What would you write if you could send a note to 40,000 people? This week students at New York University had the chance to do just that, after an NYU sophomore accidentally discovered a bug in a school Listserv system that allowed anyone to ‘reply all’ to a generic university-wide email.
It all went down on Monday evening, when a message from the NYU Bursar’s office about IRS forms landed in some 40,000 students’ inboxes, according to Gawker. Sophomore Max Wiseltier did the natural thing and forwarded it straight to his mom with the question, “do you want me to do this?” Except he had accidentally clicked “reply all” instead of ‘forward’. He then fired off another “reply all” message saying “SORRY!!!!!!” but it didn’t matter. Pandora’s mailbox was already wide open, and, in Gawker’s words, full of college students “simultaneously realizing their power to be obnoxious.”
Some people took a while to catch on, replying all with messages like, “Sorry think you have wrong person.” Others used the opportunity to crack jokes, writing “does anyone have a pencil I could borrow?” and “does anybody want to be my friend?” One relished the chance to rant about the school’s “exorbitant tuition” and its “lazy e-mail list maintenance.” One even sent around a picture of actor Nicolas Cage. Twenty-four hours later, the emails were still coming — an increasing proportion of them angry missives like, “SHUT THE F— UP PLEASE.”
NYU Local‘s tech editor Ben Zweig tracked down the problem: apparently the antiquated program the school used to send the IRS notice allows for “reply all” unless the settings are tweaked. David Vogelsang, head of the NYU Student Resource Center, wrote to NYU Local claiming he was “the culprit” and apologizing for the snafu:
“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’… I take full responsibility for this blunder and offer my sincere apologies for the frustrating situation that was created.”
Visit Buzzfeed to get a full sampling of the emails bouncing around NYU early this week.
MORE: 25 Best Blogs 2012