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Email author controls default meaning of "reply"

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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:27 am    Post subject: Email author controls default meaning of "reply" Reply with quote

Background: The fellow was saying that his co-workers avoided
doing a "reply-all" to team emails, and that this led to bad
results. The distributed team would develop communication
breakdowns, and side-conversations would distract the team.

Naturally, there are many technologies that address this problem,
including bulletin boards, listservers, twitter, wikis, etc. , but
there's still a clear advantage to being able to make small
changes to email that help avoid some of these problems,
especially because email is the major communication hub for
most online people. Given email's convenience and ubiquity, other
technologies might not be so workable.

The flip side of "reply-all-shyness" (the problem my friend's team
had), is all too common. Everyone on the list gets to
learn about who is on vacation, and will return messages later,
or anyone's comment back to the author. What was meant to
be a response has become a broadcast, which can be quite
embarrassing. No wonder his team is cautious about using it.

It immediately became clear to me what was needed. The originator
of a posting, as part of filling in the "to:", "subject:" etc. sections,
would choose what would be the default reply-style for all follow-on
emails. There would be at least 2 reply-styles:
1) reply = reply-to-me-only, and 2) reply = reply-to-all

On the receiver's side, when sending a reply, a script would
display the "reply" button, followed by the meaning of the
use of "reply", it's default value, and an opportunity to accept or
override it.

So for example, as I post my reply to what you wrote, I would
click on "send reply", say, and I would see that you chose the
default meaning of reply to be that I reply only to you. I could
choose to accept this (easily), or override it, with somewhat
more difficulty, to send my reply to everyone.

Alternately, you might be posting your reply to what I wrote,
and see that the default meaning of reply is reply to everyone,
and do you accept or override this.

The question arose as to how, in particular, to implement this.
Besides just talking up the idea, I'm not sure what standards
committee(s) would be involved. Maybe its a good idea,
but even it it was, it might still take a long time before it became
incorporated into a majority of email applications.

As a quick fix, I propose putting a "reply" button into the
text of your email, probably in the form of a header or signature.
You choose between 2 or more signatures, say, with each
having a different "reply button" semantics.

Again, as an example:

Joe Team-member

Note: the original poster wanted all replies to go to everyone on
the list. Click here on [REPLY] to do this.
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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My ex-boss's boss was infuriating about replying to one individual on multiple recipient email threads. The end result was almost always confusion and sometimes flaring tempers!

I think some people use the cc: (and bcc:) as means of distinguishing that a person should reply directly to sender.
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