The Lifecycle of a Prank. We “Optimized” April Fool’s Day. And It Worked!
The grown up, virtual equivalent of “Boo! April Fools…” goes down on LinkedIn, pretty much every year.
In 2023 we saw Daniel Foley Carter appoint himself as the Global Head of SEO for OpenAI. And the inimitable Frenchman Louis Grenier flippantly accepted the position of Chief Growth Hacker for a stealth startup where they would eschew marketing in favor of scrappy hacks.
What about the experimentation space?
Were all the brilliant & inquisitive minds giving April Fool a miss?
But the “attack” was simmering in unlikely quarters.
Convert is known for deep education and the human touch. But henceforth, Convert will also be known for evil grins and “Muhahahahas….” (Sheldon style!)
It’s 20th March, and We Are Up to No Good!
An innocent project was created in Asana.
The perps being Dennis van der Heijden (CEO + Expert Troll), Trina Moitra (Diligently Bringing Pranks to Life Since 2023), Carmen Apostu (The Keen Eyed Corraller of Cats), Vladimir Popov (Latest Addition to “Team Troll”), Diego Catalan (The Silent Soldier) and Nahuel Martinez (The One Whose Nimble Fingers Would Cause Chaos).
All hush hush and rather contrary to the meticulous culture of transparency that rules Convert’s Asana and Slack.
To resurrect Google Optimize!
Kudos (with cheesy tacos) go to Dennis for this one.
He came up with the idea.
What if someone legendary (with a sense of humor) stumbled upon screens & UI that pointed in the direction of experiments coming to GA4?
What if this someone posted the screenshot – just in time for April 1st – and let the CRO community draw its own conclusions?
There would be elaborate layers to the prank, but the premise was simple, elegant, and if you think about it, not absurd.
We unanimously agreed that it was worth the time and solemnly declared that we were indeed up to no good.
With our inner trolls activated, we got to work.
Thank You, Our Co-Conspirators!
If Craig Sullivan had not said yes, none of this would have taken flight.
Craig, you not only have deep reserves of experimentation knowledge, but your curiosity is insatiable. Expressing sincere gratitude because you know how to take a joke, and spread the cheer.
This is how Dennis lauded everyone who joined the fun in his own LinkedIn post.
We picked up some accomplices along the way with excellent help from Iqbal Ali, Matt Beischel and Ton Wesseling, who all helped keep it moving. Several people even messaged Craig directly demanding more details and questioning the truth. Daniel Rosca was the last person to join the fun with another fake beta screenshot referring to our blog post where one could register for the beta.
The Timeline of the Prank & the Execution
30 March 2023
Craig Sullivan dropped a casual bomb, complete with a believable screenshot of what potential experimentation would look like in GA4.
It was very late in the night, UK time. As agreed, once the deed was done, Craig refrained from answering questions or engaging with the comments that were starting to trickle in.
We timed our end of the motion to this post.
Within 30 minutes, a Convert blog had “reported” on the disturbing and downright confusing find.
Dennis played his part to perfection. He added links to Craig’s post (and our blog) wherever the GO sunset discussion was hot.
He questioned fellow experimenters. He expressed his frustration. All the while generating “demand” for the prank.
31 March 2023
It started slow and picked up pace as we collected reactions along the way.
Some of our dearest friends like Iqbal Ali poured fuel on the raging, speculative fires:
This was planned.
But as the situation peaked, we found unwitting co-conspirators too.
Ton’s post took things to the next level. He spoke about GA4 optimizations harnessing the power of Quantum computing, flaunting personalizations on overdrive, and a lot more.
Daniel Rosca brought further credibility with his vote of confidence.
Some folks called upon their inner skeptic and stuck to the “April Fool” conclusion.
Nils Koppelmann, Ryan Webb and Sandeep Shah to name a few.
Deborah O’Malley later revealed that the prank had caused a “CRO crisis” of sorts with clients rushing to her for confirmation, and the prospect of updating content she had already created looming large. Needless to say, she is probably glad that the sunset is still on the horizon. (Sorry Deborah!)
We closed the day out with a tiny update to our (now) infamous blog.
1st April: D-Day
Craig broke his silence and announced that the link to register for Google Analytics Beta was live on the Convert blog.
It was cryptic. And stirred up more mayhem.
Those who rushed to the blog and actually clicked the link (https://analytics.google.com) were taken to https://www.convert.com/experiments/. The “Google” URL was merely for show. We’d hyperlinked it to the destination where we we revealed the joke. And apologized (profusely) for any inconvenience caused.
We wrapped the whole thing up with a series of exposé messages on LinkedIn.
Craig pointed out the missed opportunity in not retaining A/B testing in a Google product, and potentially hooking it up with AI & landing pages for a truly transformative advertising platform. He also talked about the loss of the “free community” in experimentation:
Ton asked everyone to reflect more, and take stock of the trends and technologies most likely to influence A/B testing in the coming years:
We are very pleased to see that the reaction from our colleagues and the space is overwhelmingly positive.
So, what is our take?
Things can change at a moment’s notice.
Most of us depend on 3rd party tools to carry out critical functions like customer support, performance marketing, and indeed – experimentation.
But two things can stand us in good stead:
- Collaborating with people who care. Companies and brands known for not yanking the rug from under the feet in the name of innovation. It is probably time to look beyond features when you invest in your vendors.
- Running a tidy house. Work with experts and pay attention to their advice. Focus on the facets of your important functions that others won’t care about i.e. people & processes.
If you stay mindful and organized, you will respond to changes – leaving knee jerk reactions and those who indulge in them – far behind.