Elitist? Count me unimpressed
I got into xkcd years ago, back when it was probably on strip two hundred something. What it was then was slightly surreal and a refreshing touch of "hey remember those wierd things you used to do?"
Years later, what more has really been done? Maybe it has gotten more openly bitter about liberal arts and maybe had a few strips where the author thought he could make people aware of stuff. Mostly though, it feels like I've read the same 4 strips two hundred times a piece.
Mostly though it's the same old stuff only now it's wrapped up in the pretension of being "Genius Bonus" Science jokes while at the same time trying to appeal to a large audience. This means that really most of his jokes end up referencing 11th or 12th grade science and doing some cheap word play or clearly misunderstanding them. I'm a "liberal arts major" and honestly, I get most of his jokes, the ones I miss seem like something that can be thought of after skimming over a wiki page. There's no genuine wierdness or inspiration to them and so they get stale pretty quickly.
xkcd has been trapped between being the "Science" comic and appealling to a large audience [mostly of geeks granted] which limits anything really interesting that can be done with jokes. It's like referncing Plato's Cave or Schrodinger's Cat; It's a small part of a field that people who don't know what they are talking about cling to.
So it's turned to mentioning something you learnt in 11th grade and expecting you to be impressed or else just saying "Hey! I do wierd things too! Listen to me!". With that in mind, even the old jokes seem more trite.
He hit a niche before anyone else was willing to exploit it so directly: Pandering directly to nerd nostalgia that isn't based on brands. Which was nice for me until I saw what was happening. Now it just feels like he could say any wierd thought he's had and people who have had it will give a standing ovation. It feels sort of trapped in that stage we all had once where we'd say anything to fit in, without necessarily understanding it; "Hey Physics Majors! I hate Liberal Arts too!" or "Hey Internet! Isn't 4chan craaaaaaazy?"
Once you scratch past the surface, xkcd has nothing wierd and nothing interesting. Just empty stick figures telling you stuff you might recognize and hoping that it will amuse you.
21st Sep 12
I'm glad you linked to that. In spite of my previous criticisms of Xkcd, I was very much impressed when I saw it.
22nd Sep 12
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24th Sep 12
I'm not sure what you mean by "30/70s on praise to 'this is fun'"?
"He's being funny to people who've gone past secondary school": I didn't say no one over secondary school found him amusing, only that his comics had to appeal to people still going to Secondary and so it is typically fairly basic stuff. There are exceptions but they suffer from the same flaw:
"You know Obscure thing A? Me too. Haha."
It's worse when an example is highschool level because it's unimpressive in the first place but even past that, it's not going anywhere with anything and expecting us to be amused just because it made a reference to something we find amusing. It's like everything wrong with Big Bang Theory
without the consistant characters allowing for slightly more nuanced jokes over time.
Generally, I don't find any of his strips funny or insightful. Not inspiring but insightful. That includes conveying in some meaningful way the sheer size of distance. That would be insightful. Instead I grunted as I strolled over a series of uninspired one panels that wouldn't be worth individual publication as strips and moved slowly through as much of the canvas as I could both myself to. Only thing it conveyed to me is how far people will go to prove a point, or if I were a fan, I suppose it'd be some sort of metapoint about how hard we work for 100 percent completion without getting actual fulfillment for it.
You linked a single site twice. I'm really not sure what this says about the merit of xkcd. This is what is said on the site really makes me doubt any serious professional merit to it. It's pretty much just: "This looks cool. I endorse it."
That's not scientific or critical. I've seen a thousand blogs with more critical information on them, amateur or professional. I'm just genuinely unimpressed and am confused by the point you were trying to prove there.
The graph we are shown is just showing us a graphical way of saying "Jupiter is heavy and thus has large gravity." I learnt the relative size and weights of the planets in like grade 5. I didn't have the exact numbers memorized but I suspect the author checks his data as well. It doesn't seem brilliant or deserving of too much respect.
I'm not trying to disrespect him but nothing you've showed me or that I've seen has impressed me to the point where I think he out does anyone paid a large salary to do this. Plus I'm curious when you last sat down and tried to read something by someone in one of those fields before you start comparing them negatively to a stickfigure comic.
To university professors, I've seen many reference numerous things in classes in pretty much every subject to make things more relevant. Some groan while doing it, some after. This is a way of making a connection with students and serving as a start point for introducing a lecture, this doesn't prove anything more than popularity all said.
24th Sep 12
Well we've come to some places we're going to have to fundamentally differ on. You weren't impressed by the size comic, I was, I don't know that there's really anything more to discuss there, presumably it's just personal preference.
The reason why that blog saying 'that looks cool, I endorse it' is all they do all day is look at professionally created stuff and say whether it looks cool and they endorse it. For someone whose specialisation is data visualisation, that is taking concepts and information and displaying them in cool, interesting, easy to understand ways 'I know it's a comic, hand-drawn, and all stick-figurey and stuff, but Randall actually explains the concepts really well. There's good annotation, clear examples, and he's made an obscure topic easy to understand' is a huge endorsement. Because they say the same sort of thing about graphs made by the New York Times
and it puts him above the people the United Nations employ
and data visualisation is something which XKCD does a lot, sometimes it's not meant to be a joke and sometimes it's just meant to be data visualisation. Sure you knew the relative sizes and weights of the planets in grade 5 (although personally, I'm slightly impressed, I would never have committed that information to memory, even now) but data visualisation is about taking facts and presenting them in a way that conveys understanding to the brain. It's possible you're just very gifted at understanding and comparing numbers, it would explain why you weren't impressed by the size map either. I personally, even if I had looked at the numbers in year 5, would probably still have very little clue about what the relative sizes mean, so I love his Jupiter map as a clever way of respresenting and conveying that information to me.
... so the relevance of data visualisation to me. Well I'm a mathematician in training and at the moment I'm beginning to specialise in statistics and pure mathematics, so I have enough basic competence in the subject to know that the UN graph was shocking in comparison to the hand drawn stick comic (to be honest the UN graph was shocking compared to a lot of stuff even normal people would do) and I feel like as a partial outsider I at least understand the concepts and aims of data visualisation although I probably miss a lot of the subtle points. But generally I just read that blog and I was trusting them when they would describe comic a as being impressive and graph b by the guardian being weak for such and such reason.
... the rest I figure I was essentially wrong on and you were right, even I don't really know where I was going with :D
25th Sep 12
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25th Sep 12
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