Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy April Fool's day

Ima Hogg, circa 1910Ima Hogg ca. 1910
Image from Wikimedia Commons
It's becoming a yearly tradition at Wikipedia to have an, ahem, special main page on the first... and this year is no different. (some of the content is dynamic, here are start of day and end of day versions) This page, more or less, is the page from 2007, and this page, more or less, is the page from 2006.

The joke within a joke is... everything on the main page is true. It just doesn't SEEM that way. when you read it A dedicated cadre of volunteers (with too much time on their hands) works at this for quite some time in advance... bringing an article to Featured Article status through the normal process, identifying appropriate "on this day" entries, selecting a special Featured Picture, and so forth. The rules for DYK are bent a bit so that articles older than 5 days are eligible but otherwise, they have to comply with the expansion, referencing, and other requirements.

This years' Featured Article, Ima Hogg ( with the lead of the summary reading "Ima Hogg was an enterprising circus emcee who brought culture and class to Houston, Texas. A storied ostrich jockey, she once rode to Hawaii to visit the Queen." and yes, that really was her name) was brought from nothing to FA status in extremely short order, and yet, it meets all the normal standards.

You can read more about the process at some of the discussion archives: 2006, 2007, and this years. It wasn't always this way. In early years the main page would be subject to what can only be called vandalism (adding complete nonsense, like, oh, that Wikipedia might carry ads, or was bought by Google, or that Google was launching a competitor to Wikipedia, among other things mooted) by established editors, followed by bouts of edit warring as various factions tried to restore normalcy, or restore Foolishness.

With the advent of the enforcement of policy that even on 1 April, everything has to be true, and everything has to work as a normal page (no messing with the links to helps or the page layout or the sidebar) relative peace has come... although some editors still don't even like the use of silly articles, it's hard to argue against a process that remains true to the spirit of truth (although perhaps NPOV is bent a little in writing the gag tag lines).

Do you know of other organizations that do only the truth in their prankery? Google, for example, does not. It has shared such novel new innovations as pigeon ranking, moon bases and this years gem, Virgle Pioneers, with us. (the sad thing is that except for pigeon ranking, these are all things I wish were true.)

What do you think?

(edits: fixed links to 2008 pages. Also note that this tradition is now a big enough deal that it gets media attention, such as this article. )

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