Week 9 [09.12-15.12.19] New financial crisis. Should we be afraid?

Jokes on Blogs – Proceed With Caution

We all like a joke on 1 April (and it can even be good for your blog) but some good advice to remember when playing such ‘pranks’ is that jokes that impact others should seriously be considered.

My mum used to say – ‘it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt’ and ‘the problem with practical jokes is that some people don’t know when to stop’. Wise words mum.

On April Fools day this year a post was written on another blog that declared that I’d gone bankrupt and had never earned more than $1000 a month from blogging. I’m not going to link to it because I’d rather not have the post rank well for my name – you’ll understand why after reading on.

The post was a joke. It was in a series of posts by the blogger that were jokes. Another in the series was that Shoemoney was arrested for riding a bike while drunk.

OK – so the jokes amused some and when I first saw the one about me I didn’t really think twice about it assuming that people would work out that it was posted on 1 April (update: it was posted on 31 March) and have a giggle and then move on.

That was until I started getting emails from people about the post.

  • Some of the emails were people pointing out the joke because they thought it was funny. Most of these had found it either on Digg or Sphinn where the the post had been submitted.
  • Some of the emails were from people unsure if it was a joke or not
  • Some of the emails were from people who believed it to be true (I got six of these). One of these was from someone who I pay each month to do some writing for me on DPS who was concerned about getting paid and another was from someone that I’m in business with. These were the emails that concerned me the most.

Today I got an email telling me that a page on Wikipedia about me now had the information that I was bankrupt and had never earned more than $1000 a month. Firstly I was surprised anyone even looked at that page on Wikipedia… but then I quickly edited the page and stated my reason for doing so.

OK – so here’s some thoughts on this mini-saga.

Firstly – I’m not posting this to single out the person who played the joke. I don’t think it was done with any malicious intent and I don’t really want this post to be about him or the incident itself (in fact he today changed the post to make it very obvious that it’s a joke, something I appreciate) – but rather I hope it’s lesson is one that informs others as they think about how they blog.

Secondly – my advice when it comes to April Fools day posts (or playing any sort of jokes on readers) is to consider the ramifications of your post – particularly when you use another person (or their name) in your joke. While it might be blatantly obvious to you and 99% of your readers that you’re not serious – you will fool someone. Perhaps they just read the title, perhaps the skim the post and don’t see the clues or perhaps they just believe it without question. As a result I tend to only play jokes that use my own name or reputation – or would advise that if you’re going to involve someone else that you might want to check with them first.

Thirdly – consider the legal ramifications of your post. When you post untrue information online about another person that damages their reputation or that leads to them to suffer financially my understanding of the law is that you put yourself in a position where that person can take legal action against you. Luckily in this case it seems that I’ve managed to contain any damage that may have been done – however as a comment on this post says, if I’d been in the middle of a deal that someone pulled out of as a result of this then I (or someone much less forgiving than me) could have had reason to explore their legal position. I’m sure some of our legally trained readers will be able to give us good advice on this.

Once again – this isn’t about the post itself but rather I post it (hesitantly) as a warning for a few things to consider the next time you consider pranking your readers. By all means have fun with your blog – just be careful.

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