U.S. Marshals In Awkward Reply-All Fail (Don't Worry, Guys, We've All Been There)
It's an employee's worst nightmare: hitting reply all on a company-wide email and sending everyone a response meant only for Cathy about your crush on the muscular janitor. Minus the janitor, that's essentially what the U.S. Marshals did yesterday when the U.S. Marshals accidentally hit reply-all on an email outing anonymous Bitcoin bidders in their upcoming auction. Nice going.
40 bidders were part of the Bitcoin auction email thread, and when one asked a question, someone hit reply all and sent its response to everyone CC-ed on the chain. The auction, which was meant to be anonymous, will sell off the nearly 30,000 Bitcoins that the government seized from the massive online black market Silk Road last fall.
A little background: Bitcoin is a decentralized peer-to-peer virtual currency and payment system started in 2009. Bitcoin uses open-source software, meaning that nobody owns or controls it; it's open to the public and anyone can use it. Examples of some things you can purchase with Bitcoins include Subway sandwiches, haircuts, legal representation, martial arts classes, and flights.
Silk Road was an elaborate online marketplace known for peddling illegal wares from hard drugs to weapons and even hit men. The market was located in the cyber underworld known as the darknet, and its sophisticated technology evaded law enforcement for a while before being shut down last October.
Silk Road's nearly one million customers used the market's preferred choice of currency to make purchases: Bitcoins. During their bust, the Feds seized nearly 30,000 Bitcoins from the Silk Road's treasury, which are now being auctioned off. And that brings us full circle.
Now, back to the U.S. Marshals' highly idiotic move. Yeah, that was pretty stupid of you, we're not gonna lie, but we've all been there before. It's a button that should come with an "Are You Sure?" message notification that forces you to confirm your decision to reply all. Just to prove how easy it is to make the dreaded reply-all mistake, we've rounded up some of the most epic reply-all fails of all time. So don't feel too bad, government.
NYU Student Reply-All Fail
In what has been dubbed "Reply-Allpocalypse 2012," "The Day NYU Broke," and "Will Everyone Please Just Shut Up," an NYU sophomore accidentally replied all to an email sent to 39,979 students reminding them to fill out tax forms.
What followed was pure chaos. When the students realized that any one of them can reply all, one by one they started to flood the thread with Nicolas Cage pictures and poignantly pointless questions like "Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?" and "Does anybody want to be my friend?"
Microsoft Exec Reply-All Fail
How many of us have aunts or uncles who have unwittingly committed the reply-all crime when they were just trying to participate? Well this middle-aged white Microsoft exec is probably someone's uncle. When the company's CEO sent a company-wide announcement that he was retiring, Managing Director and Founder of Microsoft Research Roy Levin replied all, like a boss. It could have been a lot worse, though; thankfully, his response was brief and vague.
Brown University Reply-All Fail
Last June, following NYU's legendary reply-all fiasco, Brown saw its own reply-all fail. An errant bulletin from the University Scheduling Office was sent to the school's entire alumni network.
While most of the alumni sent the usual "Please stop replying all" and "Take me off this list" responses, some took advantage of having access to thousands of people and used them as sounding boards. One person asked, "Does anybody know a nice restaurant in the Virginia area? Driving through with my cat and two birds this evening and like Italian food." The conclusion is that NYU students seem more fun than Brown students.
But the real conclusion — or lesson, if you will — here is that when in doubt, just BCC everyone.