Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Apr 03, 2014

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.

Afternoon, everyone. We'll get started at 2 -- I'm just making this chat live now so y'all know it exists, since it otherwise won't appear on the home page.

Anyone get taken in by an April Fools prank yesterday? (Anyone ever get taken in by an April Fools prank anymore, or has the Internet ended that?)


I was thinking that must be some good gravy!

Instant classic by John Kelly.

I spent all night tossing and turning because a dopey wealthy friend-of-a-friend (let's just call her Paris), who Facebook-invited me to a surprise birthday party for our mutual friend, announced after reservations had already been made that it would be an expensive prix-fixe menu, way past my budget. (I did not realize that there was such a thing as a cowboy bar with mandatory prix-fixe BBQ. Lesson learned.) I'm now spending all afternoon walking Paris through talking with the bar to ensure a lower price and updating the Facebook event to list every single charge in advance so that we cheaper folks can agree to come without sticker shock. Any advice to pass on to her to make sure everybody on the invite list knows the drill, including the fact that YES, it's probably expected that we'll all be chipping in for the birthday girl on top of this? Paris doesn't really seem to have a good grasp on the idea that you can't say, "Hey, let's all meet at this bar!" on Facebook and then spring the equivalent of a week's grocery bill on everyone.

Take this chat off of Facebook. It's too confusing there, and not everyone is going to be keeping up with Event changes. Instead, send an email to everyone who is invited, and pose it as a reminder. i.e.


"We hope you can make it to help fete Mutual Friend's birthday on Saturday. Just FYI, the set menu that the restaurant requires will run each guest between $30 and $40. But cake is on us!" (And then please do make cake, or dessert, or appetizers on you).

Many years ago, I did a Facebook pregnancy announcement April Fools joke. Unfortunately, it was a mere two weeks after Grams and my Favorite Auntie joined Facebook. Cut to almost a week later and I was still clearing it up with far flung cousins and family friends. Good news travels faster than the retraction of said good news, I suppose.

The danger of pranks online. When someone finds the prank months later, they might not realize it originated on April 1.

Can I just give a plug for people who don't pull April Fools pranks, or -- if you do -- they are actually funny and victimless? And PLEASE don't do it in the workplace. I had a horrible April Fool's prank played on me as an adolescent and I literally have anxiety on April Fool's day. It was bad in high school and college. However, it hasn't stopped at my workplace, even with me asking people not to play pranks. Last year, a co-worker threw easter grass all over my office and another put post-it notes all over my office... really just bullying things... and then didn't help me clean it up. This year I worked from home (yay teleworking!!) to avoid any and all pranks. Listen, if what you're doing is considered "bullying" on April 2, then it's still bullying on April 1.

In general, I really hate April Fools pranks that either A) Lead someone to believe something is true that is not, or B) Lead someone to believe something is not true that is. Examples: "We won the lottery!" "You're adopted!" "I'm having an affair!" "You've been awarded a Nobel prize!" All of those are crappy.


But, unless there are extenuating circumstances you're not mentioning in your post, I would never, never consider having my office covered in Post-Its to be "bullying." And I speak from experience, as one year I came in on a random day in the middle of summer, and someone had covered my desk in cut-outs of Justin Bieber's face.

I got hoodwinked by a Facebook friend (whom I have met in real life, but not seen for ages) who loves to travel and is constantly crowdsourcing suggestions for her next adventure. So when she posted on Tuesday that she saw cheap tickets to Kiev and Moscow for the end of May, and was wondering what we (her Facebook friends) thought of those two places, I totally thought she was serious, and suggested both, with the caveat that getting a visa at this late hour might be expensive - no! Hoax! She "got" a few other people, too, but later explained it as a joke, because of what she calls the unstable situation there. I travel to Russia frequently and think it's just fine, but then again... Anyway, yeah, I got fooled good and well, because it was entirely plausible to me! Nothing from the Internet was tricksy, because I think most of them either have learned to phrase their prank-language carefully such that it's clearly a joke, or because we all kind of expect them now (i.e. Google). THAT makes me wonder- do sites and companies that started out doing annual April Fool's pranks now feel pressured to keep them up, and if so, how tired will they get before they just stop?

The Russia prank is not a good prank. Obviously. It's the equivalent of saying, "Guess what? I had lentil soup for lunch. APRIL FOOLS I HAD MINESTRONE INSTEAD!!" I mean, sure, you would have fooled some people. But the stakes are so low and mundane, who the heck cares?

I did not fall for a single April Fools Joke. On unrelated news, did I tell you that I learned I won the Nigerian sweepstakes?

Cool. Are you taking us with you on the cruise that you also won, despite not entering it?

Sidenote: Did anyone see "Nebraska?"

Sidenote sidenote: Here is an interesting article about "proto-spam," the grandfather of the Nigerian Prince schemes, going back 200 years.

These have nothing to do with April Fool's Day. They're just picking on you. Jeez, some people.

Now I'm curious. How many people here would view this as a prank (I'm not saying it's a clever prank, just a prank) and how many people would view this as bullying or picking on?

"(And then please do make cake, or dessert, or appetizers on you)." Oh, just to clarify, this is not *my* event. Paris has a habit of encouraging us all to "treat" mutual friend (Kim, I guess) with expensive outings when she's stressed. Normally, I've wriggled out of these and seen Kim separately, but I thought this would be harmless because it was a bar. It's being planned by Paris and the Kanye-equivalent. There's no appropriate way for me to say, "Look, you guys set this up, we are the guests, you need to fund at least SOME of this," is there? I was under the impression that they had this organized and all I had to do was show up with a card, order myself some nachos, and chip in a few bucks for Kim's beer. She's literally messaging me and admitting that she doesn't know what she's doing.

If even she's admitting she doesn't know, then she's floundering and might be open to you suggesting the original plan be aborted. Plenty, plenty of bars and restaurants will let you just show up, have a diet Coke and some onion rings, and leave. I think it's now time for you to nicely suggest that the event be moved to one of those places. Right?


Obviously, these calculations depend on the general economic demographics of the group. i.e. Maybe it's reasonable to ask a bunch of hedgefund managers to spend $100 on someone's birthday, but not reasonable to ask a group of grad students. If you get the impression that this outing is going to be out of reach or exclusionary to a large percentage of the birthday girl's friends -- who, presumably, she would want to see -- then I think it's very reasonable to say, "Hey, Paris, it looks like this restaurant totally pulled a bait and switch. Let's just go somewhere else that will be more accessible for everyone and cause you less stress."

Right? Right?

Are you kidding? This is classic April Fool.

I must stand firm. It is not a good April Fool. The whole point of a fool is to convince people of something that is otherwise outlandish or unbelievable. If a person travels a lot, and regularly asks for travel suggestions on Facebook, there is nothing whatsoever outlandish about her saying, "Hey guys, should I go to Kiev or Moscow on my next vacation?"  That April Fools would only work if it were posted by someone who had a well-known fear of flying and an extreme hatred of Eastern Europe.

Where? I mean, did you mean to post a link? Or are you April Fooling us?

If it was just one or two times, I would view it as a prank. I see bullying as a sustained activity that persits after the person has made it clear he or she does not like it.

I'll post a few different responses without comment.

Depends on whether they helped you clean up the mess. Easter grass in large quantities is not fun to clean up.

I think Easter egg grass and post-its could go either way depending on relationship and the personalities of the people involved. In the absence of other information, I would say probably prank. In light of the fact that pranksters knew (or should have known) the joke would not be well received, I think it crosses the line into bullying.

If they refused to clean up their mess, I would have told the supervisor that my office had been vandalized. It's up to the employer to provide a clean and safe environment. This is workplace harassment and it's up to the employer to deal with it.

when I was a kid, my sister covered my room (floor to cieling) in NKOTB posters right after they became really uncool. The next year, she faked a really, really terrible injury, complete with fake blood and a complicit neighbor who should've won an Oscar for all her screaming. I find this so-called holiday quite triggering.

Sorry Monica, whether it be post-its or pop stars, your tiny little office space is supposed to be YOURS. Any such "jokes" are a territory violation. I would be seriously pissed.

Oh, man. This is just an introduction to how different office cultures are. Maybe it's because in a newsroom, almost nobody has offices, or walls, or privacy of any sort, and the idea of seeing interference as a "territory violation" wouldn't occur to me.

When I say post-its were everywhere, I'm not saying just on my desk. I have a fairly large office (not bragging, it's what they gave me), and they were covering everything - walls, ceilings, bookcases, floor, desk, etc. I work in a professional and busy environment with clients coming in and out all the time. The worst part is I came in while the "pranksters" were almost done, and told them to stop because I had a client coming. They said no, laughing, and continued. <- I call that bullying. Then when I requested their assistance on cleaning up, they laughed and walked out. I can take a joke better than most people, but in my office environment, no.


(And we're good with the comment on this, guys, unless you have something to say that hasn't been said already in the sampling I've already posted).

But that would be way too obvious and so it would be an obvious joke. I think we need to find some middle ground here.

What middle ground do you suggest? The skill in pulling off such a prank is making the prankees believe something. Thus, there has to be an element of unbelievability to the thing in question. There's no skill in saying, "Help me plan my next vacation to a place that would be totally reasonable for me to plan a vacation to."

She claims she's working everything out, but AGREED, if I can't actually confirm this by tonight, I am trying this tactic, or at least encouraging her to skip the idea of an official party room and just, you know, show up at the bar, which is what I thought we were doing. Kim's friends are a mix of struggling creative-types who patronize hole-in-the-wall places and people who spend three figures at Michelin-starred restaurants beyond just special occasions, which makes it hard to plan events that make everybody happy.

I hope nachos and beer make everyone around the world happy.

I'm surprised at how many people think things like the Russia Prank are good pranks. It's not a prank to say something plausible and interesting and then laugh at people for responding to it. We have another word for that: It's called a LIE. This is why the best prank of all time will always be the spaghetti-tree hoax (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti-tree_hoax), the ONLY believable part of which was the ostensible trustworthiness of the pranker.

Yes. This. Thank you.

Well, if you want to come along, you may. They said I could bring one guest. How did you know I also won a cruise?

All people who win money from Nigerian princes also win cruises and free cars.

The thing I hate most about April Fool's Day is that the pranks are inevitably pulled by people who don't practice being reliably silly for the other 364 days of the year, and who don't have a strong grasp on how to merrymake in a way that delights rather than horrifies or annoys. In fact, they almost take PLEASURE in defying their usual "reputation." Note that most of the real pranksters stay back in the shadows and wait this holiday out, because they know the dangers of being revenge-targeted by somebody who doesn't know how to goof off in a safe and appropriate manner.

---> "who doesn't know how to goof off in a safe and appropriate manner."

This would be an excellent cross stitch on a pillow.

No, because it was April 2.

APRIL FOO -- Man, did I just lose an entire day? I'm so confused.

There's a sweet spot for jokes and pranks that can be very hard to find. Jokes should be believeable enough to have someone's buy-in for a moment, but egregious enough that they figure out the joke on their own after a second. Both sides should be laughing afterwards. Same with the pranks; don't do it unless you know the other peron will see the humor. And for heaven's sake help them clean up the Easter grass afterwards.

Excellent and important description.

Given all the internet pranks on April Foll's Day, I more likely to be taken by thinking something is a prank when it is actually real.


That is the essence of April Fool jokes though. Just cluttering up someone's office is not.

The Spaghetti Tree link that someone posted earlier, though -- that's the perfect example of a good prank. Yes, it convinces people that something is true that is not true. However, it does so in a way that targets a lot of people rather than a specific person, and doesn't have any possible negative repercussions. If I see the BBC broadcast on the Spaghettie Monster, there is no danger in me responding by running out and quitting my job or doing something else drastic. Whereas, "Guess what? We won a million dollars" does present that possibility.

I just don't like the things that toy meanly with other people's emotions.

Including John Kelly's prank, I saw a LOT of food-related pranks. Packing peanuts (or something?) disguised as cheetos via orange markers, salt instead of sugar for the coffee, etc. etc.

Would be so much better to see Cheetos disguised as packing peanuts.

Argh. Yes, I still get taken in by April Fools pranks. A blog I follow had a tutorial for a food-smeared onesie that I totally believed, and then driving home there was a review on NPR for a Keanu Reeves remake of Citizen Kane. Still not sure whether the latter was real or not.

Think of how cruddy it must be to walk around your whole live having passersby on the street yell your own catchprases at you. I bet Keanu hears "Whoaaa," at least three times a week.

My hope is that he reappears in a couple of decades, much matured, and starts taking on weighty, impressive roles.

Do you have a to-do list app that best works for you? Anything better than just jotting things down in a notebook over and over?

If a list doesn't help you (what's more satisfying than crossing something off with a pen?) then can an app? Here's one recent list of the best apps for productivity.

But where exactly do you get stuck? Starting projects? Seeing them through? Time management? There's probably more targeted advice we can give you.

I am a dad shopping for my kindergartener in Target. I got her size, how the heck should I know if she wears bikini, boyshorts, briefs, hipster, or low rise? Nothing gets the mommies glancing as a man staring woefully at an underwear rack.

Oh dear god. Just grab whatever's closest and run.

Now we need to veer off into all those who have forwarded/shared articles from The Onion and Free Wood Post with horrified commments.

The Onion is pretty well-known as satire now. I worry more about sites like "The Daily Currant," which is still unkown enough to be deadly.

Let's not forget that Gmail started this way! A lot of techies said, on April 1, 2004, "A free e-mail service that offers 1,000 MEGABYTES of storage? Pfft, yeah, good one, Google. You'd never have to delete an e-mail for space again."

Probably Google started as some internal office prank, you know?

Lighten up, Francis!


I have engaged in mild office-pranking, such as filling a cubicle with balloons or covering surfaces with post-it notes. You have to have a high level of camaraderie among the co-workers for it to not be bullying. I work in a different office now and wouldn't do it here. I have a good relationship with my co-workers but not go-into-your-office-and-mess-with-your-stuff level of closeness.

Posting. And really, I wonder if office culture and cubicle culture lead to different levels of privacy expectations. Here at the Post, we go into each other's desks looking for snacks. Or some of us do.

The way to pull off this particular prank without it being an OBVIOUS joke is for the person with an avowed hatred of Eastern Europe to put on a fur hat and Photoshop herself in front of Red Square with the hashtag #lovemylife.


Nachos and beer worked fine. Everyone is back to being friends. Of course, we all just got fired for drinking on the job.

Are we talking about pranking at the office now, or overly expensive birthdays? Can we combine the two? OP, can you make Paris take you all to an expensive restaurant, promise you're going to chip in, and at the end, be like, "PSYCH, YOU'RE BUYING DRINKS FOR EVERYONE."

Best April Fool's prank ever: George Plimpton's "Curious Case of Sidd Finch" in Sports Illustrated, in 1985. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1119283/

I never read before, but I shall!

You cannot disguise a Cheetoh. That telltale neon-orange stain gives it away every time. Hansel and Gretel should have used them instead of breadcrumbs.

They could have just wiped their fingers on tree branches as they passed...

Briefs. please. Just briefs. She's got years left before she needs to think about hipster or low-rise.

I'm not even entirely convinced that I know the difference between all of these styles, and I've been buying my own underwear for a decade.

This is my all-time favorite April Fools prank, still fondly remembered nearly 15 years later.


Hey, I heard the good news that the TWOP archives aren't going to be destroyed after all, but I just wanted to let people know that the original TWOP founders have a new(ish) website at http://previously.tv/ . With podcast!

And thanks!

Just thought I'd share. I'm on the west coast, most of my friends are on the east coast, so I woke up to a lot of facebook love. :)

Happy Birthday! (You don't have a friend named Paris, do you, who might be planning you an expensive surprise?)

I also boarded the gravy truck. I think the Internet has made it worse, actually - you see so many extraordinary things everyday that gravy truck might be weird, but not unbelieveable.

After reading about the artisinal toast craze in San Francisco, I'd believe a gravy truck in a heartbeat.

Did you like nebraska? I watched maybe 1/2 of it on a plane and couldn't keep watching it. it is a very dry movie, i get it, but it took so long to go nowhere I didn't really care that much if maybe at some point I would care. should I try to watch to the end?

You have to be in the right mood for it. Or maybe you just have to be from the Midwest.

I'm convinced that only a small handful of women can tell the difference between any of those types of underwear, and anyone who says otherwise is just making sh... stuff up.

Relatedly, just the other day I learned there's a different between booties and shooties in the footwear world.

I finally watched American Hustle and would like to know where to send the bill for the 2 hours of my life I'll never get back, and the $5.99 rental fee.

Everyone's telling me it's the most underrated movie of the year, and yet it's killing me that it's the only Oscar nomination for Best Picture that I didn't see.

you mean overrated? or are people really saying it's UNDERrated? I'd like to meet those people. Or maybe I wouldn't.

Oops. I meant overrated.

My coworker has been on hold for 25 minutes. To save her neck and free her hands she has it on speaker. The lowest possible volume. We have been treated to a continuous loop of "Just the Two of Us" by Bill Withers. Send help.

This American Life had a great piece a few months ago about one man's search for the composer behind his favorite piece of anonymous hold music. When you click on the link, you'll immediately recognize the music.

Briefs. White. Band leg (that means no elastic). Thank you.

For the daughter? Or for the world?

but... but... JLaw amirite?

She's usually worth the price of admission. But not every time, I guess.

Nooooooooooooooo! I checked the site this morning for the chat at 10am. And then forgot until just now to come back for it. :( ::insert clever remark here about whatever you guys are talking about::

We were all talking about where you were and when you were going to show up.

A person can only take so much whimsy.

A lesson true for Wes Anderson, true for April Fools, and true for this chat. So we'll call it a day. Thanks for stopping by, GSTQ.

In This Chat
Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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