Sunday, April 01, 2007

Don't Be An April Fool
Online humor is tough. When email started to catch on, everyone noticed that messages tended to sound more terse and dismissive than ordinary speech or formal business letters. Emoticons cropped up as a method of softening chatter =) and identifying text meant to be humorous.

Today I came across a couple of blogs that are dealing with online April foolishness. The ultra-famous Seth Godin posted a piece criticizing online retailer Archie McPhee for offering a "baby parachute." While the item screams out "April Fools Sucker!" (and the comment confirms this), I agree with Seth. It's irresponsible to offer a potentially dangerous product, even if it doesn't exist.

Copyblogger's "Greatest Link Attraction Strategy Ever" is clearly a joke, although gullible me took it for serious until I remembered what day it is. Will someone try to fake their own death online? Probably. However, it's disturbing to see, in light of the current trouble with a well-known blogger receiving death threats, and so much opportunity for anonymity and misrepresentation on the Internet(s).

Why go to all this trouble in search of cleverness? Search me. These are hoaxes, and there are plenty of them going around - think about all the email virus messages, or that often repeated tale of LSD on public phones. The trouble with hoaxes? They just aren't funny. Couple this fact with that tendency for online communication to seem more serious than it might be, and there's just too much room for trouble.

Atlantis Events created a bogus Web page last year at this time, offering a cruise to Denver, Colorado. It was actually kind of funny, although anyone who hadn't experienced one of their vacations would likely miss out on the joke. And this kind of corporation humor can backfire in odd ways. I remember a selling point for this impossible vacation - "dine in any one of seven separate restaurants, all offering the same food!" That's actually the case on cruise ships.

Sometimes, when going for the ridiculous, we end up getting nearer the truth than we realize!

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