I enjoy a good joke. I’m not so politically-correct that I won’t laugh at the expense of others – remember I grew up in the UK, where bullying was part of the culture ;-), nor so po-faced that I can’t laugh at my own expense.
I do not enjoy April Fools. Jokes on this day are rarely, if ever, good jokes. Perhaps they were more fun when humans lived in small, isolated communities with little knowledge of the outside world and so could be fooled en masse by spaghetti trees. However, this is the 21st century, the age of information. We should be harder to fool, because we know more about the world.
Paradoxically, it’s the information age that enables the flood of tedious, blatantly false, time-wasting stories in our inboxes and feed readers every April 1st. You might even say that everyday is April 1st, somewhere on the Web. The elements of surprise and ignorance are gone. Perhaps it’s time to abandon this quaint custom.
Which brings me to Slideshare, who decided that it would be tremendously funny to (1) inflate users’ slide views by adding two zeroes and (2) inform their users by email. Some users are rather upset by this because rather than check the facts, they instantly tweeted the news “I am a slideshare rock star” and now feel rather foolish. Well, not much sympathy from me there (see paragraph 1).
Others have outlined some better reasons why this was not a smart move on Slideshare’s part, so I’ll just briefly reiterate:
- Time-wasting, unsolicited email = spam
- Whilst user data were not manipulated, the act gave the impression that they may have been – which does not inspire confidence or trust
- Many users view Slideshare as a professional showcase for their work – this act detracted from that professionalism
- Slideshare have enough problems (and yesterday, more so) maintaining the functionality of their site – users appreciate more effort in that direction and less on pranks
To their credit, public apologies from Slideshare are flowing freely. My advice for next year – just stay clear of the whole April 1st rubbish. It’s not funny or clever and as several commenters said, Slideshare isn’t YouTube.