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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Message in a Bottle
I tried to send a message back, but I accidentally hit 'reply all' and now the ocean is clogged with message bottles.
Title text: I tried to send a message back, but I accidentally hit 'reply all' and now the ocean is clogged with message bottles.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Second Draft

This comic approaches a message in a bottle as a message in an internet mailing list. The message in the bottle reads "Unsubscribe", as it is done in email newsletters. Little information about the originator of the message is provided. It is possible they are marooned on a desert island and the meaning of "Unsubscribe" is an alternative way of requesting a rescue from their present situation.

The title text suggests that when he replied all, it sent a message in a bottle to everyone on the company's mailing list. This relates to the phenomenon when someone attempts to send a private email (usually about something very secret like being in an intimate relationship) and ending up sending it to many people (almost always leading to the embarrassment of the sender). In some cases, if the mailing list is sufficiently large, amplification effects can completely overwhelm mail servers. For example, an employee send a simple message like "does anyone speak russian?" to the whole company address book. Several people are likely to reply using the "reply all" button by mistake, causing the whole company to receive it. Additionally, automatic "out of office" notifications and people complaining about the flood of e-mails will further worsen the situation.

Frequently unsubscribe requests are sent to the entire mailing list. Ideally they are sent to the mailing list admin, who is either a person or a program that manages the list. If Cueball is the list admin, then he should remove the sender from the list. If he isn't (as is likely), then he, like possibly thousands of other beachcombers, is receiving a pointless message that he can't act on.

Transcript

[Cueball walks along a beach with six seagulls flying behind him over the sea. There is a small surf and in the far distance two mountains.]
[Cueball stops and looks down at a bottle lying in the sand just outside the surf. A letter can be seen inside and there seems to be a stopper at the top.]
[A frame less panel shows Cueball (beach and sea not drawn) as he pulls out the letter from the bottle that he has now picked-up.]
[Cueball holds the bottle behind him in one hand and the letter up in front him with the other hand. The text on the letter is written above him in curvy letters, looking like those often used to depict the writing of a dying or seriously injured man:]
Unsubscribe


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