April Fool’s Day 2014: A Unique Opportunity

Hello world!
Prankster in Chief speaking here. Each year, my thoughts drift away thinking of a funny prank for April Fool’s Day. So for this year’s edition, I was thinking about drawing a lot of attention. How can one make the national news and the international press? So for this year’s prank I was thinking of calling on a very large group of people to help out. People all around the world! Hang with me.

Setting Ground Rules!
First things first. Before I get to the idea, let me start with setting some ground rules. I am quite sure that authorities around the world will – on any other day – consider this prank an act of civil disobedience, but since it is in the spirit of April Fool’s Day, I think they can appreciate the fun of this one. Beside, you contribute to the first ever global April Fool’s joke, certainly not a conflict or an act of vandalism. This project is about fun.

When we all apply common sense and courtesy as I hope, we can rule out acts of vandalism and any subsequent charges decisively. Let’s make sure we behave ourselves. Keep in mind that there is no reason for you to fear authorities because your intentions are good, while also authorities must not fear you because your intentions are good. Just have fun.

The Idea: Thank You Microsoft, Thank You Banks!
This year’s edition of April Fool’s Day presents us with a unique opportunity. Think of this April Fool’s prank roll-out as a flash-mob of sorts, yet not concentrated in one location, but one that is highly dispersed. Dispersed globally! We have to thank Microsoft and our fine banking establishments for this once in a lifetime opportunity. As to show our appreciation for the opportunity they have “created”, I suggest we better have fun with it.

As you may have heard, countless ATM-machines still use Microsoft’s Windows XP, and as you are most probably aware, Microsoft stops updating Windows XP on April 8. Consequently, after April 8 any unfortunate security leaks will no longer be fixed. So here is my idea. Print the following text and patch it in the early morning of April 1 on an ATM-machine near you:

This ATM-machine uses Windows XP. Use at your own risk.

In Dutch, this would read:

Deze pinautomaat gebruikt Windows XP. Gebruik op eigen risico.

Translations for other languages are very welcome. (I promise to make continuous updates).

Let’s Keep It Civilized!
All this simple statement does, is cause a bit of confusion. The fun of course, is this bit of confusion. That is what April Fool’s about. This statement is both simple and effective in that it draws attention to this security issue. Please attach this brief statement in a way that allows an easy and swift removal. That way, you cannot reasonably be accused of vandalism. Beside unnecessary and unjust, it would spoil the fun of all who are involved.

In the Netherlands and most of Europe I am sure, chances are that police officers will have a good laugh. If caught “in the act” anyway they most probably ask you kindly to remove this statement. Honor their wishes and remove the text. There is no need to create a scene – and as said before — it is about having fun. As I suppose everywhere, ATM’s are equipped with cameras. So you should ask yourself, if you want to remain anonymous or participate in this first ever global prank personally. In case you want to remain anonymous, a Guy Fawkes mask would be on point. Either way — with or without a mask — decide for yourself what the chances of authoritative bullying are.

Giving Banks Free Publicity: Gift or Burden?
Not all ATMs use Windows XP. Some ATMs use other software while others have been updated or will be soon. So in case ATMs are wrongfully mocked for running on Windows XP, this April Fool’s prank would present banks a wonderful opportunity to communicate with the general public that their ATM-machines are perfectly safe to use. In that instance, we had our fun, the message is quickly removed, and the banks won the day because they received free and positive publicity (something that I think they very well can use). If on the other hand banks have not taken any precautionary measures, or cannot claim their ATMs are safe, then they are forced to admit they are failing the general public once more. In that case, they may as well choose to leave this brief communique on their ATM-machines until they have fixed this problem. Who can oppose honesty?

Pranking Microsoft?!
As many people around the world, I have been a Microsoft customer. Even from before they introduced Windows 95 and I am disappointed in their decision to stop servicing Windows XP. I think Microsoft had finally produced a stable operating system — not to say Windows XP works perfectly, but that’s beside the point — but now, it can no longer be used if one wants to remain connected to the internet. I think this is a defeat for customers. Generally speaking, reactions reflect on one’s nature, and I hope Microsoft chooses to have a laugh with us. They will receive free publicity too, and they can once more explain why they have taken this unfortunate decision. They also have the opportunity to warn their customers around the globe that Microsoft’s success story (read: Windows XP) is no longer safe to use if connected to the internet. Currently, media are confronting this issue while Microsoft stays silent. That is not right. Security issues matter. So let us invite Microsoft to make the statement they have been reluctant to make.

Actions have consequences?!
As I am an economist, I am well aware of all sorts of financial disturbances. In this respect, I want to explicitly state I am most definitely not calling for any bank trouble, let alone the sort of run that is better not spoken of. Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize that the effects that may be expected from this April Fool’s prank are the very opposite of a bank run. At most, this prank will cause people to feel hesitant to withdraw cash, so I doubt there will be any economic damages to speak of: instead of withdrawing cash, people then are most likely to transfer payments digitally in whatever store they may be. Accordingly, the number of digital transactions may increase somewhat, compensating for any decrease in cash transactions. Economically, this prank is completely insignificant. I am quite confident central bankers will understand there is nothing to be worried about. I am even inclined to think that many bankers will look at each other and start laughing out loud. That is, once they realize the full depth of the double irony of the statement.

Keep A Perspective On What Matters Most!
Notwithstanding the above considerations, I do have some “small” worries. These worries concern small shop-owners and others who rely on cash transactions. Small shop-owners may not have payment equipment for digital transfers. I do not want them to suffer from this prank because they have already been disproportionately struck by this financial crisis. So please think of small shop-owners when you consider the available ATM-machines near you. If you live in a village or a town where most exchanges are still cash transactions, then you may not want to attach this message onto the available ATM-machine(s). In this respect, you may also want to consider elderly people who often insist on paying in cash and therefore depend on cash withdrawals from ATMs. If it is an ATM that is predominantly used by elderly people, or it concerns an ATM that serves small businesses that work on a cash only basis, my suggestion is to leave this ATM out. There is probably another one somewhere around.

You get the idea: Do no harm!

Twitter! #XP-ATM
In cities all over the world, I imagine people will look flabbergasted or amazed when they are confronted with this brief Windows XP statement on ATM-machines. I think it is fair to say we all love to see photos of this on Twitter. “Selfies”, photos of this statement in your language or from your city, all things that reflect on the fun of this April Fool’s Day prank: please put it on Twitter. A simple suggestion for a Twitter hash-tag: #XP-ATM.

In a very simple way, we can make this prank last a whole day, and given the eternal nature of the internet’s memory, we can make it last a whole lot longer. After all, it would be the first April Fool’s Prank to go global! Let’s “record” it. To sum it up: pictures, the more the merrier!

Taking It Global?! Yes we can!
I seriously think we can get this thing global. Let us proof that at least we can say: Yes we can! And there is one reason and one reason alone why this prank is going to succeed: your contribution. Inform your friends, translate the brief statement, print it in a neat way, and patch it on an ATM near you. And please, please make sure that you leave “civil” in this humorous act of a civil disobedience! After all, it is about having fun. It is about celebrating April Fool’s Day. And don’t forget to make pictures: #XP-ATM.

Have A Great April Fool’s Day!
Thank you in advance for helping this prank going global and let’s make sure we have a good laugh! I wish you a great April Fool’s Day!! #XP-ATM.

…Prankster In Chief 😉
(Jaco Schipper)

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