Monday, October 25, 2010

Comic 810: Reddit

not constructive
[ALT: And what about all the people who won't be able to join the community because they're terrible at making helpful and constructive co-- ... oh.]

I have a special kind of hate reserved for nerds who try to do this sort of shit. You know what I'm talking about--when they think that they can reduce language (especially language online) to a series of numbers, and solve all of its problems and intricacies by running it through a script. I've known far too many nerds like this. I've worked with them. Their simplistic view of the world was nothing short of infuriating.

Enter Randy! Here he has proposed a system whereby people basically vote on whether or not something is a helpful, constructive comment. If they agree, then it shows up! If not, then it vanishes into the void. While many could argue that this is already the default behavior on places like Reddit, Youtube, and anywhere else with comment voting systems, I'm pretty sure Randy is assuming that these votes will be used like a spam filter in the future--that the user voting process will eventually train the system to automatically identify helpful comments and only accept those, while the unhelpful comments go to the spam bin, never to be seen again. (Maybe he just forgot that he masturbates to the Reddit logo every morning though, I mean, this is Randy we're talking about. It's very possible that he just came up with Reddit several years too late, and thinks it's the most brilliant thing ever.)

This system wouldn't work, of course, and there's countless reasons why not. First, it assumes that the aggregate of people are able to identify something helpful and constructive. (I'd like to remind everyone that XKCD frequently makes the front page of Reddit. Enough said.) What this would end up being is nothing short of a popularity contest. Certain people will be downvoted because they don't subscribe to the prevailing opinion, turning every forum out there into a circle-jerk. They're already bad enough as it is--making a filter that automatically gets rid of people who disagree with you is not a good idea.

The system would also not be able to identify context. "I fucking love spaceships" might be a helpful comment on a picture of a spaceship, but it would be significantly less helpful on a picture of an old woman waiting for the bus. How does it decide which one of these is helpful? Do we allow a false positive and spam both comments? A false negative and keep both comments?

Or how about a common thing that bots do these days, which is copy, verbatim, old posts by other, legitimate forum members and paste them into a different thread? Randy's feature won't pick that one up! And if you vote down the bot version, then the original gets spammed also.

Words mean different things in different contexts, but Randy and nerds like him want to reduce everything to nothing more than words. To them, every instance of "no thanks" is identical. If you use a certain combination of words, you're saying something that falls into one of their arbitrarily defined categories.

The reason they think this works is because it works pretty okay for spam filters in emails--you can train them which emails are spam and which ones are not, and it will file them into the appropriate bucket. But these are being used for categories like "spam" and "not spam." Nobody is using spam filters for quality assessments--"emails that made me happy" or "this email sucks" or "helpful, constructive emails" or "emails that don't contribute to the conversation." These aren't categories you can actually quantify, but nerds don't know that. Nerds think that "helpful, constructive emails" is an entirely objective and quantifiable category, and that you can crowdsource labor to generate the perfect filter.

Finally, I am going to steal from your "Gamer 2k4" or whatever, who said a thing in the comments:

. . . the plan outlined in #810 simply wouldn't work. The "constructive" nature of a particular comment is far too subjective, even for a person, to judge another poster by their appraisal of it. If you're only letting comments get posted that have received that sort of approval, then you're essentially letting the hoards of bots be your moderating team, an awful idea if there ever was one. (And as a one-time forum owner, I can promise you that bots are FAR more numerous than legitimate posters).

So, we have three possible outcomes:
1) Bots rate all comments as constructive. Posts continue through as though unmoderated, and significantly more spam makes it through than a captcha would allow.
2) Bots rate all comments as not constructive. The board grinds to a halt as all comments, regardless of their quality, are discarded before making it to the message board.
3) Bots rate roughly half of the comments as constructive, and half as not constructive. The rating system fails, as all comments receive roughly the same rating (the hundreds of bots outweigh the few real users and render their ratings essentially meaningless). Comments are either posted or blocked as a fluke, and enough spam gets through to make it worthwhile. Again, a captcha would be more effective.

Randall, you suck again. See why you need an editor? If you'd have bounced this idea off of ONE PERSON you'd have seen how worthless it was!


ok go

147 comments:

  1. "I'd like to remind everyone that XKCD frequently makes the front page of Reddit."

    "Frequently" is an understatement. XKCD makes the front page pretty much every day a new strip is put up, and even many days when there's not a new strip. Pretty much any day of the week, an XKCD strip is on the front page.

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  2. He just ripped off,

    http://www.reddit.com/r/programming/comments/dvymh/practical_nonimage_based_captcha_approaches_stack/

    Totally lame Randy, you suck.

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  3. I read this differently, and for some reason it actually came off as a good idea. Alas, your approach killed it.

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  4. Someone on the forum posted:

    "Am I the only one that read this and thought 'He is attacking the people on the fora who criticize his recent work constantly!' ?"

    Ha!

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  5. When Randall does close-ups of his misshapen heads and stick bodies, it's always so jarring. Like, how can he look at that and think it's passable?

    Also, all the edits from the last comment thread made me laugh.

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  6. Damn, that's a lazy comic, even by XKCD standards. Maybe Randall's actually trained an adbot to do HIS job; this comic certainly SEEMS mechanical enough.

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  7. I'm pretty sure it was a joke and not a serious recommendation. I think that if you're going to criticize the comic, a different approach would be more prudent. ;)

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  8. the only way it being a joke would make it okay is if somehow it was funny how incredibly fucking useless the idea is.

    unfortunately it's not a joke. not really. this is the sort of thing nerds dream of every day. they think it's just as easy as spending a few nights "hacking" on it. that's how nerds see the world. randy honestly thinks he has come up with a way that would force bots to be helpful and constructive. as far as he's concerned, there are no flaws with this idea.

    bear in mind that randy has a Reddit robot real doll.

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  9. DOES he legitimately think it's flawless, though? What I mean is, is he actually working on this now? He has his own website with an active posting community; you'd think he'd be trying to put this into action if he was truly in love with the idea.

    And, I mean...I don't actually know either way. But can anyone answer?

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  10. I actually found this comic very funny. First one in a while that I've actually laughed at.

    It does cease to be funny once you analyse the content to the extent that you do. The solution is to take it at face value and just enjoy the fun!

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  11. I seem to recall the whole Robot9000 thing from back in the day.

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  12. ROB YOU THINK TO MUCH

    DO NOT THINK

    EVER

    JUST LAUGH AND GIVE RANDALL ALL YOUR MONEY LIKE A GOOD LITTLE DRONE

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  13. on trainable spam filters: they are trained only for a single specific user. for instance, an employee of the viagra division at pfizer would have his spam filter trained for totally different words than a nigerian bank president. this is why they actually work, but the user does have to invest some time to provide the filter with large enough data sets.

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  14. It actually is possible for software to identify the subject of a picture as a spaceship (or old woman, etc) and it would be a relatively simple step to use that as context for comments. See: http://www.cs.utexas.edu/~grauman/research/projects/pmk/pmk_projectpage.htm

    Pyramid matching may not interest you,, so I'll summarize: given a picture of a panda, the software can identify other pandas in entirely different pictures. From there it would be simple to say "I fucking love pandas." Yes, the software first has to learn what a panda is (probably by giving it a picture of a panda and telling it "this is a panda"), but so do humans.

    Search engines also do a pretty good job of identifying context.

    Identifying the general context of anything and everything would be difficult for software to do, but certainly not impossible. There's no way some spammers are going to write that software, but I'm not here to refute your point that this comic doesn't make sense.

    Don't knock a class of study just because "nerds" do it, or because you don't understand it, or you risk sounding just like Randall at his douchiest. Natural language processing is a huge field with a lot of research and results behind it.

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  15. I fucking love Rob.

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  16. /sigh...Rob ever since you took over your hate has been arbitrary and pathetic. Sure xkcdsucks has been going down hill for a bit, and it seemed like it was starting to stretch for the hate rather than letting it flow naturally, but the heart was always there.

    Rob you are to xkcdsucks what Randal is to xkcd. Sure you mean well and want to deliver quality, but it always seems forced and mechanical.

    You didn't even attack the comic from a comedy angle. You were just all "THATS IMPOSSIBLZ RAWR! COMIC BADZ! BLARG! I HATZE NERRRRRRDS!!!! RAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!"

    While it is unlikely that the system proposed is possible with today's technology. Its not beyond the realm of possibility. Don't forget the very computer you're using to make these lame posts is just manipulating a fuckton of transistors to on or off positions.

    There have been great strides in teaching AI pattern recognition. Its not perfect, but its advancing. Yes language is more complex and subjective, but humans from the same culture can understand one another just fine because there are known definitions and constants. Language recognition is hard but not impossible. No, you probably won't hear about a gigantic breakthrough tomorrow, but that doesn't make it so.

    Besides even if something is impossible that doesn't have any impact on entertainment value. Superman was a good movie. He got super strength and heat vision from our YELLOW SUN. And he could go back in time by flying around the world fast enough. Possible? Hell no. Entertaining? You bet'cha.

    Now that Rob is crying like a little emo girl who just found out Justin Biber doesn't give a shit about her on to the comic. The problem with this comic isn't structural, comically speaking is just a case of simple misdirection. It starts off with a concern about spammers, but then turns around at the end to be really about using spammers to perfect a system to weed out douchebags. Now it is technically funny, the problem comes from a lack of any real punch to it. Its so avarage. Like the lead in joke to a much more funny joke on a sitcom. The problem is that there is not follow up joke that this works with. This kind of joke would also be good for a call back set up on a later part of a show or at the end of a stand up routine, but that's not how web comics work. Each joke must stand on its own merit. And while this is standing, its knees are made of jelly and a slight breeze would be its doom.

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  17. "Pyramid matching may not interest you,, so I'll summarize: given a picture of a panda, the software can identify other pandas in entirely different pictures. From there it would be simple to say "I fucking love pandas." Yes, the software first has to learn what a panda is (probably by giving it a picture of a panda and telling it "this is a panda"), but so do humans."

    and that's incredibly simplistic and wouldn't stand up under actual human interaction, especially not a human crowdsourced interaction. so do you think it should discard any spaceship-related comments discussing the old lady?

    all sorts of things could make this comment relevant, though, and that information would be completely absent the original post--which is, as previously stated, a single picture of an old lady.

    "Search engines also do a pretty good job of identifying context."

    for actual, practical purposes? no they don't.

    "Identifying the general context of anything and everything would be difficult for software to do, but certainly not impossible. "

    it wouldn't be completely impossible for the software to get the context of an entire forum, no, so long as absolutely no interactions happened outside of the closed system of the forum. either you would need an all-pervasive bot that spies on literally every activity, including those that happened in person, or you would need to assume that nothing happens outside of the context of the forums.

    given that on every forum I've ever been on there's been a lot of interaction outside of the context of the forums, I find that unlikely.

    context is also often found in subtext and subtle shadings of meaning--things that can't be found just by looking at the words, or the surrounding words. you could probably get closer by building up a complete profile of everyone who posts, of course, but I expect you'll be getting diminishing returns fairly soon--too much effort for too little gains. is it worth that much time and energy for a five percent increase in being able to detect irony?

    and when you're dealing with something that is more subjective (such as "is this a helpful comment?") than objective (such as "is this an email from a spam company?"), you are dealing with an entirely fictional category of things. there is no such thing as a universal quality to the helpful comment, or the funny comment, or whatever.

    "Don't knock a class of study just because "nerds" do it, or because you don't understand it, or you risk sounding just like Randall at his douchiest. Natural language processing is a huge field with a lot of research and results behind it."

    Randy is not a computational linguist. He does not study natural language processing. when someone who is studying NLP makes this same idiotic suggestion, maybe I'll stop and consider it.

    I understand the field just fine. This is why I have such hatred for the idiotic nerds who, despite knowing absolute fuck-all about it, think they can solve all of language's intricacies by running a Bayesian filter on it. Language is complicated. Nerds think they have figured out how to simplify it and reduce it to numbers.

    Randy thinks you can fucking crowdsource internet comments and that would eliminate not only spam, but unhelpful comments.

    oh, and I'm not knocking it because nerds do it. I'm knocking it because when nerds do it they do it in a fucking infuriating way. sorry if that wasn't clear.

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  18. You can't just give a computer one image of a panda and expect it to recognize other pictures of them. You have to give it a couple hundred before it will be any good at it. And you have to do that for every object you want the computer to be able to recognize.

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  19. Rob, we all know you love you this awful language. We get it. And we all know Randall is not the maestro of natural sentence flow. Who doesn't see that.

    But at least the structure of the joke is correct, in that he introduces a concept, elaborates, and comes to a conclusion at the end. ....Well, that sounds more like a high-school paragraph, but eh, there are arguable similarities.

    It isn't a great joke, but Randall is working his way up, maybe, perhaps just to let us all down in a few comics. Well, probably. Who are we kidding.

    captcha: impedn. Stop impedn progress, Rob.

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  20. UndercoverCuddlefishOctober 25, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    not to mention the fact that the better your computer gets at recognizing the abstract concept of a panda the more it will attempt to assert that everything that is black and white and vaguely panda shaped is definitely a panda (overtraining)

    the best researchers in the fields of ai and computer vision are slowly working toward the ability to analyze the context of an image in order to reduce these false positives but there is a long fucking way to go until the technology is reliable for anything other than boring security footage of people and vehicles

    then we get to words which are even more difficult to analyze than images and it becomes clear that randy is not doing anybody any favors with his dumbfuckery

    he is basically saying "youre welcome ai guys i just gave you a really poorly thought out framework in which to solve some of the most complex issues of artificial intelligence in fact spammers are going to solve these problems for you so dont even worry about it"

    magnificently stupid

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  21. The viability of this "revolutionary" spam filtering system Randall came up with can be debunked by a quote from another comic of his.

    "Holy shit! Guys... people are COMPLICATED!"
    http://xkcd.com/592/

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  22. Not that we're particularly surprised, but his Poster comic actually gave him a peak in traffic, which more less resided in three days except for the "Tech support" comic [again, not a big surprise.

    Behold, the glorious power of graphing technology and glorious MS Paint under my glorious glorious hand!!

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  23. I think the word I'm thinking of there is "Receded". Your language is awful, and you should feel awful.

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  24. I'VE SEEN SPAM GET PAST CAPTCHAS GOOMHR!

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  25. I think you are giving Randall too much credit here.

    I'm of the opinion that the bot's rating of posts determines whether said bots' posts will make it through or not, based on the context (this is a replacement for the captcha system).

    This is very obviously bad for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the comic never even hints that these might be compared to whether or not the post was actually constructive, but I'll stop here, for now.

    What truly gets me about this comic is the last line, though. "Mission. Fucking. Accomplished." That's what Randall thinks is funny. Oh noes he dropped an F-bomb! Haha haha. Fuck off Randall.

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  26. Wow, and you accuse the XKCD horde of having Asperger's. This is like listening to some nerd point out the scientific inaccuracies in Barbarella. The point of the comic isn't the tenability of the concept, it's the idea of grooming spam to be so effective that it might as well not be spam. It's actually a rather funny idea, a sort of Machiavellian manipulation of computer AI. It has probably been done before but I've never seen it myself and that's not what you're chastising it for anyway.

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  27. My second sentence makes much more sense when everything after the comma is moved to the front, sorry about that.

    - 10:09 Anon

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  28. no, I accuse the XKCD horde of being self-diagnosed aspies.

    I wish I were naive enough to believe that Randy didn't seriously think this were a clever, tenable idea. life would be so much easier that way.

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  29. 10:09 & 10:13 Anon here, sorry for the TRIPLE POST.

    I just headed over to see the reaction on the XKCD Forums and saw this:

    "Get out of my head:

    The browser game Ikariam was hit by spammers this weekend, they made people think their accounts were hacked, and caused some to panic."

    Having never seen GOOMHR first hand before, I must say it is every bit as utterly retarded as you guys described. I am sad.

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  30. It doesn't matter how realistic Randall considers the premise to be. The comic works whether it's realistic or not. Maybe you feel the comic doesn't work (I'd at least agree that there are funnier ways to approach the idea), but if so that's what you should be arguing rather than focusing entirely on such a silly nitpick and using it as a springboard to explain how retarded Randall is.

    Unless this place is now solely interested in personal attacks, in which case have fun with that I guess. XKCD Explained has been doing a more entertaining job of it, though.

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  31. if randy intended this, as he did, to be a serious suggestion for a way to improve commenting communities, then a critique of this suggestion as a way to improve commenting communities is perfectly valid. I'm not sure why this is so hard for you to understand.

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  32. And what if said spambots were trained to open troll weblogs? BTW the captcha on this blog isn't updated yet.

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  33. "Nerds think they have figured out how to simplify it and reduce it to numbers."

    As often seems to be my self appropriated role here at xkcdsucks, I am going to explain the physicist's point of view on the ideas of numbers and simplification. Now then a physicist (many of whom are, perhaps, nerds) takes the opposite view as that presented above. That is, to a physicist, simplifying a problem means reducing the number of calculations involved. For instance we may think of the brain as a very large collection of neurons which obey simple rules. As long as we can perform the calculations involved we have a way of understanding (and recreating?) human intelligence. [If you are uncomfortable with jumping straight to neurons, we may start with even simpler objects: protons, neutrons, and electrons. The general argument is the same.]

    Bad luck! Because of the very large number of neurons and the multiplicity of interconnection between them, the calculations involved are enormous. In other words, the numbers are simply too big for us to work with.

    So then the question of simplification isn't about figuring out how to reduce the problem to numbers. It's easy to do that! Instead we simplify the problem by figuring out what are the proper ways to group the objects and their interconnections together so that we can sweep many of the calculations under the rug.


    Now that I've ranted about mathematics and its application to problem solving, let me shift gears. It seems to me the question of whether or not a spam bot could determine if a comment is constructive is intimately related to the question proposed by Stephen Bonds: "Can a Machine Laugh?" I therefore reference the article here:

    http://plover.net/~bonds/machinelaugh.html

    The important point, in my view, for this discussion is the notion of "humour bands" and the various adjustments thereof by means of learning and adapting.

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  34. I think you're making a mistake here. Remember, this is a comic and Randall is making a joke. So you shouldn't criticize the anti-spam system: it's irrelevant here. The joke here is something like "let's create an antispam system which works, then spammers would have to make helpful and constructive comments". The joke is lame and obvious but you missed it anyways.

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  35. Arthur I can't rember if it was you that was LITERALLY BLEEDING OUT OF YOUR EARS.

    I donno why you insist on describing the 'physcycist's [sic mine] point of view, as randall is NOT a scientist of ANY description- let alone physics.

    I think we all know by now that due to computational limits and non-solvable cases that it's impossible to be 100% accurate making predictions in the field.

    As a physics nobel laureate- I know.

    You'll find though that making these approximations in terms of context, linguistics and so on would make machine-generated comics very easy to spot.

    Rob's corpulent form has belched this earler in the thread-

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  36. @Dinky

    The comic works for you 'cause it haz swears. And. Full. Stops.

    Alternate 4th panel Punchlines:
    *Receive my Turing Award.
    *Wait for my thank you note from John McCarthy.
    *That's a problem?
    *Publish my book on AI manipulation.

    None of those are that funny, but IMO are better than the jr high shock and awe of full stops and swears. Holy. Fucking. Shit.

    I guess we could congratulate Randall in putting the comic in comic form with a proper set up and delivery and no PPD where something like punchline replacement is possible, just like we congratulate a two year old for: Not. Shitting. Their. Pants.

    @Arthur

    Your role is that of a douche-nozzle. Never forget that.

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  37. Well, funny story... one of my end-course project(I don't know what's the technical name for it in English) was a system that would be able to identify the author of a text given a pool of authors and other texts by these authors. In my defense, it was actually a very naive idea -- I formulated it as "can it be done?", and my advisor was more excited than me about it --, and it worked much better than I thought it would(I was ready to write about why it didn't work at all, when it had some nice degree of success; 50% in a pool of 13 authors). So if you'll ever start hating me, Rob, this is the time! =D

    Anyway... oh, yes, comic. Gamer_2k4 put what I had in mind very well in the last comment thread, and for those who already came here to complain about the way we criticize comics well...

    1) "You over-analyze them too much!" Oh, well, I don't know about you, but the reason I got to know xkcd is because it was said to be a very clever and nerdy comic. A comic to be read by intelligent people that like to think and (if needed)research the topics presented. If your defense is that I should turn off my brain and chuckle in agreement well... what.

    2) "The idea is stupid, but the joke is good" No, it's not. The structure of the joke is boring. The setup is long-winded and for some reason he sacrifices a cleared description of the mechanism(how are comments rated, anyway, and when exactly do the posts show up, before or after being rated?) to have a short comic. I say "for some reason" because it can't be space or format constraints, Randall has none. And, to boot, his punchline loses all effect without a witty face or at least an impacting background. Instead, we have what I'll call "an orange balanced on a banana" because that was the funniest thing on the last comment thread. But, really, it's horrible. And the f-bomb makes it even more forced.

    In short: it's bad as a comic and bad as a picto-blog post. It's just plain bad.

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  38. You'll find though that making these approximations in terms of context, linguistics and so on would make machine-generated comics very easy to spot.

    Almost as if comics were coming 4-50 years late, or were increasingly tying themselves to a successful format of "joke-telling" but yielding mediocre-at-best results with language and sentences that only barely improve to the current state of "almost natural"?

    Ah, who are we kidding. Randall is either a computer that's been programmed to be emo, or an emo guy who wants to be a computer. And I think the emo-robot could've lasted longer at Nasa, just saying.

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  39. Hey guys, there's a new item in the shop -- I'm still selling you validation, just so you know! Link link link link link! It's just that easy to parade around how much better you are than everyone, guys! You remember that thing I did, that you thought was cool? Well you can pay me $20 (15 if you ask real nice and click the right boxes) to get a printout of your favourite stick figures! Link link link! It's like you're the hacker, and these sweet goods are the military's top secrets! Be the first to figure them out and tell all your friends about how cool you are, and by association, how cool they aren't until they also buy these arbitrary things!

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  40. @Raven

    bwhahaha, Randall is JP from Grandma's Boy.

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  41. "Besides even if something is impossible that doesn't have any impact on entertainment value. Superman was a good movie. He got super strength and heat vision from our YELLOW SUN. And he could go back in time by flying around the world fast enough. Possible? Hell no. Entertaining? You bet'cha."

    internal logic

    "Randy is not a computational linguist. He does not study natural language processing. when someone who is studying NLP makes this same idiotic suggestion, maybe I'll stop and consider it.

    I understand the field just fine. This is why I have such hatred for the idiotic nerds who, despite knowing absolute fuck-all about it, think they can solve all of language's intricacies by running a Bayesian filter on it. Language is complicated. Nerds think they have figured out how to simplify it and reduce it to numbers."

    derp derp http://xkcd.com/114/

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  42. that comic is way too relevant to this thread

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  43. My name is Randy. I am a robot. I have a robot vagina.

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  44. I think what bothers most complainers about this analysis is not that the joke is terrific- its ok- its that Rob appears to be targeting the wrong point. Its potentially true that Randall believes that his notion is a good one, but its not necessarily clear from the text (there are countless strips where a character does something that is actually utterly impracticial for the sake of a joke), and is intended to set up the punch line. Which really is where the anger should be focused.

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  45. You would understand NLP if you had robot ears!!!

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  46. Oh, and every human being who attended at least one decent programming course, Infosystems course, or anything else knows that a lot of the "advance AI" of spambots are just human beings who either phish existing accounts or register accounts FOR their spambots and then only let them do their thing after the registration is complete. So yeah, this would only help to strengthen a language barrier required to join certain community-based websites.

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  47. This blog's new management would be the primary reason that an xkcdsuckssucks blog would have a valid reason for existence. The Carl days would be our pre-400 days, where the blog was more tolerable and less shitfaced retarded.

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  48. @Mr K

    Its potentially true that Randall believes that his notion is a good one, but its not necessarily clear from the text (there are countless strips where a character does something that is actually utterly impracticial for the sake of a joke), and is intended to set up the punch line.

    Except if we agree with your premise that this isn't a feasible idea, but rather a labored setup for a weak punchline, then the joke is that a guy gets really, really into his awful plan.

    Think about the same concept with a different joke. "Everyone is complaining about the fuel crisis. Well, let's replace all cars with horses! THIS. IDEA. IS. SO. GREAT."

    See? It's stupid. The only way that could be played to comedic effect would be if someone immediately told that person that they were wrong. But that's not the case! This comic shows no self-awareness that the idea in question is flawed, and in fact keeps up the support for the plan even in the alt-text.

    The joke here is supposed to be, "What a twist! This guy's idea won't just stop spam, but actually turn bots into intelligent posters! Wow!" It's quite obviously not, "Haha, that guy sure got into his stupid idea. What an idiot!"

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  49. @Punny dude

    "I donno why you insist on describing the 'physcycist's [sic mine] point of view, as randall is NOT a scientist of ANY description- let alone physics."

    I'm not particularly concerned about what Randall is or isn't. Any indication that I was defending Randall is purely co-incidental. But, by asserting that you cannot "reduce the problem to numbers", Rob seems to be asserting that AI is impossible.

    I make this leap of logic because by "reducing it to numbers" one can only mean reducing it to simple objects that obey simple rules, which are made complex through the large number of objects and the large number of interconnections between them. On a physical level the objects could be neurons. On a more abstract level the objects could be the "agents" described in the "Can a Machine Laugh?" article.

    "I think we all know by now that due to computational limits and non-solvable cases that it's impossible to be 100% accurate making predictions in the field.

    As a physics nobel laureate- I know."

    I am not a nobel laureate. I'm just a lowly graduate student who has begun the journey this year. This is why I insist on inserting a physicist's point of view. When I read a statement like "reducing it to numbers", I feel like it needs some context that an english major might not be aware of. However, giving this perspective takes up a lot of space on the page. I am displeased with myself if a post takes up more than 3 inches on the screen. (Also known as the cock rule of thumb.)

    Note: there's nothing wrong with english majors being unaware of that perspective. I am typically unaware of the context others can provide.

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  50. What the fuck kind of review is this?
    You're applying Randall to Randall and saying he needs an editor for an otherwise funny comic.

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  51. What the fuck kind of comment is that?
    You're applying Rob to Rob and saying he's a terrible unfunny morbidly obese pathetic excuse for a human being for an otherwise good review.

    ReplyDelete
  52. AD HOMINEM.
    AD HOMINEM EVERYWHERE.

    ReplyDelete
  53. I would like to say that my Physics teacher showed comic 567 to the whole lecture room. Some sort of "relevance" was implied.

    As far as this comic goes, I think what would be required is a highly intelligent super-computer, one that could pick up on the immense intricacies of language and context and appropriately rate whether or not comments are helpful or spam.

    But really, why the hell would we waste such an intelligence on sifting through what basically amounts to our intellectual garbage heaps?

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  54. Also, wouldn't it be possible to make a system that would just identify spam comments? I think that would be easier than making one that would rate the "usefulness" of the comment. And would probably work better.

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  55. Yes, it wouldn't work in the real world, great job pointing that out.

    I suppose you think you're being tremendously witty when you point out that Star Wars is ridiculous because you can't travel faster than light, or that Spider-Man is totally unrealistic because radioactivity destroys genetic material instead of improving it.

    It's not supposed to be realistic - nobody cares whether it could actually be done, or not. Take it as the joke which it is.

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  56. yes randall is a genius. he can come up with solutions to problems that don't exist, that wouldn't even work in reality.
    so the premise is stupid but not self-aware so this can't be the joke. the man is pleased with himself and said "fucking"? that's a joke?

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  57. The cuddlefish are so rabid they're not even paying attention to what they're saying...

    It's simple: we have two possibilities.

    1) This is not a joke, but the exposition of an idea: this means Randall is really suggesting this as an anti-spam system that would not only eliminate spam, but turn spambots into useful members of society. But we've already shown it's easy to circumvent it, even taking in account several points that are not very clear. Ultimately, this: what's the real value of a comment uttered by a spambot? Randall seems to believe that spambots can become as "constructive" as real people but... they're not real, so they hold no value. The most you'll have is some sort of praise-bot. You know, like xkcd forums.

    2) This is just a joke, the system is bulshit: except Randall fails to acknowledge this. In the end, the "flaw" that is pointed by Megan is what StickRandall has planned all along. And then the alt-text continues by saying they'd even weed out trolls and people who aren't afraid to give negative but sincere commentary on things posted. And the punchline? "Mission. Fucking. Accomplished." Um... yes, it's funny because... it's what he expected. No, that's not funny. There was no subversion of expectation, and swear words aren't automatically funny. Also, close up of stickman head is lame. So... it utterly fails as a joke, too.

    Seriously, guys, it isn't complicated!

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  58. "You can't just give a computer one image of a panda and expect it to recognize other pictures of them. You have to give it a couple hundred before it will be any good at it. And you have to do that for every object you want the computer to be able to recognize."

    Wrong. Your intuition tells you this, but it isn't just research, this has been *done*. It's real software taking a single picture of a panda and then correctly recognizing other pictures of pandas. In different poses, rotations, resolutions, sizes, etc. Yes, of course there's no way it's perfect, but neither is a human. I'm sure you've seen a picture before that you couldn't recognize what simple object was in it (because of the background, pose, etc). The bottom line is: we're much farther along in software than you think. There are three very good reasons why you don't see it or hear about it. A lot of it is in the academic world, a lot of it isn't marketable*, and the rest is research that people don't want you to know - yet. IEEE and ACM are two good sources for this stuff if you're interested.

    *or is in the process of being marketed - i.e. OLED TVs were created and announced several years ago and they just hit the shelves fairly recently

    And before someone says "It takes a long time for a computer to recognize pictures so it isn't worth it." - I remember some numbers being thrown around - something like two thousand pictures per hour or so (about one picture every two seconds).

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  59. @Holy Moley

    "and swear words aren't automatically funny."

    Yes they are, fucker.

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  60. i give it like a few weeks before people lose interest in whining that i am not a perfect simulacra of Carl (I am prettier and write better posts, and this offends people).

    what people don't realize is when I refuse to acknowledge that Randy is trying for a joke I am actually giving him more credit than he deserves, because there is nothing remotely resembling something funny going on in this comic.

    if I credit Randall for doing something he frequently does--something which all nerds do, pretty much all the time--which is come up with a poorly conceived idea based on a field in which he has no understanding to solve a problem which he recently encountered, then I am only describing his typical behavior. he had an idea, and it was terrible. and we move on.

    if I credit Randall with trying to tell a joke, I have just done him a grave insult, for this is truly the least funny thing that has ever graced the internet. even I'm not so cruel as to suggest that Randy was trying to be funny with this one.

    "Also, wouldn't it be possible to make a system that would just identify spam comments? I think that would be easier than making one that would rate the "usefulness" of the comment. And would probably work better."

    lots of places have this sort of system in place. Wordpress's Akismet feature eats spam comments for breakfast, etc etc.

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  61. @ Anon 11:15

    There's a thing called "suspension of disbelief." It's what allows a person to accept certain fantastical elements, but not others. It can be stretched and broken. This is why people can accept that Superman can go back in time by flying fast and has super strength because he's an alien, but can't accept that nobody can recognize him as Clark Kent just because he's wearing glasses. It stretches the suspension of disbelief. Why wouldn't they recognize him if he looks exactly the same, just with glasses? But it's still about a near-invincible guy with superpowers. They accept that part, but not the disguise aspect.

    So your argument is meaningless, and the criticism that this comic contains a stupid idea is still completely valid.

    Oh wait, I mean a stupid fucking idea, because using the word "fucking" is always COMEDY GOLD!

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  62. Although I agree that Randall's idea wouldn't actually work, I think you focused on that part too much in the review. The comic itself is pretty funny. Obviously not great, but definitely up there when it comes to XKCD.

    Also, the "lol randall sux" jokes weren't very good, and just felt thrown in for no reason.

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  63. there is a very good reason for throwing those in. that reason is that randall sux. try to keep up.

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  64. Mm, Cuddlefish: The posts are basically devolved to the point of structuring the site into distinct threads -- almost no one really cares what Croblia has to say, so stop worrying over how "good" the review was -- because honestly, we all have, long ago, and we're the happier for it.

    And for those people who think Carl's late(r) critiques were good: read them again visualizing him eating a sandwich, mumbling these blogs in a bored tone. Because once you've visualized that, that is basically what every 9 posts in 10 were.

    Rob: Please have my illegitimate children. I don't want them anymore.

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  65. Seriously guys it's like calling a forum shitty because you didn't think a lot of the thread-starting posts were particularly brilliant

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  66. I'm confused on how people find this comic funny at all. Uhh what? swears are funny now?

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  67. Rob did not, in fact, misspeak at 1:19. It's common knowledge that it would take at least 27 Carl-size simulacra to fit Rob.

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  68. oh man i bet he didnt think of that at all.
    when i read the comic i was like "dude would that work? i dont think we have the technology" and thought it was a pretty good idea but you proved him wrong.

    he needs to do more research. hopefully for his sake he didnt already send this off to thomas edison with the note "this is my serious suggestion for a new captcha system" or hed just make us look bad. you know what i mean?

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  69. That word, it doesn't mean what you think it means. A simulacrum implies imperfection already. You probably meant 'perfect copy' instead.

    Also it's 'Simulacrum', 'Simulacra' is plural.

    Or were you just trying to sound smart? :<

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  70. actually it means exactly what I think it means. but thanks for trying?

    it's one of those words where the plural and singular never sticks for some reason, despite repeated use. I'll use one and mean the other. mostly people don't care because they know what i mean, but sometimes it bothers some pedants--which, let's be honest, I'm all about pissing off pedants, so i've got no real reason to correct myself.

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  71. Nobody in particularOctober 26, 2010 at 10:18 PM

    So...uh. New comic, you guys. I think it sucks. What do you guys think?

    ReplyDelete
  72. Man, this blog has really gone downhill since Carl left. It seems like there's no real analysis anymore, and that it's been replaced by empty attacks on Randal, his fans, etc. There's this assumption that every xkcd will be unassailably terrible. You could probably write these posts ahead of time and then just fill in a few blanks with details when the comic goes up. Actually, you probably do. Also, while I didn't find this comic (or most other xkcds) funny, there's something about the concept of a joke that it lost on the writer. You're not supposed to take it so fucking seriously. If you semantically analyze every syllable of anything you'll find it to be largely meaningless. This is not a surprising phenomenon.

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  73. 811: I think I have absolutely no idea what it's about.

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  74. I think the new one is sort of sweet, actually. Not brilliant. But sweet, in a naive way.

    Does Beret Guy have any track record of being naive and/or sweet, or is this just another example of how Randall can't maintain personality traits of his few repeating characters?

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  75. that's pretty much beret guy's only real trait. cf. woodpecker, his mother in outer space, etc.

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  76. @Sven

    Beret man is worried that when light hits our retina that means that it dies. He therefore gets a mirror, and reflects the light back into space so that it may continue its journey and live.

    It's another comic on the order of 162. Not designed to be humorous, but attempts to invoke some other emotion.

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  77. Okay, I did not get that at all. I thought that the girl was saying *they* were somehow dying out there while watching the stars, and then Beret Guy getting a mirror was just a completely nonsensical.

    Mind you, it's still nonsensical, but slightly less so.

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  78. Also I don't think relativity works like that SPERGE SEPRGE

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  79. Arthur Why are you such a sperglord?

    Your comment adds nothing to the conversation other than "LOL im a physics grad student!" and your 'insight' is irrelevant.

    It's like you're some kind of watered down version of randall monroe.

    I'd have to look over my relativity again but I'm sure that photon journeys being instentaneous from the reference frame of the photon sounds a little off.

    That being said I haven't seriously looked at relativity for some years, and randall probably looked at the wikipedia page thirty minutes before posting the comic so chances are he could be right.

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  80. Actually, everything is quantifiable. No theoretical result prevents the quantification of messages as constructive/non constructive. The trick here is that we do not know exactly how to quantify them. That is where statistical measures come in (and i'm not talking about simple statistics such as averages). Unless you are evoking any "mystical qualities" of languages, any message can be classified using the very same methods any humans uses. We just don't know these methods yet.

    You also fail to understand the method proposed (?) by Randall. It is not a simple voting system, the user is also required to make another set of constructive comments, which presumably will be fed to the learning filtering system. Your analysis on why such system would fail is therefore incomplete and inaccurate.

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  81. @3.06 -
    the method doesnt work, whether you understand it or not.
    the new user votes on a selection of posts, ok. there must be some margin for error here, or human beings would get it wrong as we have different views. so a randomly answering spambot would, eventually (in this context meaning 'within a few seconds') get it right after a few tries.
    so. that part of it fails at keeping spambots out.
    then on to the next part, which is a bit unclear.
    the new user makes a series of posts. these are then up/downvoted. who by?
    if by other new users, the system has nothing to check that these posts are what they're supposed to be.
    if by existing users, then a real person is having to read them anyway, and they could just as easily use any other method.
    if by an automated system, then the spambots would just use the SAME automated system.
    whichever system is used, its pointless.

    there is nothing here that actually does what randal proposes it would do. none of this keeps spambots out. none of this encourages the evolution of spambots. none of this keeps random trolls out.
    it is a terrible system, and there is no joke attached.

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  82. I'm sorry, but I think you're off to a completely wrong path: Randall _is making a joke_; you're bashing this comic because the technical idea he's outlining doesn't work/is flawy. This is a completely separate matter, and an invalid one to pick if you want to criticize his writing.

    I love xkcd and even though I absolutely agree that many of the recent comics are far worse than some of the older ones, I think you really need to step back on this one (or at least find some other reason). Personally, #810 was really funny to me.

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  83. 811 is pretty cute. It is not particularly funny, but it is sweet.

    The ALT fell flat though.

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  84. @Pietro -
    what joke is he making?
    is it just "lol, wouldnt it be funny if spambots were the most constructive and helpful part of a community?!" - because thats not really a joke, more a sad commentary on the state of most forums.

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  85. actually like this one


    but the black on grey is lazy

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  86. Oh, hey, wow a beret man comic. This would probably work as a Family Circus, in that Jeffy would be just as unfunny as he already is, there would be just more Sagan and less Jesus overtones.

    I like the not funny comics sometimes, like the rover one, I enjoyed the anthropomorphic personification of Spirit. But the new one is meh, and seemingly hard to understand by other people. Not because the concepts are hard to comprehend or that those people are dumb, but more so because Randall can't write worth a damn. Also one fucking line depicting the surface would have been nice.

    It makes a good goatkcd at least (who am I kidding, most of them are brilliant), but it would have been better if they included the distorted goat man on the mirror part of the frame beret man was carrying.

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  87. I could be wrong (ie didn't work at nasa for 4 months) but I didn't think relativity worked that way

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  88. Any post beginning with the word "Actually" communicates to the reader "I'm a pretentious douche -- you can stop reading, glaze over my text, and substitute in the phrase 'I'm better than you, and that's why you should accept that you're wrong'". For actual.

    811 is cute, and I'm fine taking it as that. I'll even ignore that the stars keepchanging, because hey, maybe they're "glittering" at the exact moment the "picture" was "taken".

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  89. Rob - how does it feel to know that one day, one of those nerds you so revile will write a program that immitates you better than you do? Does it frighten you? Does it annoy you? You'll be replaced soon enough, your existence is utterly fucking irrelevent. The English language you so love will be bent and twisted into algorithms that most people won't even be able to distinguish from the real thing. And no one will care.

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  90. If xkcd* were cum, Randy's would be the pearly white sticky salty load, Rob's would a nasty yellowish smelling excretion. If I absolutely had no choice about getting some on my face, I know which one I'd choose.

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  91. I never, ever expected to see the four words that started your post all together like that. Wow.

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  92. UndercoverCuddlefishOctober 27, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    lol 8:22 wants randall to jizz on his face

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  93. 811: Everyone's talking about the guy holding a mirror? It looks like an empty frame, and he's holding it up to frame the sky like a piece of art. So he's being quirky in the "put a dead battery in a coffin" rather than "trying to resuscitate his lobster."
    I guess it's possible it's a mirror, and that's his body reflected being reflected, but it could also be his other arm.

    Man if he wasn't a stick figure, it feels like this wouldn't be ambiguous.

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  94. @8:22

    Keep your bukaki fetishes on your xkcd 'fora' please.

    Besides we all know that Randy's would be the clear kind, generated by a woman during cunnilingus, it's the kind you have to willingly press your face into to even get it on there.

    Rob, however, is a squirter.

    Captcha: wetilds

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  95. @Horseface

    "Arthur Why are you such a sperglord?"

    Because I was crowned king of the spergs in the the winter of 1453, the salad days of the sperg kingdom.

    "Your comment adds nothing to the conversation other than "LOL im a physics grad student!" and your 'insight' is irrelevant."

    I only brought up myself being a grad student because someone brought up being a nobel prize laureate. When Rob attacks nerds for attempting to attack problems in fields they don't understand very well, I think it's pretty damn relevant if he uses a nonsense statement like "reduce it to numbers". Do I need to spell it out for you?

    "and randall probably looked at the wikipedia page thirty minutes before posting the comic so chances are he could be right."

    Well shit horseface. I didn't know that in order to be insightful one should say that Randall may or may not be right. You've really narrowed down the options!

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  96. I thought 811 was okay, once I actually got it. I had difficulty figuring out what Beret-man was carrying however- at first I thought it was an empty picture-frame, and was really confused. Possibly because you can see the arm he is carrying the mirror with THROUGH the "mirror." Or is that supposed to be his stick torso? The art is so bad it is impossible to tell.

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  97. Okay, apparently emmer beat me to it while I was writing my post.

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  98. Or, looking at the times, I guess I forgot to refresh the page.

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  99. Why do the commenters here always go on and on bashing Rob about being a hambeast?

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  100. Because Rob is a hambeast.

    I-I don't see what's so hard to get about this.

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  101. Did anyone else buy Machine of Death? Apparently Randal has a story in it, which worries me. Writing was never his strong suit.

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  102. I've never seen a picture of him so I wouldn't know. I assumed you guys were going just by what he says, but Rob's a fucking liar and can't be trusted.

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  103. I dunno, from his pic Rob doesn't look THAT fat. I mean, if I dressed up as Rob for halloween I wouldn't be able to make it through doors but that's not as big as you guys make him out to be.

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  104. So how long do you think it will take Randall to fix the typo in today's strip?

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  105. I agree with what HORSE said. The attitude of all reviews is that the comic is immediately going to suck. You can't do that, and also not be a biased critique at the same time.

    While the reviews are often accurate at heart, all the stupid Randall-is-forever-alone-type jokes, both from Rob and the people who frequent this blog, are horribly overdone.

    Try to be more original, and stop using those jokes as a back up when you can't think of anything clever to fill in the space.

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  106. I too, immediately thought "picture frame" when I read 811. It didn't even cross my mind that the character was Beret Man. The beret coupled with the picture frame led me to believe "artist thinking he's artsy". Which is perfectly reasonable considering the endless sack of boredom that is xkcd. I think a mirror is *slightly* better, but it still leaves me asking "Why?"

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  107. @everyone who says that the attitude is biased:

    *cough* http://xkcdsucks.blogspot.com/2010/03/youre-just-biased.html *cough*

    Oh, and it looked like a mirror to me.

    Captcha: emess. A mess on the internet, e.g. this comment thread, hur hur hur.

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  108. Spergface SpergussonOctober 27, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    Arthur you sperg of spergs most divine, "reduce it to numbers" is an expression that means essentially parsing the problem or describing it in a technical manner while somehow removing something of it in that manner.

    i.e. the system you descibed in your first post about simplyfing your calculations.

    Of course you would take it literally, sperg.

    also only you claimed to be offering insight.

    SPERG SPERG SPERG
















    SPERG

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  109. @ 11:43

    The attitude of all reviews is that the comic is immediately going to suck. You can't do that, and also not be a biased critique at the same time.

    And the attitude of all the fans is that the comic is going to be funny and awesome, and is not going to suck. That's also biased. In fact, it's WORSE because people normally aren't fans of things they hate. Thus, the ones who think it's going to suck can be pleasantly surprised by a comic they think is good (Carl has had posts where he said "Hey this one wasn't terrible, I kind of like it"), but the fans will rabidly defend the terrible ones despite how bad they are.

    It's also impossible to be completely neutral about something you constantly read. Either you will like it or you don't, and then oops, bias. The only way to (mostly) avoid bias would be to have a different person every update who has never heard of xkcd before review one comic, and only one comic. Even then you couldn't completely get rid of bias, because some of those people may hate math/science, may prefer more crude/lowbrow humor, or have other quirks that would predispose them to like/dislike the one comic they saw.

    Besides everyone has bias. I'm sure when movie critics went in to see Baby Geniuses 2 that none of them were thinking anything other than "Well this will be complete garbage." That doesn't make every review of that movie off-base or wrong or even unfair.

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  110. @Spergface Spergusson

    I never used the word insight. No matter, though. Certainly I wrote what I did because I thought it was worth saying. Even if it was purely masturbatory.

    "'reduce it to numbers' is an expression that means essentially parsing the problem or describing it in a technical manner while somehow removing something of it in that manner."

    According to who? To me it comes of as a phrase used by the sort of Luddite who laments that science, rather novels, is the principle source of knowledge today. Even worse, it comes off as Rob complaining that nerds try to solve problems in a different way than he thinks they should be attacked.

    However, I am of the belief that this isn't what Rob intended. I quote again Paul Krugman:

    "Things like this often happen when economists deal with physical scientists; the hard-science guys tend to assume that we’re witch doctors with nothing to tell them, so they can’t be bothered to listen at all to what the economists have to say, and the result is that they end up reinventing old errors in the belief that they’re deep insights."

    So then it has nothing to do with mathematics, or numbers. It has to do with the sort of person who thinks that a problem is easy, and doesn't understand why others have so much trouble with it!

    But this bridge goes both ways. There is always the "coffee house philosopher" who will tell me all about how simple and obvious relativity theory really is. And they just can't understand why it took the physicists so long to figure the darn thing out!

    So there. Perhaps that's what I should have said the first time.

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  111. I'm with emmer, LostInSpace and Kevin. It's a picture frame.

    Once I figured out the "joke", I realized it was supposed to be a mirror, and on closely examining panel 5, his arm does appear to be reflected. Randall "Floaty" Munroe often draws extraneous lines in random places, so I didn't notice the arm on first reading.

    I believe Floaty intends the extraneous lines to represent migratory necks and/or the part of the ass that should contact the chair. It's part of his disturbingly Cronenbergian visual style.

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  112. ScottMcFUCK THE COMIC IS STUPID BUT YOU GUYS ARE SOMEHOW STUPIDEROctober 27, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    it being a picture frame is stupid.
    First of all, the "arm" that you can see uh.. it doesn't fit with his hand or with the little bit of arm you can see over it at all. It fits with his body perfectly.
    Also, the cluster of stars at the top of the frame? What, did you think that they were actually there, but that everything around it was black? It is clearly the top of the reflection.

    Also, mirror fits into the narrative about seventeen trillion times better.

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  113. wait I MISREAD.
    ignore that i suck cocks
    I was personally thinking "wait what is that" and decided on mirror before i decided on anything else but whatever

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  114. @ 5:20 Yeah, I think it IS supposed to be funny, and that IS the joke- "lol, wouldnt it be funny if spambots were the most constructive and helpful part of a community?!"

    This is pretty standard Randy humor- "LOL wouldn't it be funny if technology acted like people?" and/or "LOL wouldn't it be funny if people acted like technology?" Considering he's made that exact same joke in multiple comics, we can pretty safely assume that this is the joke here. And then he threw in the word "fucking" and some full stops in the last panel to make the end "punchier" because some people still think random profanity is funny. That's the joke.

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  115. Scott, yes a mirror fits the narrative better. That's how I figured out what it was. Randall is working in a visual medium. The fact that 4 of us have commented on having trouble figuring out what he was depicting (even if we eventually figured it out) speaks to Randall's failure as an artist. I can't draw either, but I'm not making a comic.

    Comics are an overdetermined medium; every line should represent a conscious choice by the artist. Randall frequently has "extra" lines in the comic, and also draws figures that float over chairs while their heads float over their bodies. Given the overdetermined nature of comics, we should consider that the "extra" lines aren't truly extra (i.e., are not mistakes on the artists part).

    I propose that the extra lines are consciously placed by the artist and represent the "missing" neck and ass which have taken up a migratory existence independent of the rest of the body. I'll accept that the extra line is this particular strip is actually a reflected arm, but the migratory appendage is a major theme in Randall's work, so confusion is understandable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jooler/List_of_films_featuring_independent_body_parts

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  116. Sepia I said i misread and that i am an idiot geeze do not mock me further :'(

    i think one dude actually said it was more likely a picture frame than a mirror though, one dude is even dumber than me. fucking one dude

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  117. Call me crazy, but I thought beret guy was Randy, and he was looking at himself in the mirror.

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  118. I meant to post this comment earlier, but I don't think it went through.

    I just wanted to mention how much I appreciate this blog. I found it recently and it has been something I have checked each day since. I go to MIT where everyone seems to love XKCD and think it's the funniest thing in the world. There are more than a few people here who can bond with both Randall's need to feel superior and poor sense of humor. I am constantly attacked with it, in the halls, on tests, and even on homework. That is not to say everyone here is so ridiculous, but it really is annoying.

    Essentially XKCD represents all of the problems of MIT's population.

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  119. @Sepia

    "I can't draw either, but I'm not making a comic."

    WELL WHERE'S YOUR COMIC THEN IF YOU THINK XKCD IS SO BAD?

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  120. Arthur, I hope you're joking because that's really ignorant.

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  121. @Anon

    No blanket stop! It's ignorant. You're being ignorant!

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/154561/thats-ignorant

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  122. Now that I look closely, yeah, I guess there's a crummy little knob that could be somebody's hand, and like five white pixels that have no reason for being there if it's an empty frame. So, I guess I'm some kind of asshole for not noticing that.
    I think that even a single line in the background might have made it obvious, but whatever, apparently the vast majority of people got this.

    Seriously dude, I'm just some chump on the internet. Calm down.

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  123. Arthur, how the hell does that apply to anything I said?
    In case you haven't read, there's this lovely answer (Also linked to in this lovely blog's lovely FAQ) about the subject of criticism, and responses to it.

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  124. Oh hey look, A Softer World sort of did Randy's joke from 770 only Joey and Emily managed to remove the creepiness and awkwardness and vague undertones of paedophilia.

    Also I thought this was an empty frame and didn't get the joke (it's so beautiful he has to frame it?). The mirror does make more sense. Unfortunately when your comic is so badly drawn. SO BADLY DRAWN. Then items like mirrors become harder to identify as such if you don't jump to the right conclusion first time.
    And sure, if you think about it in terms of the comic's story, only a mirror makes sense. But his other comics are often so poorly written and thought out. SO POORLY. That you can't blame someone for assuming he's just failed to understand what a joke is, once again.

    I feel like he's read about jokes in books and has some idea that they need to be structured in a certain way and feature certain elements. But he has no idea how to actually identify one so he cobbles together a selection of wackiness, sentimentality, sexual references and observations aimed at aspies. And then hopes that somehow it becomes "funny" in his readers' minds.

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  125. Anon 8:43: Arthur is trolling. Pay no attention to him, for attention is his nourishment. If you acknowledge his feigned stupidity, he will only continue to spiral downward into the depths of internet blackness.

    @Arthur: Damn you, man, DAMN YOU! Is there any low to which you will not sink?!?

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  126. I, too, initially thought it was a mirror and thought he wanted to "frame" it. and it DOES make sense in the narrative considering the fact that beret man is FUCKING STUPID AND WACKY and would do a totally random, arbitrary thing.

    Of course, once someone said "mirror" it made a lot more sense.

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  127. ehh. initially thought it was a FRAME. IGNORE ME.

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  128. Wow - I'm completely surprised you missed metioning Slashdot - one of the more nerdy sites on the web (which also gives props to XKCD on a regular basis).

    Is that because this system is already in place? And it works? All your arguments saying that such a system can't work is instantly invalidated by the fact that the system already exists and does work.

    The major difference between what Randal described and Slashdots Method is that Slashdot only allows people do up-mod or down-mod comments if they contribute to the site long enough and get enough moderated comments themselves, and even then, you are not always capable of dealing out mod points, its randomly selected from their top contributors and they get to give out a set amount when they get awarded it.

    As such, Spambots never get mod points. Informative or Insightful posts get modded up or down - if its a post that can go either way it normally gets modded up and down by a number of moderators. This ensures that the best comments are always highly rated - and the low ones can be filtered out.

    You'll likely retort with the idea that it encourages some kind of favouratism on the site, that those with mod points end up modding up each other so they stay on top - but thats generally just a side effect because the ones with Mod points are always the ones making constructive posts.

    XKCD may not be amazing but don't go and say his idea is completely invalid if you have no clue how computers work or even how a tweaked version of the system could operate nominally.

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  129. @Anon

    Well shit, Anon. I've never read any of Stephen Bonds work before. And I definitely didn't reference another of his articles in an earlier comment or anything...

    (Btw, this is the sarcasm! Lolz!)

    @Alsworth

    No. There is no low that I won't go. Except of course to the depths of the Underdark-bad-sad, where Illithids wander.

    In my defense I wasn't trying to get a negative reaction from that comment. I was trying to invoke laughter.

    I thought it was very funny that Sepia felt the need to say that he can't draw well. We should all know that doesn't affect his criticism. I attempted to use hyperbolic rhetoric to drive the point home that one's own artistic ability doesn't affect one's critiques of art.

    Next time I'll make sure to spell out all of my jokes. Hence the parentheses above.

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  130. UndercoverCuddlefishOctober 28, 2010 at 1:05 AM

    @11:23 your reading comprehension is literally identical to that of a sack of penguin shit

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  131. @11:23
    so this system already exists?
    there are hyper-intelligent AIs operating on slashdot *right now*?! cool!
    or did you mean 'something a bit like this, vaguely, already exists'? i think thats more likely.
    of course, the system you describe is not a replacement for captcha - down-rating comments after they are posted (or moderating them away by some other means) is a poor substitute for something blocking those comments from being posted in the first place.

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  132. Title: ReCAPTCHA
    Panel 1. I need to scan all these books, but OCR technology is unreliable.
    Panel 2. I'll set up a CAPTCHA of the scanned words where one word is known but one is not and assume that multiple matches means the word has been correctly interpreted.
    Panel 3. But what will you do when spammers make better OCR that can read all the words?
    Panel 4. Mission Fucking Accomplished

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  133. Andrew, congratulations for re-writing Randall's comic in a way that would actually make sense.

    @11:23, the the parts of Randall's "plan" that we take issue with is not currently utilized on Slashdot or any other site which currently allows you to up- or down-mod comments.

    Captcha: lymers: Those infected with Lyme's Disease. They carry a bell on a staff and hide in the bushes when others pass.

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  134. *are not utilized

    That's what I get for changing "part" to "parts" and then not re-reading.

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  135. @Andrew

    Good rewrite!

    Now that an existing, usable system has been put in place, it is less funny but easier to criticize.

    If this was done before the advent of reCAPTCHA it would have been brilliant (since reCAPTCHA is brilliant). But humor is definitely lost if it was done after the fact, even if you add something like [2008] to distinguish that this is happening in the past, the punchline doesn't work.

    Which I come full circle back to my original post on this where none of mine work well either, since it assumes advanced AI will be developed because of this instead of just better way to do OCR/image recognition (the "That's a problem?" one seems to work still, but is only relatively funnier IMO).

    So the crux of what's wrong with the comic isn't that the system he describes sucks (which is true), it's that the punchline sucks.

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  136. "Wow - I'm completely surprised you missed metioning Slashdot - one of the more nerdy sites on the web (which also gives props to XKCD on a regular basis).

    Is that because this system is already in place? And it works? All your arguments saying that such a system can't work is instantly invalidated by the fact that the system already exists and does work."

    no, it's actually because I mentioned Reddit, which also "has this system in place." it doesn't actually, of course--Randy is proposing a filter that will automatically identify constructive comments based on previous votes--but the reason I didn't mention Slashdot is I'd already mentioned something with an identical system.

    "You'll likely retort with the idea that it encourages some kind of favouratism on the site, that those with mod points end up modding up each other so they stay on top - but thats generally just a side effect because the ones with Mod points are always the ones making constructive posts."

    no, the ones with the most mod points are the ones the other mods/the admins like the most. giving the buddies of the higher-ups power to arbitrate the community just makes the community into a big circle-jerk--which, incidentally, is what Slashdot and Reddit are.

    "XKCD may not be amazing but don't go and say his idea is completely invalid if you have no clue how computers work or even how a tweaked version of the system could operate nominally. "

    actually--hang on, did you actually read my fucking post? like, you are addressing points that I already made, in the post. I have already responded to all of these, in the post. are you illiterate or just stupid?

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  137. UndercoverCuddlefishOctober 28, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    rob i would like to direct you to my 1:05 comment which reaches the same conclusion in much less time and with much more clarity

    captcha: dings haha

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  138. whatever man you don't understand me and also are not my real dad

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  139. I could be wrong, but it seems like the point of the spam filter here isn't to rate comments as they're posted on the board. Instead it seems like it's supposed to filter users signing up for an account. If you start with a large enough library of short passages (3-4 sentences maybe) that either make sense or don't, you could eliminate a large amount of spam. Right now, natural language processing is really difficult for computers because, as this post pointed out, language isn't readily reducible to numbers with a true/false value. Sentences can be grammatically correct but meaningless and useless. (For example, "If purple tastes confine the frequencies, we will ceaselessly become loud oranges.") Because our brains are "built" for natural language with meaning, you may find yourself trying to turn it into metaphors that make sense. But the sentence is clearly nonsense. It's easy for a human to know this, even with a rudimentary grasp of English. (Clearly tastes can't be purple, nor can they confine anything, and frequencies aren't typically *confined* anyway.) But you could easily diagram that sentence, identify the nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc., which are all used grammatically. Computers (so far) see this but have a hard time distinguishing nonsense from sense.

    A more sophisticated, but also more potentially ambiguous approach would be to use factual and ridiculous statements. (Factual: Elephants are large animals. Ridiculous: All colors are always black.) Both statements have a clear statement and meaning, but one is clearly accurate and the other is clearly not.

    The idea behind either of these two approaches is that a computer program that seeks to defeat this filter must be so good that it ceases to be useless. Even if it continues to peddle penis enlarging pills, it has also solved natural language processing problems for us! And as the title text indicates, it also prevents people who have a similarly low grasp of how to make sense in the language from joining the discussion. Presumably if you don't know enough English to recognize one of my examples as nonsense or ridiculous, you are unlikely to be able to contribute meaningfully to the discussion anyway.

    (Of course, in practice, you may want to have a set of 4 or more statements that users must categorize correctly to reduce the number of bots getting in through lucky guessing.)

    By asking users to submit coherent ideas, you can increase the size of your library very easily. You would test them by mixing them in with the verified questions and seeing how consistently users classify them as coherent; until they are verified, they wouldn't affect the users' score either way. (For those who don't do psych or stats, this is frequently how those assessment questionnaires are developed.) If everyone considers them nonsense, then it was probably garbage from the user who submitted it; if it's mixed, it may just be ambiguous. But if 95 or more out of 100 people consider it to be sane and logical, it can be added to the database. New junk sentences can be created by randomly selecting nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. to form sentences (think Mad Libs, but for almost *every* word in the sentence).

    Voila! You now have created (1) a good spam filter, (2) user quality control, and possibly (3) encouraged the development of natural language processing software which could have a variety of practical and helpful uses. Sounds like a pretty good day's work.


    On second thought, that may not be what the comic is actually saying, but my plan would probably work.

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  140. i could be wrong, but i feel like you're missing the point of the comic. admittedly, as i wrote the previous sentence, i realised that the point of the comic is first to be funny, so you're right that it fails its most important job. anyway, the crucial part of the proposed system is that in the first frame. the very first responders to a particular thread would be presented with a set of comments - not from the thread, but examples of comments already identified by the admins or whoever as being constructive or otherwise. they are only allowed to post if their rating of these comments coincides with the estimation of the admins. the idea is that the people with access to the thread are already more reasonable than most commenters and the admins can therefore rely on them to rate subsequent comments fairly.

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  141. That's not what the comic says, @10:02.

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  142. that doesn't really bypass the problems I mentioned with the system, anyway--it just makes the road to a circle jerk a lot shorter.

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  143. I dunno; for the context, the bots could be programmed to recognize key phrases, but it would be incredibly long and tedious to make. Of course, we're looking at a bunch of people who have a LOT of free time on their hands.

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