I love April Fools Day – I love watching what inventive ideas people come up with. I always try and make sure I pick up all the newspapers (and this morning I spent most of my train journey browsing the web) seeing what April Fools stories and adverts have been created. I was especially impressed with King’s College London whose April Fool story was tweeted by one of the accounts I currently manage. Whilst the one I still would love to be true is Shouttr.
However I’m always wary about April 1st in a work context because:
1. if there’s anything important that needs to be communicated it can often be misconstrued as a joke;
2. if you make a joke it can easily be misconstrued and come back and bite you.
I think that this is especially appropriate when using social media.
So it was therefore unfortunate for Webster University that they chose 1 April to run a test of their emergency systems. See below to see how I found out about this test via Twitter whilst sitting at home in Coventry in the UK.
ORLN-EMERGENCY! :: Active Shooter on Campus! Avoid the area of 1st floor classrooms. Seek shelter immediately! If off-campus, stay away!
Wed, 01 Apr 2009 19:20:28 +0000
However in that time the message had been retweeted four times, and looking at the number of followers of the people who RT’d I’d estimate that it went to probably around 2,000 people on Twitter alone (and probably more according to @tonywagner).
Given the date some including myself were speculating it was a very poor taste April Fools joke. However @annmclure confirms that it was a test that went wrong. Although it was really unfortunate that:
1. the test happened on April 1st
2. that a more generic “Mr Sands” type message wasn’t used
3. no warning was given that a test was about to happen
Whilst I realise that 2 & 3 might have compromised a test if they were testing how far the message would spread, I think it serves as another reminder about the viral nature of communication, as well as the dangers of April 1st.
P.S. Tom Williams also blogged on this subject and gives more of the backstory on the Innogage blog.