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).

Monday, March 12, 2012

1028: What have I done to this comic?

Alt-text: Anyone who says that they're great at communicating but 'people are bad at listening' is confused about how communication works.

Oh, look, it's me again. Shocking, isn't it?

Today's review will be a bit different, because understanding this comic and its intended message requires thorough panel-by-panel examination, so this is what I'm going to do here. Keeping the alt-text in mind will be necessary, because it spells out the message, and therefore helps uncover just how much the comic fails in communicating it.

The alt-text states that some people are bad at giving information to other people, and while that's true, Randall seems to have gotten stuck at the term "communication protocol" and therefore thinks that people are like computers in this regard. Badly programmed computers. What do I mean by that? Well, let me show you:

Panel 1: White Hat Man (WHM) sees a hole in the ground and notes it.
Alright, so far so good.

Panel 2: WHM encounters Short Hair Guy (SHG) and tells him about the hole. SHG notes WHM's presence.
Panel 3: WHM continues warning SHG about the hazard. SHG continues thinking about WHM
Okay, hold on for a second. Really? Saying "Watch out, there's a big hole in the ground that way" takes two panels? And the recipient is still too dumb to understand that? Oh gods, these are strawmen, aren't they?

Panel 4: WHM leaves, thinking about SHG. SHG shrugs, thinking about WHM.
What is this, some shitty romantic comedy? "Man meets guy, they can't stop thinking about each other"? Also note that WHM has now completely forgotten about the hole. This is why I said that people in this comic are like badly programmed computers. Apparently, inhabitants of xkcdland are incapable of remembering more than one thing, which seems to be the most recent event they've experienced. They can't even assign a priority level to more important memories!

Panel 5: WHM encounters Token Woman (TW) and tells her about SHG. TW tells WHM about another hole in the ground.
This is where the comic completely falls apart. Why would the hat man tell her about the guy instead of the hole? There's only one reason and that's because he has a LIFO memory structure with the size 1. This is why you should never make an argument using strawmen.

Panel 6: WHM leaves, thinking about SHG and TW. TW leaves, thinking about WHM.
Okay, maybe I was wrong. Maybe he only told her about the guy because he wanted them to get together. Hey, remember how the last comic was about how you should never be sexist? Yeah, neither does Randall. And don't tell me it's because of the bad memory. If that was the case, WHM would only be thinking about TW.

And all that was only the first row. There's two more to go. Mommy...

Panel 7: TW meets SHG, both are thinking about WHM.
Apparently, since meeting hat man, the guy didn't move a centimeter from where he was standing. Further proof that xkcdians are not real people, because real people are perfectly capable of thinking about weirdos and walking at the same time.

Panel 8: TW and SHG tell each other about WHM.
Heyy, nice moves, bro.

Panel 9: TW and SHG walk towards the first hole, still talking about WHM.
Now he's walking! Why didn't he move before the chick caught up with him? Was he waiting for her? Is he trying to pick her up? Make sense, Randall!

Panel 10: Off-screen pain and two curses.
Gee, what could've happened? Durr, I don't know!

Panel 11: SHG and TW are stuck in the first hole. Off-screen pain and one curse.
Okay, how did they miss the hole? It seems big enough to notice. Hell, the hat guy noticed it, and he's intended to be the weirdo of the comic. Maybe they were too busy talking about him to pay attention? Okay, that would explain this, but then...

Panel 12: WHM is stuck in the second hole.
It doesn't explain this! He noticed the first hole, how did he fall in the second one? Was he too busy thinking about the soon-to-be happy pair he arranged?

And now, the great finale. Yeah, it's going to suck.

Panel 13: Beret Guy (BG) sees a hole in the ground and notes it.
What the fuck? Where did he come from? Is that the same hole that the hat man found? And if so, where are the man and woman who were stuck in it? Are... are they under the panel's border? Ye gods, what are they doing in there?!

Panel 14: BG walks away from the hole, not thinking about anything.
Oh, wait. Does that mean that his memory queue is empty or that its contents are "too hot for xkcd"? Was I right about SHG+TW??

Panel 15: BG encounters Randall's Author Avatar (RAA) and tells him about BG and RAA holding hands (meant to symbolize "follow me"). RAA thinks about BG.
No, every hairless stick figure is a Randall stand-in. Shut up. Also, it cracks me up to imagine the Beret Guy saying "Come with me if you want to see a guy nailing a chick in the sickest way possible" in a thick Austrian accent.

Panel 16: BG is leading RAA towards the hole. RAA is thinking about BG surrounded by deadly question marks.
Replace BG with Randall and RAA with Megan. You now have an accurate idea of how their date went.

Panel 17: BG and RAA have arrived at the hole. BG is pointing at it.
So he's capable of saying "come with me", but he can't say "look, a hole"? No, wait, he's totally not telling him about the hole. He's showing him the depravities going on inside it and is silent because he doesn't want the happy couple down there to notice him. Geez, what have I done to this comic?

Panel 18: BG and RAA are walking away from the hole, both thinking about the hole.
Or, y'know, about its contents.

This comic's intended message seems to be "Don't tell others about dangerous situations, take their hands and show them first-hand", which is both wrong and undermined by general strawmanotisis. It is clear that Randall only drew this to make himself feel superior to other, more stupid people, but, well, that does not a good comic make. So I guess if you're only going to take one lesson from it, let it be "if you see a guy nailing a chick in the sickest way possible, do not keep their location for yourself, but instead share it with as many bros as possible".


  1. Thanks bro. I spent about 30 seconds trying to follow this piece of shit before I came straight over here, hoping someone would've worked it out for me already.

  2. Maybe the comic was supposed to be self-deprecating. Why else would he make a comic complaining about how some people are bad at communicating, and make it absolutely unintelligible?

    Well, besides the obvious incompetence, I mean.

  3. I like that Short Hair Guy loses his hair as soon as he starts walking. Perhaps he didn't actually have hair at all and it was just something scribbled on the wall behind him

  4. Thanks for taking the time to parse this out. I honestly had no idea what Randall was trying to convey here. Speaking of bad communication, this strip is it.

    It really doesn't help that it's populated by a cast of stick figures identifiable only by their head accoutrements. I honestly did not realize that the non-hat guy was a fifth character until you identified him as such.

  5. Here. I fixed it. This is the sort of thing editors do.

  6. The strip works if you assume the characters with hats speak a different language to the characters without hats. And therefore can't verbally communicate, hence the need to SHOW the hole to a person to get them to understand...

    But yeah, for a comic about communication, it's fucking unclear..

  7. I think the situation presented in the comic is meant to be entirely metaphorical.

    Like the "obvious hole in the ground" is actually "global warming" or "the negative health risks of eating at McDonalds" or "installing banzai buddy is going to slow your computer down" which are obvious to "us" but that our inability to convey these problem to "them" is due to our failure to frame the issue in a way that makes it apparent to "them" ... I'm not saying that the comic is good (and I'm probably giving more credit than is deserved), it's just that I think he meant us to interpret it symbolically.