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Out of Office Replies are Evil [rerun]

Yes, they are. Really.

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[Due to technical difficulties, this week’s podcast is a rerun, originally
published June 13, 2005. OOF’s are still evil. Smile -Leo]

Transcript

This is Leo Notenboom with news, commentary, and answers to some of the many
questions I get at askleo.info.

Yes, you heard right: most out of office replies are evil.

Out of office replies, often termed “oof” or oof for “out of facility,” are
those automated replies you get to an email you send someone when they are …
well, out of the office. They’ll tell you something like, “I’m out of the office
this week, and not checking email” or something along those lines.

Seems like a good idea, right? Helpful, even. And it can be good idea, IF
two conditions are met:

1) The out-of-office reply is sent to each sender exactly once, no matter
how many times they send email.

2) The out-of-office reply is never sent to mailing lists.

For some corporations, there’s an optional third rule: the out-of-office
reply is never sent outside the company.

So, where does the evil come in? Certainly when either rules one and two are
broken – or even worse, when both are. If rule one is broken, you annoy everyone
who might need to send you an email for your eventual return… no mater how
many. If rule two is broken, your reply goes out to a list of people whether or
not the discussion had anything to do with you. And if BOTH are broken, every
message to a mailing list causes your out-of-office message to get sent …
again and again and again … flooding the mailing list. That’s Evil.

But wait, there’s more.

You might just have told anyone who drops you an email that you’re on a trip
and your home is available for burglary.

And…

You’ve just replied to any SPAM that you receive, thus validating your email
address. Prepare to get LOTS more spam.

In general, OOFs are a good idea that, 99% of the time, have gone horribly,
horribly wrong. Just say no.

Leave me a comment on this podcast. Visit askleo.info and enter 8646 in the
go to article number box on the home page. I’d love to hear from you.

This is a presentation of askleo.info, a
free online technical question and answer service. Hundreds of questions and
answers are online and ready to help solve your computer problems. New
questions and answers are added daily.

That’s askleo.info.

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5 comments on “Out of Office Replies are Evil [rerun]”

  1. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    No idea. It’s not due to anything I’ve done here. I’d check for spyware.

    Leo

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    =ncOs
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    Reply
  2. “your reply goes out to a list of people whether or not the discussion had anything to do with you”. If that’s the case, why did you receive the original email. And when I receive an automated message, I simply hold further mail until they return. And spammers are not listening to your return mail. They already have your address.

    Reply
  3. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    > “your reply goes out to a list of people whether or not the discussion had
    > anything to do with you”. If that’s the case, why did you receive the
    > original email.

    Because you’re on a mailing list.

    > And spammers are not listening to your return mail. They already have your
    > address.

    Not true. Some spammers are definitely looking at bounce or reply messages to
    know whether or not an email address is legitimate. One technique they use is
    to send email to thousands of “possible” email addresses and see which ones
    work. An OOF tells them they have a working email address

    Leo

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
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    iD8DBQFGm7CmCMEe9B/8oqERAm0gAJ4wCFbzX2k0R25c0gggCuCXCPAcrwCfXK2Z
    SYOaXwzKp7bH8RosUM/hqlM=
    =mF27
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

    Reply
  4. Hello
    Is there not a way to suggest to companies that, yes, put an OOF for vacation or other reason, BUT that all messages are offered to be redirected to another mailbox (using a hotlink to that mailbox within the OOF message) and that that redirected mail is identified as such so that the OOF person is aware of messages that may have been dealt with in their absence. The incoming message should NOT automatically go to another mailbox, but just offer the option for the sender to use if they wish to.

    Would this work, do you think?

    I accept all the potential problems you have already listed could apply to this suggestion as well, but in the real world where senders may need to know why their message has not been replied to by the intended recipient, this at least offers a better solution than just saying “I’m away, go away until I’m back”……………….
    regards, JayStar

    Reply

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