email

Guy who emailed 40,000 people instead of mom 'glad it wasn't something embarrassing'

Nov. 28, 2012 at 4:04 PM ET

"I find myself, in the past day, just bursting out in laughter," Max Wiseltier says. "It's a new sensation to be the most talked about person at NYU." 

The 19-year-old business administration student became an overnight sensation after he accidentally replied to a mailing list which included nearly 40,000 of his fellow NYU students. All he meant to do was ask his mom a question.

BuzzFeed's Allison McCann, herself an NYU grad student, was among the first to report the story about what has now jokingly been dubbed the "Replyallcalypse." It all started with an email from the office of the bursar, informing students that they may choose to begin receiving some tax documents in electronic form.

One of Max Wiseltier's friends made this graphic in response to what is now dubbed "Replyallcalypse"

"I tried emailing my mom to see if it was a good idea," Wiseltier told TODAY.com. "But instead of hitting the 'forward' button, I replied to everyone." "Everyone" included the 39,979 students on NYU’s “src-contacts” mailing list, NYU Local's Kelly Weill specifies.

"[D]o you want me to do this?" Wiseltier had written in the email to his mom, before walking away from his computer. "I was completely unaware of it [going to the entire mailing list] until my roommate asked me why I sent him an email."

Upon learning of the mistake, Wiseltier quickly sent another message. "SORRY!!!!!!! Gmail switched my reply to reply all!" he wrote.

But the Pandora's box was already opened. Students suddenly realized that they, too, could spam the whole school by simply hitting "reply all." "We had been given a great and terrible power," wrote Weill. "For a moment we contemplated responsibility, then gleefully tossed it aside in favor of posting pictures of cats."

One student sent a photo of Nicolas Cage, another used the thread as a chance to try to start a "common list of grievances" about the school. Someone asked about a professor's office hours, while plenty others sounded off about their mailboxes filling up.

Our favorite reply-all would rank highly in a list of the most random questions ever asked: "Would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses, or 1 horse sized duck?"

Have you ever accidentally hit the "reply all" button and watched hilarity (or drama) ensue? Tell us about it! 

Students began to seek out Wiseltier, seeing him as some opener of the social floodgates, "I started getting calls and texts from my friends," he says. "Strangers were Facebook friend requesting me and emailing me and everything ... I started a chain reaction of sorts."

The outburst of interaction wasn't entirely troll-free. "Some people were telling me to run for president," Wiseltier says, but "some people were saying that I should be banned from NYU."

After about half a day — and countless emails — local journalists caught wind of the story. "When NYU Local first interviewed me, they asked if I wanted to say something famous," Wiseltier recalls with a chuckle. "I told them my roommate is single and handsome. His name's Mike. Hopefully I'm being a good wingman by telling [TODAY.com] that he's handsome and single, too."

Wiseltier's selflessly using his sudden (and presumably brief) fame to steer love connections to his roommate makes sense, as he's got a girlfriend, who he speculates "wouldn't be too happy" if he ended up with dates as a result of his email.

The Replyallcalypse eventually was shut down by NYU's IT team, and isn't likely to happen again. While most mass student mailings are default protected from "reply-all" madness, this particular email came from an outdated system that was susceptible when some safeguards were left off. Needless to say, the safeguards have now been engaged, and the enormous backlog of unsent emails was deleted.

When asked how he feels about the whole incident, Wiseltier's all laughs. "I'm glad I wasn't emailing my mom something embarrassing," he says. "This definitely put a smile on all of my friends' faces — that's pretty nice."

He hasn't profited from the debacle, but he did get interviewed about his startup, a cloud-based jukebox service currently dubbed "Jukebox." "We're working on a couple of other titles" for the project, he clarifies.

In the meantime, he's just soaking up all the coverage and the silly images friends and strangers are sending.

Referring to the two back-to-back emails that started it all, he muses, "I can't believe that I'm the kid who sent out all 80,000 emails in minutes."

Want more tech news or interesting links? You'll get plenty of both if you keep up with Rosa Golijan, the writer of this post, by following her on Twitter, subscribing to her Facebook posts, or circling her on Google+.

TOP