NYU recently sent out a seemingly innocuous email to all of its students asking them to opt for paperless forms. People in university get those kinds of emails all the time! But when one student decided to ask his mum if he should enable the paperless forms, he accidentally triggered a method that allowed him (and every other student) to reply all to all 39,979 students on the email list.
This meant that any student could send an email to every single student at NYU. And as things at universities often go, things quickly got out of hand.
Apparently, the student, Max Wiseltier, accidentally replied all to an archaic Listserve system that sent any reply to every single student. Typically, NYU would use a system called 'E-mail Direct' to handle mass emails. Those mass emails can't be replied all to and as such, are meant solely for one-way emailing. Some NYU departments, however, use the older ListManager program. NYU Local's tech editor, Ben Zweig, explains:
Several NYU departments still rely on the older, discussion-based ListManager program, however. ListManager also sends mass emails, but allows discussions (in the form of reply-alls), unless the settings are adjusted, disabling group discussions and only permitting emails from admins.
Here's a sample of some of the emails sent. It goes from happy Nic Cage pics to SHUT UP in no time. Thousands of emails were sent over the course of one night, so yeah, I can see how that would get annoying.