Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Comic 518: Diagram My Feelings

a diagram of bad humor

I should probably start by saying I was this close to liking this one. This is not a bad concept. I mean, it is not going to win any prizes for comedy, but it's a flowchart to explain flowcharts. That's amusing, right? Ha ha? So it has a decent structure. It starts as a flowchart, for one! While this might make it one of his many diagram comics at least it's not, like, "My hobby: making flowcharts to explain flowcharts." Bonus points for actually telling a joke!

Then he gets to the part at the end of a joke, it is the part which is supposed to be funny, what is it called, oh right THE PUNCHLINE. Right, he gets to the punchline and, uh. It is a random joke about... getting drunk and installing FreeBSD. FreeBSD is not a flowchart. It is an operating system.

So the flowchart joke never really happens. This is something you scribble on your napkin at the diner at 3 am, a half-formed idea in your head, its humor derived mostly from the context of the conversation, ultimately lost and discarded as the relic of a moment.

Am I alone in this one? I feel like jokes should have punchlines which are related to the premise of the joke. Unless it is a shaggy dog story, or The Aristocrats! etc, which is subverting the standard format of a joke. I mean, you could probably make a funny comic about recursive flowcharts. You might even be able to make one about 'woo I am drunk let's install FreeBSD' but I doubt it.

But you can't just say "uh, man, FreeBSD is a six drink minimum and, uh. Flowcharts? Yeah, man."

CARL SAYS: "Also, you have to assume it's going to lose some points for saying 'presented in flow chart form' at the top there when it's pretty danged obvious from the, you know, flow chart sitting below it that there will, in fact, be flow charts involved. This comic to me felt like he started with a good idea and then gave up trying to make it really great. My mind keeps going back to 'Screw it' --> 'let's go drink' and imagining Randall saying that while drawing the last few panels. Also, Rob, hope you don't mind me invading your post like this. I didn't change anything, just added stuff. PS you are doing a heckuva job so far."


  1. Carl, you can't expect people to know what flow chart looks like in a guide to understanding flow charts? The seamingly extra explanation makes perfect sense in this one. And the fact that it all ended in drinking feels more like an "accident" than an accident. The good idea in this one definitely involved that ending. And IMO, this one was great.

    Rob, I would say the only requirement of a punchline is that it's funny and this one was exactly that. The idea that the natural flow of taking six drinks would be wanting to install free bsd is as geeky as the idea of explaining flow charts with flow charts. And it's of course a reference to #349 as well, even if that one was about open bsd.

  2. This is what I like to call a "doctor." Just MS Paint out everything to the right of "Let's go drink." Fixed!

  3. I think that if the punchline was the "screw it" thing, maybe it would have been funny. The freeBSD thing felt tacked on.

    So, M75, the requirement of a punchline is that it is funny. Which this wasn't. So, the comic has failed.

  4. I thought the chances on someone having a "get out of my head, Randall" moment were slim, but I checked the forums. Stupid, stupid girl because every time I see that phrase I want to slam my head into a brick wall. Or better yet, remove that person from the gene pool.

    Of course, there was someone that had been thinking of flow charts. And he comes in early in the thread. I can't read the rest of the thread, my cat-killing-curiosity has been slaked and now I must go to bed.

    | 6 DRINKS


  6. i think randall wrote himself into a corner on this one. here is his train of thought:

    "let's see, what quirky and semi-original idea can i come up with today? chris onstad does and sells lots of flowcharts, and it's worked for me before, so i'll do it too! but what kind.. how about a flowchart to explain flowcharts! that's so meta and clever."


    "wait, this doesn't go anywhere and i can't end it. hmm... how about a linux joke."

    commentary on linux is funny! and it's even funnier after six drinks! ha ha ha! i don't even know why he's bashing on bsd..


  7. I liked it. The FreeBSD joke wasn't funny, but the other paths were pretty good.

    This is the best XKCD in a while.

  8. M7 - Why does the extra explanation make sense? It's clearly a flow chart. It also says "UNDERSTANDING FLOW CHARTS" above it. Why on earth does he need to say "in flow chart form"? None of his other comics say "presented in comic form."

    Flow charts are so overdone these days. Chris Onstad's still are awesome. Particularly for Phillipe.

  9. greg: Yeah, I think that's exactly how it went. Either that or he had the 'six drinks... free BSD' joke just floating around in his head forever, and he finally found one where it (doesn't) fit (in any way).

    M7: Now, I have to be honest here: I was this close to liking this one. If the punchline were not some random unrelated Linux joke, and were instead something which flows (ha) from the rest of it, I think it would have been funny! Like, not even just 'passably funny', but legitimately chuckle-worthy.

    Carl: INVADING MY PRIVACY OMG no go ahead, it was pretty clearly delineated.

    I'm not sure if I care one way or the other about 'presented in flow chart form.' I guess I just don't care much about the title of any given comic--it is sort of like the title text. It can add, but I never feel cheated if it is absent or lame.

    (Except for this comic. It is topical to the election, and the title text, for some reason, makes it one of my favorite ASWs.)

  10. Carl - Was my explanation really that bad? I'll try again, then. Imagine this. You have never seen a flow chart before, or you are not really sure what a flow chart looks like. You get to a page on the net that says it explains flow charts, but under it is just a lot of figures, arrows with text on or beside them. You probably guess that it's a flow chart but you still would think that it's a bit weird that you *have* *to* *guess* that the explanation is in form of a flow chart. (Of course you would anyway think it's weird to explain flow charts with a flow chart, but that is part of the joke.)

    Bunnie and the rest of you - I guess I have to explain the punchline since you don't seem to understand it. I tried already but perhaps I was a bit undetailed.

    First, I hope we all agree on why it's funny the chart ends up in drinking. It's because of the inevitability of it. If you are attempting to do something as silly as explaining flow charts with a flow chart, that's what gonna happen. Period.

    The real punch line is funny because of three things:

    1) It's a reference to #349. Installing bsd is very hard in xkcd-world. You need six drinks to be brave or foolish enough to try it.

    2) No one thinks that drinking six drinks would lead to you wanting to install freebsd. It's not the first thing you think of when you get drunk. No one does that! Except perhaps... a guy geeky enough to try to explain flow charts with a flow chart. For him it's obvious. What else is there? Everybody does that, right? It's so obvious it can be part of the flow chart itself.

    3) I'm not sure if Randall intended this one but by referencing to #349, both comics get's the exact same flow (ha, right back at you Rob ;) I'm not above reusing bad puns). You start out with something innocent (explaining flow charts - installing bsd) that get's worse (drinking - dead computers) which ends up in a catastrophe (installing bsd - shark attacks).

    This was one of the best comics in quite a while. The best chart/diagram comic since the one with the kitten for sure.

  11. I thought a better punchline would have "6 drinks -> I can no longer understand flowcharts", or something like that. Something relating to the rest of the comic.

  12. I think I like the "I hate you" part.


    DO YOU READ XKCD--> yes


    LISTEN.--> randall


    Although "randall" is probably not a yes/no answer... BUT WHATEVER

    Incidentally, did all of you know that xckd shows the xkcd page but doesn't redirect the address? And you can navigate all around the page (like previous, next, etc.) and the domain is still xckd. For some reason this bothers me.

  13. M - I think the issue comes from whether this comic is actually meant to teach people about flow charts, in which case your explanation is right, or if it is just meant to be a joke for those of us who already know them, in which case I think I'm right.

    I'm also not convinced that this comic is a reference to 349. Yes, they are both about installing bsd, but that uses it more as an example, the real joke is just "standards get lower over time, taken to extreme --> SHARKS!" You could replace "bsd" in that comic with anything, and it would be the same basic joke. It's not about bsd being hard, it's about how every project is hard, even if it seems simple. This new one is about how bsd is so hard you'd have to be drunk to try it.

    Randall does like these meta-ideas. A reset sing about reset signs! Rickrolling Rick Astley! An xkcd about previous xkcds! twittering about twitter! It's ok for now, but I can imagine it getting to be annoying.

  14. Jay - I think that that is waaaay funnier than the actual punchline. You could even go further, making that have an arrow back to the beginning, or a drunken rambling arrow going to a box labeled "you know what i hate about you, i hate EVERYTHING, dammit just leave me alone i don't have time for thissssssszzzzzzz zzzzzzzzzzz" or somthing. Or not. your idea is still better than his.

    Amanda - remember, if you need help with step 2, you can always consult! I did not know about x-c-k-d but you have to assume that a lot of people type it in by mistake, so it's not a bad idea. As to why it doesn't just redirect, that I don't know. Looks like I'll need to register!


  15. Time for something more complicated. Ignore the dots:

    XKCD Forumites' Flowchart
    (presented in flowchart form)

    HAS XKCD UPDATED <---------¬
    |.............\-->REFRESH PAGE /

  16. Or I would even settle for the BSD joke in the alt text. Having it plopped in there just dilutes the joke.

  17. Double blackbird, that is awesome. The formatting gets messed up because the font width is different when you post from how it looks in the comment field, but we can tell what you mean. And it is great.

  18. M, I think you are reaching here. There is just too much explaining to make the punchline funny. I like consistency that doesn't require an elaborate narrative. (The weather here is so terrible right now. It was 60 degrees and quite lovely a few days ago. Now it is cold and snowy. I WANT CONSISTENCY etc.)

    I mean, it wasn't like a suckerpunch, you know? You start a joke talking about flowcharts, you expect a punchline about flowcharts, and it isn't really clever if your punchline just isn't about them.

    There are jokes where you start talking about one thing and then end with something unexpected, but even then it follows--just not in the way you'd think. It's usually a clever wordplay. It catches you off-guard but it's still effective.

    This one is kind of like Randall saying "hey guys you want to go get some burgers?" and then you all get in the car and he just goes to Staples and buys printer paper.

  19. I like Jay's ending more.

    Also, Rob, your burger comment reminded me of Cuil Theory. Have you ever heard of it?

  20. I haven't, but that is respectably awesome.

  21. I generally shelve my own comments when others express them just as well, but I must repeat Rob's sentiment as my own: "[Cuil Theory] is respectably awesome."

  22. Rob - Of course that much explaining shouldn't be needed. Point 1 and 2 in my explanation was basicly my very initial reactions to the comic, a bit less worded out of course. I guess other geeks had such as reactions as well.

    I guess we have to a agree on disagreeing about unexpectedness of punchlines. A really great punchline should be a sucker punch, it's no fun if you can see the punch line coming from a distance.

    Carl - If it says it's a guide, at least it should make the illusion of beening a guide. Your exclusion of "presented in flow chart form" makes the guide incomplete. Sorry to be harsh but do you really hate Randall so much that you don't see this and rather believe he explains something completely obvious to his comic readers? You've said before you don't hate him, and I do believe you, but this time you sure makes it look like you do.

    349 alt text: "40% of OpenBSD installs lead to shark attacks. It's their only standing security issue." Even if you can agrue that bsd was more of an example in 349, you can't say that intalling bsd isn't a hard thing to do in xkcd-world.

    Most of you - Almost every time Randall makes a computer reference you act as if he just uses buzz words. He really isn't. There are lots of things xkcd could be criticized for, some of them are correctly spotted here. His computer references aren't usually among these things. They aren't empty references for the sake of referencing, they have substance and are often spot on (353 is the golden example).

  23. M, obscure inside references are not funny. I complain about them when I get them, and get confused when I do not. I want my humor to be easy and not require me to know things. DO ALL MY WORK FOR ME, RANDALL.

  24. At Defcon this year, I was actually accosted by an obviously intoxicated individual who was dead set on convincing me that FreeBSD was the best OS on the planet. There is more than a grain of truth in this flowchart, and my personal experience led me to find it far more humorous than most.

    The other paths were pretty funny, too. And I'm a whore for flowcharts to begin with, so personally I would rate this comic as slightly above average.

    That being said, if I hadn't had that experience, I probably would've hated this one.

    When properly used, all caps speech is probably the funniest of all possible text humor. I applaud your efforts.

  25. Poore: Thank you! I hope I don't overdo it. But caps-based humor is one of my favorite kinds (one of the reasons I also like Dinosaur Comics).

  26. I also think you guys sometimes forget about the sort of random nature of xkcd to begin with. It's supposed to be sort of scizophrenic (I have no idea how to spell that) and kind of a "stream of consciousness" thing. There's lots of jokes in this one, and it makes sense that if he was drunk he would attempt to do something stupid. The fact that he decided to do something stupid and incredibly nerdy strikes me as just part of what the comic does.

    If I was reading a webcomic about baking and this comic was on there, only it ended in "attempt to make a souffle that doesn't collapse" (I don't know what bakers make jokes about) I probably wouldn't enjoy the reference, but it would still make sense.