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Microsoft Stops Email Rage Or Did They?

Microsoft Stops Email Rage Or Did They?

Email Rage Is A Thing

Few things invoke Email Rage as much as the dreaded Reply-All Inbox Storm. You know, someone sends out a mass mail and doesn’t BCC.

Next thing you know several people are hitting reply all, swamping your email with the thread from hell. All you can do is sit there and give your best William Shatner “Khaaaaan” cry as the thread grows and fills your inbox.

Email rage - Khaaann Kirk

The Historical Record

If we step back in time, one of the most famous cases was Bedlam DL3. This was the name of a mailing list of approximately 13000 Microsoft employees that experienced this in 2004. When the Bedlam DL3 mailing list was shared to its list members a thread began with recurring requests to be removed. When the dust settled, an estimated 195Gb of 15 million emails had been sent.

Besides the storage and bandwidth, the hit to productivity, frustration and mail server load must have been breath-taking.

Microsoft are here to save you

With the rebranding of Office 365 to Microsoft 365, Redmond have added new UI and features. One of these features is step 1 of stopping the Email Rage caused by Reply-All Inbox Storms in Outlook and Exchange. This was one of the features announced at Microsoft’s Ignite 2019 conference.

The first iteration of this feature will work if several conditions are met:

email rage - steps to block

email rage - NDR notification

The Warptest POV

Email is a valuable productivity tool when used correctly and when etiquette is observed. If not productivity and collaboration are damaged, and yes, we experience frustration and email rage.

As a first iteration this is not a great solution for small or medium sized businesses, and it is a brute force solution at best. Especially when you factor the abilities in Microsoft Graph, Office Delve and the R&D into AI or Deep Learning at Redmond. To be fair to the Exchange Transport team developing this feature, they make it clear that they are receptive to feedback and want to learn from user telemetry how this feature has impact.

email rage - feedback

Where should this feature go? To avoid email rage, the following are possible improvements I would make:

Office / Exchange Admin control – make the feature customizable:

    • Not every company has 5000 email users, nor addresses in their mailing lists. Admin can set this threshold.
    • 10 reply all mails is a lot. The Admin may be aware of the threshold of management and set the thread count lower to prevent our email rage.

Roles and licenses:

    • There are roles within a company that should never be able to hit reply all on a thread, usually more junior roles. Nor should they be able to initiate a mass mailing outside their immediate teams (e.g. Developer to their R&D team and QA / Agile team).
    • The number of licenses can correlate to almost the number of internal email addresses within a percentage (to allow for certain app or general mail addresses). This should be the upper most threshold to trigger this.

Office Delve / Graph and AI: make it smart

    • These deep learning / discovery features allow the system to learn beyond role allocation who frequently sends bulk emails and may learn to create or trigger more complex rules to prevent reply all inbox storms.

This is a great start in dealing with a major annoyance and resource drain. Hopefully Microsoft will iterate this feature using some of the suggestions above. What do you think Satya?


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