Monday, March 30, 2009

April Fools' Day

Who says engineering can only be used for [fun and] profit?  With loads of pent-up creativity, the only the thing standing between engineers and havoc is over-zealous daycare/management.

During the peak of the dotcom bubble (and the low of productivity), this wasn't a problem.  For pranks, one-time tech giant Sun Microsystems was the place to be.   Every year, under-worked engineers architected antics of ever-escalating complexity where the only rewards were a t-shirt and a record of the event eternally documented on the internet for future employers to see.

But as the tech sector's day in the sun came to a close, pranks became far more subdued.  While nothing less than assembling a Volkswagen in a VP's office would work in the 80s and 90s, the 2000s saw pranks that took little more than a Smart car and a screw driver.  But all is not lost.  As glorious as April Fools' Days past were, they could only be enjoyed by people who were there.  Thanks to the magic of the internet, milder shenanigans can be broadcast to the vast swaths of cube farms from San Jose to Bangalore.

Places to watch:
  • YouTube spent the day in 2008 luring unsuspecting visitors to a now-infamous 80s music video people would have otherwise forgotten and, in the process, killed Rickrolling for good.  Over the course of the next year, everyone from Carson Daly to Rick Astley, himself, participated in the meme.
  • ThinkGeek comes up with an amazing assortment of products barely too good to be true--pics and all!  But don't worry, at least one idea was too good to be fake, and a few months later, the 8-bit tie was for sale.
  • The social news fanboys over at Digg, Reddit, Slashdot, et al. will probably work up something between The Onion and WTF.  The fun is in guessing which stories are real.
  • Google's growing up before our eyes, so its days as the only toilet ISP are numbered.  That said, CEO Eric Schmidt was an exec at Sun, so there might still be a few good laughs from the Googleplex.
  • Any youth-oriented website might join in.  Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Meebo, and any other website that provides a non-essential service targeted at people too young to remember a world with dialup are all worth visiting.  The key is a company with management that doesn't care and customers who don't care.

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