back to article NHS IT bod sends test email to 850k users – and then responses are sent 'reply all'

A test email sent by accident to 850,000 NHS workers has caused utter chaos after being sent from an apparently incorrectly configured* email distribution list. The sender, whom The Register will identify only as R, sent the blank message with a subject line that simply read "test" to a distribution list called …

  1. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Well, at least it was done by an IT profesional and not a dumb user !!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm seeing more and more posts like this on el reg that take the side of the user.

      The thing is, nobody but you has even made the IT dept vs User comparison. It doesn't make sense here?

      I've made a separate post, but I actually have IT experience in the NHS...

      All dist lists were managed by a manager or clinical lead. The actual IT function was merely dictated to by staff

      I felt lonely then pushing back against 'testing' a dist list, and I doubt the culture has changed.

      Everyone, be it a user or especially IT staff, could do with understanding the logic behind email.

      I would like to know if the person implicated was following orders....

      NHS culture suggests they won't be going anywhere though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Restrictions?

        Where I used to work they imposed restrictions on the use of the "all" mailing list after an employee used it to express an ethical conflict with a bonus scam scheme. Naïve or not, it was relatively well formulated, but the next day that email had magically vanished from every mailbox in the company as if it never existed (except from my machine because I dumped it in print :) ). I heard later that he was marched off the premises but I wouldn't feel sorry for him - I'll get to the why later.

        From that moment on, the "all" mailbox could only be used by a restricted set of people. Not that it mattered much, to entertain myself on the last day I was working there I dumped the list of all the department mailing lists and did one leaving email which copied in all those lists, in effect bypassing the restrictions on "all" just to show how pointless it was. Thanks to the "read" flag I attached I could see that I'd managed to get my email read by over 85% of the company, and that included 3 separate hits by the CEO :).

        Oh, that employee? He went on to become a multi-millionaire. Well worth the exit IMHO :)

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Re: Restrictions?

          > Thanks to the "read" flag I attached I could see that I'd managed to get my email read by over 85% of the company, and that included 3 separate hits by the CEO

          Which is why I strip all receipt request headers at the mail server.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Can any one of you thumbs down people explain WHY you voted me down?

        If not I'm taking my moral victory :)

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
          Headmaster

          "Can any one of you thumbs down people explain WHY you voted me down?"

          The question mark at the end of the second paragraph; El Reg grammar pedantry is legendary.

          Honestly, you didn't get the joke and provided an incoherent response in a whiny tone. I didn't down vote you but you deserved them all. Be informative, be funny, or advance the conversation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Did you miss the rest of my post where I gave insight into the NHS and how to look at this properly?

            Sod you all, I'm right, you're wrong. :)

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ Brewster

            I'm afraid I can't take your (smaller text) criticism at all seriously when after the first, throwaway line, which is valid if admittedly not "with" the joke, I go through my NHS experience.

            Which, oddly, got upvotes elsewhere in this very thread..

            I strongly suspect bandwagon jumping and not reading the full post. Your loss, not mine. It was informative and advanced the conversation. Sorry it wasn't a lame slice of sarcasm.

            Goodbye, anyway. I have better things to do than be downvoted for not laughing at crap jokes :)

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: @ Brewster

              Um, I didn't downvote you, but you just realise that he more you question it, the more you'll get!

              As for your message, it was written very confusingly, but what I could get out of it was that you felt it necessary to pompously "show off" to a bunch of techie readers, on a techie site, that when you worked for the NHS, it was the unit managers who actually had a say in what they used their computers for.

              The bit about them not taking IT advice is valid, but you just "authoritatively" told us something that 90% of us have experienced, and the other 10% could have guessed anyway.

              Oh yeah, it bugs me too when people put question-marks on sentences that aren't questions? :-)

              Anyway, no offense intended, (really) - I'm sure you're a nice guy, but you did keep asking for a response!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Can any one of you thumbs down people explain WHY you voted me down?

          Yes, of course I can. Why?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            DrLifecandy: Can any one of you thumbs down people explain WHY you voted me down?

            If you have to ask this question, then that explains the down votes.

            Alternatively, of the (current) 111 comments, 14 (yes FOURTEEN) are from you. That might be called "putting yourself out"...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Baaahh

          They won't let me down vote you twice ?!? Spoil sports

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I upvoted you to provide some much needed balance.

          * An up vote does not imply agreement in all cases

    2. herman Silver badge

      MS Exchange?

      I'm amazed that MS Exchange can handle that many users and mails. At least, since it uses a database back-end, it didn't replicate the messages 80 * 1.2 million times.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: MS Exchange?

        I wonder if that is the biggest email deployment in the world that isn't an ISP or webmail provider?

        In the list of world's largest employers:

        US Department of Defense[sic] That one could be larger, but they are spread over loads of .mil and .gov domains, so maybe each one has a separate email service? Also, I don't know if all the regular squaddies have email addresses.

        People's Liberation Army Again, the regular squaddies probably won't have email addresses.

        Walmart The likes of asda.com (their UK operation) will presumably be on a separate email service, and checkout operators, shelf stackers, warehouse operatives, cleaners and so on probably won't have email addresses.

        McDonalds Only the largest if you include the employess who work for franchises, and the burger flippers probably won't have email addresses.

        NHS is 5th on the list. Just over half the employees are admin staff, and they will all have email addresses. The clinical staff and most maintenance staff will also need to use email. That leaves the likes of the cleaners, hospital porters and catering staff who maybe don't need email.

    3. asdf Silver badge

      made me laugh

      I got a chuckle out of the BBC article showing a tweet of someone congratulating someone else for telling the original poster about the email going to everyone but doing so also with a reply all and a read receipt request as well. Sure that person really thought they were helping matters.

    4. Warm Braw Silver badge

      at least it was done by an IT profesional

      Well, the article refers to ICT staff. In my experience, they're a very different kettle of fish...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Well, the article refers to ICT staff. In my experience, they're a very different kettle of fish..."

        Yup, it means they work in Government or education.

  2. Whitter
    Boffin

    Not a bad test

    Not a bad test, the actual test being "Have we implemented sensible limits on the number of recipients in to/cc/bcc fields?"

    Sadly the result was "Fail".

    1. serendipity

      Re: Not a bad test

      Oops!

      I suspect alcohol intake of said "senior associate ICT delivery facilitator" is going to exceed NHS guidelines this evening;

      Good day at the office darling? Give me that damn bottle now!!!

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Not a bad test

        From the article it seems that the problem is not that they had 1.2 million users in the CC box, but that somebody created a distribution group which contained other distribution groups, which probably contained other distribution groups etc.

        The perils of making changes to things when asleep on Monday mornings or Friday afternoons...

        1. VeNT

          Re: Not a bad test

          This is why the distribution lists are supposed to be vetted

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not a bad test

            Yes, I read this an immediately recalled nestled dist lists in my own NHS time.

            It screams out 'lack of administration'.

            I mean Admin, too. Just having a service desk who maintain stuff for secretaries... No thank you

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not a bad test

            Not just vetted, but have appropriate permissions applied. e.g. "All Staff" messages can only be sent by members of the executive committee or their P.A.s.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge

              Re: Not a bad test

              A good point. Especially for the NHS and like organisations. Any risk of sending messages to every one, without really serious reasons, is an an unimaginable waste of time, and a serious risk that confidential information will get sent out to everyone accidentally.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Happy

          Re: Not a bad test

          We had this very same cock-up happen a long time ago at a company I worked at: someone in HR (of course) sent an email to every email address in the corporate directory including all groups. Our email platform at the time didn't filter for duplicate recipients, so how many mail groups you were a member of determined how many copies of the pointless HR verbiage you got.

          We did an informal correlation of number of duplicates received with position in corporate food chain. Perhaps not surprisingly, we found high correlation up to middle management; the correlation then rapidly reduced as seniority increased. Our theory, born out by experience, was that our very senior managers had little or no interest in the day-to-day happenings of the company they were running, but instead had their rose-tinted view supplied to them by more junior drones.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not a bad test

          The perils of making changes to things when asleep on Monday mornings or Friday afternoons...

          Yup. Classic PBC (posting before coffee :) ).

  3. Aqua Marina

    Just keep adding people!

    Reply to All was the bane of my life at one of the places I worked a few years ago. It got so bad I was asked if we could remove it from up high because what started off as an email conversation between 2 people, ended up going back and forth with more people added, to the point that towards the end, 30 or mo people were now in the To: / CC: field.

    There was no automated way at the time to remove or even displace it automatically without visiting each user, and making all the relevant clicks in their profile.

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: Just keep adding people!

      That is why every MS IT droid needs a Gamer Keyboard with macro keys.

  4. m0rt Silver badge

    Someone is bound to get a promotion soon ... :)

  5. Doctor_Wibble
    Facepalm

    Who needs Kournikova when you have users?

    As per subject*, this proves people-power can be just as effective as automation!

    Or we add an 'are you sure?' to the reply-all function so we can pretend something was done about it when we know full well that most users will just click 'yeah whatever' like with every other prompt**.

    * complete with only-for-old-people reference

    ** did this once, had a lucky escape, but the memory of those moments of shtshtshtfufufu-phew won't ever go away

  6. David_H

    Very slow at the best of times

    As we have limited mobile signal at work, my wife, who works at an isolated doctor's site, used to occasionally send me an email to get milk on the way home, or more importantly pick up a child.

    The mails from the NHS are always delayed by an hour or two, but the worst we have seen is 9 days - 7 within the NHS servers and then 2 when my companies system threw a wobbly (presumably as the email was so old). For important and time critical communication they have to revert to printing the email and faxing an image!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. wolfetone Silver badge

    In a previous life I had to inform volunteers who used the IT systems of the charity I worked for that if they had to send an email to over 5 people (which is very common within this charity) they shouldn't put all the recipients emails in to the To: field or the CC: field, and if they could they should put them in the Bcc: field instead.

    I had this one thick (as in deliberately obtuse) person flat out say she wouldn't do what I told her to do. In front of 20 other people. I asked her why, she said she didn't want to. I ask her why again (two can be obtuse as well dickhead) and she repeated her answer. I ask her 2 more times and she fires up "Oh my God I told you already why do you keep asking the same question!?". I answered "Imagine now that was an email you sent to 200 people, all of their emails in the CC field, and every one of those recipients hit Reply All asking you why you didn't use the Bcc field and why everyone now has their email address, and why can they see everyone's reply".

    She looked fairly stupid, especially with the 20 other people sat around looking either a bit awkward at her dumbness or smiling that she had hung herself with her own dumbness.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wonder what the logic behind your two down votes is?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I wonder what the logic behind your two down votes is?

        That same user and all of their friends?

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. fruitoftheloon
        Happy

        @DrLifeCandy

        ...flawed...

      4. Gareth 7

        probably because the NHS.net distrubution list hid the recipients just like a BCC

        So this wasn't at all like the problem reported.

        The problem in this case was that there was an NHS.net distribution list with 1.2 million email addresses in it in the first place that anyone in the NHS could send an email to.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or how about next time instead of being an unprofessional dick, you just gently let her know that distributing others' personal details without their permission is a data protection act breach, not to mention being terribly impolite.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How about you post without AC? You've been haunting here a lot just tossing out anti - IT sentiments.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          OK, I'll bite ...

          What is an anti-IT sentiment? Is "IT" now some kind of minority group that needs protection from persecution by anti-IT bigots (who probably read dreadful newspapers and vote for even worse)? And is there a way of distinguishing one Anonymous Coward from another that allows "IT" people to know when it is the same anti-IT bigot repeatedly posting the Wrong Kind of sentiment?.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This was definitely caused by a very poorly configured dynamic distribution list, being that that function is now no longer available....

    DDL's were only made available 6 weeks ago or so, I'm amazed it's taken this long for the 'reply to allpocalypse' to happen.

    I'm told the offending list has been deleted, but *a lot* of people replied to all to it before it was removed - the system is choking on the backlog

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Watch someone forget about this and set up a different dist list doing the same thing.

      The only solution is knowledge.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The ability to create a new Dynamic Distribution List is currently disabled.

        That's not to say an existing DDL couldn't be modified to create another NHSmail 'dirty bomb', but I'm not stupid enough to try it.

      2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
        Trollface

        The only solution is knowledge

        A better solution involves a cattle prod, a roll of carpet, a shovel and some lye.

        Beer is also a solution.

        1. PNGuinn
          Headmaster

          Re: The only solution is knowledge

          That's a helluva lot of work just to make some soap. Did you mean lime?

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Re: The only solution is knowledge

            Pretty sure lye does the job, forgot the large volume of polythene as well.

  9. adam payne Silver badge

    I'm thinking that the Senior Associate ICT Delivery Facilitator will be having a few meetings with higher ups to explain how you can mess up the setting up /editing of a simple email distribution group.

    Well either that or everybody takes the piss out of the person for the next couple of months and then someone brings it back up every now and again just so that everybody doesn't forget.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The word Facilitator is almost certainly a giveaway that this is a low position.

    2. Sam Haine

      This is NHS IT. Nothing will happen at all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        This is NHS IT. Nothing will happen at all.

        It can't be a coincidence that NHS IT is only one character away from NO SH*T, and that specific character is pronounced as "Oh"..

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
          Headmaster

          No, it can't be, because there is a transposition required as well.

  10. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Richard 26

      Re: And now for...

      A typical case, whom we shall refer to as Ms R, although her real name is this:

      Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And now for...

          Too obscure - I searched on the name and the first couple of pages didn't come up with anything useful or enlightening so I guessed it was some 'in' joke from some film I had never seen (plenty of those) but it's hard to tell if the 'coat' icon is being used as "gets coat" or "scarpers".

          So from me you got a GODOY, 'Grand Old Duke Of York', neither up nor down.

  11. Keith Langmead

    Only 70 or 80 people

    Am I the only one surprised and a little impressed that only 70 or 80 out of 1.2 million people hit reply all!?! With that many recipients I'd have expected far more, unless the techs managed to nip it in the bud quickly enough to block some of the other replies.

    1. Natalie Gritpants

      Re: Only 70 or 80 people

      Thiose 70 are the ones who's reply-all have gone through, the other 10000 are sitting in outboxes waiting for the email server to come back on line.

    2. CustardGannet
      FAIL

      Re: Only 70 or 80 people

      I've currently had 81. But the latest ones were from around 0930 (3.5 hours ago) so there may still be hundreds - if not thousands - more emails from retarH^H^H^H^H^H^H baffled people coming my way.

      What's most ridiculous is that the original didn't even ask recipients to do anything, it just said 'test' in the subject, and a person's email signature.

      The strongest muscles in my body are quickly becoming the ones that I use to roll my eyes.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Only 70 or 80 people

        For those on the inside, my Spiceworks install created the now infamous "899" response to the original unsolicited mail. Server was taken offline as soon as the flood was discovered, we've seen far in excess of 2K responses so far.

        It's been popcorn in this cinema time since about 10h00...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Only 70 or 80 people

          You actually use Spiceworks?? You deserve all you get.

          1. Robert Baker
            Joke

            Re: Only 70 or 80 people

            "You actually use Spiceworks?? You deserve all you get."

            I'll tell you what he wants, what he really really wants... shooting. ;-)

    3. caffeine addict Silver badge

      Re: Only 70 or 80 people

      How many of those replies just read "STOP HITTING REPLY ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

      Possibly in 50pt lime green comic sans.

  12. gw0udm

    Wasn't clear to begin with

    I saw this starting early this morning but it was already too late to do anything about it.

    I think some of the early repliers could be forgiven, as it was not at all clear from looking at the original test email what had happened. It was from 'R' and simply contained the innocous 'CroydonPractices' in the cc field, and so one might easily have assumed you had be included by mistake. Given the size of the NHS address book this is pretty common, as most of us have namesakes around the NHS somewhere with very similar addressess (eg I have an alter ego who is a radiographer, and I used to get emails about scout group meetings and all sorts of things intended for someone else with the same name).

    It was only after an hour or so that it became clear what had happened, when the number of puzzled replies began to ramp up. I did send a 'please do not reply all to this email' early on so I have probably ultimately not helped, but at that point it was not clear how widely it had gone.

    Really one should not be able to include so many addresses in a mailing list, and no doubt we will see such a measure coming in now. This is one of the perils of such a large internal email system with a single address book which has probably not received sufficient attention up to now.

    1. Blotto Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Wasn't clear to begin with

      @ gw0udm

      ah.. so your one of those guys that insists on sending the don't reply to all replies to all.

      someone somewhere always has to have the last comment

      1. gw0udm

        Re: Wasn't clear to begin with

        Yeah... and now I'm kicking myself.

        I thought it might just dissuade people but had I known the scale I would have kept it to myself. As above thought it was just a few people to start with.

        Lesson learned!

    2. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Wasn't clear to begin with

      Your wrong email problem would be improved if someone had come up with a standard naming policy. My wife receives email intended for some high up in the NHS. Only difference in the address is the '.' between first and last name.

      This stuff was sorted 15 years ago, shouldn't happen any more.

      Few subdomains would help too - everyone, even external users, are on the same nhs.net.

    3. Captain DaFt

      Re: Wasn't clear to begin with

      How nineties.

      These days the correct response is to post the offending email on twitter with the hashtag: #pleasedonotreplyalltothisemail!

      (He said with tongue firmly in cheek)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, the UK population has doubled?

    1.2 million is nearer 2% of the population, currently estimated to be around 65 million people.

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: So, the UK population has doubled?

      You under counted the Travellers, Sirians and Afhanis by about 6.5 million...

      1. Robert Baker
        Alien

        Re: So, the UK population has doubled?

        "You under counted the Travellers, Sirians and Afhanis by about 6.5 million..."

        Sirians? So we're now getting immigrants from a planet of Alpha Canis Majoris as well? :-)

  14. Rogue Jedi

    since when is 1.2 million people 1% of the UK population?

    The UK population is about 67 million, so the 1.2 million figure is 1.7% and therefore much closer to 2% than 1%

    unless of course about 43 million people have entered the UK in the last few months

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Joke

      43 million people have entered the UK in the last few months

      It was refreshing having a discussion forum that didn't mention Brexit, then you had to bring it up...

    2. nematoad Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: since when is 1.2 million people 1% of the UK population?

      "...unless of course about 43 million people have entered the UK in the last few months..."

      Shh, don't tell the Brexiteers. They might have a breakdown and do something silly.

      Wait, what am I saying?

    3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: since when is 1.2 million people 1% of the UK population?

      That will be tomorrows Daily Mail Headline

      43million Immigrants swamp the UK since BREXIT.

      All an EU Attempt to stop BREXIT

      Invoke Article 50 NOW

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not all the numpties work with 'R'

    Our smart IT department has decided that this is a phishing exercise designed to pillage our contact lists and put a big warning on the Trust intranet front page. Didn't think so myself after looking through the source of the original message: Hanlon's Razor applies yet again.

    Anonymous for obvious reasons.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Predictable?

    A long time ago, the place I was working had a 3 day mail outage. I doubt any trust would have one that long nowadays. But a national system? This could be longer.

    The whole thread will be made up of "important" people complaining that they are getting confusing emails and want it to stop. Then other important people complain about that one. Return to start...

    This could be a good thing as it might help prevent the centralisation that the NHS.net will become.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Predictable?

      A long time ago, the place I was working had a 3 day mail outage

      Also a long time ago, when widespread corporate email was still a "new thing" and not everyone in the company had access to a computer, let alone an email address, the mail systems of the group I worked for were connected using 28k8bps dial-up modems, which dialled on demand - direct to the appropriate receiving modem (none of this send-it-via-the-internet stuff).

      Somebody decided to send an everyone-on-the-system email, announcing a new launch (or maybe it was just a logo change) and had scanned, in 32bit colour, a black-and-white logo which came to a total of around 10MBytes.

      Bearing in mind that the "mail server" was a re-purposed 286 with 512kB memory and a 40MB hard drive, and that in those days a typical desktop computer was a 386 with 2MB or a 486 with 4MB and that one poor secretary had (IIRC) a 286 with 1MB and a 20MB HDD (yes, just about enough room for WfW3.11 and a basic Office installation), there were some people who actually got control of their computers back by lunchtime, but others had to wait until the next day.

      I had to run around the building warning people to delete that message and not to open it; the amount of page-file thrashing that ensued tied the computers up for another hour... well for a long time, anyway. Not that long waits were uncommon with MS Mail.

      I don't think there were any serious effects on that particular manager, but a later send-to-all email, which was a simple 2kB text email containing a slightly "off" joke did result in disciplinary action I believe, and an edict that nobody should ever send-to-all again.

      M.

  17. AMBxx Silver badge
    FAIL

    Exchange not Outlook

    One's an email server, the other an email client - this stuff isn't difficult.

    BTW, default reply option on Outlook Web Mail is Reply All. No idea if you can change it, but I don't have 1 million users!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Exchange not Outlook

      I am not as familiar with other OWAs but the NHS one is currently offering me 4 options with nothing set to default.

      Delete - Reply - Reply All - Forward

      I suspect someone is looking very hard at that "Reply All" option and considering what can be done about it.

      In fact, as I read left to right, I see the Reply option before the fateful Reply All. People who choose it are not picking the first option. They are picking one that is more strident.

  18. Tatsky
    Joke

    Speak to Hillary

    She can setup email apparently, and she is looking for work.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Speak to Hillary

      Yawn. Leave your political jokes at the door please.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Speak to Hillary

        Yawn. Trump fans thumbing me down. :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Speak to Hillary

          See? :)

        2. find users who cut cat tail
          Facepalm

          Re: Speak to Hillary

          > Trump fans thumbing me down.

          Funny how someone seeing everything through partisan glasses (because everyone liking the joke must obviously be a Trump supporter, right?) asks others to `leave your political jokes at the door please'.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Speak to Hillary

            Even funnier that none of those downvotes bothered to deny it.

            I mean, you just Teflonned me - you didn't deny it either!

            But for the record, there has been an influx of negative AC posters since the US election, who I've had a few run ins with.

            I just think a significant part of this site's newer membership is the emboldened, negative bots / trolls who sling out negativity without ever actually posting.

            I can't prove or disprove that myself; I genuinely can't think of any other reasons I would get downvotes.

            1. AMBxx Silver badge

              Re: Speak to Hillary

              The whole world doesn't revolve around your grief for Hilary. Let's face it, any half-decent Democrat or Republican could have beaten Trump or Clinton by a huge margin. Jsut shows how poor they both are.

      2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Speak to Hillary

        You sir, seem to have mistaken this website for some other site.

        Here we lambast pretty much everyone, although usually from the technical point of view ("where's the IT angle") but not always as we don't want to restrict ourselves too much. Therefore we have articles pointing out holes (and making fun of) both Trump's useless website and email configuration and Clinton's personal email server.

  19. Custard Fridge
    Pint

    "Although one can never underestimate a User."

    Amen to that

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NHS email

    I have years of NHS experience though not there at the moment.

    I have vivid memories of our service desk being asked to create such dist lists.

    There were arguments in the NHS over who was allowed to dictate the members. There were arguments about IT doing it.

    I was management, I gave one of our lesser skilled deskers brief training on why dist lists containing dist lists that pointed at the original dist list.

    I think common sense was and remains in short supply. It shouldn't surprise anyone that my overriding experience of the NHS was shock at lack of knowledge.

  21. TRT Silver badge

    It's a good job that they hit return and send too soon...

    I have a copy of the full email here, it reads:

    Subject: Testicle removal surgery.

    Body: Dear sir / madam,

    I'm pleased to inform you that the surgery to remove your left testicle [delete as appropriate] has been scheduled for 23rd December 2016 at 1pm. Please indicate by reply that this date is suitable for you. You must arrive at Southampton General [delete as appropriate] at least 4 hours before the appointed time, and you are reminded not to eat [delete as appropriate] in the 12 hours preceding the appointment and not to drink [delete as appropriate] for four (4) hours preceding the appointment.

    Yours,

    Mr Ivor Nicktoor Bolokov, Senior Surgical Consultant.

  22. Dave 15

    reply all should

    Reply all should as a side effect format your hard drive if there are more than 30 people on the chain (perhaps less, I don't mind)

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: reply all should

      Fewer.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: reply all should

        You think he could care fewer?

  23. Bloodbeastterror

    It's really not rocket science

    As an ex-IT professional I worked on the principle that there are no stupid users, only poor computer systems that don't protect users from their own stupidity. Yes, I was an idealist as well as a deep-rooted cynic.

    I saw several of these email firestorms during my career at a major US institution, and on every occasion I looked at the original, thought "Dope!", just deleted it, and then sat back waiting for my imbecile coworkers to start with the "Please remove me".

    Apparently I was alone in just taking the simple course of deletion. Duh...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's really not rocket science

      Yeah, I've seen.. Too many.. Examples of this.

      Zen question: if a reply all goes out and nobody replies, does it even matter?

      (providing it isn't doing something stupid like going to a nestled dist lost which goes back to the original ad infinitum)

    2. Alvar
      Big Brother

      Re: It's really not rocket science

      I always wonder whether these are deliberate exercises, and those who reply are highlighting themselves as prime candidates for the next round of redundancies.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's really not rocket science

        "[...] and those who reply are highlighting themselves as prime candidates for the next round of redundancies."

        Shirley it is the first step in the middle management selection process.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: It's really not rocket science

      "As an ex-IT professional I worked on the principle that there are no stupid users, only poor computer systems that don't protect users from their own stupidity."

      This is the theory that systems should be made idotproof. Nature abhors an idiotproof system and responds by producing a new, improved idiot.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ....and they don't stop coming

    Should turn this into a drinking game. Down a shot every time a email lands in the inbox from the distribution list.

    Four emails have just landed in my inbox from this email in the past 30 seconds. I think I'd be wasted in about 30 mins.

    1. mootpoint

      Re: ....and they don't stop coming

      After a mere 240 shots? Lightweight!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having been in front of a rows of racked NHS servers at CSC data centres, they have to horsepower to handle the traffic, however it would be interesting to consider the same thing happening on a O365 account. Cost and speed implications?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      however it would be interesting to consider the same thing happening on a O365 account.

      Surely the O365 'gods' will have distribution lists that disable reply/reply all...

  26. Youngdog

    Disable Reply to All

    Why is it that those most prone to complaining about unwanted emails cluttering up their mailbox inevitably hit 'Reply to All' thus cluttering up everyone else's mailbox! An over developed sense of irony? Tragic lack of self-awareness? Or (as I suspect) is it just an unquenchable need to let other people know how busy and/or important they think they are.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Disable Reply to All

      It's the sort of situation that requires ritual humiliation.

      Back in the days of character terminals we had MOTD set to remind users to log out. Inevitably there were those who didn't so the message got amended with "This includes you, xxxxxx", edited each time we caught an un-logged out user's name. It was effective in a remarkably short space of time although we were eventually asked to remove the last offender's name.

      Maybe this is a case for an article in a newsletter explaining how it went wrong initially and then was made many times worse by the following people sending a reply to all....

      And no, they can't complain about data protection. They outed themselves themselves.

      1. Marcelo Rodrigues

        Re: Disable Reply to All

        "It's the sort of situation that requires ritual humiliation."

        Upvoted just for this. :D

  27. Commswonk Silver badge

    Obligatory Dilbert...

    http://dilbert.com/strip/1995-05-10

    Plus ça change...

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. Andre Carneiro

    Still going...

    It's still happening...

    <sigh>

    How do you forward emails to /dev/null ?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm

    Me thinks 'RL, Senior IT Facilitator' will be looking for another job tomorrow. Some words such as 'Agency', 'Vacancies' and 'Barge Pole' spring to mind.

    and they are still coming in but not as quickly now...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      "and they are still coming in but not as quickly now..."

      That's probably just the system bogging down and the servers melt and go offline.

  31. Aeia
    Facepalm

    New feature?

    Anyone spotted this on the nhs.net support page

    http://support.nhs.net/servicestatus

    In the new portal features on the 13th December they added:

    5981: Add users/contact from other organisations to a DL Distribution List owners may now add members, owner and authorised senders from any organisation, and not just their own.

    Ooops.. maybe a feature they regret adding..

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    .. slowly catching up

    Just receiving emails from 11am now from legitimate senders of legitimate emails .. including two telling me that they couldn't attend my 11am call. I would like to apologise in advance for the email they probably haven't received yet asking why if they weren't going to be on the call they hadn't sent an apology in advance.

  33. Erroneous Howard

    Reply All......

    Gotta love people who get an email, then reply all saying "I don't need to be on this email". They don't seem to understand the irony.

    1. CustardGannet
      Facepalm

      Re: Reply All......

      They'll probably have learned the hard way now : NHS staff are quite reliable at setting their 'out-of-office' assistant - so assuming that one-sixth of the NHS workforce is off work at any given time, each person who replied-all will have received about 200,000 OOH replies...

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love the ones ..

    that say "Please don't reply to all" ..

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More than 1.2 million emails

    There are actually more than 1.2 million emails clogging up the NHS email system thanks to everyone who "replied-to-all" saying "Please remove me etc....". The Guardian says 186 million. Moral? Take a deep breath, ask why this is happening and put brain in gear before hitting that send button.

  36. BagOfSpanners

    A valuable insight into human nature

    I work for a big company that recently had a reply all storm. The people who replied-all seemed to fall into a number of categories:

    1. I'm really important, why are you bothering me with this. (Don't understand what's going on.)

    2. Oh no, help! I don't know what's going on, will somebody please tell me whether this email is relevant to me. (Don't understand what's going on.)

    3. Please fill in form A34/FD and follow procedure 3004/R4 if you want this email to be actioned. (Don't understand what's going on.)

    4. Ha ha this is fun! (Understand what's going on.)

    5. Please don't reply all. (Understand what's going on.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A valuable insight into human nature

      I have sometimes been a 4 to watch things crash and burn and to make the point that this is what happens when you do not do it right.

    2. bish

      Re: 4s don't really understand

      At my place, this used to happen quite frequently. Fortunately, 'all' was only about a thousand addresses (assuming internal only - there were a couple that went out, they were a separate matter). Thing is, the COO (now departed) was a 4 on the above scale, so every couple of weeks you'd get an email from a dunce who hadn't used Bcc, swiftly followed by our most senior tech, also not using Bcc to publicly upbraid the dunce. To be fair, once nearly every one of the grunts had been humiliated, they didn't repeat their mistake, and the culture of cheerfully Ccing enormous distribution lists evaporated. But I do still have nearly 100 emails from said former COO, each with two sets of fancy schmancy signatures with graphics and social media links, clogging up my Outlook inbox (of course I could delete or archive, but I have principles). Given how few of our staff ever delete anything (we have folders last accessed over ten years ago), that's around 100,000 emails from a COO, Ccing everyone to tell them not to Cc everyone.

    3. Robert Baker
      IT Angle

      Re: A valuable insight into human nature

      "5. Please don't reply all. (Understand what's going on.)"

      That last one should be "kids themselves that they understand what's going on, but they actually don't, especially not the deep irony of replying to all to say 'don't reply to all'."

  37. TeeCee Gold badge
    Facepalm

    Seen it.

    Every time this sort of thing happens I think that the person sending the mail is probably a bit of an idiot.

    Words do not exist to describe the intelligence levels of those who feel it necessary to reply to an obvious cockup.

    Every time this happened at work, I'd get the original mail and then hundreds of variations on "Did you mean to send this to me?", all of which seemed to come across as "Baaaaaaaaa".

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: Seen it.

      The problem is not the dumb users. The problem is the dum bass who configured the mail system in such a way that this failure is possible. Any self respecting mail server should block spam - including HR spam and other idiocies like this.

  38. Anonymous IV

    "CroydonPractices"

    Surely not a distribution list but rather a collection of indictable offences?

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not long after I started where I work now (back in 98) we had a not so nice mail loop. We were a Novell groupwise shop at the time. A user left and set a forward to their new email address at a Uni and then a forward back from that account to there still active account at our site! Oh the joy email totally bombed for days and as was quite common back then Groupwise sat on our main Netware server meaning that users couldn't login either as all the servers resources were taken by groupwise.

  40. Tashritu

    Update

    NHS e-mail totally stuffed. Non functioning and fair number of "remove me from this list" reply all mails coming through in Hertfordshire. Mon pm.

  41. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Is it possible...

    ...to jump the queue by going Private?

  42. 5AC7

    Support for R

    Sounds like it wasn't R's fault after all, but a system configuration issue from NHS Digital:

    http://www.southeastcsu.nhs.uk/Pages/News/NHS-Mail-service-disruption-.aspx

    https://digital.nhs.uk/article/970/NHS-Digital-statement-on-NHS-Mail-service-disruption

  43. Commswonk Silver badge

    Not quite the same, or the same scale, but...

    Once upon a time when I worked for <bit of civil service> I had an important, and fairly urgent, need to inform users of <thing> about something. (Can't recall exactly what now; it was many years ago!) and the only way I could reach them all quickly was by sending an email to "All Users" even though it would reach perhaps 500 - 800 "non - users". With an opening sentence of "if you are not a user of <thing> then you can delete this email at once and I apologise for having troubled you" or something of the sort.

    I turned off Read Receipts, selected All Users and pressed Send. Two seconds later I got a rejection, so I walked 3 doors down the corridor to IT. "Ah; you don't have permission for that - you can have it but at your own risk".

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Back to my desk, set it all up again and pressed send. Within 10 seconds I realised my ghastly mistake; this time I had forgotten to turn Read Receipts off, and I was being bombarded with them. The bombardment was pretty intense for a couple of weeks, and some 4000 or so receipts were still coming in in ones and twos when I retired several months later, which didn't say much for the diligence with which some users checked their emails.

    If nothing else it provided some innocent amusement for the IT personnel when I recounted the tale during one of the <very senior person's> Royal Progresses round his empire. On the plus side he was quite complimentary about the original email, and was as amused as everyone else about my self - inflicted misfortune...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Not quite the same, or the same scale, but...

      "during one of the <very senior person's> Royal Progresses round his empire."

      I've been through a number of those event. The disruption they caused. All work stopped. Clear the benches so we could stand the information boards on them. Thank goodness we lost them in the fire - the boards that is; we lost the benches as well but those were replaced.

      1. Commswonk Silver badge

        Re: Not quite the same, or the same scale, but...

        I've been through a number of those event. The disruption they caused. All work stopped.

        Fortunately he wasn't that type of <very senior person>; "standing on ceremony" wasn't required. He was very much a "JFDI" type, which suited me / us quite well.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A new acronym?

    UDOS - Unintentional Denial Of Service

    or Uninformed Dimble Obliterates System

    Please choose

  45. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Headmaster

    OMFG, usage of the 'singular "they"' - ew

    Sorry I have to play grammarian fascist on THIS one:

    "had understandably turned their mobile phone off"

    it's either 'had understandably turned their mobile PHONES off' (referring to multiple people), or 'had understandably turned HIS mobile phone off' (for a single person whose actual sex is unknown, use of the MALE pronoun 'his' would be correct).

    post edit: or it could've been a 'typoe'

    1. calmeilles

      Re: OMFG, usage of the 'singular "they"' - ew

      If it was good enough for Caxton it might be time to drag yourself into the 15th Century.

      Page 39 line 3 https://archive.org/details/rightplesauntno4400caxtuoft

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: OMFG, usage of the 'singular "they"' - ew

      Bollocks. It's a perfectly acceptable and long established usage. It was nuppits who tried to rewrite English grammatical rules based on those of a different language who introduced the idea that it isn't. If thou thinkest it wrong then please explain why the plural version of second person pronoun and verb is now almost invariably used for the singular.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Add read receipts.

    According to the Beeb, someone replied all and also asked for a read receipt.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just a Facilator

    They weren't just an ICT delivery facilitator.... they were a senior associate ICT delivery facilitator. I have never known an organisation like SE CSU with so many meaningless job titles.

  48. Terry 6 Silver badge

    A special place in Hell...

    For the idiots who always use "reply all". There are plenty of these, they don't seem to get the idea that you can just use "reply". And they can be joined by the ones who seem to assume that if an email is 1-to-many their reply also needs to be 1-to-many. The common example of this is the email that asks all an "if " question, as in "If any of you can help with x please email me.." and there well be then a flood of "reply all" emails from people who don't need to answer at all, because they can't help, saying that they can't help; which can be annoying enough even if there are only a dozen or so on the original list.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A special place in Hell...

      For the idiots who always use "reply all".

      There are certain work environments where employees feel the need to document all interactions, no matter how trivial. I've witnessed conversations where one person sitting at a desk next to another will ask for details by email instead of just discussing it. These are the sort of people who default to Reply-All every single time. If something was said in an email and they need to reply, they *want* everyone in the chain to see their reply.

      It's arse covering, Highly prevalent in local government and national govt. departments so I'd not be surprised at all that the NHS was the same. It happens in the private sector too, but seems a little less prevalent there. It seems to be indicative of a toxic work environment.

    2. Robert Baker
      Flame

      Re: A special place in Hell...

      "The common example of this is the email that asks all an "if " question, as in "If any of you can help with x please email me.." and there well be then a flood of "reply all" emails from people who don't need to answer at all, because they can't help, saying that they can't help"

      Amazon Marketplace has a feature whereby anyone can ask a question about a product, and Amazon then email those who have purchased the product, asking if they can answer the question; but the dumb and poorly-thought-out aspect of this is, that there is also an "I don't know" button. I have always felt the latter to be pointless, since any moderately intelligent person can infer that I don't know the answer from the fact that I don't give one.

      To my mind, the only earthly use of this feature is that if someone asks a question about a Pink Floyd product, the "I don't know" option could be replaced with "I don't know, I was really drunk at the time".

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: A special place in Hell...

        "The common example of this is the email that asks all an "if " question, as in "If any of you can help with x please email me.." and there well be then a flood of "reply all" emails from people who don't need to answer at all, because they can't help, saying that they can't help"

        I had manger ask the group if any one had skill X. Since I did not have skill X I did not respond. She got bent out of shape that I did not respond I did not have skill X. That's why you have people responding when they should not.

  49. gh4662

    Mobile data bill

    I hope the NHS mobile data deal is a good one when staff sync their phones

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It did not need "reply all"

    That is the thing. Even just a single reply to CroydonSurgeries rather than "reply all" would continue the madness. There were a few hitting "reply all" telling people not to "reply all". It was still getting stuff when I left an hour ago.Gets Croydon on the map I suppose. Someone's going to be working a lot later than I tonight, poor buggers.

    1. Richard 26

      Re: It did not need "reply all"

      "Gets Croydon on the map I suppose."

      Sadly, Croydon is already on the map at the moment.

      1. Robert Baker
        Joke

        Re: It did not need "reply all"

        "Sadly, Croydon is already on the map at the moment."

        ...until a certain US President-Elect, who shall remain nameless, gets access to the nuke button? ;-)

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Office 365 Bcc copies addresses to everyone?

    "asking you why you didn't use the Bcc field and why everyone now has their email address,"

    When I had transferred my Demon.co.uk email to Namesco Exchange Office 365 a few months ago - I sent out an email to several contacts to inform them that my email was up again. I used Bcc as a matter of habit.

    Imagine my surprise when one of them replied saying that the email contained ALL the recipients' email addresses. I did a test using a message to my different domains - and sure enough Bcc via Office 365 was showing all the addresses to each recipient.

    Today I discovered that Office 365 had also automatically invoked something it called "de-cluttering". Basically it decided that any emails I had read - then immediately deleted - were a sign of a "clutter" email. Thereafter it silently put new instances in an IMAP "clutter" folder rather than my "new mail" folder. That clutter folder now contained most of my eBay search or watched item monitoring emails plus a few order confirmations for several months. It took a while to find how to switch it off.

    While finding the option I discovered several messages in the Admin control panel telling me that a wonderful replacement for "clutter" will be "in focus" to automatically prioritise my emails - to be rolled out this month. The messages had never been sent as emails to my POP3 folders.

    Makes me want to go back to rolling my own domains and POP3 servers.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Office 365 Bcc copies addresses to everyone?

      Bcc via Office 365 was showing all the addresses to each recipient.

      That is unforgiveable, a security risk and probably explains some of the spam I've been getting to my domain recently; I, too, use Bcc when possible / appropriate. Thanks for that nugget.

      M.

  52. Infi 1

    'Short' delay?

    "Some users have experienced a short delay in the NHS mail system this morning. Action has been taken to resolve this issue."

    By short delay, they mean the entire day that nobody in the office could access their nhs.net emails.

    Grr @ stupid admin that test sent to all, and even more grr @ pillocks that think 'reply to all' is a good idea because they're soooo important they feel the rest of the NHS absolutely MUST know how irritated they are at receiving an email that says 'test'.

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: 'Short' delay?

      "pillocks that think 'reply to all' is a good idea because they're soooo important they feel the rest of the NHS absolutely MUST know how irritated they are at receiving an email that says 'test'."

      "Test" as the message was (and is) a bad idea for testing emails.

      Should have used "Only idiots reply to this message."

  53. Rabbit80

    Bedlam DL3

    This has happened to Microsoft themselves before.. how come they haven't found a way to detect it and stop it in Exchange?

    https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/exchange/2004/04/08/me-too/

  54. Scott 26
    Paris Hilton

    A colleague did something similar, but only to 3,000 external email addresses (from a .govt.nz address), but he had the added bonus of instead of "test", he typed "testes"

    damn, no ball icon.

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone remember "me too"

    Short story: Happened at MS in the 90s - one idiot sent to all, another replied all to be removed from dlist, every other muppet then said "me too" and replied to all. Chaos ensued - tee shirts celebrating "me too" we're worn...

  56. ShadowDragon8685

    So, are we going to see 2016 include the first indictment for Grand Spamming, to boot?

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Useless Support

    The Helpdesk for NHS Mail is based in India. A friend's response to a call to them when the problem started resulted in a suggestion that there was a problem with the ISP and that they should email in a screenshot of the problem. No amount of explaining that the email was down so he couldn't email in a screenshot got him anywhere. Well, at least an Indian support desk is cheap!

  58. Alec The Dalek
    Mushroom

    Anyone recall the South Pole Incident?

    Ah, happy memories. Must have been 15 or more years ago and I worked for....a certain national broadcasting company a stone's throw from Shepherd's Bush in London.

    Some secretary somewhere, bless her heart, seriously, she was going to trek across the South Pole, and all for a Good Cause.

    I think she probably asked her manager if she could "Send an email round" asking for sponsorship. And probably he said "Of course, good for you!". There followed her artful bit of shift-clicking to select the entire global address list, and a heartfelt plea sent to thousands of mailboxes.

    Not as many users as the current NHS fracas I guess, but nonetheless including everyone from Broadcast in Bristol to the Newsdesk in Nairobi.

    So it's late-shift on the User Admin service desk, the most excitement one could hope for was maybe resetting Zoe Ball's password (yes I did once).... I'm naively chuckling at this message sent to Everyone, and then I watch with dawning horror as the Reply Alls start to come in...

    It wasn't too bad at first, a few encouraging "Jolly good for you!" and "I'm in for 5 quid" replies...but when it all went south (haha) was when some Wag replied with a mocking message along lines of "Ooh, I'm so good and clever, please give me a gold star made of real gold, everyone look at me" etc.

    Then of course some right-minded folks had to upbraid him for his uncharitable (literally) attitude.

    Then some other Wags had to jump in, commend his Waggishness, and add more Waggishness of their own to the fray.

    And all Reply-All, Ad Infinitum, of course.

    Our turn-of-the-century Exchange servers had blocked queues for ...a day at least? Seemed longer at the time...

    But the Microsoft Mail servers, as I recall an email header with >256 characters simply crashed the server. That took a little longer to sort out. Probably some of those users are still waiting on their emails even today.

    For years afterwards, mention of the "South Pole Incident" would cause email admins to clutch their lunchtime pints with white knuckles and mutter something like "if that happens again I'm moving to the South Pole meself"....

  59. Tim Soldiers

    Still can't login 10:35 15/11/2015

  60. This post has been deleted by its author

  61. TonyJ Silver badge

    Which version of Exchange do they run?

    Because MS introduced Mailtips in 2007 which, if enabled and done correctly* would warn people that they're about to send an email to everyone/recipients that are on the list outside of their organisation/to a large number of recipients etc etc etc

    *Yes...I know that's a rarity for many places, not just public sector.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang on a second...

    1.5% of the UK population have an NHS email address?!

    That must be one hell of a lot of middle managers, otherwise I have no idea how we could possibly have a waiting list for anything!

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They were lucky....

    They should consider themselves lucky.

    What if the original message had been sent requesting DELIVERY confirmation back to the list?

    850k x 850k messages all hitting the system at once. Would make 3 hour delays on email look like luxury!

    Just saying.

    (Saw this on a netware system back in 1990. Nasty mess)

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