Monday, May 24, 2010

Comic 743: Smugly Superior

the alt text i wrote is 100% a lie

Oh man. This comic - so terrible. So very terrible. So bad that a single weekend is not enough to document its problems. In fact, I'm having trouble contemplating the idea of even ripping it apart now. I guess I'll have to just take it panel by panel.

PANEL 1.
So far so good. The comic appears to be taking a stand that, while perhaps not explicitly opposed to free software in favor of working software, is at least opposed to annoying advocates of free software. It's nice because xkcd usually takes the opposite stance, advocating against proprietary stuff and making jokes for users of open source operating systems or other programs.

As an added piece of evidence that the facial hair character is meant to be the non-sympathetic one, his dialog is much less natural than the regular stick dude. Regular stick dude's speech is probably the most realistic dialog Randall has written in months. This comic is looking good!

(of note for later: the relationship between the two characters is that of a student and a teacher, with the student e-mailing an essay to his teacher. This is not definite, but the fact that one is portrayed as older, with facial hair, suggests it).

PANEL 2:

Oh man, this comic is turning out great! That guy totally stuck it to that nerd! This is so weird, but enjoyable. And what is awesome is that people are always using those same complaints against Randall and xkcd. I mean, I am not going to accuse anyone of being autistic because that's dumb if it's false and completely obnoxious if it's true, but the "you are only saying X nerdy thing to feel smugly superior" thing could have been taken from the the comments here. Or the blog posts, for that matter. Dang, this comic is full of promise!

but wait - you can use openoffice to both create and read .doc files. So is it really not "open" ? I mean, you can go a whole lifetime making only .doc files (not odf or whatever) and never buy, steal, or use a Microsoft product. So...philosophically, what is wrong with .doc?

Oh, I know, this will probably turn into a joke about .docx, those are annoying. I mean, Openoffice can read them, sure, but it can't make them I don't think, and yeah, that is annoying, along with all the other changes we all hate about word 2007.

PANEL 3:
wait, what? How is facebook even involved in this? What is going on here? Why is this person being dumb? Why is Facial Hair acting like this vindicates him? Let me list some issues I am having with the flow of this story:

--Facebook may be closed source, but that is hardly relevant to the argument in panels 1 and 2. The problem is stupid people who say "You want all this information? OK!" and then get annoyed when facebook - a for-profit company! - uses that information for profit! amazing. But how is this a problem of open vs closed source?

--Is this comic really trying to say that using .odf in 2003 would have somehow prevent the rise and/or evil-ification of facebook? How does that make sense? I know plenty of open source folks who still have a huge facebook presence. There's no connection there!

--Why did the person who was talking so naturally in panels 1 and 2, the guy who actually sounded like a real person suddenly switch to a particularly terrible strawman? "We handed control of our social world to facebook and they're doing evil stuff" is clearly not something a real person would say.

Sometimes people get annoyed at the argument that dialog is "unrealistic" so I'll spell it out more than usual this time. The guy is mad at facebook, right? So in real life, he would just complain, and the other person would mock him and say "well that's what you get for giving them control of your social world." In other words, he's clearly admitting that he caused the problem in the first half of the sentence, and then complaining (in a simplistic, almost childlike way) about the problem in the second half. It's the kind of thing that only really would make sense in, say, an elementary school play: "I am the King of England, and I think it would be bad for the Americans to be independent because I want all their money for myself!" or "I am the sugary food group. I want to break all your teeth, and I hate it when you eat healthy vegetables!" You know what I mean? It's usually used in strawman arguments like the one here.

--Where the heck was I. OK so here's a thing: Why are the two people acting basically unchanged over 7 years? They are acting like they just are continuing their conversation with nothing having filled in in 7 years. I certainly never went back to my teachers 7 years after I turned in an essay and mocked them for something they said at the time, but then again, I also never called my teachers autistic, so who knows. I'd like to say that maybe they were just friends, but what kind of friends talk like that? No one. This comic wasn't thought out at all, and I'd like a defender of it to explain what the relationship between the characters is for me. I don't think there's one that makes sense.

--Facebook has been doing evil stuff since forever. Remember the uproar over the newsfeed? that was way the heck back in 2006 and people got real mad and then stopped caring. Is it evil? That is hard to say. But is the panic justified? I'd say not. All we are left with, then, is the Beard Dude taking joy in his astounding vindication when really he has no reason to be vindicated. In a month this guy is going to forget he was ever mad at facebook.

--"This is the world's tiniest open-source violin" ?? Is this the single lamest retort in all of xkcd? All that tells me is that the violin is probably not going to work right. Now granted, the concept of telling a person that you are playing a sad song on the world's smallest violin has never actually made much sense to me. Urban Dictionary sort of helped me out but it doesn't really make sense in this context. Why should the metaphorical tiny violin be open-source? Just because the dude was complaining about open-source stuff seven years earlier? What does it even mean for a violin to be open-source? Did a lot of people help build it? Can anyone edit it? And what is the tiny violin playing? That's the way the joke usually ends, no? And isn't it a little dumb to be making your punchline a slight variant of a joke at least 30 years old?

And after all that, the character I liked is shown to be an idiot, and the nerd who was just trying to be smug is shown to be the wisest of them all. Well hot damn. So much for having hope anymore.

relatedly, new member of the xkcd forum for the win. The forums in general on this one are refreshingly honest about the fact that this comic makes no sense. Some folks are trying to defend it, it is MOST amusing.


====================
as long as we are talking, I should point out that the xkcd store is selling something new and it is a thing with which i can find no fault. That said, it may be time for the store's page to get a little better organized - perhaps by product type.
=====================
Also, I would be more than happy to stop blogging entirely if I knew that Al Franken would be analyzing xkcd comics on the Senate floor. As it is, I have to settle for him analyzing Tom Toles. I think Al Franken is quite funny so I assume he's being at least 75% ironic here, but it's hard to tell, and certainly other people are going to be less likely to give him the same benefit of the doubt that I have. Weird.

79 comments:

  1. I don't really think that the guy's dialog in the third panel is meant to be realistic at all. It felt like Randall making fun of people for being so whiny over Facebook 'doing evil stuff'. So, I'd say the bad dialog was intentional.

    Of course I can't actually figure out why the hell it was relevant to the comic as a whole anyway, since the comic as a whole made no sense.

    ReplyDelete
  2. See, and this is one of the biggest reasons I hate xkcd - I actually agree entirely with the sentiment in the comic. It's just presented in such a smug, stupid way that it's essentially a ready-made strawman for people who disagree with me.

    So - the major reason that ideologically motivated open source advocates want you to use open source software is that you avoid the licenses and other restrictions that come with proprietary software. Any time you put your information in the care of a corporation or similar entity, you're at risk - and this applies just as strongly to Gmail as it does to Microsoft Word or Windows or, in this case, Facebook. Facebook, in the past few months, has modified its privacy policy in a lot of very dangerous ways; a discussion is out of the scope of this comment, but this rant is a good primer on these issues. So the common lesson of the open source movement and the Facebook controversy is that your information is safest when it's not controlled by corporations and strict licenses.

    Also, the open source advocate is supposed to be bearded because of a stereotype that open source advocates are bearded, e.g. Richard Stallman. Open source advocates are basically what you get when hippies use computers, and a lot of the same stereotypes apply - paranoid, hairy, stinky, &c.

    Like I said, the worst part is that the sentiment he's attempting to express is a good one that I agree with but he butchers it so completely that it's only recognizable to people who already agree with it. Eugh.

    ReplyDelete
  3. If the bearded fellow was supposed to be Stallman (as I assumed, considering he's the only one I really associate with the "no-.DOC" thing), he'd never have an "open-source violin." "Free software violin," he would zealously insist.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Um, we get accused of being hypocritical and unfair sometimes, so in interest of preempting that I'll try my best at playing devil's advocate here, if Carl doesn't mind. (That aside, though, I agree with you totally. Also great post, thanks!)

    1) You could take the beardface to be a personification of the "OSS nerds" and the community as a whole. He represents the friends and associates of the other guy who support "open software" in the manner depicted and "defended" (sorry, couldn't resist the quotes). The recipient of the essay need not be a teacher, he could be a friend who was asked to proofread it before the other guy hands it in. (Yeah, like any student actually bothers being that thorough with homework. I guess he could be a blogger or something. But, "yeah, like any blogger"... Right.) Assuming a student, it sort of makes sense, personally I am almost always asked to hand in essays and reports in paper, despite occasionally being explicitly asked to compose them on a computer. This isn't entirely crazy- it's easier for teachers to grade and correct on paper (they could print it out, sure, but how does "lol print it yourself teach" look?) and computers can generate a much better organized document. (lol, hand-drawn data plots)

    2) While Randall obviously messed it up worse than you'd think is possible, the idea that OSS and Facebook are related is not entirely insane. If you imagine the woollychin is advocating a general awareness of the inner workings of the infrastructure that you're using, it makes sense. You could argue that both the problems with facebook and faults of closed-source software would have been avoided if we had only thought about the implications of committing to a certain kind of system. (closed source, or a social networking site with a facebook-like privacy policy and ethic)

    Of course, it is giving Rands far, far too much credit to assume he does anything with this argument besides being a horrible, embarrassing failure.

    By the way, you can increment the counter for ways Randall messed up in 743 (like anyone's counting) because he should have said free software, not open software (especially embarrasing for an apparent Stallmanite). It's not that no one knows what facebook's policy is. You do, you just can't really do anything when they violate or change it, other than maybe sue, but that's hard for individual facebook users.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 3) I never really cared enough to research it, but from what I hear the problem with doc or docx is that Microsoft does tell you how to use the format, but the documentation is deliberately obfuscated and passive aggressive, in an attempt to make actually using it too difficult.

    4) "open source violin" is simply part of a deliberately non-senical insult (in the vein of NO U and UR MOM). The open source is thrown in there to further emphasize the hirsute fellow's mocking moral/philosophical superiority.

    I'm not really a native anglophone, but I always thought the "smallest violin" sort of made sense (and that it was a hilarious quip, by the way) because a short string has higher frequency, so a very small violin would have a very high pitched sound. Which can be perceived as more "over the top sad", fittingly used to accompany the excessive, whiny, insincere grab for sympathy. Maybe it's like "hamming up" the accompanying music or something.

    5) Also, I thought the beard was meant to indicate "lol hippy/stallman" as well as "lol neckbeard". There's a subtle difference between the two, though they often overlap: One inhabits his parents' basement, the other his office.

    =====

    Anyway, that video was the best thing ever! And I also agree that there's absolutely nothing wrong with the delightful new item in the xkcd store, the elegant simplicity really captures your attention in a- Oh, they're selling the tanktop? Well, the tanktop is cool too I guess. I always liked that ferret comic.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The only thing in your post I disagree with is the "open-source violin" comment. The concept isn't supposed to make sense, he doesn't actually HAVE a violin. Unfortunately for Randall it would be much better if that was the only non-sensical part of the comic. OH WELL!

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's clearly not rms, Gadren - no katana!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Charles Augustus FortescueMay 25, 2010 at 4:11 AM

    There's nothing wrong with the violin comment - it's a perfectly OK way for the character to say "boo hoo for you, but forgive me if I'm not sympathetic". The strip as a whole doesn't make sense though because lots of open source software can open docs, and because even if everyone had started using open office in 2003 that doesn't mean they wouldn't have signed up to Facebook.

    ReplyDelete
  9. my theory is that randall got into an argument with someone and, to prove him totally and completely wrong, made a comic making fun of him by lifting his dialogue into panels 1 and 2
    it's the only explanation

    ReplyDelete
  10. "I think it is high time that calling someone autistic is a compliment and calling someone a neurotypical is the insult."

    Hey, forum dude, you're a twat! I'm not saying that b/c you're autistic, understand. Just b/c you're a twat.

    ReplyDelete
  11. There is no reason for the bearded guy to even be in the last panel(s). The connection between the 2003 part and the 2010 part is pretty well established by virtue of being in the same comic, and beardy adds nothing to the end except confusion about why he is still around. His dialogue could easy be replaced with "fuck you" without losing any meaning, and I point this out to make it clear that his line doesn't function as a joke. It is, in fact, more post-punchline dialogue. Take beardface out of the last panel and a half. Now, baldface still complains about facebook in "hilarious" contrast to his beliefs about opensource, possibly without realizing his own "fault" in it. That's closer to funny and further from preaching.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I care more about open formats than I do about open source/free software, but both are important if you want to avoid vendor lock-in. Microsoft Word's .doc format wasn't open earlier (I don't think it was open in 2003, when the comic is set, but I could be wrong). It is, technically, open now, as is the newer .docx, but, as Ayn says, the official standard is deliberately obscure, unlike .odf or .pdf, for example. (And .pdf is another format which was originally propriety and has now been opened. That's why you can now use Foxit, Evince, or Open Office to open .pdf files.)

    TRiG.

    ReplyDelete
  13. First of all, Al Franken is not, has never been, and never will be, funny.

    Second, the problem with 'open source' is that it prohibits the use of the software in a profit-making enterprise (that is, developed software must be provided for free, thereby ensuring that start-up costs can never be realized).

    However, Facebook has tremendous costs - web development, servers, electricity, human resources, etc. - that need to be covered. The only way to cover these costs is by selling some component of their code. Since Facebook wants to remain "free" for users, they sell advertising, access to their software, etc.

    As pointed out by SandoverLightChanger28's fix at the XKCD forums, open source software generally doesn't work. The reason why it doesn't work is because professionals aren't developing the software to support consumer demand. The page breaks issue (presumably) in OpenOffice isn't due to technical issues, but rather no one has taken the time to fix it.

    Something like that wouldn't happen in Microsoft Word, because customers wouldn't put up with it, and customers might start moving to another, more reliable, word processor.

    Capitalism: it works bitches.

    ReplyDelete
  14. The best part is that Facebook is one of the biggest users of open source software in the world and they're producing a ton of it too. They are the triumph of beard guy over stick guy.

    ReplyDelete
  15. That rant hit the spot for me. Nothing like a bit of vitriol to start your day.

    Charales Augustus Fortescue: No. It is not an acceptable way to "boo hoo for you".
    It is for you or me or Joe Bloke, casually making jokes with friends.
    It is - or was - the first time it's said.
    But for a comic, for someone who's meant to invent humour and not just regurgitate it? It's bloody awful.
    It is cheap lazy time-wasting hackwork.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I feel I should point out a few things:
    - Facebook is built from open source software, so this whole strip fails there.
    - The alt-text is pushing that Diaspora failure. Did you know, they're intending for this thing to be a fully distributed system, and they want to make it possible to run it on a cell phone, and it's going to be entirely written in Ruby on Rails? Yes, RoR on a fucking cell phone.
    Not to mention there are other open-source Facebook clones. No one uses them, mostly because no one *else* uses them. If any freetards want to start a revolution against Facebook, they're going to have to do it en masse. Good luck getting every single person to leave Facebook and sign up for your service all at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  17. (Hey Carl: I think this one deserves a place in the Angriest Rants list.)

    ReplyDelete
  18. The only part of this strip I found amusing is that bearded guy is apparently actually holding a tiny violin. Usually when someone says that phrase, they're just rubbing their fingertips together, so it's amusing to picture someone actually whipping one out.

    Of course the joke is damaged because beard guy says "see this?" but it's not that violins *look* sad, it's that they *sound* sad.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anon@5:58am wrote:
    >> First of all, Al Franken is not, has
    >> never been, and never will be, funny.

    Thank you...was waiting to see how long it'd take for someone to call Carl on that...gem.


    >> Second, the problem with 'open source' is
    >> that it prohibits the use of the software
    >> in a profit-making enterprise

    No, it does not prohibit use in a company, nor does it prohibit a company from writing such software. Which license did you read? Also, I'm going to assume you meant "free" (free as in freedom, not free as in free beer), not "open" from here on, because even Microsoft has "open" software (that you cannot modify/redistribute, etc.).


    >> (that is,
    >> developed software must be provided for free,

    That is the practical conclusion (since it's legal to copy after you pay for it). However, one can viably charge for the media (CD/DVD), support contracts, or printed manuals, to name a few options. Or, if you sell hardware, you can make the software to support it open (which is wiser than the other way around, since software is easier to reverse-engineer anyway, and cheaper to duplicate). But, as others pointed out, the point here is not F/OSS, but, rather, closed formats.


    >> thereby ensuring that start-up
    >> costs can never be realized).

    Unless I'm misreading you here, it seems that, within one sentence, you've shifted from discussing use to production of free software. If all your company does is try to sell software, then it will be more difficult to recover costs (though not impossible).


    >> open source software generally doesn't work.
    >> The reason why it doesn't work is because
    >> professionals aren't developing the software
    >> to support consumer demand. The page breaks
    >> issue (presumably) in OpenOffice isn't due to
    >> technical issues, but rather no one has taken
    >> the time to fix it.

    At risk of stating the obvious (to some), professionals aren't generally any better (and are often worse) than amateurs at writing software, at least in the comparison you're making; the differences are that the former are paid and can spend more time on it, and, as you've pointed out, the professionals have less choice about which "features" to work on.

    That said, I don't use OpenOffice. For quick&dirty things, I use MS Word (older version), and for good-looking documents, I use LaTeX or some other TeX dialect, which very much *does* work, and works better than any other product out there, commercial or not. Word has many issues (too lengthy for one post), and even those who have paid a large bill for good support from Microsoft are still liable to be told that they don't plan to fix any given problem or that Microsoft doesn't consider it a problem. At least with OpenOffice (which, again, I have not used), you can study how it works, figure out what's wrong, and submit a patch if you really want something fixed. At least then it gets done, even if it's a pain. And if upstream decides they don't want it fixed, you can maintain the patch and apply it yourself to each new release.

    Not all F/OSS is ready for prime-time, but several projects are. Some are better than the proprietary alternatives, notably gcc (the compiler), the Linux kernel itself (not to be confused with the rest of the software that makes up a distro), the above-mentioned *-TeX, and others that I'm probably forgetting. Others fall short for lack of developers and time, not for openness.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Jimbobbowilly (Max W Gore)May 25, 2010 at 6:51 AM

    @Capitalist cuddlefish: Feudalism technically worked, too. [This is only tangentially related to capitalism in general, as I'm a socialist and it pushed my buttons. I suppose it's easy to respond to if you mention the Soviet Union and oh cock it I'm not arguing here.]

    Of course, a few people would sacrifice functionality for privacy or not supporting Macrohard/Crabapple.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I don't think I can fully express the rage I feel whenever some smug prick uses the "smallest violin" line. Not only is it a horribly trite line, but these are usually the same people who complain that they don't have any friends. Maybe if they didn't act like unsympathetic jackasses all the time then maybe, just maybe, someone might actually want to be associated with them.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The best part is that Facebook is one of the biggest users of open source software in the world and they're producing a ton of it too. They are the triumph of beard guy over stick guy.

    Wait...I think you're on to something! So the joke is that since everyone decided to use .doc files and slam open-source software, the open-source software geeks got really mad about it and made Facebook with the purpose of selling off the personal information of everybody who laughed at them seven years earlier!

    ...no wait, that's still pretty stupid. But at least it makes more sense than any other explanation.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I guess I forgot to address the comic itself, or much of Carl's post. The third panel stunk, yes. Aside from that:


    Carl wrote:
    >> free software in favor of working software
    >> [...]
    >> All that tells me is that the violin is
    >> probably not going to work right.

    How is that not also "smug superiority"? Just asking. I mean, if "smug superiority" bothered me, I'd have stopped reading xkcd a long time ago, but you don't seem to be doing any better here. Granted, you may not realize what you're saying (whereas I think this is an area Randy has at least done some research, even though this comic was a lousy presentation), and your comment may simply be a product of being misinformed. So it's either ignorance or hypocrisy, AFAICT.

    ReplyDelete
  24. @Michael:
    > Some are better than the proprietary alternatives, notably gcc
    Hahaha. You think gcc is better than MSVC? Or icc? It's only "better" by being free. Commercial compilers whip the shit out of gcc.

    ReplyDelete
  25. go outside virgins

    ReplyDelete
  26. Oh, good, a C compiler flame war. At least something useful will come out of this post.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Carl, you're being way too generous. You aren't meant to sympathize with Generic Stick Guy. Hairy Stick Guy was supposed to be the hero from the beginning.

    You saw it the other way because it's just a really really shitty comic.

    ReplyDelete
  28. regarding Diaspora:
    http://onesocialweb.org/

    Same general concept, except they're *way* ahead of Diaspora. It's built on top of Jabber/XMPP. And they're open source, but not smug bastards about it. Too bad the Diaspora folks are trying desperately to jam their shit down everyone's throats.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Since these comments have not yet been usurped by latest comic comments, I'ma break the ice: the latest comic sucks!

    ReplyDelete
  30. The violin joke has been funny and contextually relevant exactly one time in the last, say, 20 years. And that's in South Park when Cartman uses an actual violin for it. In that scenario though, you would have to substitute "tiny" by "actually funny".

    ReplyDelete
  31. Michael: Yeah, you are kind of right that I am being smug about making fun of open source stuff, but for me it's self-deprecating, since I actually am a big fan of it. I guess that's not in any way clear from what i wrote. I use ubuntu and openoffice all the time. I'm just making fun of it because it's fun to do so.

    Al Franken haters: What have you read or seen of his? He hasn't been that funny in the past few years because he was trying to win an election and be taken seriously, but he wrote lots of great old SNL skits and some very funny books.

    ReplyDelete
  32. That he stooped to the level of calling the other person autistic as an insult is sad...

    ReplyDelete
  33. "I think it is high time that calling someone autistic is a compliment and calling someone a neurotypical is the insult."
    Something like 75% of the two dozen or so autistic people I have encountered seem to feel this way, although my experience is hopefully atypical.

    ReplyDelete
  34. My favorite part of free software is that merely by virtue of it being free, it becomes better. "It's free" counts as a feature, on the level of "It performs well" and "Its user interface is good." It's impossible to say that free software is worse than commercial software but a better bargain, no, because freeness makes something intrinsically better. Playstation Network is actually better than Xbox LIVE, not just "worse but cheaper", because you don't have to pay for it.

    PSN+ will also be better than Xbox LIVE, because Sony isn't a corruptive font of corporate greed like Micro$oft.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Almost any software can be free with just a small bit of effort though.
    IT COUNTS.

    ReplyDelete
  36. "Something like 75% of the two dozen or so autistic people I have encountered seem to feel this way, although my experience is hopefully atypical."

    It's Geek Pride day...
    Urgh.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Uh, I meant to quote "I think it is high time that calling someone autistic is a compliment and calling someone a neurotypical is the insult.""

    ReplyDelete
  38. I should point out that anyone who said that autistic people are stupid and neurotypical people are great would also be a twat. If you want to be a twat there's lots of opportunities (if you know where to take them, whoa-oh)

    Love for new comic bemuses me. I just go "aargh sexkcd. why does he assume sex + tech = funny?".

    ReplyDelete
  39. "'I think it is high time that calling someone autistic is a compliment and calling someone a neurotypical is the insult.'

    Hey, forum dude, you're a twat! I'm not saying that b/c you're autistic, understand. Just b/c you're a twat. "

    Apparently anonymous autistic person's work is not done yet. Okay.

    First off, I absolutely believe autistic people are superior to nonautistic people in certain ways. I think if everyone were autistic, many of the problems that we have now would not be had. So I think some degree of being fed up with nonautistic people is completely justified, and I'm not afraid of being open about that. That said, there are also things we are absolutely horrible at, so portraying us as some kind of super-human is completely wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I don't like it when we try to portray ourselves that way. I don't agree with it, and at the end of the day it's just counterproductive. That said, I cannot bring myself to be entirely hostile to the people who do this. I can only guess that a Black Panther Party member would have gone through something of the same thought process as me, when he or she ran into someone who wanted to kill whitey and kept going on about how Jesus was Black so Blacks are holier than whites, Blacks are physically more robust, etc etc. It was wrong and it wasn't helping advance their cause in any meaningful way, but at the same time the Panther would have understood the need to reject the self hatred and other ways of thinking that Black people had been taught in favor of something more positive and empowering. It was just an extreme reaction to mainstream White society... probably in the right direction, but still going too far in certain ways.

    And you know, maybe Jesus WAS Black.

    I'm not trying to equate being autistic with being Black, but we have gone through some of the same things in regards to this, and also in some other ways. In trying to have a positive self image and reject how we have been taught to see ourselves (as burdens on our families, drains on society, unintelligent, incapable of making our decisions, a general insult for use in internet comics, etc), some people just go way overboard. They start saying "Wait a minute, maybe I DON'T suck. I'm actually totally awesome! You all are the ones who suck!" This is not as simple as "being a twat," although you all are right to criticize it. At root, it's really just the manifestation of a wish to not hate oneself. This can be hard when there is all this weight against us trying to make us hate ourselves, and some of us end up imitating the people to hate us. Yes, all these ideas about our superiority are an imitation of mainstream society saying it is superior to us.

    I also think saying things like that "autism is not necessarily a disability (or disorder or whatever)" is counterproductive. I've seen some people mention this in the comments recently. We need people to recognize our problems and not treat us like shit over them, not pretend our problems don't exist. Autistics argue this because they've been having to hide their problems for so long that's the only solution they can think of. "Oh hey, I'm not disabled! I'm just fine! No need to treat me like shit, or deny me opportunities, or institutionalize me, or castrate me! (okay, no one castrates disabled people anymore, at least in the US, but they did in the not so distant past) Maybe you need to treat other people like shit, but not me!" It's a short-sighted self defense mechanism that ends up harming the autistic in question just as much as other people. This is also where you start seeing things like "aspie elitism" relative to other autistic people.

    So really, I just want to say that, in a round about way, YOU are responsible for this, as a member of mainstream society is who are passively reinforcing social norms. You set us up in an environment that pushes us to react this way. If you didn't treat us like shit, we wouldn't be afraid of being seen as disabled, we wouldn't feel the need to go on and on about how we're amazing, etc. Dividing autistics into "self absorbed twats" and "people who aren't as outwardly pissed off and are thus cool" is not productive, because it reduces people to individuals-in-a-vacuum, to be judged with no sociological understanding.

    ReplyDelete
  41. The latest comic (744) is not only sexkcd, but also implies that going on a date with a woman = sex. Where's our white knighting feminist Randall from 714 now?

    As for the comic featured, eh it didn't really bother me. The transition from .doc to facebook is dumb though, especially since the original point about .doc files is null and void now. Everyone just uses PDF.

    ReplyDelete
  42. It's been kinda mentioned in an earlier comment, but since some people seem to be getting it confused: the "free" in free software doesn't mean it doesn't cost anything, it means you're free to modify it however you want, use it however you want, etc. It's confusing because usually, free software doesn't cost any money, either.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I took panel 1 to be a convo between two friends. Plain stick figure wanted essay critique, so sent it to beard guy. Beard guy acts like a douche, says nothing about the essay but just critiques his choice of file format.

    That's probably reading too much into it though.

    Also, when did "autistic" become an insult? People call each other retarded all the time, but autistic?

    Honestly, reading it I was expecting a light-hearted jab at open source guys. Which the alt-text does, actually. I don't think this comic knows quite what it wants to be. :|

    ReplyDelete
  44. Anon 12.28 is of course right and I actually hate all autistic people. Damn that piercing insight of theirs.

    Seriously, since when did "hey, people who discriminate: you're twats!" become OMG CONTROVERSIAL? You say "autistics > nonautistics", you're a twat. You say "nonautistics > autistics", you're a twat. You say "well i can't generalise can i?" then congratulations! you have passed "Not Being A Twat" 101.

    You say "anything else > xkcd", however, and we must realise that that generalisation is empirically accurate and thus you are likely not a twat, at least not in this particular regard.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I suppose (given that your post was quite long and involved) I could put more effort into it than just calling people twats.

    "At root, it's really just the manifestation of a wish to not hate oneself. This can be hard when there is all this weight against us trying to make us hate ourselves, and some of us end up imitating the people to hate us. Yes, all these ideas about our superiority are an imitation of mainstream society saying it is superior to us."

    Well then the elements of mainstream society saying that they are superior to you are twats. WELL WHOOPS there goes my attempt to analyse this without just calling people twats.

    "So really, I just want to say that, in a round about way, YOU are responsible for this, as a member of mainstream society is who are passively reinforcing social norms."

    Erm, OK? Your post did not include a section condemning the disgraceful treatment of women in Sudanese society*, therefore you are passively reinforcing social norms and it is YOUR FAULT. I hope you are happy.

    *this is probably a generalisation - I suspect there is an urban/rural divide at the very least

    ReplyDelete
  46. I realise this is the third post in a row from me and I apologise, but I am SO HAPPY that both instances of "passively reinforcing social norms" lined up so perfectly.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Anon 12.28 - while I agree with basically everything you say up until about the last two lines, Ann Apolis summarised it quite nicely just there. The fact is, without a diagnosis, there are still a million possible causes that may have lead me to the point where I lash out at society and say ridiculous things about people I can't relate to. But this kind of thinking can basically be applied to anybody's circumstances - he was bullied as a child, his father used to drink, she's having a terrible day, etc.

    There are some people in the world who actually do consider everyone to be inherently good and treat those who wrong them with respect and patience because they assume that there's probably some reason they're acting like that, and nobody wants to be a jerk or an inconvenience. But the reason I appreciate those people when I find them is because they don't make the majority. Most people will get slammed down for saying things that the forumite said, autistic or not. To continue with your analogy with the Panthers (as an Aussie I'm not too familiar with all that), it would be reasonable to expect white people to have little or no respect for black people who raved like that. Respect isn't handed over by other people, individuals earn it for themselves. That forumite was not the original problem, but he has just as much power to be productive/unproductive as anybody else.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Not that it makes much difference but I posted before Ann Apolis got apparently madder =P

    For the record, we gave up on my diagnosis years ago, my family history was too confusing for the doctor, so I worry about being branded 'self-diagnosed' by all those angry people who really have Aspergers. Isn't it weird how in these sorts of conversations your skin colour, sexual preference or where you fall on a mind-shape spectrum is suddenly relevant to whether or not your argument is logical?

    All of the above is possibly irrelevant.

    ReplyDelete
  49. A doctor diagnosed me as having Aspergers some years ago but I am like 94% sure he was an idiot by now.

    This is not really relevant but yeah does that make me a self-diagnosed neurotypical?

    ReplyDelete
  50. "For the record, we gave up on my diagnosis years ago, my family history was too confusing for the doctor, so I worry about being branded 'self-diagnosed' by all those angry people who really have Aspergers."

    Actually, a lot of autistic people get misdiagnosed with things like social anxiety, schizophrenia, etc, and some of them just don't want to get diagnosed because they're afraid of mental health or of being placed in an institution. IMO being self diagnosed is not necessarily worse than being "properly" diagnosed, and it doesn't make your autism anymore REAL if you have papers. Documentation can be helpful if you want to receive services or accommodations, though. Some people will want to parade around how authentically autistic/"aspie" whatever they think they are and wave their documentation around, but I think they're in the minority.

    The biggest problem I see in regards to people self diagnosing themselves is when they equate autism with social difficulty, when for me that isn't even the most significant thing. The most significant thing for me are how loud people are and their strange attachment to bright lights. :p Makes it hard to do a lot of things. But I can't really blame people for equating it with social difficulty, there are all kinds of statements being put out like "Basically, having Asperger's Syndrome means I don't understand blah blah about why people do things."

    And yes, this means some people will mis-self diagnose themselves. Professionals misdiagnose autistic people all the time though so I don't see this as regression but rather as oblique motion.

    Also, you do not HAVE to take your family with you for a diagnosis. Some people are adults and their families are dead, some people had abusive parents and don't want anything to do with them, etc, so they're used to that.

    "A doctor diagnosed me as having Aspergers some years ago but I am like 94% sure he was an idiot by now.

    This is not really relevant but yeah does that make me a self-diagnosed neurotypical?"

    Yes it does and thank you for this! Lots of people in mental health who, if not idiots, are at least doing lots of idiotic things. Pediatricians and general practitioners who try to evaluate for autism do a notoriously bad job, too. They're only good for referrals.

    ReplyDelete
  51. "For the record, we gave up on my diagnosis years ago, my family history was too confusing for the doctor, so I worry about being branded 'self-diagnosed' by all those angry people who really have Aspergers."

    Actually, a lot of autistic people get misdiagnosed with things like social anxiety, schizophrenia, etc, and some of them just don't want to get diagnosed because they're afraid of mental health or of being placed in an institution. IMO being self diagnosed is not necessarily worse than being "properly" diagnosed, and it doesn't make your autism anymore REAL if you have papers. Documentation can be helpful if you want to receive services or accommodations, though. Some people will want to parade around how authentically autistic/"aspie" whatever they think they are and wave their documentation around, but I think they're in the minority.

    The biggest problem I see in regards to people self diagnosing themselves is when they equate autism with social difficulty, when for me that isn't even the most significant thing. The most significant thing for me are how loud people are and their strange attachment to bright lights. :p Makes it hard to do a lot of things. But I can't really blame people for equating it with social difficulty, there are all kinds of statements being put out like "Basically, having Asperger's Syndrome means I don't understand blah blah about why people do things."

    And yes, this means some people will mis-self diagnose themselves. Professionals misdiagnose autistic people all the time though so I don't see this as regression but rather as oblique motion.

    Also, you do not HAVE to take your family with you for a diagnosis. Some people are adults and their families are dead, some people had abusive parents and don't want anything to do with them, etc, so they're used to that.

    "A doctor diagnosed me as having Aspergers some years ago but I am like 94% sure he was an idiot by now.

    This is not really relevant but yeah does that make me a self-diagnosed neurotypical?"

    Yes it does and thank you for this! Lots of people in mental health who, if not idiots, are at least doing lots of idiotic things. Pediatricians and general practitioners who try to evaluate for autism do a notoriously bad job, too. They're only good for referrals.

    ReplyDelete
  52. As an autistic person, I've never talked like this, I've never acted like this, none of my autistic friends have acted like this, and Randall Munroe is a jizzgobbler.

    ReplyDelete
  53. "I'm not trying to equate being autistic with being Black, but we have gone through some of the same things in regards to this, and also in some other ways."

    Oh dear God.

    No follow-up sentence can justify this. Just...just shut up.



    Yeah cos I remember when autistic people were treated like sub-human chattle, enslaved, thrown into beyond-awful living conditions, lacking any suggestion of respect or even basic acknowledgement as human beings, subject to beatings and torture and on one to raise an eyebrow at the thought.
    Yeah...

    ReplyDelete
  54. I still have several aspie slaves, so Keep, who's the real moron?

    ReplyDelete
  55. Jimbobbowilly (Max William Gore)May 25, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    I will use a captcha to describe this discussion.

    It's a big fat steaming load of buisl.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Keep, you're not too far off the mark there actually. While each story is not strictly identical, there are plenty of parallels. Personally I feel empathy for the homosexual community in a similar way. Might elaborate on this later.

    ReplyDelete
  57. "Yeah cos I remember when autistic people were treated like sub-human chattle, enslaved, thrown into beyond-awful living conditions, lacking any suggestion of respect or even basic acknowledgement as human beings, subject to beatings and torture and on one to raise an eyebrow at the thought.Yeah... "

    Yeah, so do I, along with other people labeled mentally ill. Remember- autism was originally considered a form of schizophrenia, whatever that means.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122058404

    I know you're trying to be sarcastic and biting about offensive I'm being, but that's actually another similarity. Even today autistic people are involuntarily committed to institutions, where they can be forcibly given anti-psychotics (which cause permanent brain damage). "Noncompliant" people in psych wards can also get beat up, dragged into a "quiet room," and strapped down, where some of them die under restraint. "Noncompliant" can mean "Keeps sitting in a corner rocking and talking to himself when we want him to go get lunch." This is an improvement over the past depicted in the pictures I linked, but it's still not acceptable in any way.

    And now I WILL shut up, mostly just because this is not easy to talk about. I'm sorry if I bothered anyone.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Okay, one last thing, here's the story related to the pictures I linked earlier:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122017757

    I'm not trying to be annoying or anything but I hope this makes the previous link clearer. And yes, I am the anon who said that Blacks and autistic people had certain things in common in regard to their treatment by society.

    I really am sorry and I will stop reading this discussion and everything now, so you will not have to worry about me.

    ReplyDelete
  59. apparently socially stunted retards love to talk about themselves.

    that's basically all this comment thread has taught me.

    ReplyDelete
  60. wow, people got really mean in this comment thread. Alas. if only xkcd hadn't opted to call someone autistic, we wouldn't have had to yell about autism for a while.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I still don't understand this comic ;_;

    ReplyDelete
  62. Autism is a complex disorder with a variety of symptoms and manifestations. It's not the same as "shy people who are nerds" or "intelligent people with no social skills".

    It's a -disorder- which means that by definition it impairs one's quality of life,and, again by definition, it's preferable to be neurotypical.

    ReplyDelete
  63. I can't wait for autistic MLK and Malcolm X

    ReplyDelete
  64. Heh. My initials are MLK but I don't get the reference ^^

    Key-word-disorder-anom, please note that homosexuality was once medically labelled a 'disorder' as well. I don't mean to imply any relation between homosexuality and autism, but the point is just because it's called a mental disorder today means that people will always think that way about it. Many of the ways homosexuality used to impair one's quality of life lessened overall as mainstream society's negative attitudes towards them gradually lessened. So in many ways it may be preferable to be neurotypical, but at the end of the day that may be because that's what the majority thinks and they act accordingly.

    ReplyDelete
  65. So? It's possible that people with mental retardation (which is commonly comorbid with autism, incidentally) prefer that to being normal, but is it controversial to say that being neurotypical is preferable to being retarded? Not really.

    The homosexuality example isn't really germane - it's true that it was once in the DSM-IV, but the empiricism and rigor of the current model is such that it's not really fair to compare those antiquated "psychoses" with the ones we know of now.

    ReplyDelete
  66. I don't there's suppose to be a connection between FB and OSS, it's just about the divide between people who prefer using software etc that works quickly and conveniently vs people who are concerned with things like OSS, net neutrality, and other nerdy crap... and then when the former find out what's happening to all their personal info- what they allowed to happen, by not caring about who they gave it to- the "smug superiority" of the latter comes out swinging.

    I don't think either side is supposed to be especially sympathetic, because el beardo is obviously a dick

    ReplyDelete
  67. I assumed it was a matter of "Now because it involves you, you care" sort of message.

    Of course then 745 and ruined my day (I have a dyslexic friend) so this one can go die in a hole too.

    :3

    ReplyDelete
  68. This comment thread is moribund by now, but here's a quote from Zadie Smith that I think applies very well to xkcd's characters in general, and to this comic especially:
    "And so there is no real way to be good in Greene, there are simply a million ways to be more or less bad."

    Of course, I mean it far less endearingly about Randall Munroe than Smith did about Graham Greene.

    ReplyDelete
  69. I was talking about how NTs feel about autism, not people with autism themselves. The fact that you're arguing against a common argument which I didn't even hint at (since I agree with your response to it) suggests to me that you've done a bit of web browsing on the subject so I doubt there would really be anything I could say to you that you haven't read and rolled your eyes at before. The fact that you didn't actually address what I said despite responding directly to me is somewhat perplexing to say the least, but it may suggest that it was naiive of me to try and convince you of anything.

    The point is that there are such things as stigma and the fact that well-meaning people can prevent others from enjoying a better quality of life and at least a bit more independence by trying to keep them safe. Self-esteem issues and what you believe you're capable of will also affect your quality of life. These are not actually symptoms of autism, they're environmental effects caused by how neuruotypicals treats autistics.

    One day people may look back on the current model and snigger and say it wasn't very good, too. Science is about never being totally satisfied by the answers that we have in our own time, after all. It's not about thinking we have all the answers we need already.

    ReplyDelete
  70. I really think this is one of the worst xkcd comics either in a long time or ever. I know there are some that are worse, but this would be right under them. The only thing missing is Megan and how she deserves to be bitchraped.

    ReplyDelete
  71. I love how much people can over-analyse such a shitty comic.

    Hey guys, maybe the lowered quality of Stickman's dialogue in panel 3 indicates that, in fact, panel three is a dream sequence from BeardMan's point of view- him imagining how great it's going to be when his friend comes crying back years from now, complaining about Facebook or whatever. Man, he'll have such a good comeback ready.

    ReplyDelete
  72. This site is stupid

    ReplyDelete
  73. "Al Franken haters: What have you read or seen of his? He hasn't been that funny in the past few years because he was trying to win an election and be taken seriously, but he wrote lots of great old SNL skits and some very funny books."

    1) His best-known work on SNL is as Stuart Smalley and Weekend Update. While Weekend Update may often be hilarious, it's mostly reading news stories in an amusing order and setting up for special guests. Stuart Smalley is low-brow humor that relies on a stupid catch phrase.

    2) He is known as a writer of TV & Movies. His biggest projects were Coneheads ('83) and Stuart Saves his Family ('95). Both of these were terrible, TERRIBLE movies, Coneheads even more so because it took a great and funny SNL sketch (Coneheads) and made it shit.

    3) His entire career is based on either a) hanging on the coattails of SNL or b) picking political fights.

    4) It's one thing to express a political opinion, but it's something else entirely to only attack those with whom you disagree. Franken's political career has always been the latter, attacking Rush Limbaugh, O'Reilly, and Fox News. While I have no particular love for any of those, it's not intellectually challenging to make fun of other people. What is intellectually challenging is developing your own political philosophy, explaining why you would best represent others, and positively contributing to political ideology.

    5) His ability to write funny books barely surpasses that of my 2-year-old daughter (she can't type).

    ReplyDelete
  74. Weekend Update, keep in mind, was a HUGE influence on the daily show.

    Nothing was funny in the 80s, and so I'll agr.ee that what Al Franken contributed wasn't good either. I'm mostly talking about more recently.

    Have you read any of the books you are talking about? They are most assuredly NOT just attacking people (though their titles are, but their titles are parodies of ann coulter, rush limbaugh, etc. even the cover design of Lies was a parody of Bill O'Reilly's books).

    ReplyDelete
  75. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MST3KMantra

    ReplyDelete
  76. oh, well if TVTropes said it, i guess i HAVE to listen to it. dang.

    ReplyDelete
  77. For all the failings of this specific comic, at least it did lend itself to an excellent goatkcd
    (NSFW, obviously) http://www.goatkcd.com/743/

    ReplyDelete