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Many long-time community members are familiar with the annual April Fools joke that Stack Overflow has done most years, last year being an exception. We are proactively letting you know that we will NOT be doing anything for April Fools this year. (And no, this isn’t a misdirect ie ‘we said there was no prank, and that’s the meta-prank’ sort of thing.)

As was the case last year, we want to prioritize our work to focus on ongoing projects and initiatives. April Fools pools resources from Product, Engineering, Community Management, and other departments, and we don’t want high-priority work to stall as a result. We understand that some of you who’ve enjoyed prior April Fools posts may be disappointed, and those of you who haven’t may be relieved. Since the question was asked this fall, we are giving you the heads-up that it won’t be happening.

While we are unsure when/if we’ll be bringing April Fools back in future years, we will let you know if we decide to revisit it in the future.

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    I propose as answers we post April prank ideas, so you have a backlog of work in case this ever gets reversed ;)
    – rene
    Commented Mar 5 at 15:29
  • 7
    Since we are at it, any plan to bury the remains of the Winter Bash 2022 site like I pointed out on another post? The company already had quite an history of sun-setting the site only when they had to start working on the new version (while claiming to do that "soon after the event end") but now that there is no more WB nor Yaakov the site is left running and its api too (yes, the Leaderboard still works)... I think there is some money getting wasted to run an useless site there.
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Mar 5 at 15:48
  • 37
    If this really is an announcement that you're discontinuing April Fools pranks until further notice, please put that in the question title, not just "and next steps".
    – Makyen
    Commented Mar 5 at 16:29
  • 30
    “Next steps”: … there are none. Commented Mar 5 at 17:19
  • 7
    Great, April Fools pranks are adding too much noise on the web. Commented Mar 5 at 17:56
  • 4
    @GeorgeStocker - yeah, “3. Profit” isn’t happening…
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Mar 5 at 18:06
  • 12
    Unless of course this is a triple-bluff...
    – Richard
    Commented Mar 5 at 22:07
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    I'm not a fan of aprils fools jokes (or any kind of pranks). But how many people can you possibly keep busy by writing a blog post about the new CEO being an AI or following the second richest man's leadership and renaming the site "Y"? A good april fools is not time consuming, just funny. The SO keyboard was funny. If a picture like that costs too much to produce, you are either broke, or you are thinking about april fools waayy to much "corporate". Don't have a 10 person steering comitee meeting planning preparation course. Just take a fun idea and go with it.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 7 at 15:44
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    "we want to prioritize our work to focus on ongoing projects and initiatives. April Fools pools resources from Product, Engineering, Community Management, and other departments, and we don’t want high-priority work to stall as a result." So what? Are we in a hurry somewhere? It's ok to slow down and take a brake once in a while. Commented Mar 7 at 17:34
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    @ShadowWizardLoveZelda I consider bugs to be an ongoing (evergreen, if you will) initiative. I agree with you that bug fixes haven't been happening as fast or as frequently as we'd like right now. I mentioned in another post meta.stackexchange.com/questions/398127/… recently that we'll be talking about some upcoming initiatives and resources we're putting back into the community very soon.
    – Rosie StaffMod
    Commented Mar 7 at 21:17
  • 3
    Hooray. Personally I find the so called pranks just tedious. And when it is expected and required on a specific day each year, regardless of whether there is any actual creative inspiration it gets worse. I will not miss it. Commented Mar 7 at 22:00
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    @rene Idea: Prashanth Chandrasekar is really busy consulting with Matt Groening on an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Stack D'ohverflow", written by AI presumably.
    – rgettman
    Commented Mar 7 at 23:43
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    @Rosie in the past, there was one developer on "bug watch", who would consistently only, well, fix bugs. Dunno how those bugs were chosen, but it led to an actual bug fix at least every few days. That wasn't perfect, there were still hundreds of bugs left in waiting, but it gave a good feeling, that it's being looked into and handled. Guess that is my point. "upcoming initiatives and resources" sounds great, but the key word is "sounds": words apart, and actions apart. So I'd be glad to see resources put into bug fixing again. Commented Mar 8 at 6:20
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    @Joachim What's the best restaurant for programmers? Steak Overflow. Commented Mar 8 at 21:20
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    @SPArcheon In regards to the Winter Bash 2022 site at this time, the plan is to export it as a static site and maintain access to it that way, but not to spend resources on updating it at this point.
    – Rosie StaffMod
    Commented Mar 12 at 16:03

4 Answers 4

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A couple of thoughts on this and other similar events. "Fun" events—like the historical anniversary contests many old timers got swag from, a good April fool day gag (like the SO keyboard) and other such things are essentially marketing. They help energise the current community and the folks on the periphery, and sometimes getting picked up on news and news aggregators—which sometimes brings in new users.

While something like a full site makeover or a temporary site is a bit of additional work—I think it would be foolish to dismiss the potential value a well thought out and thoughtful event like this can have.

High priority work seems to get stalled anyway—consider the staging ground project, which made steady progress then was put on hiatus. There's a good many other historical examples. Putting aside some resources for fun and community engagement might not be why these things are stalling, and it certainly isn't a situation where we can have fun or development of the core software, but rather the focus seemingly being somewhere else altogether.

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    yeah... idunno how an april fools joke would even fit with the community now days... everone's so fed up with the way things are going. It'd just be a "This is what we got instead of the improvements we need?!"
    – Kevin B
    Commented Mar 7 at 15:50
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    This is a pattern I have seen with many companies.... With 3 rounds of layoffs last year, it's honestly no wonder the company doesn't have enough staff to deliver on anything that doesn't directly generate revenue. Between you, me, and the Internet... I don't think the Senior Leadership at the company is concerned about anything but immediate term profit. Someone can worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. Today, they just want to get some 💰.
    – AMtwo
    Commented Mar 7 at 21:04
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    I still watch the DDA video sometimes. Fun in communities/workplaces strengthens relationships. It doesn't have to be a grand effort. I still remember the donut box filled with broccoli prank in my old workplace's break room. I don't know what happened, but every time I log in to SE these days, I log off depressed. It's a shame SE has grown out of the tech startup vibe everything is so corporate now they have to announce they aren't going to do even a tiny joke on April 1.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 7 at 21:26
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    Dunno, I feel like being made a fool of lately whenever there's some executive blog post, or announcement of a new exciting feature no-one really asked for. Don't really need to have a set date for that, it seems. It's enough to read the blog titles to feel like it's April 1st no matter the actual date.
    – Dan Mašek
    Commented Mar 7 at 21:40
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    Re "are essentially marketing": It certainly gets attention. For example, "Stack Overflow’s copy / paste keyboard is no joke" (The Verge, 2021-11-03) Commented Mar 9 at 1:08
  • v+-1 Do you think the company really wants or needs press attention at this period of time? Look at all the negative responses they received from users to the latest news of the partnership with Google. All the negative reactions from SO users to LLMs, especially ChatGPT, generated posts. It would take reporters seconds to discover the general discontent that has befallen on SE. And let's not forget the vertiginous drop in participation across many communities across the network. That there will be no April Fool's prank is the least of "our" problems. The Halcyon days are well and truly over Commented Mar 10 at 10:34
  • Sure, but if I started listing everything that was wrong, I'd run out of letters and stray off topic. I think I've enough of a body of work here on what ails the community Commented Mar 10 at 10:59
  • Have you considered that the company doesn't have the manpower (yes, I know "man" that's not a very inclusive term), the resources, the time or the energy to spend on setting up the prank. My point being, at this point they don't need extra attention from outsiders, they need leadership who has the support of their free volunteers. I don't see this leadership, I see minions running around fixing seepages in a ship while a huge iceberg is approaching. Commented Mar 10 at 11:41
  • wait, are you telling me that jokes where you laugh with people are better than jokes where you laugh at people? That you prefer a genuine joke about the copy&paste keyboard than being annoyed by a visually triggering theme applied by default that requires a separate opt off for every site? What's next? Saying those weren't welcoming? Beware young one, some tried and were downvoted for it. Yet, you may see that as a badge of honor...
    – SPArcheon
    Commented Mar 12 at 17:22
  • @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні Am I aware that SE squanders human resources and arbitrarily lets go or causes people who are valuble and understand how things work to leave, or finds reasons to make people be weary of applying or never hiring them in the first place? Certainly! Commented Mar 12 at 23:50
  • @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні But at least with a proper April Fools coverage they'd have some control over it, and would have something positive for a change.
    – Joachim
    Commented Mar 20 at 9:04
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    @ColleenV I've never seen that video before, that was both fun and wholesome :)
    – Joachim
    Commented Mar 20 at 9:04
9

This seems fine to me. The April Fools' pranks were neat, but I don't think SE should feel an obligation to continue them. A past history of nifty gifts does not create a never-ending obligation to continue giving such gifts every year thereafter.

To me, the more important issue is resources that are being devoted to the public Q&A platform.

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April Fools pools resources from Product, Engineering, Community Management, and other departments, and we don’t want high-priority work to stall as a result.

It takes a couple of brains (and tell me Stack Overflow has some in stock :D) and no more than an hour to set up a good joke, and no more than another hour to record it (if needed) and put it online (Stack Overflow, YouTube, etc... you name it). So now, does it take less/more than this in a week to share donuts and coffee at work? Couldn't you guys just take some time to share fun with your communities?

The Dance Dance Authentication was hilarious! And still is :D But you don't need to put that much time and money into some fun if you don't want to. Just a little effort. A funny thing and a phone to record it. Or just a keyboard to post it.

I'm pretty sure you folks can save time and money while showing you care.

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    When someone don't want to do something, they'll find any excuse to not do it. Commented Mar 8 at 12:08
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    "When someone don't want to do something, they'll find any excuse to not do it.": clearly... probably... sadly...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Mar 8 at 13:17
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    -1 It takes more than an hour to come up with an original funny April Fool's joke that necessitates coding. Maybe staff are overworked or aren't in the mood? What if the April Fool's prank fell flat on its face? What if some users complained – remember the duck prank? The community has lost its patience and good will. I don't blame staff for not wanting to spend even an hour (but it would be much more than that) for a one-day event. Commented Mar 10 at 10:31
  • 1
    @Mari-Lou: "it takes more than an hour to come up with an original funny April Fool's joke that necessitates coding." -> who says it needs coding?! It can be a blog post (just writing), a short video shot with a phone and published on social media, really, we did that all the time at my previous places. Cost = 0. ROI = 100% fun. Even the worst joke would make a great moment laughing and teasing the "loser".
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Mar 10 at 10:53
  • It still takes more than an hour to come up with an original and funny April Fool's prank, with or without coding. Can you guarantee that it would take only 45 minutes to come up with the idea (original and funny) and to execute it? Even the worst joke would make a great moment laughing and teasing the "loser" If everyone supported the team/company, yes it would. Commented Mar 10 at 11:04
  • "If everyone supported the team/company, yes it would." -> it might be a good starting point. When you have a strained relationship, any little thing that will loosen the pressure can be good. If everybody makes a step forward...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Mar 10 at 11:14
  • The thing to loosen stress or disappointment is not expecting staff to work at a joke when there's a backlog of bugs and grievances. BTW for any user who has forgotten (me!) or is unfamiliar with the acronym DDA, it stands for Dance Dance Authentication (2017). Commented Mar 10 at 11:31
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    @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 11 at 14:08
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    @ColleenV One day of "fun" in the year will not make an iota of difference. New users won't care, what they don't know they won't miss. Core and hi-rep users; too many are disappointed, jaded and disenchanted with the company. I count myself as one of them, I still visit regularly, do some house-keeping, post comments, but I rarely post answers now. The excessive suspensions on MSE and the number of sackings on SE have all but poisoned the experience. Great contributors have disappeared from ELL and EL&U because QUALITY and enthusiasm have plummeted. Ack. Commented Mar 11 at 15:17
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    @Mari-Lou: you're so awfully right! I see, feel and sense the same. I just don't want to give up but try every little bit of thing that's left. If the last from Pandora's box is what we have left, at least I want to give it a shot. I don't want to give up and throw the baby out with the bathwater. I feel like you and many others. And like many "other others" I want to fight to save what can be, if can be...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Mar 11 at 15:26
  • @Mari-LouAСлаваУкраїні It could make a difference to the SE team that suffered what I assume was a hit to their morale after the layoffs. Regardless, I don't care if there's a prank or not. I just think it's sad that they've forbidden people from even thinking about it. It just signals the type of relationship the company wants to have with the community and it's not a healthy one. SE will dribble out incremental improvements to make it easier for us to curate Google's data so SE can make money while they pretend like that's some sort of reciprocality for the value the community creates.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 11 at 15:45
4

Although I found one or two of the April fools jokes to be amusing and creative (I fondly recall one that made the screen look like an old TV or something like that), I don't think it's a big deal either way.

What is concerning, however, is that Stack Exchange appears to have become so corporate and bloated that it cannot even pull off a simple April fool joke without pooling "resources from Product, Engineering, Community Management, and other departments" that would be so intense as to jeopardize stalling high-priority work.

It seems as if "committee culture" and "corporate meeting culture" have overcome and paralyzed Stack Exchange, making even the simplest things, like an April fool joke, overwhelming.

This reminds me of the frequent requests from our community for a dark theme for all Stack Exchange sites. For years, Stack Exchange has claimed it would be too challenging and require too many resources. I coded it myself in a weekend.

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    I don't think the dark mode point really adds to your argument. I don't think dark mode for the SE network sites is simple (unless you cheat, and that has its own issues with human vision sensitivity to light and dark differences). I for one doubt that one could do a good job of that in a weekend
    – starball
    Commented Mar 18 at 22:26
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    @starball I think the code I wrote would satisfy the overwhelming majority of community members. I am willing to bet a year's salary on it, if that's legal. Commented Mar 18 at 22:29

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