Reducing Information Pollution

That pesky RTA button…

February 2, 2009 | Posted By Nathan Zeldes

One of our members sent a pointer to this article on TechCrunch. Apparently, the Nielsen Media Research’s management had taken action to remove the Reply to All button from the interface of all its 35,000 employees’ email clients, as part of a drive to eliminate bureaucracy and inefficiency.

It is fascinating to read the comments to the post. As my own experience confirms, suggestions like this tend to stir heated emotions. And indeed, on one hand, it is easy to identify with the views that it would be better to educate people to act sensibly; on the other, with thousands of users, we know that will never suffice. My own take on this is that the more aggravating RTAs – the ones that are a clear result of thoughtlessness – may be solved even if you don’t remove the button, but simply  move it on the toolbar away from REPLY. Even such a tiny change might eliminate some of the reflexive use of RTA when REPLY would suffice.

What do you think?


5 Responses

  1. Elana Says:
    March 13th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    But if you take away reply all, you take away the entertainment of seeing how many people reply all and don’t get why they ‘keep getting all these replies’. The first time I saw this I laughed so hard I cried!

  2. PPT Says:
    February 20th, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Tracy – Since the beginning days of Outlook I have been asking the same question:

    “Why, oh why, hasn’t Microsoft improved Outlook”

    I have been avid user of the “rules and alerts” function since I first started using Outlook about 10 years ago. I too have been waiting for Microsoft to improve this area of Outlook. If rules could still be prioritized so that only one copy of an email would be directed to a folder instead of multiple copies to multiple folders it would greatly improve workflow. To take it one step further, if these rules could be established on an enterprise level then best practices could be more easily implemented.

    Of course, I am still trying to teach people to use text only email formats (background can triple the size of your emails). Then again I’m also still trying to teach people to not put spaces in their file names. That way they can send a “clickable” link allowing the recipient to view a current copy of the information rather than sending out multiple copies of a static document.

    Depending on your perspective, it may be encouraging or discouraging to know that I do tech support and web development for a K12 district!

  3. Lesa Becker Says:
    February 3rd, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I have just completed my dissertation on the Impact of Information on Organizational Leaders and the managers in my study would give two thumbs up for eliminating the “Reply to All” button on email. That is one of 34 recommendations my study group had for curbing Information Overload.

    I call it a “band aid on a broken leg” recommendation. The deeper issue is too many organizational priorities, too many poorly run meetings, unclear desision making processes, lack of adequate project management tools, software that shifts clerical work to managers…I won’t go on. I look forward to sharing the results of my research.

  4. Tracy Allison Altman Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Nathan, The comments on TechCrunch are interesting — and these are coming from a relatively tech-savvy population. (Blog comments are indeed a strong reminder that information overload is a problem waiting to be solved!) Rarely am I in a situation where Reply All is an appropriate response to an email.
    I liked the comment saying “mail systems should be smarter then to enable ‘reply to all’ after a company wide email… or even a warning like ‘you are going to send this mail to x people, are you really sure you want to reply to all'”. Why, oh why, hasn’t Microsoft improved Outlook to provide this type of functionality?
    I imagine many of us in IORG have attempted to model good email behavior — but I am often frustrated with the lack of improvement. I’m currently involved with a group desperately in need of email etiquette and workflow process — but how do I point out possible changes without offending these folks?

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