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A Serious Use for April Fools’ Day

April 27th, 2022 by dk

Josh Wardle hasn’t always been the mastermind behind the deviously simple word game that has taken the world by storm. Before he sold Wordle to The New York Times and after he was a digital arts student at the University of Oregon, he worked as a designer and engineer at Reddit, a discussion portal website based in San Francisco.

During his time in San Francisco, he spoke to a gathering called Tech Poetics in early 2018. Think of it as a very casual version of a TED talk. His chosen topic: “Why April Fools’ Day [Stinks] and What Can Be Done About It.” It’s on YouTube. You can look it up.

He described a prank project he launched at Reddit. It started with a button that had absolutely no purpose until its users invented one. He had accidentally created a super-charged microcosm of what Reddit itself has always been — a site where users define what’s important by their actions and reactions.

Wardle spun his experience at Reddit and some other successful corporate pranks to ponder how the day could become more purposeful, without being less fun.

April Fools’ Day is when Google introduced a new search capability based on smell. It could have been the day Amazon first demonstrated deliver-by-drone, or when Tesla launched a roadster into orbit. These efforts build and cement brands with fanciful experiments that push their capabilities to the nth degree.

His reflections got me thinking, Why couldn’t individuals do the same? One day each year, we could transform ourselves into authentic expressions of our aspirations, unshackled from history, logic or decorum.

We can wrap who we are and who we have been around who we would like to become. There’s always value in telling the truth about ourselves.

The joke of the day reduces our vulnerability. April 1 can mirror Halloween in this way. A girl dresses up as a princess and feels like one for a day. How many firefighters decided their future after dressing up as something they were not yet? Plenty, I’m sure.

Why should this variety of self-discovery end when we become adults? What’s the harm in claiming for ourselves a future that doesn’t yet exist, just for one day? Declare a different destiny for yourself — just as a joke. Too often we work for something and learn too late it’s not for us.

I have one of those stories myself. I sold a business and sampled the life of a retired person in 1990, exactly half my lifetime ago. I slept late. I walked to the library to read three newspapers. I didn’t yell at kids to get off my lawn because I lived in a condo, but I did everything else. I found it didn’t suit me. I’ve worked hard every day since.

Who would you like to become? Today is your chance to give it a trial run, if only for a few hours. Try it on. See if it fits. If you like how it feels, let the experiment shape your future. The silliness of the day could have a serious impact.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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