear all!

Sorry for copying everyone beforehands.

.. but could everyone together just simply ignore this correspondence once and for all without requesting to delete them.

P.S. oh btw please remove me from this correspondence as well… :)))

Have great Friday everyone!!!

And so, accordingly, things got silly.

Just out of curiosity; do you have a distribution list that reads "Everyone in the world"? If so, please remove me from that list.

Thank you

Stop asking removal of your email from distribution list! It irritates people more than removal of Anant!

It IS FUN indeed!!!

Keep calm and

Keep replying All!!!

But perhaps they got too silly. Amid the continuing influx of people asking to be removed, some BP employees seemed to demonstrate a form of email Stockholm syndrome.

I missed the original email. Can you please resend it again………. THANKS………..!!!!!!!!!

Don't stop , please, keep moving


Please add Aqshin Babayev as he is missing all the email.

This is so much fun

Truly, all of BP was suffering last Friday. But soon, a beacon of hope (or at least distraction) emerged. Anant Prakash, the man whose transfer had set off the chain, had been found:


This is the Hero :

Please do not write so fast, otherwise I cannot read all of these.


To the whole BP family who have taken the time to email me today Have a wonderful weekend - I'm off to the pub.

One enterprising employee got to thinking how the group could make the whole fiasco worthwhile. And soon they had not only a rallying figure but also a goal.

As the Carpenters once sang ' Its only just begun '…….

Have just put the phone down from the Guinness people, they say another 64 replies and we have the new world record !!!

We can do this !

I think it would be a lot let hassle to re-employ Anant Prakash after all!!!!

As with every revolution, there were tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorists.


I spoke to one of the recipients of this email and I was told that there has been reply from me (David Siagian) while I have not replied the email earlier.

I suspect it is a virus that has been replying on our behalf. I think we need IT people to work fast on this issue otherwise we will spend weekend deleting these replies.

But the masses would not be swayed. They would not stop until they had heard from their messiah: Anant Prakash.

I have spoken with him!!!!!!!! Anant PRAKASH

And still, the band played on.

I should not receive any of this email. I believe I received the first one by error

[image via AP]