#2088: Absentinel

Today’s invention is a software plugin for networked diaries.

When you set up your out-of-office message, the programme would automatically ask you for someone to handle your high priority messages. It would then detect if the person who is nominated to take those urgent calls (Ms A, say) has themselves booked a holiday while you are away.

If they have, then you would be informed and any emergency calls would be automatically redirected to Mr B (as nominated by Ms A) during that period.

The depth of this redirection sequence would be limited so that the ultimate call handler still had some idea of what to do.

In particular, this approach would also ensure that no loops could form ie
MsA->MrB->MsC->MsA would be ruled out.


  1. 1000% good idea, holidays are sand in the machinery of organisations. Auto-forwarding is thus a very good idea and I propose only one level as then cycles are impossible. The original sender should still get the return mail “I am out of office and your mail is handled by XYZ”.
    A way to handle this to a certain extend is to make role-oriented email addresses, so you send a mail to IT-helpdesk@xyz.com or Facility@xyz.com. This could be extended to sales_productname@xyz, marketing_product@xyz, etc

    Another informative message could be “I am out of office and your mail is currently nr 345 in my inbox”. That gives the sender at least an idea how long it will take and can take actions.

    Other ideas for email:
    – a “valid until” field and it removes itself if still not read by that day. It prevents invitations for meetings in the past, or actions that make no sense anymore.

    – often email addresses of people that left the company are blocked or removed or even worse they still exist and collect emaildust. You would like to know who handles the questions, so an autoforwarding/autoreply for these email addresses should also remove some sand from the machinery. “John left the company and his work is taken care of by Sandra” or “John left the company and your mail is forwarded to the secretary of Sales dept.” “John left the company and nobody does his job so you’re on your own…” 🙂

    – It should also be possible for a secretary to start auto-reply if someone is ill.

    – auto reply more should automatically be turned off (or at least ask for it) when a person starts reading mail. I have seen autoreplies from people being back from holiday for a week or more.


    • Wow I seem to have touched a nerve here! Thanks as ever for all these thoughtful suggestions.
      it would be funny to have this response generated: ‘your email is number 345 in the queue to be dealt with and at MrA’s current calculated rate of handling email, you should receive a response in x days after his return. If no reply has occurred, he will receive an automatic reminder every y days’.

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