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TL,DR: this year's April's fools could be a source of confusion, or worse, in certain workplaces. Please stick to less intrusive stuff.


Very related: Why was the decision made to make the 2019 April Fool's joke immediately activate?, but this asks about the "why", and is not a feature request to simply have less of an intrusive design for next April's Fools.


Long story short, from what I gather of previous April's Fools, there was a duck, chat with an expert, overall rather discreet stuff, with the exception of Cornify (but that was 10 years ago, and SO wasn't as "big" and commonly used than today, was it?).

Emphasis on the "rather discreet", because while one can like or dislike that 90s glittery, flashy, background-repeating design, it occured to me that fortunately it's Sunday (here), and that stuff didn't pop in my office where my boss could have seen it. I knew straight away it was an April's Fools because I know SE, you know it and I know it, but my coworkers might not, and explaining will probably be more awkward than anything else.

Some workplaces are just not going to be okay with their employees browsing what looks like a 90s silly blog. Let's just not take that risk, a rubber duck is just fine...

Obviously, as said above this issue stems from the joke being enabled by default, and I do understand that making it opt-in would ruin the feel.

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    Possible duplicate of What testing is done on 'April Fool' pranks? – Cody Gray Mar 31 at 12:07
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    @CodyGray mmmh? Admittedly Meta isn't my area of expertise but the proposed dupe-target isn't a FR to have less of that stuff? Well, there's point 2 of the propositions, but overall it seemed more like a "what has been done" than a "what will be done"? (trying to understand, not wanting to come off as a knee-jerk reaction to a dupe-closure, honest :) ) – Jenayah Mar 31 at 12:12
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    So you have a workplace where you can browse the web at will but can't explain to them you were caught in an April fools prank? Weird. – rene Mar 31 at 12:23
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    @rene truth be told, it's not so much about my workplace or my boss, but rather a combination of possible scenarios: people in open spaces, interns who might be seen as slacking, companies dealing with rather serious (think politics/defence, though that doesn't make the rest any less serious) stuff and whose visitors might be offed, knee-jerk bosses/coworkers who won't hear a thing, or even not ask and jump straight to conclusions... Pessimistic, yes, but possible and common enough to not b worth the risk... – Jenayah Mar 31 at 12:28
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    Those risks are here every day. Today you have a good excuse ... – rene Mar 31 at 12:31
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    @rene yes and no. Enabling the joke when April 1st starts somewhere in the world is nice, but here it's still the 31st, and "look, boss, the guys at Stack Overflow like their fun, they do that every year, it's just enabled now because it's April 1st somewhere in the world" is not an 'excuse' and seems like awkard pushing... – Jenayah Mar 31 at 12:35
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    @CodyGray I don't think this is duplicate. This one here is a clear and focused feature request asking to change policy, the other one doesn't ask to change anything, or at best asking to change the way things are tested. Not same thing, IMO. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Mar 31 at 12:48
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    Could we please, please, please, pretty please with sugar on top get an "opt out of all April Fools features" (and preferably all other events like hats) option in personal settings already. Anyone who doesn't like stuff like this would opt out and never have to complain about it again. Others would be free to enjoy the silliness. Stack Exchange employees wouldn't have to read cranky posts on Meta. Everybody wins. It's just one extra field in the database and a checkbox in the settings page. – JJJ Mar 31 at 13:46
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    @JJJ that's how I envision it as well. – Shadow The Curly Braced Wizard Mar 31 at 13:48
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    @rene more than just "annoyed that my boss would find out" - I thought I had clicked on a bad SE/SO clone when looking up a reference and then spent a good 10 minutes making sure my browser/computer didn't get hacked, tracked, or otherwise messed with. Before realizing that it might be the 1st of April in some time zones and looking for a post.....I really did not need to waste this, all combined, half-hour. Minor bit of time yes, but I can't bill for that so its money out my pocket or more correctly 30 minutes with the fam I lost today (probably more as it knocked me out of my "zone"). – JGreenwell Mar 31 at 14:48
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    @JGreenwell that is awesome. Best april fools ever. Much better then the ones where it is immediately obvious it is a prank. You'll remember this one for years to come.... – rene Mar 31 at 14:54
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    @rene I get an average of one day with my kids & wife a week. I wasn't happy when I had to go fix something that wasn't even my fault (or job) and glad SO was there to remind me of a reference. However, that happy feeling dissipates quite rapidly when SO wastes my already limited time instead of helping, Now I'm using SO less and less due to the diminishing number of references I need from it - this doesn't help me want to use it. So years to come goes more and more quickly to years from now when you reminiscence about that one site you used to use - or TLDR; its not funny or awesome to me – JGreenwell Mar 31 at 15:02
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    @JGreenwell I wish you a lovely day with your family, you and they deserve it. Say hi to them from me. Enjoy! – rene Mar 31 at 15:06
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    The "Back to the future!" message that's sometimes displayed regarding this prank says "If you want to switch to the current site, you'll find the option here", however I can't find where "here" is to turn the formatting off. Does anyone know how/where to do this, as I find it very annoying. – martineau Mar 31 at 17:18
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    @KevinB no they don't, a tiny duck in the bottom right corner is not the same as a full-fledged flashy, glittery, younameit 90s design covering the whole page. – Jenayah Apr 1 at 18:16
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If a joke on a site used by professionals is taken so far that it slow down or obstructs ordinary usage of the site, going that far should be opt-in. Regarding this:

I do understand that making it opt-in would ruin the feel

Changing the entire site to a barely-usable 90s-style design could have been opt-in, without spoiling the joke.

Have an opt-in notice like the opt-out notice pointing at the clock icon, but have the content of that opt-in message in full-on 1990s-style, with comic sans, a red scrolling marquee saying CLICK HERE TO TRY OUR GREAT NEW DESIGN!!!!!!!!, animated flame gifs around a blue underlined "CLICK HERE" at the bottom... but only inside the box pointing at the button, until the user clicks on the button.

If it was done like that:

  • People who weren't in a hurry would get the joke, laugh, click into 90s mode and have fun
  • People who were in a hurry could just do the task they came to the site to do with no hassle
  • The inevitable unexpected bugs (like load time slow down, cookie failure, site-specific CSS problems) would matter much, much less, because they'd only affect people who had opted in to a joke.
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    opting in to an april fools joke? kinda defeats the purpose – Kevin B Apr 1 at 18:14
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    That's not what I'm saying. The "We made a time machine to the 90s!" April fools joke is still visible to everyone - but it doesn't go crazy on the entire page until opt in. – user568458 Apr 1 at 23:14
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I agree we shouldn't do a reskin prank in the foreseeable future. Please see my retrospective for more background and especially the addendum. I thought it was a lot of fun, but there were unintended consequences. More importantly, the reason the event was fun for people was because it was unexpected. Doing something similar next year would carry the joke too far. (And for people who thought we went too far this year that's doubly true.)

You've probably seen homepage takeover ads. They seem especially common on gaming sites and they are simply awful. Unfortunately, they also work really well from an advertising and revenue generating perspective. I'm proud our company doesn't see those types of ads. It also makes good business sense for us since our value proposition is that our ads are more likely to be relevant to the people who see them. I suspect that some of the distaste people had with this stunt was influenced by bad experiences with overly aggressive ads on other sites. Fortunately, that's not who we are.

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You can just turn it off for youself. Why not let the others to have fun?

I like this design by the way. It has some issues (like upvotes on comments) but in general it works fine. It doesn't spoil anything, it's clear and readable. And I'm not going to turn it off.

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    Because not everybody knows straight away it can be turned off, because it just blows at the face of unaware users, because it could lead to touchy situations, because... There is a whole lot of stuff listed in the question, the comment and the linked ones. The goal isn't to prevent others to have fun, the goal is to have everybody having fun with the minimum risk of complications. – Jenayah Apr 1 at 17:28
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    This answer completely misses the point of every single complaint about how the "joke" was set up, run, managed and worked. – Nij Apr 1 at 18:46
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    "It doesn't spoil anything, it's clear and readable" I have to strongly disagree with you there. Every time I see a themed page my eyes glaze over and I can't read anything at all. This really should have been opt-in, I honestly believe would have made the joke even better. – Mark Henderson Apr 1 at 21:08
  • @MarkHenderson, but it is opt-in - you can turn it off. – Qwertiy Apr 1 at 21:18
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    @Qwertiy nope. Opt-in rather means you gave an explicit permission to have stuff handed to you. None of that here as it was enabled by default. – Jenayah Apr 1 at 21:33
  • @Jenayah, ok, I mixed up "opt-in" and "optional". – Qwertiy Apr 1 at 21:35
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    @Qwertiy yeah what we have here is "opt-out" and it's not even a reliable opt-out as it comes back on every site you visit. And when it first hit production it only opted out for that page. As soon as you re-visited it came back. – Mark Henderson Apr 1 at 22:35

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