The math of an Email chain letter
December 10, 2011
It’s been entirely too long since we posted here (sort of the issue of the cobbler’s kids, I know…). Something occurred this evening that I just had to address.
You’ve seen them before: the email chain letters that are full of wonderful intentions, loving messages, prayers… and a request to forward it THIS MINUTE to at least eight people.
I receive an insane volume of email every day, and messages like this that (however well intentioned) amount to chain letters, represent a drain on both the recipients’ time and the email services through which these messages flow.
As a long-time IT professional, I have seen firsthand what an impact this can have on the technology infrastructure, as well as its impact on people’s time and productivity.
Do the math for a moment: if every person on a list of only seven people sent out eight copies as exhorted in one such message, that’s 56 copies just in the first pass. If in turn each of those people send out eight copies, that’s 448. Eight again, and it’s 3584. Another eight, and you have 28,672. Eight each of those makes 229,376. And when those people send out eight copies, you’ve got 1,835,008. So in only six generations of emails, you have over a million being sent…within only minutes if everyone on those lists responds quickly as directed. That’s a million sets of eyeballs reading a message that they have probably received before (I’ve seen this particular example circulating for years). The original sender probably means well, but this is an enormous burden both technically and personally.
Technically, in a “perfect storm” of such responses, it could actually result in an email sending service being overwhelmed. Perhaps less dramatically, but possibly more damaging over a longer period of time, you could actually be dinged by your email provider for sending out SPAM. Yep, it’s true. You could be blacklisted if enough people report it as unsolicited bulk email–the rules are strict and getting more strict by the year.
Frankly, I’d rather hear REAL news, from YOU to ME, telling me how you are (and you are well, I hope!).
It took me five minutes to write this. If all 1,835,008 people spent five minutes, that would be 9,175,040 minutes, or 152,917 hours, or 6,371 days, or 17.45 years spent away from family, community efforts, rest, meditation, music, art, etc.
I’d rather sing or cook. ;-)
Thanks, and be well. Really!