Like many things on Wikipedia, as the website grew, the anarchic fun of the early days started to fade away. Hence, we are starting in 2011, when things were still fun and chaotic. To wit: in 2009 (not even during April Fools' Day, but on a random day in August), a "LOLKeats" was made to explain a poem by John Keats, added to the article, and nominated as a featured picture candidate, with the claim that the articles it's in are "Ode on Indolence – Limited time offer". This wasn't considered disruptive, or worthy of a block: it was all harmless fun. Nowadays, I can't imagine it going over so well as the reversion text being merely "I have to admit I laughed, but lolcat go byebye:)".
I do think Wikipedia has lost some of its fun. That's not a good thing, but it was inevitable. Those early days were collaborative and wild with a heady sense of purpose. We were building the encyclopedia. You could take a famous figure and make them a featured article from very little. I don't think we can ever get those days fully back, and that's the nature of success.
Also, afraid we're going to need a part three. On the upside, this series can be linked to for years to come.
By far the best joke this year was the choice for Today's Featured Article:
Fanny scratching in 18th-century London's Cock Lane was so notorious that interested bystanders often blocked the street. It became the focus of a religious controversy between Methodists and orthodox Anglicans, and was reported on by celebrities of the period such as Samuel Johnson. Charles Dickens referred to the phenomenon in several of his books, including Nicholas Nickleby and A Tale of Two Cities, and other Victorian authors also alluded to it in their work. One enterprising resident diverted the crowds that gathered in Cock Lane by allowing them to converse with a ghost he claimed was haunting his home, to which he charged an entrance fee. Fanny scratching eventually resulted in several prosecutions, and the pillorying of a father. (more...)
I don't think "Did you know?" was as on-fire as it usually was, but there were some good ones, including:
After last year, even pigeon photography as today's featured article feels somewhat of a letdown, though the idea of using time-delayed cameras as a sort of early drone photography is fascinating.
In more random places, A request to write e. e. cummings' article entirely in lowercase is great literary humour. Our article on vandalism was nominated for deletion as obvious vandalism. Snow was was also nominated for deletion, but kept per WP:SNOW. There's also this... interesting choice of newspaper for Wikipedia:WikiProject Conservatism's newsfeed.
A few good "Did you know?" entries, including:
The Signpost didn't get into the act that much: The WikiProject report opens thusly:
|In a hard-hitting exposé that will surely garner a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism, The Signpost delved into the dark and twisted world of Wikipedia's most powerful media institution: The Signpost.
...but it then immediately drops the conceit. Honestly, the most interesting thing isn't even an intentional fool, it's the first article in the featured content report:
|Wikipedia is a loose collection of volunteers while the other organizations generally have strict corporate control structures. At a newspaper, an editor can direct a team of individuals to work on a single coordinated effort. The newspaper's management can at the same time ensure that no other part of the organization disrupts this effort or attempts to engage in alternative April Fool's efforts. This level of cooperation and coordination is not possible on Wikipedia. If one person does not agree with a course of action there is little stopping them for branching out and starting a competing effort.
That's a quote from our coverage on how some people objected to their serious encyclopedia having any sense of fun to it. And I think it's a good response. We need fun, we need socialisation, we need rewards, or Wikipedia is just a job. 2013 was a pretty good year, despite the naysayers. The featured article for today, in particular, was one of the more unique main pages:
The Indonesian film named simply ? was nominated by Crisco 1492, and we actually have an interview with him about his work. Meanwhile, featured lists had the Foot in Mouth award, and we also got the usual fun at Did You Know; highlights below.
However, The Signpost meanwhile started to get into the spirit. I've recently started writing featured content reports in rhyme. This was inspired by the 2 April 2014 featured content, which, not only described everything in rhyme, but also invented stories based on the featured pictures:
It's weird looking back at old featured content reports. The layouts before featured pictures became a gallery are odd. But there's a lot of interesting jokes in this one. Including pointing out the plagiarism within classical art.
News and notes, meanwhile, had a lot of fun with 'New edits-by-mail option will "revolutionize" Wikipedia and its editor base':
|The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) will announce later today that it will begin accepting edits by mail for all of the projects under its scope, including Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Commons. They believe that this move, coming as part of a long-held goal to open up editing to anyone, will "revolutionize" the site by opening up the Wikimedia sites to more potential editors. The initiative will begin on the English Wikipedia, with others to follow soon after.
Details of how this edits by mail initiative will be implemented were not fully revealed as of publishing time, but the WMF's tech ambassador Pennaninn Quell told the Signpost that it will involve post-office boxes posted in many major countries around the world. Letters sent to them will be forwarded to the WMF's San Francisco office by next-day airmail, paid by the organization. "Mail has the disadvantage of taking days rather than seconds," Quell wrote. "We want to limit this competitive disadvantage where possible, and we are easily in a financial position to fully commit to this project." Edits will be processed by a newly created WMF department, which will be given its own C-level head. As a significant demand for this service is expected, a high number of new staff members is expected.
Today's featured article, invisible rail, for the first time in years, wasn't a joke, really, or, if it was, gave the joke away so instantaneously that it failed. In article space, Upside-down cake was flipped. Once again, Did you know ruled the main page's celebrations:
Wikivoyage, meanwhile, taught us the way to travel... through time. A sample:
|Time travel will have been popularized in 1885 AD by Herbert George Wells (1866-1946), a British science fiction writer who first saw the potential for using a Time Machine to transport tourists to other eras in which they could buy tacky souvenirs and leave behind massive amounts of rubbish. Before this invention, travellers of the era were largely limited to galloping into nearby towns on horseback (if there was no railway yet) and annoying the locals by leaving trails of horse excrement in their wake.
In 1964 AD, Mick Jagger will famously claim "Time, time, time is on my side..." before heading forward in time Freejack-style to appear in a long string of come-back performances in 2013, 2015, 2110 and 2250. The string of Rolling Stones comeback performances ended in the twenty-third century when the group began to gather moss.
Time travel is particularly suitable for people with limited time. While you otherwise usually will need at least one day to make a journey, time travel enables you to return to the same moment you left. Thus you can literally start your day by a trip to somewhere else and return home for breakfast! Or even have breakfast at the end of the universe (see Eat below)
And we'll finish this series next issue. I know: it'll be May by then. But... well, let's just say there's a lot going on in my life that would pull this column's mood down a lot if I went into it.