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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.


  1. I feel like "Early Adopter" might just be a euphemism here... what he really means is "computer geniuses like me". The fact that neither the person sending nor receiving the file in question are him add credence to this theory.

    Off the top of my head I can't thing of a quick and easy way for my "mom" to send a file to her "cousin" over the 25MB attachment limit GMail imposes... so he has a valid point.

    Just for the sake of argument... Randy could let the poor fellow upload the file to his own ftp server and then allow the cousin to download the file... but he's too much of a jerk to have thought of that option.

  2. I always knew SOMEONE was crying when I emailed something to myself.

  3. Also: my dad's always used Dropbox. So simple.

  4. Dropbox really is the best way to do it these days, at least until e-mailing 25MB files becomes reasonable. Your average person isn't going to set up their own FTP server or web server, and the annoyance of Megaupload (porn popups? Since when?) is definitely a turn-off.

  5. I think he means "EVEN early adopters."

    A more fertile point for him to be making would be that the advent of all these web-based chat programs, Facebook and Twitter and the like, has meant the decline of chat systems which also had a function to directly send files. Once upon a time everybody was versed in ICQ and AIM and this was never a problem.

  6. [edited]
    Off the top of my head: just drag the file into your Skype chat window. For 25Mb file, that's it. For bigger files, just get off your ass and register a Dropbox.

    Otherwise, SinbadEV got it right.

    Anyway, I was considerably pissed by this "early adopters" quip. Early adopters of what, Randy? 20-years old World Wide Web? In that case, I am now being an early adopter of my own damn teeth.

  7. So, the 25MB attachment limit in Hotmail and Gmail. That's the real limit, isn't it? I don't think they mean 24.99999999999MB. Why didn't he put 26MB? Or maybe 50 to future proof it a little?

  8. put it in bayfiles

  9. This strip has been bugging me since Friday and I couldn't figure out why. I just seemed familiar somehow. But, now I remembered: Randall is describing Sneakernet.

    I dug out my old copy of Computer Networks by Tanenbaum and it contains the quotation "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway", and if Wikipedia is to be believed this dates back to an even earlier quote from Tanenbaum back in 1981.

    Yeah, physically transporting storage media can be faster and more convenient than using a network if the network is slow enough and the storage medium has high enough density. Congratulations Randall, you've managed to make an observation about something that has been a running joke amongst computer scientists for at least 30 years, and you didn't even do it particularly well.

  10. You are all morons.

    You think you're so clever, and I guess you show it by putting down others. Randall is not talking about a sneakernet; nice try, but that's not the punchline. The punchline is that it's still so difficult to simply SEND A FILE in the 21st century. This is a statement of fact. What's amazing is that even those who seem to get it (like SinbadEV) proceed to take a swipe at Randall anyway, just because that's what we're supposed to do here. Classy.

    I am a fairly early adopter, and I have trouble sending files. FTP was inappropriate for my situation, so I took to running an HTTP server just to share files, with HTTP upload (which sucks) for others to send files to me. That is absolutely ridiculous and nobody should be expected to resort to that.

    People rarely use traditional instant messengers anymore, and their file transfer facilities were always kind of flaky to begin with. I was one of the early users of Dropbox, but I don't use it anymore because it's become godawfully slow (maybe their business model is failing).

    Tell me, geniuses, what the hell am I supposed to be using? What is my mom supposed to be using?

  11. I think the "early adopters" implies the internet is still in beta (despite being 20+ years old) because such basic features are still missing.