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