April Fool's Day

Hoax articles on April Fool's rub some the wrong way

Planning for April Fool's Day turned out to be a touchy subject on Wikipedia, dividing the community over the issue of whether to feature a hoax article. Hoaxes did make an appearance on the Main Page in the end, but dissatisfaction over this turn of events prompted preparations for a better-organized approach next year.

Back on 12 March, Featured Articles Director Raul654 announced that he would open up the selection of the featured article on the Main Page for April 1 for suggestions. He suggested combing through the list of unusual articles for possibilities.

Unfortunately, some of the best options had already appeared on the Main Page as featured articles, like exploding whale. An attempt was made to get Boston molasses disaster promoted to featured article, but this proved unsuccessful.

However, a fake article on European toilet paper holders had already been put in place on the featured article template for April 1 by Jguk. This collaborative joke had already been put through featured article candidates (facetiously) and suggested as ideal for the Main Page on April Fool's Day, but Raul rejected this idea back in February (see archived story). When its presence on the template was pointed out, he reset the April 1 template to its original empty state.

The poll: hoax or no hoax?

On 26 March, Raul threw the issue open for a poll to run through 30 March, a decision he later came to regret. A few suggestions were made, although the most popular suggestion initially was "No special article", meaning that the choice should be left to Raul's judgment as usual. However, Worldtraveller suggested the European toilet paper holder article the next day as "an example of the very best of Wittypedia." As before, Raul vetoed this suggestion, and a debate ensued over whether the featured article for April 1 should be a hoax or not.

Several people argued that other respected information sources like the BBC had perpetrated April Fool's hoaxes in the past. However, others supported Raul's position and Everyking commented, "we are in the business of providing information, not playing silly games, especially not when those silly games would directly contradict the goal of providing information." mav said he would remove the hoax if it appeared on the Main Page.

The European toilet paper holder article remained the most popular option, with a majority of all participants in the poll supporting this choice. Partly in a reaction against the proposed hoax, "No special article" also received considerable support. Most of the other choices were largely ignored.

Raul and mav appealed for Jimbo Wales to express an opinion on the question. Wales finally did so on Wednesday but felt torn between the two sides and said, "I think it's really fun, but we're also a very serious project." He suggested setting up a parallel Main Page for April Fool's jokes, but those pushing the planned joke were unenthusiastic about this idea.

After the poll ended, Raul declared that the featured article for the day would be Nintendo Entertainment System, calling it "a very good article, and I think it's a 'fun' article". Questioning whether there was anything "fun" about it, Geogre responded, "It's an entirely predictable article that shows the rather boring user base that floods the encyclopedia with breathless articles on hobbies."

The day itself

The first major hoax to appear on the Main Page was a different item, the 2005 Britannica takeover of Wikimedia. Originally a relatively short news story created by Grunt and added to the "In the news" template, it drew a frenzy of edits and expanded into a lengthy article, complete with photoshopped images and a list of new corporate officers.

After this had been up for a little while, the featured article template was replaced with the European toilet paper holder article after all, using a suggestion from BanyanTree that it be labelled as "Today's featured Nihilartikel". When objections were raised about including the hoax news story with other serious items, it was removed from the "In the news" template and placed in a separate banner below the Main Page's introductory text. The hoaxes on the Main Page lasted about half the day, and were removed by Raul at 18:39 (UTC).

A variety of other pranks and nonsense were tried, both on the Main Page and elsewhere. Hedley collected a gallery of screenshots from the different jokes from the day, and a list of some of the fake adminship nominations, votes for deletion, and the like is at Wikipedia:Bad jokes and other deleted nonsense/April Fools' Day 2005.

An after-the-fact nomination, which JRM said he'd like to get up to featured article status and used next year, was Extreme ironing. This subject was actually the basis of an April 1 newspaper article in the Gonzaga University Bulletin, using the Wikipedia article as a source. Meanwhile, the "news" of the merger with Britannica was featured on Slashdot and mentioned on several other websites as well.

Some who had been uncomfortable with the hoax remained unhappy after seeing how the day played out, complaining that the pranks got out of control. Eloquence proposed setting guidelines for next year, with an emphasis on coordinating one main joke and limiting pranks to those areas that would not affect the encyclopedia. Several people endorsed this idea, although Tony Sidaway argued that it would be impossible to enforce.

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I'm surprised there was no mention of Terri Shaivo's freak autofellatio accident ;) -Frazzydee| 00:51, 6 Apr 2005 (UTC)


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