Yes, this was a joke. A joke at the expense of some people that take themselves far too seriously. A joke poking at the idea (that it is now really obvious that some people have) that what we as editors do all day is super easy and fun-fun good times, that our entire life's purpose is to spend hours researching and writing about issues like rape in the Congo or the wage gap or politics or the feminist movement for the sole purpose of allowing commenters to talk amongst themselves, and not because we think those issues are important and want people to (gasp!) read about them. At the people who get really up in arms about their inability to express their opinions for a couple of hours, but think that us editors should shut the hell up about ours already. Some jokes aren't meant to make you laugh out loud, they're meant to make you challenge your assumptions about certain things (which is why I like some of the most uncomfortable bits of Sarah Silverman's or Lisa Lampanelli's comedy acts, by the way). But, more pointedly, the point of an April Fool's joke is that you get to laugh at the person you're pranking and, if they are slightly self-aware, they get to laugh at their own gullibility or overreaction. Plenty of people in comment threads and on e-mail and IM did exactly that. Some didn't.
I was a commenter on this site for many months before I was asked to guest edit in October 2007; I then half-wrote Crappy Hour for more than a year with Moe (and Spencer, Jason, Ana Marie, Latoya, Jill, Rebecca, Steve, David, Asma and Kay) and wrote sporadically (post-Wonkette-firing) from January until getting bumped to a regular contributor last summer. Between January and the summer, I played a lot in the comment threads with the other commenters because, being only partially-employed, I had the time to do so. That I don't anymore is far and away a function of the fact that I must sing for my damn supper and thus simply don't have time.
The way some of those people have turned against the editors since the days I first started commenting and feel it's their right to get people fired or make nasty personal comments about them has been disheartening. Today was a case in point. Some of the comments I saw on my Facebook news feed today were incredibly disappointing -- especially coming from people who had friended me. Like Dodai, between that and the emails and the final Tuesday comment thread, the level of "The editors are all shitty writers and nobody reads them anyway" that abounded among a certain class of commenter struck me as incredibly nasty and not particularly related to the issue of comments being (obviously) temporarily gone.
Anyway, so, I screencapped some of what I saw today. Some people were reasonable (Newt, like normal, was reasonable even in the midst of his grumpiness) but others were... not. But this was what I saw much of the day.
For the record, to correct the mistaken assumption a lot of people continue to make, no one at Gawker Media gets paid by page views any more (not that we did exclusively, regardless -- that was our bonus system to make up for low salaries). Even if Gawker Media did still pay its full-time writers by page views, some of us no longer write for them full time and thus do not -- except we can get canned if we're not bringing in any.
Anyway, I'm about to go delete some "friends" on Facebook.