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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.
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.
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