The Time Congress Almost Banned Drunk Driving On The Information Super Highway (Dissecting April Fools’ Jokes)

No April Fools’ day jokes here, but there is a historical favorite of mine worth mentioning. In 1994, PC Computing magazine reported that Congress would make it illegal to use the internet while drunk. At the center of the argument was the idea that,


The moniker ‘Information Highway’ itself seems to be responsible for SB 040194, which is designed to prohibit anyone from using a public computer network (Information Highway) while the computer user is intoxicated. I know how silly this sounds, but Congress apparently thinks being drunk on a highway is bad no matter what kind of highway it is.


Senator Edward Kennedy had to release an official denial of the rumor because his office received so many angry calls.


April Fools’ jokes give us a context to surprise someone when they’re at least half expecting it (or is at least theoretically willing to accept the surprise in the name of the holiday). Making a silly point like banning drunkenness on the internet because it’s just another type of highway actually serves a purpose: when we tell a story with familiar variables and give them a slight twist, it can improve our understanding of the relationships between the variables. The PC Computing story is really about how regulation and new technology interact. We can’t apply old laws to new rules, otherwise, ridiculousness ensues. It gets bonus points for being funny too.


So, in honor of clever April Fools’ jokes, remember that manipulating the variables deepens our understanding and can help us make a point. A good point makes a story more memorable, and a good story drives how we value the goods and services we choose to use. Instead of dryly explaining various scenarios, consider how a little twist can help a client to think through a complicated problem from multiple perspectives. We don’t have to make it a gag, but we do have to make it engaging. 


Tell a story, give it a twist, make us think, and maybe even make us laugh. There’s no better day to practice.


Bonus examples: Seth Godin’s post “This has gone too far,” and Bob Lefsetz’  “Apple Buys Snap.” Look past the joke and think about the relationships between the variables.

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