Once you discover an exploit in old technology, you would be a fool to ignore it. And the 40,000 students at New York University are not fools. Well… They can act the fool. It all started when the university sent out a mass email to 39,979 students offering them the chance to receive their 1098-T tax forms electronically — standard fare for university correspondence. But one student, a sophomore by the name of Max Wiseltier, when he intended to forward it to his mom with the words, “Do you want me to do this?” instead hit the Reply All button, thus inadvertently addressing nearly 40,000 students.
Upon realizing his fault, he sent a mass-apology next, but by then the damage had been done: their eyes had been opened and they were like unto gods. How to use this new awesome and terrible power?
It began innocuously enough with a response, “I believe you got the wrong person,” but soon somebody quipped, “Well this could be fun,” and that’s when the heyday began.
There were complaints, “Instead of sending me an electronic version of the 1098-T, could you send me some money so I can afford this bullshit tuition?” there we picture posts of cats and Nicholas Cage, there were requests, “Does anybody have a pencil I could borrow,” and there were calls for solidarity “I’ve never felt more a part of the nyu community. does anybody want to be my friend?” Most of all there were posts that ironically demanded people stop positing: “People could you kind stop pressing reply to the All button? Thank you very much!!!” “All of you. Be quiet. Now.” “SHUT THE FUCK UP PLEASE.”
Somebody broached the timeless question, “Would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses, or 1 horse sized duck?” Thousands of emails were piling up? What to do?
The man who wrought the ill must fix it.
David Vogelsand of the NYU Student Resource Center who sent the first tax-form email fessed up:
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
Tragedy had been averted, but not before many students had been severely annoyed.