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xkcd
Xkcd philosophy.png

Author(s) Randall Munroe
Website http://xkcd.com/
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Current status / schedule Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
Launch date September 2005
Genre(s) Geek humor

xkcd is a webcomic created by Randall Munroe,[1][2] a former contractor for NASA.[3] The comic’s tagline describes it as “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”[4][5] It is widely read[6] and has been recognized in such mainstream media as The Guardian[7] and The New York Times.[8]

According to Munroe, the comic’s name has no particular significance and is simply a four-letter word without a phonetic pronunciation, something he describes as “a treasured and carefully guarded point in the space of four-character strings.” The name of the comic is preferably spelled in all lowercase letters, or all capitals.[5] The subject matter of the comic varies, including statements on life and love (some love strips are simply art with poetry), and mathematical or scientific in-jokes. Some strips feature simple humor or pop-culture references. Although it has a cast of stick figures,[2][9] the comic occasionally features landscapes, intricate mathematical patterns such as fractals (for example, strip #17 “What If” shows an Apollonian gasket), or imitations of the style of other cartoonists (as during “Parody Week“).

The comic is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.[10] New comics are added three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays[3] at midnight Eastern Time,[11] although on five occasions so far they have been updated every weekday: Parody Week, the “Choices” series, the “1337” series, the “Secretary” series, and the “The Race” series.

Contents

[hide]

[edit] History

Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd

The comic began in September 2005 when Munroe decided to scan doodles from his school notebooks and put them on his webpage. Eventually the comic was changed into a standalone website, where Munroe started selling t-shirts based on the comic. He currently “works on the comic full time,”[5] making xkcd a self-sufficient webcomic.

In May 2007, the comic caught the attention of many by depicting online communities in geographic form.[12] Various websites were drawn as continents, each sized according to their relative popularity and located according to their general subject matter.[12] This put xkcd at number two on The Post-Standards “The new hotness” list.[13]

xkcd is not an acronym, and Munroe attaches no meaning to the name, except in a joking manner within the comic.[14] He claims that the name was originally a screen name, which he selected as a combination of letters that would be meaningless, as well as phonetically unpronounceable.[3][5] Some people have, however, inferred other potential meanings for the term xkcd: the Short Minds webcomic, for example, makes much of the fact that the ordinal values of the letters X, K, C and D add up to 42, Douglas Adams‘ celebrated Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.[15]

On September 23, 2007, hundreds of people gathered at 42°23′44″N 71°07′50″W / 42.39561°N 71.13051°W / 42.39561; -71.13051, a park in North Cambridge, Massachusetts whose coordinates were mentioned in a strip, #240. The strip’s author appeared, commenting, “Maybe wanting something does make it real,” reversing the conclusion in the last frame of the same strip.[16][17]

In October 2008, The New Yorker magazine online published an interview and “Cartoon Off” between Randall Munroe and Farley Katz. For the “Cartoon-Off,” Katz and Munroe each drew: “the Internet, as envisioned by the elderly,” “String Theory,” “1999,” and “your favorite animal eating your favorite food.”[18]

[edit] Recurring items

While there is no specific storyline to the comic, there are some recurring themes[19] and characters, many of which are touched on in an xkcd parody of the Discovery Channel‘s I Love the World commercial.[20]

[edit] Themes

Wikipedian Protester“, with title-text “SEMI-PROTECT THE CONSTITUTION”

A large number of the strips are mathematics or computer science jokes. These jokes often feature university-level subjects, although many are written in such a way that a clear understanding of the subject is not required to get the punch line. Romance is another subject often visited in the comic, with many strips not intended to be humorous.[19] There are also many strips opening with “My Hobby:” and usually depicting the nondescript narrator character describing some type of humorous or quirky behavior often involving language games.[21] References to Wikipedia articles or to Wikipedia as a whole are an occasional theme in xkcd.[22] xkcd also frequently makes reference to Munroe’s “obsession” with potential raptor attacks,[23][24] and to many “your mom” jokes.[25] There have also been several strips featuring “Red Spiders” and Joss Whedon’s short-lived series Firefly.

Each comic also has a tooltip, specified using the title attribute in HTML. The text usually contains an afterthought or annotation related to that day’s comic which is known as alternate text.[26]

[edit] Characters

This section may contain original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding references. Statements consisting only of original research may be removed. More details may be available on the talk page. (January 2010)
Question book-new.svg

This section needs references that appear in reliable third-party publications. Primary sources or sources affiliated with the subject are generally not sufficient for a Wikipedia article. Please add more appropriate citations from reliable sources. (March 2010)

Although Munroe does not maintain a list of characters on his web site, some recurring characters can be identified by their visual features (for example, hats) and mannerisms.

  • A man who looks like a normal stick-figure xkcd character, but for the addition of a black hat. The man’s hat is a reference to Aram from the now-defunct webcomic Men in Hats, not to black hat hackers as is often supposed.[27][28] This character first appeared in the comic Poisson (the twelfth comic published on the website).[29] The character refers to himself as a “Classhole” (a portmanteau of “classy” and “asshole”).[30] He does not shy from pointing out the failures of others and has at times used extreme violence in order to emphasize a point.[31][32] In the January 30, 2008 comic, his hat was taken by a woman, though he later retrieved his hat by stealing a nuclear submarine and using it to crash through the ice where she was skating. The latest appearance of the two together was comic #669.[33] The character is one of the most frequently occurring in the comic, though he remains unnamed (he was referred to in the tooltip for comic #493 as “hat guy”).[34] In the “Secretary” story arc, he is nominated for the post of Secretary of the Internet when the Internet has started to collapse, but after a variety of hijinks involving Ron Paul, Cory Doctorow, and the Auto-Troll Shuffle, is sentenced to death, escaping by filling the Capitol rotunda with plastic ball pit-style balls, which distracts the pursuers, while he flees on Doctorow’s hot-air balloon.[35]
  • The most common recurring female “character” is known as Megan in several strips; she was first referred to by name in comic #159 – Boombox,[36] and again several times afterward.[37][38][39] She is recognized by her short, dark hair.
  • A boy in a barrel appeared in five early strips. Unlike most other characters, he is not a stick figure. He was repeatedly seen inside a barrel, floating in a large body of water. The boy in the barrel was one of many doodles in the older comics, but has not been seen since comic #31, in which he flew away with a ferret wearing a toy airplane.[40]
  • Another set of recurring characters is the nihilist and the beret-wearing existentialist. Until comic #291, they had only been seen together, never separately. They are first seen in the “Nihilism” comic,[41] and again in “Kayak,”[42] “Hypotheticals”,[43] and “Dark Flow.”[44]
  • Fictionalised versions of well known real-life figures in the computing and scientific community sometimes appear, such as free software advocates Richard Stallman,[45][46] Cory Doctorow,[46][47] and physicist Richard Feynman.[48][49]
  • Mrs. Roberts was a main character in the “1337”[50] series, and has appeared in other comics along with her children, Robert’); DROP TABLE Students;– aka “Little Bobby Tables,” (a reference to SQL injection) and Help I’m Trapped In A Driver’s License Factory Elaine Roberts, the protagonist of the “1337” series.[51]
  • Firefly character River Tam—and actress Summer Glau, who played her—has appeared in a few comics, usually in a dream sequence where a character in the strip makes reference to her.[52] Other Firefly cast members have appeared in the series [53] such as Nathan Fillion and many turn out to have similar personalities to their Firefly characters.

[edit] Inspired activities

A fan of “Wikipedian Protester” on a playground in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2007

On several occasions, fans have been motivated by Munroe’s comics to carry out, in real life, the subject of a particular drawing or sketch. Some examples include:

Richard Stallman is “attacked” by “ninjas”
Inspired by “Open Source

Cory Doctorow wears a red cape, goggles and a balloon as he receives the 2007 EFF Pioneer Award
Inspired by “Blagofaire

[edit] Awards and recognition

Please help improve this section by expanding it. Further information might be found on the talk page. (January 2009)

xkcd has been recognized at the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards. In the 2008 Awards, it was nominated for “Outstanding Use of the Medium,” “Outstanding Short Form Comic,” and “Outstanding Comedic Comic,” and won “Outstanding Single Panel Comic.”[67] xkcd was also voted Best Comic Strip by readers in the 2007 Weblog Awards[68] and 2008 Weblog Awards.[69] It was also nominated for a 2009 NewNowNext Award in the category ‘OMFG Internet Award’.[70][71]

[edit] Translations

Many xkcd comics have been translated into Spanish by one reader.[72] The comics available are the ones that, according to the translator, can be translated without losing their humor.[73] A community of readers translated nearly half of the comics into Russian,[74] and almost all of them into French.[75] There is also a German,[76] a Finnish,[77] and a Czech [78] translation.

[edit] Book

In September 2009 Munroe released a book, entitled xkcd: volume 0, containing selected xkcd comics. The book was published by breadpig, under a Creative Commons license, with a portion of the profits donated to Room to Read to build a school in Laos.[79]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Cohen, Noam (May 26, 2008). “This Is Funny Only if You Know Unix”. NYTimes.com. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/26/business/media/26link.html. Retrieved May 30, 2008. “… Randall Munroe, the 23-year-old creator of xkcd, a hugely popular online comic strip (at least among computer programmers)…” 
  2. ^ a b Guzmán, Mónica (May 11, 2007). “What’s Online”. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. D7. http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/315214_stayonline11.html. Retrieved May 30, 2008. “Created by math and programming geek Randall Munroe, the xkcd comic updates every Monday with a new adventure for its cast of oddball stick figures.” 
  3. ^ a b c Fernandez, Rebecca (November 25, 2006). “xkcd: A comic strip for the computer geek”. Red Hat Magazine. http://www.redhat.com/magazine/025nov06/features/xkcd/. Retrieved March 6, 2007. 
  4. ^ The Times (June 6, 2007) xkcd.com; The click; Wednesday. Section: Features; Page 4. (writing, “Web comics have thrived and one of the best is xkcd.com. The comic strip of ‘romance, sarcasm, math and language’ is brilliant on the stupidity of people who comment on YouTube videos and, oddly, how we take dreaming in our stride: ‘I’m gonna go comatose for a few hours, hallucinate vividly, then maybe suffer amnesia about the whole experience.'”)
  5. ^ a b c d “About xkcd”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/about/. Retrieved March 6, 2007. 
  6. ^ So, Adrienne (November 3, 2007). “Real Geek Heart Beats in Xkcd’s Stick Figures”. Wired. http://www.wired.com/entertainment/theweb/news/2007/11/xkcd. Retrieved September 17, 2008. 
  7. ^ 100 top sites for the year ahead The Guardian (18 December 2008). Retrieved on 18 December 2008.
  8. ^ When Pixels Find New Life on Real Paper The New York Times (19 April 2009). Retrieved on 21 April 2009.
  9. ^ Kalamazoo Gazette (August 17, 2006) Ad lib. Section: Ticket.
  10. ^ “License”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/license.html. Retrieved June 25, 2007. 
  11. ^ xkcd » Blog Archive » Ghost
  12. ^ a b Tossell, Ivor. (May 18, 2007) Globe and Mail We’re looking at each other, and it’s not a pretty sight. Section: The Globe Review 7; Page R24
  13. ^ Cubbison, Brian; Thompson, Keith. (May 6, 2007) The Post-Standard. Get each of these links at the news tracker blog at blog.syracuse.com/Newstracker and remember, our blogs don’t need www. our blogs start with blog. Section: News; Page A2.(Compiled from news services and online research by the authors)
  14. ^ “What xkcd Means (#207)”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/207/. Retrieved March 6, 2007. 
  15. ^ “x+k+c+d=42”. Short Minds. http://shortminds.com/2008/08/11/explaining-greatnes/. Retrieved September 6, 2008. 
  16. ^ Dream Girl (#240)
  17. ^ Cohen, Georgiana (September 26, 2007). “The wisdom of crowds”. The Phoenix. http://thephoenix.com/Boston/News/48208-wisdom-of-crowds/. Retrieved September 27, 2007. 
  18. ^ Katz, Farley (October 15, 2008). “Cartoon-Off: XKCD”. The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/cartoonlounge/2008/10/cartoonoff-xkcd.html. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  19. ^ a b Moses, Andrew (November 21, 2007). “Former NASA staffer creates comics for geeks”. The Gazette (University of Western Ontario). http://www.gazette.uwo.ca/article.cfm?section=Arts&articleID=1837&month=11&day=21&year=2007. Retrieved November 22, 2007. 
  20. ^ “xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel (#442)”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/442/. Retrieved June 27, 2008. 
  21. ^ See, for example, xkcd comics #37, #53, #60, #75, #79, #148, #168, #174, #236, #259, #287, #296, #326, #331, #389, #437, #451, #559, #590, #605 and #687.
  22. ^ See, for example, xkcd comics #155, #214, #256, #265, #285, #333, #444, #446, #451, #545, #547, #548 and #682.
  23. ^ O’Kane, Erin (April 5, 2007). “Geek humor: Nothing to be ashamed of”. The Whit Online. Archived from the original on February 3, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080203000441/http://media.www.thewhitonline.com/media/storage/paper291/news/2007/04/05/Features/Geek-Humor.Nothing.To.Be.Ashamed.Of-2823945.shtml. Retrieved April 23, 2007.www.thewhitonline.com%2Fmedia%2Fstorage%2Fpaper291%2Fnews%2F2007%2F04%2F05%2FFeatures%2FGeek-Humor.Nothing.To.Be.Ashamed.Of-2823945.shtml&rfr_id=info:sid/en.wikipedia.org:Xkcd”> 
  24. ^ See, for example, xkcd comics #87, #135, #155, #212 (ALT-text), and #292.
  25. ^ See, for example, xkcd comics #116, #176, #294 (ALT-text), #320, #366, and #681.
  26. ^ Peter Trinh (September 14, 2007). “A comic you can’t pronounce”. Imprint Online. http://imprint.uwaterloo.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1654&Itemid=56&issuedate=2007-09-14. Retrieved September 16, 2007. 
  27. ^ Zelinsky, Joshua (March 4, 2008). “Randall Munroe, writer of xkcd, talks about the comic, politics and the internet” (Interview). Wikinews. http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Randall_Munroe,_writer_of_xkcd,_talks_about_the_comic,_politics_and_the_internet. Retrieved September 22, 2008. 
  28. ^ “Hitler (#29)” (note the comic’s tooltip)
  29. ^ “Poisson (#12)”
  30. ^ Munroe, Randall (March 6, 2006). “Classhole (#72)”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/72/. Retrieved October 3, 2008. 
  31. ^ “Words that End in GRY (#169)”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/169/. Retrieved March 6, 2007. 
  32. ^ “Join Myspace (#146)”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/146/. Retrieved March 6, 2007. 
  33. ^ “Experiment (#669)”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/669/. Retrieved November 30, 2009. 
  34. ^ “Actuarial (#493)”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/493/. Retrieved July 31, 2008. 
  35. ^ “Secretary: Part 1”. http://xkcd.com/494. Retrieved January 21, 2009. 
  36. ^ Munroe, Randall (September 20, 2006). “Boombox (#159)”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/159/. Retrieved November 26, 2008. 
  37. ^ Munroe, Randall (January 26, 2007). “Letting Go (#215)”. xkcd. http://xkcd.com/215/. Retrieved November 26, 2008.spanspanspanspan

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Written by iNKV

April 1, 2010 at 16:17

Posted in Uncategorized

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