(Dream sequence: Sometimes, lying awake with some passing insomnia, I muse about one of my major pet peeves: over use of the “Reply All” button on Microsoft’s “Outlook”. I dream of submitting a feature request …)

Brief Description: As unfettered access to the “Reply All” option in Microsoft Outlook encourages people to over use this feature (i.e. replying to all recipients even when, or especially when, it is not appropriate), and that the concept of the BCC: (blind carbon copy) is too complex to be implemented (and hence why it is hidden by default on the create an email form), there needs to be a limiting factor that prevents over-use of Reply All.

Proposed Change: When the user clicks on the Reply All button, instead of the mail form being displayed with all the recipients in the “to:” field, first display a dialog which requires some mental gymnastics to pass. Some possible options:

  • A mathematics word problem. Of the variety using trains, speeds and clocks, and requiring the solution for some vague condition.
  • Solve the tunnel junction energy in a III-V semiconductor band gap transistor.
  • Calculate the airspeed of an unladen Swallow. If the user asks for clarification, specify African Swallow.
  • Determine the equation of the shape of a chain hanging between two poles. (warn them it is not a parabola)

User Story: Stanley sees an organizational announcement, and wants to thank the person who sent it. He hits the “Reply All” button, sure that everybody on the distribution list will appreciate his acknowledgement of the announcement. However, when Stanley can’t answer the mathematics word problem, the form reverts to merely the standard “Reply” option (to the sender), and all the people whose inboxes aren’t filled with useless messages will rejoice.


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