Wikipedia has traditionally been the centre of many pranks pulled on April 1st of every year. Unfortunately, while some jokes are harmless fun, others are more serious, leading to concerns at times whether some users – mainly administrators – have used their access to take things a little too far. For example, changes to system messages that appear to all users, led to blocking and administrators’ noticeboard reports in 2008. Other examples of pranks have included nominating various pages for deletion that would never have a chance of being deleted; nominating the nomination pages; reporting Jimbo as a vandal; joke requests for User Access Levels; and many, many others. Some of these “jokes” affect Wikipedia’s appearance to the public view and have led to concerns that they might damage Wikipedia’s reputation in the process.
What is being proposed is a balance between the slightly “quirky” culture of Wikipedia, and its aim to be seen as a serious reference site. The community has kept the mood light in honor of the holiday, and coordinated, simple pranks have often been planned in advance (Example: Main page quirky-but-true, such as George Washington (inventor)) that can be executed in a tasteful manner. Likewise “in-jokes” that will be noticed by experienced editors more than newcomer editors or readers, have traditionally had wider latitude as well. By contrast, jokes that require disruptive or problematic edits, especially to public texts via the MediaWiki namespace, should be avoided. Wikipedia policy does not prevent pranks, including imaginative, amusing, and innovative pranks, but it does anticipate that administrators will generally show good judgement.
The converse of this is that users who do not agree with a prank should consider carefully whether it is genuinely unacceptable, or merely unacceptable to them, and try to avoid encouraging over-reaction. The best reaction to a badly-judged prank which is not severe is discussion and reversion. To maintain civility, a second revert should be necessary to make sure that the warning has been seen before blocking.
The aim of this page is therefore not to prevent pranks, but to make the following distinction:
Good judgement of pranks requires a clue and sanity checking. Whilst minor, subtle, or endearing pranks that will give a smile are usually valid, if your prank might have a wider effect, or leave a bad taste, then consult with others first. Especially, pranks that will impact in a visibly negative way on pages that Wikipedia’s readers see, or are likely to cause annoyance to many people, are often a Very Bad Idea. These should usually be avoided, since they are executed at your own risk. If you wish to play such a prank, check wider and do not do so unless feedback says it would genuinely be within bounds of commonsense and acceptability.