The math of an Email chain letter

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!


By Rebekkah Hilgraves

*RadHaus Solutions*: ActiveCampaign Certified Consultant. Marketo Certified Expert. Solutions Architect. Marketing automation implementation, integration, best practices, governance. Marketing automation, with a heavy dose of nerd.

*RadHaus Studio*: Broadcast and recording engineer, media production manager, cable monkey, marketing dork, project manager, chief cook and bottle-washer.

A seasoned trainer, marketer, web producer and front-end developer, solutions architect, writer, consultant, broadcaster, recording engineer, and public speaker, I've worked in eLearning, Instructional Design, CMS, Marketing Automation and CRM (especially Marketo, ActiveCampaign, and SimplyCast), content delivery and management, taxonomy, SEO, media production and technical support. I bring a unique blend of experience and expertise.

Through RadHaus (formerly SheTech and Company), and in partnership with ELK // Obscura Media, and Prove digital marketing agencies, I have supported enterprise clients in marketing automation implementation and operations, digital marketing and data strategies. I help design and operationalize custom integrated marketing programs for businesses, working with audience/user group segmentation, SEO, web analytics, design and UX best practices, multimedia, social media and other strategic web design and delivery mechanisms. I also do hands-on media production and arts marketing, allowing me to remain involved in the arts.

As part of Marketo's education team, I managed the production and publication of eLearning modules, and was a key member of the LMS implementation and certification development teams.

A consultant on the Web Operations team for OppenheimerFunds in New York, I offered technical, production, and strategy support on a major web site redesign project.

As Managing Editor for an online news magazine published by NetQoS, I supervised and managed the migration of the site from a legacy content management system to a .NET-based commercial system. I maintained the site and the content, updating the magazine with new content from industry analysts and technical experts on a weekly basis.

My earliest foray into both technology and training was as a software trainer for logistics company Cheetah Software Systems, helping create an implementation and training practice standard for the company, and building their user documentation.

One reply on “The math of an Email chain letter”

Update to this message: Today I received a very well-intentioned but entirely inaccurate message about the “Congressional Reform Act of 2011”. There’s no such thing, as you can read here:

Please, friends, if you want to implement REAL change, do your homework, research your causes and act on them in substantial ways, rather than making the situation worse by perpetuating misinformation.

Comments are closed.