shutting down / redirecting email threads

It is a fact of life that everyone receives more email than they can handle.

It is also a fact that email is a skill, and there are varying levels of proficiency out there.

So, it is only a matter of time before you find yourself on the annoying end of an email thread gone awry. Perhaps it is a discussion on the wrong mailing list, or perhaps it is the infamous 1 grillion people in the To: or Cc: fields problem.

Before long, a “take me off this list” / “stop replying to all” storm ensues, and then something horrible like Facebook gets invented to “solve” this “problem”.

Of course mail filters can be deployed, shielding you from the idiocy. But what if you want to be more proactive? Is there a way to stop the insanity without having to hax0r into the mail server and just start BOFH‘ing luser accounts?

Yes, there is an easy solution that works most (but not all) of the time.

Put all the unintended recipients in the Bcc: field. Put the correct recipients in the To: field.

In the case of discussion on the wrong mailing list, this is easy; just put the correct list in the To: field. Include a note in the mail body, such as “Redirecting to foo list, which is more appropriate.” Respondents will then typically automatically respond to the correct list.

In the case of “too many Cc:s”, there’s no easy answer. You could move all the Cc: to Bcc:, and then put something like none@none.invalid in the To: address. You will get a single bounce, but then so will everyone else who attempts to respond to you. This trick only works because the people who tend to cause the problem also tend to be lazy and just respond to the last mail received. They can’t spam everyone else because their addresses are obfuscated via the Bcc:. If you feel brave, you could socially engineer the recipients by writing something inflammatory, in order to entice them to respond to you, rather than other mails in the thread, which will then result in a bounce.

Hope this helps.

[nb, .invalid is actually a reserved domain, read rfc2606 for more details.]