True Domino Blooper #1: The Out-Of-Office nightmare

Kim, a senior systems engineer, "blooped" when helping a user with a basic "Out-of-Office" task.

How many times have you needed a quick answer from someone, only to get that good ol' Out-of-Office reply back at you? It can be frustrating at times. But it can be more frustrating when Out-of-Office (OOO) goes out-of-control, as with Kim, a senior systems engineer, who "blooped" when helping a user with a basic "Out-of-Office" task. Kim has not only learned from this, but she is also able to laugh about it. Here's her story.


Last June I was trying to help an end user get his Out-Of-Office agent to work before he left for vacation. For four days we went back and forth refreshing/replacing the design of his mail file, amongst other things, and then testing the agent. Nothing worked. In a last attempt before he left, I deleted the agent from his mail file. As I thought there might be a problem with the template on his mail server, I decided to copy the OOO agent straight from the template on our hub server and paste it into his mail file. After four days, I was willing to try anything. I left that day hoping that all was working for the user and thought nothing more of it.

The next morning when I came into work, I was greeted by several of my co-workers all huddled around one workstation with looks of "what did you do?" I then learned that when I copied the agent to my clipboard from the template on the hub server, I inadvertently enabled the agent. And, with enabling the agent, I signed it with my user ID. That evening when the Designer task ran, it forced the change out to every template on every mail server (45 in our environment). In turn, it was then forced out to almost every mail file and mail-in database. Approximately 22,000 employees came into work the next morning with anywhere from 5 to 20+ reminders from me to disable their Out-of-Office agents. These reminders continued to generate every two hours.

As easy as it was to cause the problem, it was not so easily fixed. We thought by reversing the procedure, we could disable the agents in all mail files and resign the agents with our administration ID. It did not work.

After several hours, we sent out corporate-wide announcements explaining what happened and the steps the users needed to do to resolve the issue. However, by this time, I was not a very popular person. I received an incredible amount of hate mail and voicemails. I had to stop answering my phone and could only delete the e-mails, as there were thousands upon thousands of them.

After almost one year, most have been identified and cleaned up. However, I probably get one message every several weeks asking me why my name appears as the sender of someone's Out-Of-Office message. I had hoped my claim to fame would be far more impressive!

Oh, one more thing -- when the end user I was trying to help returned from vacation, he informed me that his OOO agent did not work while he was gone.

I hope you've enjoyed my tale as I try to regain my anonymity.

-- Kim


Do you have your own blooper? Send it in and claim your fame: Editor@searchdomino.com?Subject=blooper.

Editor's note: Every story in our bloopers series comes to us directly from a SearchDomino.com administrator, developer or consultant. For obvious reasons, some contributors -- including this tale's author -- choose to remain anonymous.

This was first published in July 2003

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