When Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to us mortals, the mortals struggled to understand it. The power users of fire knew to fear and respect it, enjoying its benefits and working to minimize the risk of disaster. The newbies probably had a harder time with it.

Years ago, a network admin at Corey's company decided to extend the LISTSERV to the internal users. After all, the admin team had been using it and appreciated the flexibility it offered. Users could join a group by sending an email to it with a specific command in the subject line, and if they got tired of receiving emails from the group, they could simply remove themselves. To make it a bit easier, a page for users to manage their group memberships was built and put on the company intranet. After selling the business on the concept, documentation was sent out to various departments to walk them through basic use of the LISTSERV.

And things went well for years. Sure, as time passed some users forgot how to sign up or remove themselves from groups, but the only negative impact was the occasional unwanted email.

One Friday morning, Corey received a group email asking for customer references. It was a big group with more than 10,000 members. Corey really didn't have any information that the sender was after, so he just got back to his regular tasks, ignoring the slow trickle of responses, though one caught his eye:

please remove me from your list.

Since the LISTSERV had been in place for years and some users didn't know how to manage their group memberships, it was a reasonable request. After all, the page built to manage email group memberships was buried deep in the company intranet, and most users didn't even know it existed.

Before Corey could even get back to his work,

Please remove me, too.

Uh oh, Corey thought. I don't like where this is goi-

I'm not sure how I got on this list, please remove

And another:

me too

The number of responses was growing exponentially — each one triggered three more. It was growing faster than a contagious "shh" at a movie theater. Soon, savvier users started asking users to remove themselves from mailing lists.

people,

I'm just another member to that mailing list.
I believe you added yourselves, you should undo that.

The problem is that no one knew how to remove themselves, just tha-

STOP THIS!

It's good to know, that you guys wanna be removed from the distr. list BUT please don't copy 
all other on this (I already received 10ths of mails...).

Corey was bewildered by the volume of email coming in.

To all of you spammers: You remove yourself from a mail list via self service.

AND DEFINITELY NOT VIA SENDING REPLY ALL TO EVERYONE ON THE LIST: THIS SHOULD BE THE LAST 
MAIL ON THE TOPIC!

If you do not know how, contact your manager.

And someone replied with " ". A single space.

That was apparently the final straw. Someone sent out this next message, and they meant business. It was in red.

ALL!

Please stop using the REPLY button by responding to this mail.

You are sending this out to over 11000 people who all are members of communities
summed up in the distribution list general-list@initrodeglobal.com
If someone would like to get removed from the mailing list from his/her community,
please unsubscribe from the community (also means that you will receive no longer
information regarding your community) and/or unsubscribe from the distribution list
of your community via using the mailing system.

Finally, the instructions started getting more specific:

SELF-SERVICE REMOVE YOURSELF from the community's page

NONE OF THE OTHER LIST MEMBERS WILL REMOVE YOU, IT IS NOT OUR JOB.

IF YOU DON'T KNOW HOW, CALL HELPDESK. DON'T CC THE WORLD.

The irony being that the sender had just "CC'd THE WORLD."

Everybody,

Please note that you can call the Helpdesk to ask them to teach you on how to remove 

yourself from mailing lists.

Nobody can do that for you except yourself.

REGARDS

I SAID GOOD DAY! A few more replies came in, which were getting increasingly puzzling:

STOP WRITE THE MAIL!!!!!!!!  - YOU BLOCK THE MAILBOX!!!

And, on a confusing note:

FYI

Corey eventually stopped reading so he could actually get some work done. After working late that evening and coming back after the weekend, he noticed the final email with the same subject line, sent at noon on Sunday. It bore the company logo and header.

Dear All,

the distribution list general-list@initrodeglobal.com is being deleted to address the incorrect
use of it.  This distribution list provided an aggregated list of all industry
communities globally  However since this is currently being misused we will delete
this list to avoid unwelcome email traffic that is not relevant to recipients.
You DO NOT NEED TO UN-SUBSCRIBE FROM YOUR COMMUNITIES OF INTEREST .