Died in a Blogging Accident has lived up to its name and died... in a blogging accident. That is to say it has concluded. You can still re-live the magic by clicking here to start at chapter 1. For genuine criticism of XKCD, please click the top link to the right (XKCD Isn't Funny).

Friday, September 30, 2011

Comic 958: The Problem With Mr. Hat

Well, lucky me! I guess after my whining on Wednesday (I was in a bad mood then, yes, I admit it), someone decided to help me out with today's strip. Thanks, T-Jack!

Title: Hotels; alt-text: 'Rating: 1/5. Room filled to brim with semen, and when front desk clerk opened mouth to talk, bedbugs poured out.

I wish I could say that I like this comic, and I'll get to why later, but there are two big problems with it that send it straight to the "awful" territory.

One common complaint among xkcd-haters is that Randall routinely breaks the rule of "show, don't tell", which usually results in comics like this, with walls of text above superfluous doodles of stick figures sitting around. Randall, if what you've written works just as well in script format, it's not a comic. Whenever your comic features two people and at least one of the is sitting at a computer, you should rewrite, if not scrap, it.

lol sCRAP

The second problem, and the main point of this review, is the inclusion of Mr. Hat. I said that I'm torn on this comic, and here's why: This is actually something Mr. Hat would do. His being a dick actually has a point, even though it's just personal gain. But for some reason, it just feels wrong.

Now I cannot help but compare this strip to the last couple Mr. Hat strips. While there are similarities between it and the abysmal "Stud Finder Finder", like the awful hanging-around, "don't show, tell" form, but that comic fails even in the few rare things this one gets thing, with Mr. Hat being a dick just for the sake of being a dick by means of a stupid old joke. On the other hand, in the "Chin-Up Bar" comic, Mr. Hat's shenanigans lack any discernible point in favor of wreaking havoc for shits and giggles, but in spite of (or maybe precisely because of) that it's the ultimate "Mr. Hat done right" strip. Plus we get to see the man in action.

Where am I getting with this? Maybe the problem with Mr. Hat isn't that Randall can't write a good Mr. Hat strip, but that he can't write a good xkcd comic, period.


P.S. from Gamer_2k4:

For the longest time, whenever I've seen a Mr. Hat comic, I've thought to myself either, "That doesn't seem like something Mr. Hat would do," or "Finally, the Mr. Hat we all know and love!" I couldn't figure out why the discrepancy existed. I didn't make Mr. Hat, so who am I to judge when he's being a dick and when he's being himself?

But of course, this is the reason. Mr. Hat feels shallow when he's presented in a shallow strip! People act like dicks all the time in xkcd, so when we see some "lolz i'm a sociopath" text coming from a guy with a hat, it seems hastily done and out of place. It's only when Mr. Hat is actually shown in action that we can appreciate him for who he is and what he does.

Just imagine: xkcd could be vastly improved if Randall just SHOWED some more! He sucks as a cartoonist because he writes scripts, not cartoons. Yes, it takes a little more effort, but don't you think we're worth that, Randall? Don't you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Comic 957: The Perfect Storm

Title: Development; alt-text: Funding was quickly restored to the NHA and the APA was taken back off hurricane forecast duty.

I was waiting, hoping, and praying that some guest review would, against all odds, find its way into my email inbox today. It was not meant to be, probably because THIS COMIC SUCKS.

A lot.

Really, Randall? Another hurricane comic? I'm tagging this as "dated reference" because Rina HASN'T HAPPENED YET, so the only reason for a hurricane reference was because there was a big deal about Irene earlier this year. Why else would this be about hurricanes? WHY?

This is an important question, because the joke here is a play on the word "development." Are hurricanes REALLY the only things that develop, Randall? Wait, hold on, I bet I can think something else right now. SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT! You know, software? Computers? THAT THING YOUR COMIC IS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT??

I don't even know if there's a joke to be made with the "software" setup. I expect there is, but right now I don't care enough to try. Someone make a "sucks less" submission for that or something. I DO know that Randall might as well have used it anyway, because there's SURE AS HECK NO JOKE TO BE FOUND IN "HURRICANE DEVELOPMENT."


I'm using a lot of caps because I'm tired and friggin' ticked off that Randall couldn't see fit to lob me a softball today. I liked your escalator strip, Randy! I praised it! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?

I mean, look at this! I'm ranting at the fact that there's nothing to rant about! This strip has absolutely nothing of substance. It's not even a new strip! It's reused, SIMPLIFIED art from Comic 944! It's like his recent Craigslist comic where he took the same idea, made the art WORSE, and replaced the text!

Screw you, Randall. Put some effort into your strip. You have thousands of fans who hang on your every update. Do it for them! Have some pride in what you do! I look at this strip and I see the product of one of life's failures: someone who couldn't hold a real job for more than a year, who is quickly forgetting whatever math and science he may have learned in college, and whose only source of income is overpriced t-shirts. Face it, Randall. You're not a webcomic author. You're the carnie of the internet.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

xkcd Sucks Less, Week 6 Followup

Yeah, yeah, there was no official "xkcd Sucks Less, Week 6." Deal with it.

Comic 953: 1 to 10

Alt-Text: Why are there no jokes about hexadecimal numbers?
by SindbadEV

SinbadEV goes on to tell me that the victim is some hippie named "Andrew," so as to not look like he advocates violence against women. Fair enough.

Alt-Text: Pirates don't like math jokes.
by SindbadEV

I assume this is Andrew again. Apparently September 19 was "Talk Like a Pirate Day."

Comic 954: Chin-Up Bar

No additional submissions.

Comic 955: Neutrinos

No additional submissions.

Yeah, it was hard to make last week's xkcd strips suck less. Maybe next time.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Comic 956: Did I Say "Giving Tree"? I Meant RAPING Tree!

Title Reference.

Title: Sharing; alt-text: In the new edition of The Giving Tree, the tree uses social tools to share with it's friend all the best places to buy things.

Hey guys did you know that there are these things called e-books with an established licensing plan and payment model, and if you don't pay for the e-book, you don't get to read it? This is news to Randall!

Look. I have no business condemning piracy. My personal justification for downloading the big stuff (Photoshop and the like) is that if I had to pay for it, I wouldn't buy it. Therefore, I'm not depriving the company of a sale. I do pay for smaller things like music, though. However, I DEFINITELY don't feel that I'm owed those things just for the sake of "sharing." The companies put work into their products, so they decide what to charge. If I don't want to pay that price, I risk not being able to get the product. It's simple.

But the thing is, this statement is so inane and obvious that I can't imagine Randall making a comic about it that takes it at face value. Either he's lazier than we thought, or he's trying to show how "ridiculous" the notion of e-book DRM is. It feels like he's saying, "You don't want to give me the book for free? Well TOO BAD; I never wanted your stupid book anyway!"

O...kay? THAT'S your comic strip, Randy? And you thought that this concept was so brilliant that you had to craft some retarded "tree with a USB port" context to tell us about it? Look. Maybe you didn't read the original story (and how could you? It has DRM!), but it's not called "The Sharing Tree." It's called "The GIVING Tree." The story isn't about how the world would be a better place if everyone shared everything. It's about a tree that gives pieces of itself for the sake of someone else. It's literally becoming less in order to provide the boy with more. Maybe you don't realize it, but file sharing isn't anything like that.

Some may say, "What about the art, Gamer? That's pretty good, right? For xkcd?" Well, yes, normally, I'd count that as the good that I try to find in every bad xkcd. But it's just so frustrating to see Randall whip out passable art at random! Is the joke aided buy having a textured and shaded tree? No? So WHY INCLUDE THAT? Or rather, why include it HERE when you refuse to put effort into strips that could actually benefit from more detailed art? If xkcd was never anything but stick figures, I could understand that. If Randall put some artistic effort into every strip, I could appreciate that. But instead of either of those, he takes a third route that shouldn't even exist and just ups his effort at random. Why?


Also, some of you are probably wondering where yesterday's "Sucks Less" update is. The truth is, only 953 could have been improved easily (which was the whole point of the feature). 954 was good (in my mind), and no one sent me any suggestions for 955. SinbadEV, my normal go-to guy, could only improve 953 with violence, so instead, I'll leave you with an improvement that someone spontaneously left on the other xkcd hate blog. I think. It was a long time ago, and I'm sure as heck not going to dig through THOSE comments. Yeesh.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Comic 955: Someone is Wrong on the Internet

Title: Neutrinos; alt-text: I can't speak to the paper's scientific merits, but it's really cool how on page 10 you can see that their reference GPS beacon is sensitive enough to pick up continential drift under the detector (interrupted halfway through by an earthquake).

What do you mean, you can't speak to the paper's scientific merits? Surely someone well-versed in something as pure as math should have no trouble with the "softer" studies, right?

Oh. Wrong. Because Randall's not actually well-versed in math.

Anyway! In concept (that is, in a perfect world), this idea makes some degree of sense. It's win-win: a good gamble. But of course, we don't live in a perfect world, so like most of Randall's strips, the comic fails because of its flawed premise.

First of all, if we're to believe the second panel, these arguments are all with people on the internet. How is either going to make good on the bet? Paypal?

Second, even if this was in real life, I would expect that the kind of people who follow articles like this are generally going to be skeptical. It's not like your mom is just going to say, "Hey, did you see this morning's CNN? Apparently neutrinos can travel faster than light!" No, that's the sort of article that you only find if you're looking for it.

Finally, and probably most importantly, why does the guy need cash? I don't see any kids in the strip, so shouldn't he be rolling in the Benjamins?

In short, it's the kind of idea that would be good if it worked, but it doesn't. Surprise, surprise.

P.S. "Have you seen our budget? We couldn't begin to afford our own thought police," is a really stupid thing to say. Have you seen our budget? Congress doesn't care about spending trillions of dollars they don't have! We could "afford" all kinds of thought police. Not that that's the sort of thing that would show up on a national budget, anyway...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Comic 954: Classic Hat

I'm sorry to all of you who came here expecting hate. That's not going to happen, because I really enjoyed today's strip.

Title: Chin-Up Bar; alt-text: Those few who escaped found the emergency cutoff box disabled. The stampede lasted two hours and reach the bottom three times.

Maybe I'm up too late. Maybe something in my brain snapped., I don't know. All I know is that I'm going to gush about this comic, so be prepared.

Ask and you shall receive, right? Not two strips after we complain about how dull and stupid Mr. Hat is getting, Randall posts this!'s perfect. The pacing is just right, Mr. Hat is obscure and quirky with ultimately sinister motives (that go well beyond making "stud finder finder" jokes), the joke is held off until the last panel, and the alt-text does exactly what an alt-text is supposed to do. This honestly might be the best xkcd in HUNDREDS.

This, in my mind, is classic Hat. We reference Comic 169 here a lot, where he just friggin' shanks a guy, but the Mr. Hat that I remember is a bit nutty, a bit random, and more than willing to go to extreme and convoluted lengths just to cause a little (or a lot of) chaos. And the thing I love about this is just how nonchalant he is about everything. In Comic 952, he might be nonchalant, or he might just be a massive dick. It's hard to tell, because anyone making that response would do so in the exact same way. Not so in this one.

It's also nice that Randall sets the scene naturally through the flow of the strip. Of course Mr. Hat would pick the longest escalator in the country to do this on, but the way we learn that is very smooth and elegant. The guy behind him is trying to make small talk on a tedious ride, and Mr. Hat responds in kind. It's logical. It makes sense. It's realistic dialogue. As the exchange progresses, we begin to feel the hesitation and awkwardness of the second guy through judicious use of beat panels. As I said above, the pacing is perfect.

And finally, his mission accomplished, Mr. Hat leaves. He doesn't stand there watching. He doesn't look back as he descends. He's sown his chaos, and now he's done. It just underlines how utterly senseless the whole act is, especially to him.

Now, the one thing I don't get is why the second guy follows Mr. Hat down the other escalator. But hey, if that's the worst I can say about a (10 panel!) strip, that's not bad. This comic made me laugh, and I'm not going to criticize just for the sake of criticism.

Of course, if one of YOU feels critical enough to write a guest post, my email's at the top of the page...

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

xkcd Sucks Less, Week 5 Followup

Comic 950: Mystery Solved

by Gamer_2k4

Comic 951: Working

Alt-Text: For every mile you go out of your way to get cheaper gas you will use just under 8 cents worth of fuel... so its probably not worth it no matter what price you put on your time. (Assuming 50mpg and 3.715)
by SinbadEV

This one was oddly prescient:

by TheNakedHornet

Comic 952: Stud Finder

No additional submissions.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Comic 953: Back 2 Skool

Today's we have a guest review! Believe it or not, reviewing xkcd gets tiring, so when I saw this in my inbox this morning, I knew already it was going to be a great day. This one comes from a fellow named T-Jack.

Title: 1 to 10; alt-text: If you get an 11/100 on a CS test, but you claim it should be counted as a 'C', they'll probably decide you deserve the upgrade.

There is so much wrong with this comic. First and foremost, it's a binary joke, which is basically a way to say "I have a desperate need to be perceived as a geek". Remember, Randall once made a joke about Fourier transform, but now he can't even be bothered to reference Gray code (which, incidentally, is my criteria on whether a binary joke is "stupid" or "stupid but made by someone who knows what he's talking about"). Also, and I am very sad that I have to say this in response to the self-proclaimed "webcomic of ... math...", but probabilities don't work that way! I know that "on a scale of one to ten" is a common phrase, but it is used mainly in rating, not giving the likelihood of something. Probabilities are given with values of 0 to 1, or 0 to 100%, so you have the scale wrong, and even if you took a point of scale to mean 10%, you still have the problem of 0 not being included. Math: You're doing it wrong.

Next stop: the dialogue. To Randall's credit, it's concise, not unrealistic and has no post-punchline lines, three things we rarely see in xkcd. However, it only achieves this by being a stupid joke with a doodle under it. Also, the joke only really works in written form, which I guess isn't that bad for a comic, but it serves as a further detachment of the xkcd-verse from reality (ed. note: very true; see the postscipt for elaboration). It should also be noted that this strip marks the return of an old feature, which is a smart female interacting with a dumb male and showing how dumb he is. I admit, it's not a flaw in and on itself, and Randall hasn't done this in a while (not counting the role-reversal in the utterly stupid "Working" strip), so I guess this is forgiven. What is unforgivable, though, is the everpresent condescending undertone towards people whom Randall sees as not as smart as he is, this time "people who are not aware of this awesome thing called binary".

The alt-text (yeah, I don't care what you call it, for me it's "alt-text". Deal with it.) really irks me, because it's just another version of the "you can fail a test and still get a good mark if you just are a wiseass" bullshit that I hate with a passion. Now, realistically, if you did such a thing, one of two things would happen: Either your teacher would chew you out for being cheeky and fail you, or s/he would award you an extra point and, as a result, fail you again. The alt-text is just dumb.

This comic is a prime example of Randall's pandering to high school kids, what with the binary edge and the exam based alt-text, and that's pretty much the source of why it's so bad. Am I wrong in hoping that he'll one day go back to his roots in obscure math and finely drawn landscapes?

P.S. Prolific "Sucks Less" submitter SinbadEV notes that "If this 'joke' had been spoken in real life it would not have worked because 'TEN' is definitely decimal while 'ONE ZERO' sounds stupid."

He's right.

P.P.S Comic 169 seems rather relevant here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

xkcd Sucks Less, Week 5

Welcome to "Sucks Less" Week 5. Hard to believe I've been doing this feature for over a month now, but that'll happen when you have the kind of support I've gotten each time. Comic 951 in particular seemed to push our editor's buttons, so you'll get a couple of those this coming Tuesday. In the meantime, enjoy this week's winners.

Comic 950: Mystery Solved


This strip has awkward dialogue to begin with, but it's also crippled by being bookended by some of the most superfluous panels the webcomic world has ever seen.

"Sucks Less" Version:

by Gamer_2k4

Sorry for posting my own work, but apparently this edit was good enough that no one felt any other improvement was necessary. It just goes to show how EASY it is to make xkcd suck less.

Fans of my friggin' sweet homemade improvement will get to see it again on Tuesday.

Comic 951: Working


This one is just kind of pretentious and stupid.

"Sucks Less" Version:

Alt-text: A penny saved is a penny earned.
by Lucas

This one pokes fun at Randall, and it's also moved the "penny saved" witticism to the alt-text, where it kind of fits and is definitely less glaringly stupid.

Comic 952: Stud Finder


For a tolerable as the execution is, the joke is old and not funny at all.

"Sucks Less" Version:

by SinbadEV

"Anytime I see something screech across a room and latch onto someone's neck, and the guy screams and tries to get it off, I have to laugh, because what is that thing." - Jack Handey

Nice job this week, guys. Remember, stay tuned to see the runners up on Tuesday.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

xkcd Forums Bingo: Week 17

947 - Investing
Yeesh, so much economics in this thread! This generated some long-ass posts, thoroughly covering the N2 square. This one was 1090 words without the quotes.

There was also maths, and a little bit of physics (G2). We're off to a good start with a GOOMHR (N3). And with a G2, O1 and a B5, we have a good run on the diagonal line.

I double-checked though, and I couldn't find I4 or N1.

Oh, and if I had kept the feminism square, this post would have certainly got it.

948 - AI
This thread was interesting. A lot of people came to contest the Burning Man reference. A few people came because they didn't get the joke. And then, some time on the third page they started sharing their Cleverbot chat logs.

And then someone came along and did analysis of the thread. Not kidding.

Didn't get a bingo though.

949 - File Transfer
Oh dear, five pages. I expected this to be a rough one.

And yes, they spent at least 90% of the thread discussing file transfer methods, and hardly any of it discussing the comic. Everyone wants to use something different. The fact that they say it's possible is a direct contradiction of the comic itself, so I'm counting that for O1.

I didn't read most of the posts. But this piece of obnoxious douchebaggery caught my eye.

"There is a significant portion of the Linux userbase that is actively (or passive-aggressively) opposed to making it more user-friendly, because then stupid people would be able to run it, and then how would they be able to tell who has stars on their bellies?

Computing is a privilege, not a right; if you can't compile your own kernel or do everything from the command line, you don't deserve to use a PC or be on the internet. And you certainly don't deserve to run a real, manifestly superior (just like its users) OS."

This guy wrote a 1403-word rant about operating systems.

Fernie is back! I thought he got banned! <3

But of course the best part of the thread is the post I (Ephemeron) left at the end.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Comic 952: Dud Finder


Oh. It's this strip.

Title: Stud Finder; alt-text: According to every stud finder I've tried to use, my walls contain a rapidly shifting network of hundreds and hundreds of studs.

You know what, I'll start with the good this time. I'm always accusing Randy of having decent ideas but flat-out awful execution. Well, he's turned that around this time. The execution is (surprisingly) good here. He doesn't explain the joke, and he even leaves the punchline understood, rather than explicit. The alt-text is a supplement to the joke without restating or further explaining the punchline.

Sadly, that's where the good ends. The actual content of the strip is, as expected, pretty awful. It's just repeating an old, now unfunny (if it ever was funny) joke that everyone's heard. And you know who's making the joke? Mr. Hat. Why? Because Randall's decided that "he's kind of a dick" is a sufficient description of this character. Never mind that most of the faceless, nameless people in his strip have the same characteristic.

Remember the good old days? When Mr. Hat wasn't just a dick, but someone who would go to disproportionately extreme measures for his own convenience or just to make a point? Remember when he was a goofy but ultimately psychotic madman? Now he's just some tool who makes "stud finder finder" jokes.

So yeah. The usual. Watered down character (in a strip that's in severe need of decent ones), lousy joke, and overall suckiness. It seems Randall's modus operandi is something like "good idea or good execution; pick up to one." Why won't you pick both, Randall? WHY WON'T YOU PICK BOTH. JUST PICK BOTH.

P.S. Upon looking at the forums, it's little surprise that Randall explains his jokes so often. His fans are IDIOTS. (Though that poster does have a point about the joke not fitting very well.)

P.P.S. It appears that the guy is about to hang his picture with screws. You know, because you attach the frame of the picture directly to the wall, and it's not like there's a big string hanging off it to put on a nail or anything. Nah. (Incidentally, I don't know of a single picture that HANGS like that. The slot or the wire is always short enough that it doesn't extend past the frame.)

P.P.P.S. You know what? I bet this comic was inspired by Randall's new wife saying, "Randy, we need some pictures in our house!" and Randall having absolutely no idea what that entails. Poor girl; looks like her "stud finder" was defective. Zing!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

xkcd Sucks Less, Week 4 Followup

By popular demand, I'm going to go ahead and post the other submissions for xkcd Sucks Less, Week 4. There wasn't a huge surplus, but here you guys go.

Comic 947: Investing

No additional submissions.

Comic 948: AI

Alt-Text: Sometimes I wonder if the disproportionately high number of socially awkward narcissists among programmers may prevent us from developing an AI capable of passing the Turing test before one that will take over the world.
by SinbadEV

by Anonymous

Comic 949: File Transfer

by SinbadEV
This is just a jab at 949's ridiculous word count. Have fun!

Anyway, I know I said I'd post these on Tuesday, but we got a bingo update then, so I decided to hold off until today. Assuming I get enough "Sucks Less" entries in the coming weeks, the plan is still to post the surplus on Tuesdays.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Comic 951: Money Funnies

Title: Working; alt-text: And if you drive a typical car more than a mile out of your way for each penny you save on the per-gallon price, it doesn't matter how worthless your time is to you--the gas to get you there and back costs more than you save.

Okay, I'm going to begin by drawing attention to the stupidest part about this strip: the guy's response to Sarah's question.

"Because a penny saved is a penny earned."

You're not saving pennies! You're not saving anything! This quote is so completely inappropriate as a response that it would make perfect sense if the girl was the one saying it! The only justification I can possibly think of for the quote is if you take it absolutely literally; that is, that every penny you save is directly equivalent to pennies earned while working, and every time you make money you should consider it to be some sort of salary. Obviously that's stupid, but it's also the point Randy's trying to make, so who knows.

The worst part is that I actually disagree with what Sarah (yes, that is her name, get used to me calling her that) is saying. If I fill up my car with 15 gallons of gas at $3.62 instead of $3.57, you know how much I'm saving? 75 cents. Three freaking quarters. Heck, I go to gas stations that I know have my gum, and if their gas is the cheapest, that's a bonus. And yes, that means I agree with Randall. Ouch.

But the thing is, I know people who do this. My mom and grandparents do this. And to be fair to them, they're just trying to be thrifty. That's not a bad thing, even if you compare it to "working less than minimum wage." Not everything is a freaking job, Randall. You should know this better than anyone, given that you only "work" about an hour a week. Should we stop donating money to charities? Should we not volunteer? After all, that's like LOSING money! That's even worse than this gas thing!

Don't kid yourself, Randall; you only did this as GOOMHR-bait. Stop being such a utilitarian douchebag.

P.S. Jon alluded to this in his bingo post yesterday, but it does seem like the forums are getting a bit more cynical (or at least more critical). I like this trend.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

xkcd Forums Bingo: Week 16

Three more comics, three more threads. Let's get ready to see the score cards.

#944 - Hurricane Names

944 was quite a good discussion actually. Some interesting points were raised, and I even learned a bit about hurricanes. I really like this post for some reason:

"I'm just dreading the day when hurricanes attain sufficient complexity to become sentient, and demand to choose their own uber-kewl user names."

Then they got on to talking about this 'Cantor Diagonalization', and I lost interest, until I read this:

"You made a Cantor joke. I would go under the knife in order to become capable of having your babies."

Wait, what?

#945 - I'm Sorry

Ohhhh, too much arguing about grammar, and when it is appropriate to say 'I'm sorry'. It is best summed up by this:

"I'm sorry I read this far. Really I am. Oh, and I do not apologize for making those statements."

But only one square ticked? No way, I am not reading that thread again to see if I missed any others.

#946 - Family Decals

Heh, there was a GOOMHR post. I might as well link to it.

Ooh, there's also this:

"Actually, the second car seems to have stickers that look like Randy and Megan; maybe that's just the ransom money her family sent. Heh."

A Megan joke on the xkcd fora. Progress?

Some people want these decals to be in the xkcd store, hence the G3. Not sure if they specifically want the one with the huge stack of money.

Oh boy, we were close to a bingo this time. If only I could find a single post correcting someone's grammar like we had so much on the last thread! Dammit!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Comic 950: Zombie Amelia Earhart

Title: Mystery Solved; alt-text: The Roanoke Lost Colonists founded Roanoke, the Franklin Expedition reached the Pacific in 2009 when the Northwest Passage opened, and Jimmy Hoffa currently heads the Teamsters Union--he just started going by 'James'.

Ugh. This comic makes me mad for a couple of reasons. First of all, the mystery of Amelia Earhart HAS been solved, and obviously not in the stupid way Randy is offering. Second, the first panel is entirely unnecessary. In fact, the execution as a whole is bad, but I'll get to that a little later on.

The third, and arguably the worst problem, is the "joke." Amelia, and Randall by proxy, is doing something called "trolling." You say something absolutely and unequivocally retarded, then make fun of your audience for being confused or trying to call you on it. It's like saying, "I've discovered the square root of walrus!" How the heck do you expect people to react? Would a "smarter" person be able to parse that out into any form of sense or logic at all? Anyway, the point is, Randall's trolling. This brings up a rather relevant question.


Why, Randall, did you feel the need to make this a comic? It's not funny. It's not accurate. It's not relevant. It doesn't have anything to do with romance, sarcasm, math, or language. You're being nonsensical for the sake of nonsensicality (stupid for the sake of stupid, if you will), and randomness by itself does NOT guarantee humor. Sometimes it does. Sometimes, as the same comic shows, it does not. Today it did not.

But, just for the sake of argument, let's say that this was an excellent punchline. You know, hypothetically. If such a thing were possible for Randall. It's still crippled by some of the worst execution outside of walls of text. Why is all the conversation off-screen? Why do we need to be told in such a clunky manner what the plane is or who its pilot is? How would Earhart, now age 114, even be recognizable? Why do we need to be told, word by painful word, every step leading up to the joke?

Look. I'm no cartoonist; I've said that time and time again. Still, I'm going to try my hand at making an actual revision when I get home from work (6PM CST). In the meantime, take a look at this easy, EASY edit to vastly improve the comic.

Look at that and tell me it's not WAY better than the original.

P.S. It's worth noting that this is not the first time that Randall has dug up a dead woman in his strip. Seems like kind of a weird obsession.

P.P.S As promised, here is my edit of the comic.

And before you say, "Randall's looks better," remember that I don't do this for a living. I have a real job.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

xkcd Sucks Less, Week 4

Okay, so people are just going NUTS sending me strip improvements. SinbadEV has been consistent as always, with FOUR submissions, while two new people joined the "sucks less" bandwagon, offering three strips between the two of them. Some of you may be thinking, "Seven improvements for only three originals? Can they ALL be winners?"

Well, I think (for now) the answer is no. I'll publish the best one for each comic, with a possible honorable mention if another submission is notable enough. But, if you guys don't like that and want to see all of them, let me know in the comments! This is a democracy, and I'm open to suggestions.

Comic 947: Investing


Strictly speaking, this is accurate, but it's approached in such a stupid way that the punchline is just disappointing and wrong feeling.

"Sucks Less" Version:

Alt-Text: It is claimed that Einstein once said compound interest was "the most powerful force in the universe". Obviously he had never seen Star Wars.
by SinbadEV

I like this one because it attacks the "compound interest is magical" notion in a sensible way. Yes, in the right conditions, compounding interest can result in a lot of growth. An interest rate of 2% is not one of those conditions.

Comic 948: AI


Randall thinks, "Computers can drive cars but can't pass a Turing test. Maybe I can make this a joke about hippies!" He can't.

"Sucks Less" Version:

by Anonymous

This is just funny to me, and it reveals a major flaw in the original strip: the dialogue. Megan now responds the right way to Randall's overly descriptive and obvious commentary, and Randall gets some comeuppance. Huzzah.

Honorable Mention

by T-Jack

The caption says it all.

Comic 949: File Transfer


Randall, shut up already! Just make your point and move on!

"Sucks Less" Version:

Alt-Text: Every time you email a file to yourself so you can pull it up on your friend's laptop, Tim Berners-Lee sheds a single tear.
by SinbadEV

Short and sweet, has better punchline execution, and to top it all off, it LOOKS like a comic strip! If Randall had posted this version instead, I don't think I could've written a review that day.

Hey, a big thanks to everyone who participated this week. Randall gave us a lot of material to work with, and it seems like you three were up to the challenge. And don't forget, ANYONE can submit an "xkcd Sucks Less" strip! Just see the details at the top of the page.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Comic 949: Enough With the Words, Randall

Title: File Transfer; alt-text: Every time you email a file to yourself so you can pull it up on your friend's laptop, Tim Berners-Lee sheds a single tear.

Right away, this strip reminds me of Comic 783. Randall uses far too many words to make a point that simply doesn't need them. Okay, the guy's having trouble sending a file. Randall's suggestions are complicated. The guy uses a USB stick instead.


We don't need to fight through 109 words to get to your stupid punchline. Worse still, it's a one-sided, "realistic" conversation. In other words, the character is talking for two people ("Oh, he just drove over to your house with a USB drive?"), and he's doing it in a very clumsy way for a webcomic. What's wrong with this exchange?

"So can your cousin email you the file?"
"Too big."
"How about FTP?"
"What's that?"
"And get chewed out by the wife for the porn popups?"
"Uh...AIM direct connect!"
"We don't have AIM."
"Oh! Dropbox! You just have to make an account, download the -"
"You know what? I'm just going to have him put it on a USB stick."
"Oh. That works, I guess."
alt-text: Glad I could help!

Same thing, half the words, and it would allow for multiple panels. Randall, you're making a webcomic. Don't wall of text the readers (yes, that's a verb now). Give us a COMIC. Show the actors! If you just want to write a bunch of text, make a blog (I'm sorry, BLAG) post. As usual with xkcd, the failing comes, not from the joke or the point made, but from the execution. This admittedly is a real problem for the average user (I've run into it many times), even if the more computer-savvy have workarounds.

Of course, this brings up another question: Why is it that the "early adopters" are the ones having trouble? Randy, do you even know what an early adopter is? The ones who have been around the internet the longest are the ones who would know the best way to do this. Furthermore, "sending files," at its most basic, IS something the average computer user knows how to do. The problem is that file have increased in size faster than email clients have increased their limits. People know how to email files. They simply don't know what to do with big ones.

Finally, we come to the alt-text. Randall, what's emailing a file to yourself if not essentially uploading it to a web server? The average user sees it as simply as this: emailing yourself a file suddenly puts it on the intertubes forever. You can get it from anywhere now. Why should that make the guy who invented the internet (no, not Al Gore) cry?

Ugh. This comic had a drop of potential, perhaps, but it was all wasted in the execution. It's wordy, it's drawn out, and parts of it don't make sense. Way to ruin another idea, Randall.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

xkcd Forums Bingo: Week 15

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up as we ridicule the forums for another week!

#941 - Depth Perception
Oh boy, quite an excited thread for 941.

Our long post (N2) is barely in there with 501 words. We had plenty of I4 and O1. The I4 posts were from people who wanted to try this out in real life. The O1 posts are self-explanatory. Our O2 post comes from someone who doesn't have binocular vision, and found the comic depressing (aww).

We also had the creepiest B1 ever:
"About once a month I decide I want to marry you. This one is the first time I want to marry you so bad I actually jumped through all the registration hoops necessary to propose. The Joni Mitchel pushed it right over the edge. Then my kid walked in and reminded me that I'm already married to somebody else. Dammit."
It also wins B2 and B3 for mentioning the Joni Mitchell reference in the alt text.

#942 - Juggling
Let's see here. Nothing much happened, except we had FIVE instances of O3, each referencing a different comic. This comic seems to remind people of 226, 258, 298, Dinosaur Comics, and of course the Five-Minute Comics that were briefly posted a few weeks ago.

#943 - Empirical
B1 here, N2 there. Strangely, there were none from the bottom two rows. We had I2 with people debating the semantics of the marriage question.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Comic 948: It's Just You, Megan

Title: AI; alt-text: And they both react poorly to showers.

So, Randall has discovered a particular YouTube video. He thinks it's "hilarious." Obviously he's wrong (it's really not funny at all), but that might explain why he has a similar low standard for xkcd. He probably laughs his nuts off every time he finishes one of his strips. However, that's neither here nor there. The problem with this strip (besides the age-old "not funny" thing) is that the setup is so contrived that the joke loses all of its punch. Randall picks two things that computers can do and one thing they can't, then takes a shot a Burning Man attendees (two shots, counting the alt-text).

I don't really care about the insult all that much (the forums, funnily enough, are a different matter), but when that's all the joke is, it totally falls flat. It reminds me of the alt-text of Comic 764, which, in my mind, is Randall at his absolute douchiest (not helped in any way by the fact that he thinks belatedly adding "Zing!" to the end makes it all better). One forumite suggests changing the target of the joke to computer programmers, which admittedly makes just as much sense. The only reason to single out the Burning Man people is because computers can "drive across the desert." You know what else computers can do? Keep an airplane level. Heck, modern fighter jets and bombers can't be flown otherwise. Oh, but that wouldn't fit in with your little insult, would it Randall? Even the chess thing doesn't really apply (at least, not specifically), so why is it in there? And where does Randall "Do me without a condom" Munroe get off making fun of people who can't hold a five minute conversation? Isn't he their king or something?

I know I say this a lot, but this is just a bad comic. It's contrived, it's unnecessarily insulting, and it's just poorly structured. The comic essentially outlines Randall's thought process from "Hey, Cleverbots talking with each other" to "Burning Man people sure are dirty!" No editing was done whatsoever. The way that Randall is explaining the thing to Megan, you'd think she was retarded. But if he didn't say exactly that, how in the world could comic-god Randall tell this joke??

Perhaps I'll leave that question to our "xkcd Sucks Less" submitters.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Comic 947: Compounding Issues

Title: Investing; alt-text: But Einstein said it was the most powerful force in the universe, and I take all my investment advice from flippant remarks by theoretical physicists making small talk at parties.

Oh look, another strip where Randall invents a false target and then attacks it for the sake of humor. Humor that - it's worth noting - would not exist if he was being honest in his subject matter.

Let's start with the obvious. 2% interest may not seem like a lot because it's NOT a lot. 2% is what you get if you put your money in a savings account. It's what a bank guarantees you for letting them hang on to your money. 2% is NOT investing. Furthermore, decent investments are going to be maturing for a lot longer than 10 years. If you have a low principle, a low interest rate, and a low time frame, of COURSE you're going to get a low return!

If we're being realistic, an investment is something that you're going to let grow for several decades, and you're going to get an average rate of return much higher than 2%. I'm no financial expert, but I understand that decent investments return around 8%, and great ones return 12%. Those numbers may be off (feel free to correct me in the comments), but it doesn't matter; my example is going to be much lower.

(All results are done here with a starting principle of 1000, no annual addition, and annual compounding.)

So, we start with our 1,000 dollars. I'm 23 years old; let's say I want to retire at 63. This money will be compounding interest for 40 years. At just a 4% return, that 1,000 dollars turns into 4,800 dollars. At 5% it becomes 7,040 dollars. At 6% it's at 10,285 dollars. See that? Even at below average interest rates, a principle as low as 1,000 dollars will increase tenfold if given the time.

Compounding interest isn't magical. No one said it was. But, under the right conditions, and given the right amount of time, it will offer a dramatic return on the original principle.

So why am I making such a big deal about this? Why am I running numbers that you guys probably already know about? Well, quite simply, it pains me that a webcomic about "math" can so callously disregard such an important application of it. It feels like Randall is saying, "Compound interest? Eh, it's basically meaningless." It's not! Compound interest is a big deal, and it should be treated as such!

What's happening to you, Randall? Why don't you like math anymore?

P.S. The xkcd forums are filled with people pointing out the flaws in the comic (low interest rate, etc.) Interestingly, the number that's in the strip right now for the result ($1,279) is wrong. No one can reach that answer no matter how they come at it. I've saved the image for now, as I expect that Randall will sneakily update it once he sees the flaw.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

xkcd Sucks Less, Week 3

Hello, everyone. Four updates in four days? Preposterous! I expect this streak to continue, too, with another review tomorrow and possibly some bingo around the corner. In the meantime, enjoy these improved xkcds.

Comic 944: Hurricane Names


Hey guys, let's take a premise that might be humorous, suck all the funny out by overloading the reader with words, and don't let up until the alt-text has a paragraph all by itself! That's what Randall's done with this comic.

"Sucks Less" Version:

alt-text: I keep reading "Cyclone" as "Cylon" ... heh heh ... Cylon Steve is attacking Florida ... giggle.

This fix came from SinbadEV. It's amazing how many of these strips can be improved by just condensing the text. There's no over the top "the world is a hurricane" situation, there's no nerd pandering with Cantor's theorem, and there's a lot fewer words to convey exactly the same situation. All in all, a better comic.

Comic 945: I'm Sorry


As I said in my review, this isn't necessarily a bad comic. In fact, I think it's one of the better ones in recent memory. Still, let's see if we can't make this a bit better.

"Sucks Less" Version:

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is how it's done. Take a recurring and recognizable character, quickly set him up with a plausible situation, and chuckle as he twists it around. It's relevant, it's punchy, it fits the character, it shows instead of telling, and overall it's a pretty darn good strip. Credit goes to Schnouk for making this one suck less.

Comic 946: Family Decals


This one wouldn't be so bad if I didn't hate Randall for making it.

"Sucks Less" Version:

Alt-Text: I've looked everywhere but I've yet to find one of these family decals for "Quetzalcoatlus".

SinbadEV helps me out again here. He submitted two corrections, but I like this one best. It's just another decal...UNTIL you pull up next to someone with those family stickers! Everyone wins!

We got a pretty decent batch this time around. Major thanks to this week's contributors. Remember, everyone, YOU TOO can be credited on one of these features! Just send me an email with your improvement, and I'll try to see that it gets put on the site (see the top of the page for details).