The vacation program is used to make sure that people who send you mail while you’re on vacation or otherwise out of the office for extended periods of time get a reply telling them not to expect to hear from you for a while. I personally have *never* liked the vacation program, because people misuse it and you wind up getting 25 emails every time someone sends *one* mail to a list, for example.
I would also like to submit that the vacation program has reached the end of its useful life, since the world has, by now, become sufficiently connected that you can check your mail no matter what corner of the world you happen to be in. Furthermore, knowing that one *can* check their email, many if not most people *will* check their mail. Effects this behavior has on one’s ability to have truly recuperative downtime are beyond the scope of this rant.
As a case in point, this happened to me less than an hour before writing this:
Someone in my office sent email to me to alert me to something that he himself had received email about (from one of our monitoring systems), and to ask if I could please check on it. Ok, no problem. I check on it and reply, at about the same time someone else also replies to the mailing list a bunch of us are on. In response to those, we each received two vacation emails, and then “real” emails from the initiator of the email thread, who, in spite of being “out of the office”, is able to receive monitor alerts via email, pass the information on via email, and carry on entire email conversations.
This is partially tongue-in-cheek, of course. I understand that the vacation program is probably still useful to somebody somewhere. But for someone who works in technology, has a blackberry and couldn’t go 24 hours without checking mail if their life depended on it?