#replyallcalypse: What happens when you ‘reply all’ to 39,979 people

They’re calling it “the day NYU broke.”

Tuesday evening, 39,979 students received an email message from NYU’s Bursar’s Office suggesting they switch to paperless tax forms. The entire email list soon realized they could hit reply all -- and send an email message to the entire student body.

Mayhem ensued.

By the end of the day, thousands of emails had been sent, ranging from the humorous to the mundane to the really, really annoyed, according to a report on Buzzfeed. And it was all started by one student.

“I feel like I may have exposed a serious flaw in the way they handle their listservs,” explained computer science minor Max Wiseltier, who started the deluge. Wiseltier forwarded the Bursar’s message to his mother for her help, accidentally pressing the reply all button, the student told NYU blog NYU Local.

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“I was trying to forward the message to my mom, to get her input on the paperless tax forms,” the sophomore explained, “but all of NYU was cc’ed accidentally.”

Suddenly granted the widest audience imaginable, students began firing off whatever came to mind: funny comments. Requests for help. Song fragments. Pictures of Nicholas Cage.

“I want all of us to be happy forever,” one student wrote.

“Would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses, or 1 horse sized duck?” someone replied.

David Vogelsang with the NYU Student Resource Center told NYU Local that he was responsible for what happened. The university uses a system called E-Mail Direct for most mass messages, he said. But several NYU departments use an older, discussion-based program called ListManager. And that program allows for reply-alls.

“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,” he said.

The accounts have now been deleted, Vogelsang told NYU Local, who apologied for the frustrating situation.

One NYU student summed up that frustration aptly, with a late night reply-all message clearly born of it: “All of you. Be quiet. Now.”