Wikipedia victim of onslaught of April Fool's jokes

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Wikipedia logo modified in the style of Encyclopædia Britannica

Friday, April 1, 2005

Today Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone with access to the Internet can edit, was the victim of an onslaught of practical jokes, as April Fool's Day kicked in various timezones around the world, at least those parts which follow the Gregorian calendar. It is believed that Wikipedia contributors were kept busy tidying up and removing prank articles and changes made by other Wikipedia contributors, and were expecting to be cleaning up the aftermath for days afterwards.


The most highly visible prank was the 2005 Britannica takeover of Wikimedia encyclopaedia article. Other pranks included:

  • the changing of the deletion notice, affixed to encyclopaedia articles whose deletion is being discussed, to a "termination notice", complete with a picture of The Terminator;
  • the nomination of the deletion discussion maintenance area of the encyclopaedia for front-page article status;
    • "In my days at Wikipedia, I've seen fancruft, middle schools, band vanity, hoaxes, [biased] forks, spam, patent nonsense, [copyright violations] and [system operator] accountability policies. Now we have ONE article with all of those!" said Wikipedia contributor Szyslak, in "opposition" to the motion. (Articles with such content are generally deemed unacceptable for Wikipedia and deleted. Their deletions are of course discussed in the deletion discussion area.)
  • the corresponding nomination of the discussion area for whether an article should have front-page status for deletion;
    • "Hopelessly biased in favour of good articles. Mistreatment of stubs and short articles are known to have occurred." said Wikipedia contributor Andylkl.
  • the nomination of the article on April Fool's Day itself for deletion by Alkivar;
    • "Not only is this utter nonsense, but terribly [biased]. This falls way below encyclopedic standards. At this rate we'll have to be making articles for every arbitrary day of the year." said Wikipedia contributor Arkyan. (Wikipedia does, in fact, have articles for every day of the year, listing important anniversaries of historical events and people.)
  • Requests for de-Godkingship
  • modification of the article navigation tabs that appear on Wikipedia web pages, amongst others replacing "history" with "time travel";
  • the translation of the user page of Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales, founder of Wikipedia, into Spanish;
  • Creation of the M1126A Fryker Armored Combat Deep Fryer ("The M1126A Fryker Armored Combat Deep Fryer is a modified M1126 Stryker capable of preparing the main course of a meal, under combat conditions, for 150 soldiers.") article.
  • Addition to the Wikipedia:Votes for Deletion page of an image of a toaster (kitchen appliance) with the following caption: Wikipedia:Votes for deletion was first hosted on this BSD powered toaster. When that broke down, they had to use solar panels. Hence the reason the page loads so slowly.

Ongoing cleanup

Most edits which were judged (rightly or wrongly) as April Fool's Day pranks were quickly undone, although tacit community consensus left several to stand throughout the whole period of April Fool's Day. Being accessible worldwide (by people who can afford Internet access) in all timezones, April Fool's Day lasts for more than 24 hours at Wikipedia. The change to the deletion notice was undone within 31 minutes, for example, despite the notice being altered at 05:08 UTC, night-time in Europe and the United States.

Several Wikipedia contributors have expressed their dismay at the amount of work being generated, though these views may or may not be indicitive of the contributor base at large:

  • "How do we tell people not to vandalize the encyclopedia when everybody's doing it?" said Wikipedia contributor RickK.
  • "This is getting out of hand. Sneak vandalism everywhere, and it seems like every wikiuser feel they should have their own April Fools prank somewhere. I'm thinking maybe the best joke would be to let wikipedia not be editable today. Use the day to reindex tablebases or whatever it is that a day off can be used constructively to. Wikipedia should be correct all the year. God knows how long all this misinformation will live on on forgotten pages and various [caches] around the net." said Wikipedia contributor Shanes.

Other Wikipedians have shown dismay at how quickly the April Fools gags are undone:

  • "I spent two hours creating the M1126A Fryker article but it was deleted from M1126A Fryker in about 20 minutes. It seems it was even deleted with out going through Candidates for speedy deletion and I do not believe it qualified for deletion on the spot (nor do I believe it would of qualified for speedy deletion). Its important to have a sense of humor and rather than trying to squash the April Fools jokes perhaps we should find a way to work together. How about a template that is available to mark an article as an April fools joke or another template that helps track changes to articles done in the name of April Fools." said Wikipedia contributor Triddle.