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April Fools' through the ages, part two

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By Adam Cuerden
A LOLKeats

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:

An 18th century drawing of Cock Lane

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...)

Recently featured: Sir Richard WilliamsCaptain Scarlet and the MysteronsBattle of Towton

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:

Kjærlighetskarusellen, or The Carousel of Love

The Signpost didn't get into the act that much: The WikiProject report opens thusly:

Snake handling service held in Lejunior, Harlan County, Kentucky

...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:


The picture of the day for April 1, 2013. I've honestly eyed that one for restoration over and over, not realising it was already a featured picture.

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.

Postcard showing a Polish girl about to get a soaking


The picture of the day was a map used to hunt snark, and the featured article was Disco Demolition Night, an infamously ill-fated sports promotion at the end of the disco era.

The 2013 request for comment we quoted a bit of had a dampening effect in some ways. The list of pranks for 2014 is far shorter and tamer than previous years.

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:

The Story of the Family who Couldn't Wear Clothes

These illustrations from Urania's Mirror were restored and nominated by Adam Cuerden

It's honestly one of my favourites ever. Have a read. "Did you know?" also had its usual fun, of which a sampling:

Illustration of a cat with an incendiary device strapped to its back
Emblem of Society of Science, Letters and Art


A drum! A drum! Macbeth has come! ...We really need to stop catering to his fetishes.
Featured content, April Fools 2015

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':

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:

From the Knees of my Nose to the Belly of my Toes (2013)

Wikivoyage, meanwhile, taught us the way to travel... through time. A sample:

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.

In this issue
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