Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Guest Post: Why XKCD Is Pretentious

A few dozen years ago, a guy who I'll call Matt sent me an e-mail with a good essay about xkcd and how it appeals to its fans' sense of self-superiority, and then, for some reason, I did nothing with it. This was really lame of me. However, I am posting it now, so all is well (not really, i still suck heartily). Here is the post, guys.

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Three times a week, Randall Munroe descends from the heavens and hands the Word of God to the unwashed masses. Sometimes, he brings humor. Sometimes, he tells us of an interesting new idea. And sometimes, just sometimes, he scorns us for something we are doing horribly wrong and need to change immediately.

xkcd can be awfully pretentious at times. It's really cute the way he thinks his stick figure webcomic and legion of socially awkward fans can act as an authority or instrument of social change. It's pretty annoying and it doesn't change a damn thing; so why does he bother? Well, I once had the privilege of having the great Randall explain it to me in person.

A few years ago, I was a college freshman and I was introduced to xkcd for the first time by my classmates. At first, I kind of liked it, even though I could tell it was quite bad from the start. It was something of a guilty pleasure. I came to resent it because everyone around me was convinced it was the second coming of Christ and talked about it constantly. But some time before that, I was pressured into going to a talk by Randall, who had graced our fair city with his presence.

He talked about his comic, and programming, and the usual stuff. At one point, though, he mentioned that he doesn't like the convention set by English grammar for quotation marks. English grammar dictates that you always put the period at the end of the sentence in quotes, like if you're ending a sentence with the word "cat." As a programmer, this annoys Randall.You see, the period is not part of the word, so it should go outside of the quotation marks, like if you're ending a sentence with the word "cat". (Never mind the fact that it takes quite a grammar nazi to complain if you get this wrong.) Even though Randall *can* adapt to the convention, it bothers him deeply to do so because he feels the convention is *wrong*.

He then justified being an inflexible non traditionalist by brining up the Myers-Briggs personality typology test, claiming that he and most of his readers are ISTPs. If you don't know what that means, don't worry; I didn't know either. He was kind enough to explain it. ISTPs are the sort of people who spend their lives thinking about frivolous nonsense like this and seething about it. This is a great example of this sort of thing. Now, you see, because of the way electricity works, it does not matter which way the current runs as long as you pick a convention and stick with it. This is why electrical engineers have never bothered to change the convention. Randall, however, can't get over the fact that the convention runs opposite to how electrons really flow, so much so that he fantasizes about using a time machine to get Benjamin Franklin to fix it. Normal people have moved on with their lives.

And, of course, rather than be annoyed at how pretentious and petty he's being, his fans eat it right up. They, too, are ISTPs and spend their lives wishing they could change conventions to suit their purposes. I must have been the only person in the room who was thinking "Oh my god, is he fucking serious?" when he went on his tangent about punctuation, the rest fully agreed with him. This is another reason that his fans spend their time putting xkcd strips everywhere; if they spread the Word of God, maybe they'll finally rectify some of these minor issues that affect no one.

125 comments:

  1. Holy shit, is Randall credulous enough to take Myers-Briggs seriously?

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  2. I'm (allegedly) an INTJ and Randall and his fans can kiss my butt.

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  3. Mal, I think he's just grasping at pseudo-authority to justify his infantile nitpicking. That's how pretentious he is.

    As a matter of fact, I do have a buggy feeling about that convention regarding quotes, but I can live with that. It just doesn't matter that much.

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  4. I don't suppose Randall's ever had to cite anything, or he might complain about how the British cite.

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  5. When I meet people who act like that I usually just walk away saying quietly to myself "holy shit, get over yourself if it's such a big issue then how come nothing's being done about it? It must not be a big issue if you're one of 10 people bitching about it" and I meet a LOT of them at university.

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  6. I'm an ESTP software engineer and nerd stereotypes can kiss my ass.

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  7. Most, if not all, encapsulating punctuation (a phrase I made up to describe punctuation like quotation marks and parentheses which go around things) go after periods and commas, for example:

    - "Hello," said the man.
    - The next word is "ambiguous."
    - (Actually, I don't.)
    - The car, which belonged to Jason (a friend of mine,) was destroyed.

    If that's not logical enough for Mr. Linux-Internet-Programmer-Science-Vulcan-Nerd, then nothing is, except maybe lojban.

    The attitude of "hey, look at me, computers are important to me and I think like a programmer. I am Spock! COMPUTE COMPUTE!" gets on my nerves.

    They take pride in being an xkcd fan because they think it reflects their intelligence. Later, little 12-year-old Internet turds pick up on this, and become xkcd fans because they think it will *make* them intelligent (or at least appear intelligent.) That is where fanboys come from.

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  8. Randall is right about the quotes. It's how we Russians do it and it makes a lot of sense. However there are a bunch of other stupid rules to make up for this.

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  9. I am an ISTP, according to the test that my high school gave. You know, little things like odd conventions don't bother me at all, but they do kinda interest me.

    That said, observations about small conventions are not decent comic or talk material, and the fact that the fans are so willing to just accept that they are hilarious shows the rampant conformism in the xkcd fan-base.

    You know what's odd? You drive on a parkway, and park in a driveway! You know what else is odd? If Randall Munroe made a comic about that, his fans would love it, despite the fact that it's just an old observation that has been used better by someone else before him! All it is is an amusing little observation! It is not comic material! RAEG

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  10. Okay so the thing that pushed me over the edge of disliking xkcd rather than finding it to be worth a check isn't the fact the art is poor, the content is prentious or anything else about the actual comic. It's the fact that the authour is using Myers-Briggs (which is nothing more than facebook spam now) as an excuse for how he acts like a bit of a stubborn dick about inconsequential things.

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  11. the quotation marks concern is not entirely invalid though. i dont hate randall for it

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  12. Man, he didn't even mention the most retarded of the "little things that but me" comics: 503, which is about something that does make sense if you think about it for more than five seconds before going "RAR SO ILLOGICAL" and aren't completely egocentric.

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  13. @Anon 11:26

    Yeah, 503 is basically saying, "Hey, Rest of the World! I'm an arrogant American! Look at me!"

    Then again, most of xkcd's readers are American, so yeah...

    I am an American as well, mind you.

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  14. ... what. the. fu... are you people doing here?
    ... no wait. how did I get here and wtf am I doing here?

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  15. Thanks for posting my essay; I'm glad you liked it.

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  16. Where is the pretentiousness?

    I don't get.

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  17. "- 'Hello,' said the man.
    - The next word is 'ambiguous.'
    - (Actually, I don't.)
    - The car, which belonged to Jason (a friend of mine,) was destroyed.

    If that's not logical enough for Mr. Linux-Internet-Programmer-Science-Vulcan-Nerd, then nothing is."

    I agree with Randall - and I'm an English major - because it doesn't make grammatical sense most of the time. In fact, I could come up with logical explanations for why three of your examples suck, but I won't because the point of the article wasn't to bash Randall for not agreeing with a convention, it was to bash Randall for being exclusionary and superior about his nontraditionalism (My readers and I are ISTPs; we're special so FUCK OFF).

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  18. Punctuation isn't part of grammar.

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  19. irt. Timofei:

    And speaking about Russian conventions, is it true that in Russia, electric current (from a battery, say) flows from the Minus pole to the Plus pole?

    Which means nothing much physically, current doesn't work by electrons physically streaming through the wires at near-light-speed.

    =====

    ... aaand on the topic of Randall and his psycho test, let's play Devil's Advocate here. Is there any chance, however slim, that he was using that as some form of joke/light-hearted conversation? As, you know, people would say "I'm a Leo so I'm supposed to be assertive" even though they believe astrology is bunk?

    Further, the whole griping on minor issues thing.

    Is it possible that he's just railing on minor things in an attempt to get humour (hey look how I work myself into a frenzy over this stuff that nobody cares about! how RANDOM!) while avoiding any controversy that would arise by tackling stuff people DO care about? (The tough assessment: so ok he's not pretentious, he's a cowardly clown)

    Because yeah, it certainly is possible that he seriously loses sleep over which way current flows. I've met people that went into a frenzy because the "ş" character is not in fact the one we have in our language in this corner of the world.

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  20. I love the way he's supposedly a nitpicker of the highest order, yet has no problem with the Myers-Briggs test.

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  21. Forgive me for this, but what is the problem with the Myers-Briggs test?

    When I took it, I was easily able to determine which answer would give me what categories; is that the problem that most people have with it?

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  22. The best thing I can tell you about M-B is to point you to Stephen Bond's articles on the subject.

    Essentially, it's as useless as a test can be. There is nothing impressive about answering a battery of questions like "Do you enjoy working with people, or do you prefer spending time alone?" and hearing the website say "You're an introvert!"

    It would be like if diagnosing physical illnesses consisted of asking someone "Do you have AIDS?" twenty times, and if they said "yes" often enough you would conclude that they do.

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  23. "- The car, which belonged to Jason (a friend of mine,) was destroyed."

    This one is wrong. A parenthetical remark is removed from the structure of the sentence. It should read "The car, which belonged to Jason (a friend of mine), was destroyed."

    The punctuation only goes inside a parenthesis if it belongs in the grammatical structure of the parenthesis. Ex:

    (That's funny.)
    The stack of papers (which, unfortunately, he was about to accept) blew out the window.

    For parenthetical remarks at the end of the sentence, the period goes on the outside (such as this one).

    ...

    Is hating on Myers-Briggs a thing now? I think I missed that bandwagon.

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  24. We're bringing back that Bond guy again? Man I'm still recovering from the last set of inane blog entries from him.

    Incidentally, I always thought that "personality" tests were things you took in middle school or something and you were kind of set for life from there, if you're still kind of finding yourself as an adult and you're taking those tests... I guess you just never took them when you were younger)

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  25. Putting the punctuation inside the quotation marks is an American thing. Elsewhere, it goes outside unless it's part of the quoted text. This serves to make Randall look like an even bigger douche by thinking it took a super-logical Programmer~! mind to see this 'problem' with the English language.

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  26. What?! I thought punctuation DID go outside of the quotes!

    Deeply ashamed, ya'll. :[

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  27. Bob asked, "What?"
    Bob asked, "What".
    Bob asked, "What?".
    "What?" asked Bob.
    "What", asked Bob.
    "What?", asked Bob.
    "What," asked Bob.

    Bob said, "Hello."
    Bob said, "Hello".
    Bob said, "Hello.".
    "Hello," said Bob.
    "Hello", said Bob.
    "Hello.", said Bob.
    "Hello." said Bob.

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  28. print("Hello, World")!;

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  29. @Way Walker:
    A colon isn't used when citing?

    Bob asked: "What?"
    Bob said: "Hello."

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  30. Incidentally, I always thought that "personality" tests were things you took in middle school or something and you were kind of set for life from there, if you're still kind of finding yourself as an adult and you're taking those tests... I guess you just never took them when you were younger)

    You would be "set for life from there" if the personality tests were in any way meaningful. Yes, they CLAIM that you will have one personality type from birth until death, except for the fact that they've tested the same people twice over the span of five weeks and found that half of them ended up reclassified. So, you're set not so much for life as for the next month.

    Not that the measurement is accurate for that month in the first place, since it doesn't actually measure anything in particular.

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  31. Weird, logged me into some other Blogger profile...?

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  32. "You would be "set for life from there" if the personality tests were in any way meaningful."

    that's not how personalities work

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  33. Cam: if you're one of 10 people bitching about it" and I meet a LOT of them at university

    Nice contradiction there

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  34. The Myers-Brigg personality test is partially founded on the premise that humans can be divided into sixteen possible personality types, and that the personality type you have at any one point is the same personality type you will always have.

    Therefore, if this premise were accurate, and the Myers-Brigg test accurately measured which of the sixteen types you were in, you could indeed take the test in middle school and avoid the need to "find yourself as an adult", since you'd know what kind of person you were.

    I'm trying to respond to whatever the hell Cam seems to be claiming.

    @Anon 3:26 - Clearly he meets a lot of people, all of whom bitch about different trivial things.

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  35. "The Myers-Brigg personality test is partially founded on the premise that humans can be divided into sixteen possible personality types, and that the personality type you have at any one point is the same personality type you will always have."

    I don't think I've ever met anyone claiming any validity for any form of psychological testing (Myers-Briggs inclusive) who claims that your personality is permanent and immutable.

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  36. ...especially given that Myers-Briggs measures preference, which can clearly change over time.

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  37. Paul Tieger and Barbara Bannon-Tieger claimed exactly that in their 1993 article "Personality Typing: A First Step to a Satisfying Career." Of course, it's entirely possible that they're incorrect about the test.

    This is all right in the Pittinger article, which is brief, clear, and informative.

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  38. Again. PDF;DR. I don't want to encourage people to use a shitty format.

    And I'm talking about real people in psychology, not career counsellors. Come on.

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  39. @Mal
    "It would be like if diagnosing physical illnesses consisted of asking someone "Do you have AIDS?" twenty times, and if they said "yes" often enough you would conclude that they do."


    Hmm. No, I'm afraid not. Myers-Briggs is very, very questionable in theory, structure and interpretation, but this is the one argument that doesn't hold water.

    Psychological trait theory suffers from a causality problem, i.e. if we state that people act in a certain way because of traits, yet can only measure traits by actions corresponding to those traits, we are subscribing to circular logic. Traits gain meaning when examined as an interacting complex with a theoretical basis; the definition of, say, "extraversion" and "sensation seeking" as traits may be arbitrary, but we can measure them with behavioural measures and examine their interaction.

    The upshot of all this is that traits CAN only be measured in the way you're describing; the actual value of trait measures (if reliable, valid and objective, which MB is NOT) shows itself in the comparison of trait levels to others (for which there is no theoretical basis in MB) and in predicting other relevant behaviour (which MB would like to do, but fails at - no data backs up the actual predictions of how MB traits supposedly interact to create the types).

    Sorry, my tangent there. Ignore if boring.

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  40. @Rob
    Missed the new comments. As regards personality, it's not about immutability, but the prevailing assumption is that personality is stable. This implies that retest reliability should be high, among other things.

    Nobody credible would claim that personality is completely unchangable, but one would assume major stress or LONG periods of time would be necessary to cause a significant change in a valid personality variable.

    Preference can, of course, change over time. It's remiss of any personality test to not include the instruction that people should try and answer in a general fashion, as unbiased as possible by their current mood. That's not perfect, but it does go a long way towards increasing reliability of a test. This is another failing of many MB-based tests I've seen.

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  41. I'd appreciate it if you told me who you were talking about in the first place, since "No True Scotsman" shit is irritating.

    Anyway, Rob, David Pittinger is a real person in psychology: He has a Ph. D from the University of Georgia, and was the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Marietta College as of 1993, the article's time of writing. The claims are, straightforwardly enough:

    The Myers-Brigg test is extremely unreliable, showing changes over the course of a few weeks. As far as can be determined within the framework of its dichotomy-style reading, it has a high standard deviation. Factor study indicates that there are six factors, when the theory of the test would predict four; factor study also shows correlation between ostensibly independent personality preferences. There is no reason to believe in the theoretical underpinning of sixteen discrete personality types.

    So, even regardless of the necessity of the "personality types are basically immutable" premise, the Myers-Briggs is an incredibly useless test. It measures nothing, and it does so poorly.

    The reason I mention the Myers-Briggs alone out of all the psychological profiling tests is, of course, that Randall mentioned the Myers-Briggs.

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  42. "Anyway, Rob, David Pittinger is a real person in psychology: He has a Ph. D from the University of Georgia, and was the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Marietta College as of 1993, the article's time of writing. The claims are, straightforwardly enough:"

    I wasn't talking about him. Like say: I have no interest in reading an article in a PDF format. I'm morally opposed to doing so. I was talking about the career counsellors you mentioned. Are you asserting that they are real psychology people?

    "Missed the new comments. As regards personality, it's not about immutability, but the prevailing assumption is that personality is stable. This implies that retest reliability should be high, among other things."

    Yes, and I'm specifically attacking the assertion that if you take the test in middle school you should get the same results as when you take the test at 25. Anyone making this claim seriously is a fraud.

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  43. I'm not asserting that they are real psychology people. I am asserting 1.) That the author of the article, making substantive claims about the failings of the MBTI, is a real psychology person and 2.) It would've been nice if you had said before that by "anyone" you meant "any reputable psychologist".

    Yes, and I'm specifically attacking the assertion that if you take the test in middle school you should get the same results as when you take the test at 25. Anyone making this claim seriously is a fraud.

    As far as I can tell, that's the claim Cam made when he said Incidentally, I always thought that "personality" tests were things you took in middle school or something and you were kind of set for life from there, if you're still kind of finding yourself as an adult and you're taking those tests... I guess you just never took them when you were younger).

    It seems to me that he is saying "if you got valid information from the MBTI in middle school, you wouldn't need to take it as an adult", with the implication that your personality type in middle school would be the same as your personality type as an adult.

    I was claiming that Cam would only be right if some demonstrably false statements regarding the MBTI's reliability were true. I also claimed that there are, in fact, people who believe that MBTI results are for the most part immutable, although these people don't count for Rob.

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  44. When citing with a colon you don't use quotation marks so the question of whether the punctuation goes inside or outside the quotes is no longer relevant.

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  45. re the punctuation thing, from your About.com Guide to Useless Shit, Anonymous:

    Prior to the invention of typed punctuation, and indeed during its early period (metal typographers were always trying to one-up each other by adding fancy features to their fonts) a quote and a period would actually have gone on top of each other, occupying the same vertical space.

    There are actually two conventions, called British and American, although really both originated in England and only Americans never moved on. Today it's actually a mish-mash, as Wikipedia will tell you in the Quotation mark article.

    The older system (American) always puts the punctuation inside of the quotes because the small pieces that represented the period and comma were frail compared to the larger double-quotation mark, so when words had to be shuffled around, it was preferential to protect the period/comma inside the quote mark.

    In the British system, now chiefly used in non-fiction, the placement reflects the syntactical structure of the sentence.

    Given Randall's infatuation with Wikipedia, it's sad that he didn't look it up there before ranting, because everything in this post is a paraphrase from the aforementioned entry.

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  46. All current psychological evaluation tests are pretty much useless because they rely on people having an accurate, objective assessment of themselves. Most people have an extremely distorted view of their own beliefs and actions, and tend to rationalize their negative actions and accentuate their positive actions, creating an idealized self-image.

    I took a Psych class with a guy who's on the forefront of personality research, and they've found that the most reliable way to get an accurate reading of someone's personality is to make sure they don't know they're taking a personality test at all.

    Also, the University[sic] of Georgia is a foul den of inbreeding and bestiality and no legitimate academic research comes from there.

    P.S. - I might be a Georgia Tech student.

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  47. One thing I didn't see addressed here: is the desire to categorize oneself (possibly in spite of contradictions) correlated with any of the MB personality types? :-)

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  48. You're an extrovert, which is just pathetic. While the rest of society develops a personality in a strong, individualistic and co-operative manner, you leech your ratty attempts of an identity off any and everyone you encounter - even stopping so low as to mimic linguistic patterns and habits from TV shows and films.
    You don't like to spend much time alone: you find time to reflect brings up uncomfortable doubts and disappointments, and so you find it tiresome and depressing. As a result of this contempt for self-realisation and development, you attempt to disguise the shallow nature of your personality from yourself by desperately seeking out other people and affecting emotionals and feelings toward them that do not genuinely exist.
    You like to think that you are morally upright, but if pressed can bring to mind a number of occasions when you have in fact betrayed or manipulated a friend's trust for your own sake.


    - - - -


    You're an introvert. This is not something you should be proud of. You are smug and unfriendly - you like to think of yourself as more intelligent and important than those around you. This is because you cannot face up to the fact that you are not as successful as they are, let alone as successful as you had once hoped to be. Your sham belief in your own superiority has caused you to cut off potential friendships and spurn many potentially rewarding opportunities, but you have managed to avoid reflecting too deeply on those regrets - or on any other genuinely significant aspects of your personality - by cultivating a distracting and time-consuming hobby, perhaps record collecting; videogames; browsing the internet.
    You maintain that you live by an honourable personal morality, and on the occasions when you have broken it, you have subsequntly rationalised the transgression so as to make it seem acceptable. It was not.

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  49. I'm an ENFJ. Does that mean that I'm even more pretentious than Randall?

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  50. Holy shit! Some people are OCD! And they make up Randall's fanbase! Quick, criticize him! These people must be shunned and made even more of pariahs! How dare they have a goddamn sense of humor about it!

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  51. But they're not having a sense of humour about it they're having a goddamn superiority complex about it you twunt.

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  52. my name's forrest gump, everybody calls me forrest gump

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  53. "Yes, and I'm specifically attacking the assertion that if you take the test in middle school you should get the same results as when you take the test at 25. Anyone making this claim seriously is a fraud."

    Yep. Personality only starts being considered stable in that sense from about roughly 25 onwards, as a rule of thumb. Agreed on all counts.

    "All current psychological evaluation tests are pretty much useless because they rely on people having an accurate, objective assessment of themselves. Most people have an extremely distorted view of their own beliefs and actions, and tend to rationalize their negative actions and accentuate their positive actions, creating an idealized self-image."

    True to a point, especially the last bit. This doesn't necessarily make tests useless, though - you just need to take the results with a pinch of salt. There are no x-rays for personalities. Sometimes, though, it's quite useful to see what kind of patterns people evaluate themselves with. Hearing what a person thinks they are like can tell you a lot, even if it's not what they really are like.


    ...they've found that the most reliable way to get an accurate reading of someone's personality is to make sure they don't know they're taking a personality test at all.

    Yep, that's desirable. What does it all say to me? Laypeople shouldn't trust psychometric tests as the word of god and psychologists DEFINITELY shouldn't act as though they were certain of anything, especially their own conclusions.

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  54. Anyone who uses the word pretentious is a fucking faggot, including you Mr. Guest.

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  55. And I would know about being a faggot. I mean just look at me.

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  56. I'm inclined to agree with the position BLANDcorporatio has offered. When he went on his tangent with punctuation, I do not believe he was entirely "fucking serious". I think he took a small observation that he would typically ignore, and explore and magnify it as much as possible, as a sort of "oh yeah I know what that's like" kind of humor. Of course, in most people it's more of a "what the crap is this, this is pointless" moment, and few will argue that it is, infact, fucking pointless. It is not, however, "fucking serious".

    Shit, am I nitpicking on two words in an essay e-mailed to a vitriolic and bitter collection of unwarranted nastiness about a silly and harmless comic?

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  57. "One thing I didn't see addressed here: is the desire to categorize oneself (possibly in spite of contradictions) correlated with any of the MB personality types? :-)"

    INFP and INTP tend to be more likely to believe the MB tests are valid or accurate or meaningful.

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  58. Jesus, what is up with people's desperation to claim they have mental disorders? It's like the Internet is only used by people with autism, OCD and schizophrenia.

    Anyway, yeah, xkcd is smug.

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  59. Oh man the conversation moved on, I HATE IT WHEN IT DOES THAT.

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  60. anon 3:26 you missed out on what I meant. If you read the whole thing that I was thinking it was meant to be a more of a "holy fuck, if you've got such an issue with BMW driving people who don't feel the need to signal, why don't you DO something about it instead of bitching to everyone you see" and when I said I meet lots of people like that, that means that lots of people make me FEEL like thinking that, but where I say "BMW driving people who don't feel the need to signal" you exchange that for whatever the person is bitching about.

    I know it may look like a contradiction, but it is supposed to be implied that I was talking about the personality type (wow, how ironic how we've been debating THAT word) and yeah I've proved my point I need say nothing more.

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  61. Fuck I don't know how to read myself :P I see Mal already covered what I meant almost immediately after the anon made the comment. Man I sure miss things on this blog

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  62. "Shit, am I nitpicking on two words in an essay e-mailed to a vitriolic and bitter collection of unwarranted nastiness about a silly and harmless comic?"

    Yes, you are. Welcome.

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  63. in middle school i took a career aptitude test and it told me i would be a tax attorney.

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  64. I read this string of comments and my mind puckered at the sheer pretentiousness spewing from virtually everyone.

    The post itself claims that Randall's obsession - and his fans' obsession - with the totally irrelevant is pretty dumb. It cited the example of his overanalysis of punctuation.

    And then the commenters proceeded to OVERANALYZE PUNCTUATION. To say nothing of the whole accuracy-of-personality-tests debate...

    The hypocrisy displayed here boggles my mind.

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  65. yes, we are all the guy who wrote the article.

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  66. it's weird, Matt sent me all this stuff and then proceeded to write 68 comments disagreeing with himself. except matt is really carl and carl is really randall and randall is really Megan The Ultra Troll so who even knows anymore.

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  67. Okay, okay, replace hypocrisy with irony. I suck at English.

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  68. I'm just glad I'm secretly Megan

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  69. But Megan is a street-corner toothpick peddler.

    D'yeh wan' sum toof'pics, guvna?

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  70. I'm just glad me and Rob are one.
    <3

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  71. To the extent that Meyers Briggs is useful or fun at all, I would have thought that xkcd fans would identify as INTJ (also my type, according to legend).

    This totally scientific survey bears me out: http://forums.xkcd.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=5218&start=120

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  72. Rob, do you really have a giant sequoia stuck up your ass about PDFs or is that just a pisstake on Randall's pedanticness?

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  73. Rob sticks giant sequoias up his ass but that has nothing to do with his hatred of .pdf's.

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  74. Okay that particular quotation rule bugged me in fourth grade and NO I WAS NOT A PROGRAMMER AT THAT AGE.

    Come on, Randall. The argument for putting the period outside the quotation is NOT one that ONLY PROGRAMMERS CAN GRASP. That doesn't make you special. Yes, that convention is not the best in terms of logic (though it has little flaws in terms of clarity in human communication). Many people have noticed this, not just programmers.


    Programming languages needed to correct this problem because of the necessary preciseness of commands. But the average person can understand the idea of order of operations (uhhh isn't that a concept from middle school?)

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  75. Weeeee! Look at me, I make fun of a guy who's infinitely more successful than myself to make me feel better! Why would anyone possibly hate *me*?

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  76. Fuck, I forgot all about 503. That sort of complements the whole "Ecochamber.me - everything revolves around Randall" thing.

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  77. "it's weird, Matt sent me all this stuff and then proceeded to write 68 comments disagreeing with himself. except matt is really carl and carl is really randall and randall is really Megan The Ultra Troll so who even knows anymore."

    HOW DID YOU KNOW!?

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  78. well whatever the intention was pdfs are pretty sucky i have to say

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  79. PDF's kick ass, eat shit Rob

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  80. pdfs???

    MORE LIKE BDFS

    bdf=it sucks

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  81. I think you guys might actually be worse. You act all elite and superior to the idiot XKCD fans. I wouldn't be too surprised to see you guys would justify murdering anyone who likes XKCD.

    I'm against fanboys of anything, wether they're against something or for it. if you don't like something good for you if you hate it so much why do you feel the need to constantly bash it? Your efforts are wasted on something you shouldnt care about.

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  82. "I wouldn't be too surprised to see you guys would justify murdering anyone who likes XKCD."

    Yeah. We do that, like, totally all the time.

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  83. Why do you feel the need to constantly read it? Your efforts are wasted on something you shouldn't care about.

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  84. you guys are all jerks. reading these comments reminds me of watching politics, a bunch of suckers bickering over pedantic BS.

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  85. Who's the arbiter of what we should or shouldn't care about?

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  86. There are multiple sources on this site that will tell you exactly why we read it.

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  87. Over on this side of the Atlantic, English punctuation makes far more sense. I'm surprised Randall doesn't know that.

    TRiG.

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  88. Were does the pretention come in? You say he is, but there are no examples.

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  89. "Yes, and I'm specifically attacking the assertion that if you take the test in middle school you should get the same results as when you take the test at 25. Anyone making this claim seriously is a freud."

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  90. Is 9:39 talking about this blog or xkcd?

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  91. "the sort of people who spend their lives thinking about frivolous nonsense like this and seething about it" is a near-perfect description of most engineers, ie, the people who have given you this blog, the internet, your computer, your cell phone, your electricity, your car, your polyester clothes, et cetera.

    The backwards current convention commonly causes confusion and sign errors with students. Yes it is a small issue, but there is no advantage to doing it this way, so its sole effect is to reduce the efficiency of teaching about the topic. It's like a no-right-turn traffic sign on a road with almost no traffic - it has ZERO positive contribution to the world, and a tiny amount of negative - so why keep it around?

    The punctuation complaint makes perfect sense. The rule should be to enclose the relevant characters in the punctuation. If you were quoting "this statement" in a sentence, you wouldn't include an extraneous WORD in the quote, would you?

    I am "quoting this statement". - this makes no sense

    So why would you include an extraneous punctuation mark? What is the purpose of including additional characters inside the punctuation?

    Meyers-Briggs is pretty dumb, but it does provide a convenient label for a certain (admittedly arrogant) group of people to use with each other, that did not really have one previously. I think that's the only significance of it.

    I'm not really personally invested in arguing about whether these beliefs are acceptable or not, I just thought I'd offer my viewpoint for anyone who actually cares what the reasons are.

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  92. You realize that comic 567 is a joke, right? I mean... how could you possibly NOT see that?

    Yes, I'm sure Randall and many xkcd readers get bugged by the convention - it bugs a lot of people who have to learn current because it is counterintuitive and makes current harder to learn for no good reason.

    But the comic is obviously poking fun at himself & other people who get so irritated by the faulty convention, for taking it too seriously.

    Of all the 724 xkcd comics, why would you pick one where he's MAKING FUN OF HIMSELF to try to say he's pretentious?

    And also, don't try to pretend that all of xkcd's fans are irrelevant losers; you know that's not true. The whole reason this site exists is people who don't like xkcd have to constantly run into it, and they run into it so much because xkcd is popular in the circles they run in.

    So asserting that all of xkcd's fans are losers is really a selfdiss more than anything, in addition to being plain silly and untrue. You're reasonably smart people here, you should know that just because you don't like something doesn't mean everyone who DOES like it is automatically a terrible person.

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  93. @Schmidt: I dunno either dude.

    People accept mistakes when it is useful to do so, so uh I guess that's what's happened here?
    We want to regard xkcd and fans as pretentious, so let's not undermine someone who claims they are even though he misunderstands the word.

    =/

    I suppose? Whata you think Schmidt?

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  94. Keep, Schmidt, here's the Mole's take on where the pretentiousness is.

    "Even though Randall *can* adapt to the convention, it bothers him deeply to do so because he feels the convention is *wrong*.

    He then justified being an inflexible non traditionalist by brining up the Myers-Briggs personality typology test, claiming that he and most of his readers are ISTPs."

    First, the claim that the convention is "wrong". By nature, a convention isn't exactly wrong nor right, it's a standard. It's accepted widely, and thus adopted, and usually it depends on a point of view. The quotes usage is accepted through generations of usage of the language, the electrical convention is accepted because it parts from the (truly erroneous) principle that it's the positive particles that travel along the conductor, and the East/West convention is obviously based on, you know, the Greenwich Meridian, conventionally accepted as the Meridian 0. Simple like that.

    (As you can see, at least one of these is actually based on wrong premises, but the question is: should it really be changed? Does it make that much a difference? I'm not gonna be the judge of that.)

    Then he proceeds to justify it. As if he's actually right, and the convention is wrong. I think using the Meyer-Briggs to do so is merely a detail of that veredict. While I do believe tradition must be broken when it's nocive, being "non traditionalist" for the sake of it is just immature, like a teenager that just HAS to go against his parents' advice, even if they're pretty sound. Justifying that is an act that should not be defended.

    So, there is a faulty conclusion here, at least from my part. It highly depends on whether the conclusions presented on that quote have been actually meant by Randall, or if that's just Matt's judgement. The implications of each situation are pretty obvious. But as I believe the transcription is, indeed, an actual and valid interpretation of Randall's intended meaning, then, yes, he is quite pretentious on my book. And so are those fans he mention.

    Mole out.

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  95. I, for one, agree with Randall's assessment of the punctuation issue and refuse to write things that way (partially because I don't like it, partially because my mother tongue does it the right way). I also happen to be a programmer. I also formed this opinion myself, and don't need an idiot like Randall telling me what conventions I should like or dislike.

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  96. Well anon 7:07 (can I call you Small Plane :P) be happy that we are not asserting that people who disagree with the convention are wrong (well, I don't think we are, maybe I missed something... again) but what we are tackling is that Randal is hiding behind a security blanket of "I'm an ISTP, Myers-Briggs says I'm allowed to act this way, make no attempt to excuse my behaviour as me just being a twat" and his fans are doing so as well. What we have an issue with is people excusing their behaviour with a test and in some ways a self-examination (I believe the rules with Myers-Briggs is only YOU can assert what personality type you are and no one can really dispute this since they are not YOU) instead of simply accepting the fact that they are acting like cocks and no one is allowed to call them on it.

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  97. But Mole, having a pig-headed opinion isn't pretentious.
    It's stubborn, it's petty, it's childish, sure I agree on all those counts, but it's not pretentious.


    Now if Randy went into bullshitty but superficially relevant digressions, or acted as though archly referencing well-known theories and ideas was enough to prove his point for him, or spoke in a needlessly abstruse way, or put on affectations and mannerisms that only tried to draw people's attention, or used technical words or expressions in a loud way but that clashed with their recognised definitions, then I'd call him pretentious too.

    But I don't see he did any of that.

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  98. @Professional Mole

    "Then he proceeds to justify it. As if he's actually right, and the convention is wrong."

    That's my point. Randall at does not justify it. He makes fun of himself for acting this way. The Meyer-Briggs point was just Randall saying his readers think like this too. He never says, "My readers agree and therefor convention is wrong."
    There are no examples of pretentious behaviour given in the article.

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  99. everybody in the DJ, tits!

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  100. And speaking of pretentious comics...725...ugh...

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  101. Somehow I feel as though todays comic was inspired by this blog post.

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  102. How I Met Your Mother had a bit where Ted Mosby had a pet peeve about literally/figuratively. Then again, I don't think Randall has ever shown an affinity for that show.

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  103. I wanted to like 725. I really did. I hate it when people use the word "literally" when they are clearly speaking figuratively. But 725 was so bad. Who was who? I can't tell if the comic only contained 4 distinct "characters" (keeping in mind only two of the say anything of substance) or perhaps as many as 7 different characters (with 4 or 5 of them being basically scenery, poorly drawn scenery).

    Also, it looks like every single person in the comic has been decapitated. I think it's part of Randall's "style" now.

    It's too bad, because the punchline is actually kind of good (as is the alt-text). But any chance of a laugh is crushed by Randall's incompetent execution.

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  104. Honestly though I am bothered by the literally thing, not because it's a big deal, but simply by how perplexing and absurd it is. Pretty much 100% of people who use the word know what literally actually does mean, yet most of us frequently use it just about as incorrectly as it is possible to use a word.
    It is to the point where when I mean literally, but it goes somewhere where it could be simply emphasis, I end up making myself use 'legitimately' (IE: "The first time I played FFVII, Safer Sephiroth was one of the very few instances I was legitimately awed by a game." - literally could be mistaken to just mean 'very' here.)

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  105. At this point I am just not super troubled by "literally" having a connotative meaning as "some generic intensifier".

    This is on the level of Non Sequitur's Obviousman comics, which are also awful.

    Did you know that in certain semantic contexts, "bad" can mean "good"? What a crazy world we live in.

    The punchline is actually kind of funny, I thought.

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  106. And here you are, bitching about a web comic like it mattered whether it's good or not. I even spotted one, who - in his great wisdom - knew what is decent comic material and what is not. All in all it seems a bit ironic that you lot criticise Randall and his fans for feeling superior and being petty.

    But hey, if you rant together long enough about the Word of God (ie. XKCD SUCKS)...

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  107. "English grammar dictates that you always put the period at the end of the sentence in quotes, like if you're ending a sentence with the word 'cat.'"

    American style dictates that you always put the period at the end of the sentence in quotes, like if you're ending a sentence with the word 'cat.'"

    FTFY.

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  108. Anon 2:39 - opinions can be stated without being inclusive and pretentious like Randall. In fact, I bet you'd find that if you gave a legitimate reason for why you liked an xkcd (or even the whole comic) many of the regulars here would be just fine with it. Contrast this with the rampant intolerance on the xkcd forums.

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  109. i don't have time to read through everyone's bitching about randall monroe and his take on grammar and life in general. some people enjoy what he has to say, because even though he does it through stick figures and simple text, he fucking writes it anyway. this is a site of sad, pathetic losers who bitch about someone who probably writes this comic in his spare time and then gets paid to make shirts and travel around and talk about it. way to fight the man, you sad, sad losers.

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  110. I actually agree with him about the punctuation.

    It doesn't matter for periods and commas but it can totally change the meaning of the quote when you're using a question mark.

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  111. ...because you can totally tell a person's characteristics through a stick figure webcomic.

    Person #1 said that he's a good person to talk to, right? To really understand a person, you need to, oh, i don't know, contact him in any way, dumbass.

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  112. ...because you can totally tell a person's characteristics through a blog post

    lol @ anon 12-37s thinly disguized fanboyism

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  113. An artist from furry community wraps this xkcd phenomenon in one strip. May be because he's not brainy enough to understand whatever happens in it:

    http://www.furaffinity.net/full/3134463/

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  114. furaffinity annoys me yet again

    i thought the excerpts were clever before i found out they were taken -and edited slightly- from existing strips

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  115. You guys are all nitpickers nitpicking a nitpicker for being a nitpicker. Go figure.

    How many times have people complained about a character hovering above their chair or having their head disconnected? Yet you rail on xkcd for railing on small inconsistencies in other things?

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  116. we are all the same hivemind
    there is no individual but the collective community

    not like this was one guy who doesn't post very frequently

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  117. XKCD fans annoy me because they have the "cool geek" thing going on, where they do all the group think and meaningless reinforcing of each other that most people do, but then they also go on about how smart they are and how much better they know than other people. Honestly, just choose one. Most people choose the first. I chose the second, and I can at least think independently as I do it. And I have no friends. You want friends? Number 1 is waiting for you. But combining pretentiousness with group think is just gross.

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  118. the best part is their defense against accusations of pretentious groupthink is that they don't think that they individually are better than anyone else--they used to think that but then they joined the Best Community On Earth which is full of supergenii. (they will call them genii.)

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  119. I do find it hilarious that there is a huge community dedicated to pointing out the flaws of a webcomic that otherwise doesn't impact their lives in the slightest, and one of the flaws they point out is obsession with irrelevant complaints.

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  120. The quotes thing has always bothered me as well.

    This essay makes a lot of sense when you realize all he has said is that his fans only agree with him because they are like minded. That's not much of an insult or complaint, this essay seems like more of a loud way of saying "I DISAGREE!".

    (Enjoy my extra period outside the quotations?)

    I hope you don't honestly think this entire website isn't pretentious? All you do is complain about a person's creations and feel smugly superior about it, at least he creates something.

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  121. what! i create something. I created this BLOG. come on.

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