Josh Wardle wasn’t always the mastermind behind the deviously simple pun that has taken the world by storm. Before selling Wordle to the New York Times and after studying digital arts at the University of Oregon, he worked as a designer and engineer at Reddit, a San Francisco-based discussion portal.
While in San Francisco, he spoke at a gathering called Tech Poetics in early 2018. Think of it as a very casual version of a TED talk. His chosen subject: “Why April Fools [Stinks] and what can be done about it. It’s on YouTube. You can search for it.
He described a prank project he started on Reddit. It all started with a button that had absolutely no purpose until its users invented one. He had accidentally created an overstuffed microcosm of what Reddit itself has always been – a site where users define what’s important through their actions and reactions.
Wardle shared his experience at Reddit and a few other successful corporate pranks to think about how the day could become more useful, without being less fun.
April Fool’s Day is when Google introduced a new scent-based search feature. It could have been the day Amazon first demonstrated drone delivery, or when Tesla launched a roadster into orbit. These efforts build and cement brands with whimsical experiences that push their capabilities to the nth degree.
His thoughts made me think, why can’t individuals do the same? One day a year, we could transform ourselves into authentic expressions of our aspirations, unfettered by history, logic, or decorum.
We can understand who we are and who we have been around and who we would like to become. It is always helpful to tell the truth about ourselves.
The joke of the day reduces our vulnerability. April Fool’s Day can reflect Halloween in this way. A girl dresses up as a princess and feels like one for a day. How many firefighters have decided on their future after dressing up as something they weren’t yet? Many, I’m sure.
Why should this variety of self-discovery cease when we become adults? What’s wrong with claiming for yourself a future that doesn’t yet exist, just for one day? Declare yourself a different fate – just as a joke. Too often we work for something and learn too late that it’s not for us.
I myself have one of these stories. I sold a business and had a taste of retired life in 1990, exactly halfway through my life. I slept late. I walked to the library to read three newspapers. I didn’t yell at the 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 have worked hard every day since.
Who would you like to become? Today is your chance to give it a try, if only for a few hours. Try it. See if it fits. If you like how you feel, let the experience shape your future. The stupidity of the day could have a serious impact.
Don Kahle ([email protected]) writes a column every Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at www.dksez.com.
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