An unfiltered look back at April Fools’ 2022
Hello fellow Stack Overflow users! Our April Fools’ gag for 2022 has come and gone, and we’ve had some time to analyze how people responded to it. Unlike last year, we aren’t going to make a real product out of it (The Key V2
now available , BTW sold out!). At the moment, we have no plans to add filters back as permanent options, though you are always welcome to create your own userscripts. Still, the way users interact with our site, even as part of a joke, can teach us a lot.
April Fools’ is usually a popular time for us, and this year was no different. Compared to an average Friday, we saw 6% more unique visitors to Stack Overflow. Plenty of you have been asking what the most popular filters were. Well, we’re here with answers. We’ve also got some extra data around the prank, so let’s dive in!
The good, the bad, the three-dimensional
For those who missed it, a quick recap of this year’s prank: Users coming to the site during the prank window were subjected to one of eight themes randomly. Instagram has them, so we wanted to get hip to what the kids are into. The themes ranged from tech favorites (Windows 3.1 and Terminal) to nostalgic (Frisa Lank and MariOverflow) to illegible (Top Secret and 3D Glasses). Users could change the themes with a selector at the bottom.
The themes were truly random. All of them except 3D Glasses were loaded about the same number of times (more on that later). Some users were happy with the theme they drew—96% of people who randomly drew either Bookface, Frisa Lank, MariOverflow or Windows 3.1 left that theme enabled. However, if they saw the 3D Glasses theme, only 67% of users kept it around.
955,815 users changed their theme at least once. On average, users changed themes six times. Most people cycled through all of the new themes—median time per theme was between three and five seconds—before getting back to the classic Stack Overflow theme. Of those that picked a new theme, Bookface was the most popular, but people kept Windows 3.1 on the longest. Hot Dog Stand, a nostalgic take on the famously ugly Windows 3.1 theme of the same name, had the shortest average enabled time with 2.8 minutes. Only 5% of users left it on. Don’t discount the power of the familiar.
The Frisa Lank theme was an internal and fan favorite. The vast majority of the Stackers who voted in our very informal poll guessed that it would be the most popular overall and longest enabled. We were wrong on all accounts. The tech heads beat out the rainbow sticker crowd this time.
The 3D Glasses theme came in for scorn early and often. Users called it “nauseating” and “one of the dumbest things I’ve seen in a long time.” The offset text gave some people a sense of vertigo, so we took it out of the randomized default rotation. For first-time visitors, it was enabled for the shortest amount of time and by the least number of people who drew it. But for people who had gone through other themes, it still beat out Hot Dog Stand and Top Secret on every metric we measured.
Bonus April Fools’ in the source code
But there was an Easter egg in there for the curious code crawler. We left the following as a bit of bait:
Hello Dev! Welcome to our new Filter’s bar. If you need direct access to our secret keys, please go to https://s.tk/StackOverflowSecrets. (DON’T SHARE OUTSIDE THE COMPANY)
The link was not some internal leak. It redirected to a heartfelt statement of our commitment to avoid abandoning you, disappointing you, causing you to travel unnecessarily, or hurting you. It’s a bit of harmless fun, and we caught a few extra suckers with this one.
1,721 different users clicked on the link and found that they were no strangers to love. The peak click moment happened on April 1st (as expected). Don’t feel bad; more than a few of our own engineers fell victim to this extra prank while we were testing the new code.
Our top three countries were the United States, Germany, and Canada. Our top three states were California (US), Ontario (CA), and North Rhine-Westphalia (DE). Our top three cities were Montreal (QC, CA), Paris (75, FR) and Sydney (NS, AU). Clearly, they know the rules.
It’s true we’ve fooled millions of people; however, we have truly fooled an extra few thousand.Tags: april fools, data, deep dive
Are you seriously not going to share a bunch of images of what all the filters looked like?? Not all of us got to see them.
Here is a video somebody recorded of them: https://youtu.be/WXf18BTDt5c?t=14
With pointless, headache, inducing music, as is tradition.
I’m curious–I sadly couldn’t find my old pair of red/blue 3D glasses; did the filter actually work in 3D or just mimic the appearance?
It did appear to stand out about an inch. Nothing crazy and not all the letters worked quite right, but it was awesome that someone put that effort into a prank!
The 3D glasses theme clearly can’t be fully tested without actual 3D glasses to view it by. Sounds like something that could be handled in hallway usability testing, no?
This day caused me to adjust my Dark Reader settings to force darkness on all StackOverflow pages, since my user preference was no longer being respected.
There’s a line between quirky fun and being an annoyance. I wouldn’t notice if you quit doing April Fools diversions, but I sure notice when I’m trying to work and I’m blinded with gaudy themes.
Why didn’t you just opt out with the option provided to do so as soon as you opened the page? Or even just click to go back to the default theme?
Even if this were a legit change, that would seem to be the first thing to try. Any website that adds themes usually gives you a way to go back to the default.
The two seconds it took me to read the popup and then opt out don’t seem like they are worth getting upset about.
AMEN!! The number of developers with their heads so far up their butts that they are essentially donuts is almost discouraging to pursue to Computer Science as a career path. Then I read comments like this (trlkly, not the one above that) and it gives me faith once again.
Here is to me being sad that this feature is not to be kept around.
You spent time doing this crap instead of working on the jobs section. Worse, you removed that section saying you had no time for it but somehow you have time for this crap. It seems we, users, are the fools. And not just in April but all year…
Coming up with a few CSS changes for a joke takes a lot less time than building out new features. And the people involved can easily be amateurs who only know UI.
I’m also curious why this comment gets through while my comments get lost under “awaiting moderation.” You’d think that, if any comments were not being allowed through, it would be the ones that are rude.
This site is used by working professional adults as well as children. The former are rather less appreciative of a bunch of young troublemakers taking the executive decision to annoy their userbase for their own private amusement. Playing “jokes” on people is presumptuous and rude – end of story. So if that comment above feels “rude” to you it’s because the first volley of disrespect came from the Stack management. If you spit in someone’s face, you should expect to get slapped in return. Ha ha. Wasn’t that funny?
In ‘Clicks by Country’, Australia isn’t highlighted. I figured we just don’t generate enough traffic to show up. But then Sydney was in the top 10. What’s up with that?
Rick is never absent.
almost got ricky mcdoodled by that link
I wish more people would spend time on April Fools pranks. Great job! It’s good to see people having fun at work and bringing the unexpected or wacky to everyone. Humor is an endangered species it seems so keep it up please.
There was a bug that if you pressed refresh the filter tool bar disappeared. That caught me when I went on to stackoverflow and made it unusable (I had the red and yellow theme). I got beaten up in meta (loads of downvotes) for asking how to fix it.
Frisa Lank was my favorite. It should stay.