xkcd: worse/same/better? Haters gon hate. Fanboys gon praise

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Nineteen
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xkcd: worse/same/better? Haters gon hate. Fanboys gon praise

Postby Nineteen » Fri Jul 01, 2011 11:25 pm UTC

My flatmate discovered XKCD ohh... about three years ago I think. He showed it to me and I fell in love with it.

But since Randall's illness stuff (when there were the guest comics and stuff) I said to my flat mate "XKCD is getting worse; it's much more hit-or-miss these days." He disagreed with me saying that "it's always been hit-or miss."

I think that the problem is that he's a psychologist and, as such, doesn't get half the jokes. I, on the other hand, am a big geek who DOES get most of the jokes. So to him it's always been hit-or-miss since he doesn't get the jokes about maths and stuff.

He says that since I discovered SMBC I've become spoilt by the consistently-laugh-out-loud humour therein and so I view XKCD as no longer being quite-as-good as it once was.

So I joined here to settle this argument: since the "illness stuff" has XKCD reduced in quality, has it become more hit-and-miss or is it the same as ever?

Thanks,

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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Beardhammer » Sat Jul 02, 2011 4:59 am UTC

I'd say it's still as good as ever. XKCD's always been hit-and-miss, though I'd say xkcd's accuracy stat is pretty good.

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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby poxic » Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:11 am UTC

Same as ever. When you first discover a comic, those ones become "classics" for you, for a couple of reasons.

For one, you probably went through the whole (smaller) archive and went yay...meh...meh...yay...meh...heh...meh...heh...yay...etc. in a single day. Or two days, or five. So it was an intense experience. Now, it's meted out over three days a week, so it's not an intense experience.

Also, and more importantly, you were still getting used to the author's style and way of looking at the world, back then. Now, you're used to the way Randall thinks. When you see a new xkcd, you think "yep, that's how he sees the world", rather than thinking "ooh, he's so original" all the time.

He's still his original, usual self. You're just used to him now. Just like I'm now used to SMBC after some years, so the meh-vs-yay ratio seems about the same to me as it does for xkcd. Five days a week* instead of three, so that does up the intensity a little bit, but the ratio remains about the same.

edit: does the SMBC guy do weekends? I can't remember offhand. If he does, then +intensity.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby elminster » Sat Jul 02, 2011 9:16 am UTC

As a long time reader, I'd say it's reasonably consistent. Although it seems that there's been less substantial comics lately compared to a while back*

Long time reader of SMBC too. SMBC is hard to beat really... it IS consistently funny. It's the only web comic I know for sure that I will surely enjoy reading it (I just read the latest one and lold). XKCD varies a lot more, but can obtain epic levels on more levels than SMBC even appeals to.

Perry bible fellowship needs to make a return... eventually.

*Time to program something to calculate a graph of the comic area moving average to check those suspicions
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Kewangji » Sat Jul 02, 2011 11:29 am UTC

poxic wrote:edit: does the SMBC guy do weekends? I can't remember offhand. If he does, then +intensity.

Yep. He's … productive. o_o

I agree with people who say xkcd's the same as ever.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Nineteen » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:46 pm UTC

Perry bible fellowship needs to make a return... eventually.


Ahh Perry Bible Fellowship. Does anyone else think that that is the most depressing comic ever? It's what I read when I'm feeling blue.

I just feel like recently the comic has focused less on humour - especially the most recent two.

Well I'll let me flatmate know the consensus!

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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Ptolom » Sat Jul 02, 2011 1:51 pm UTC

Nineteen wrote:
Perry bible fellowship needs to make a return... eventually.


Ahh Perry Bible Fellowship. Does anyone else think that that is the most depressing comic ever? It's what I read when I'm feeling blue.

That has got to be Pictures for Sad Children. Even though that has gone a bit strange recently.

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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Vaniver » Sat Jul 02, 2011 10:06 pm UTC

This argument has been going on for years. (For example, here's someone getting bored with xkcd in May of 2010. There was a blog about how xkcd sucks that had some discussion here a while back, but I can't find a link to the discussion (searching 'sucks' doesn't work, and I can't search for 'xkcd' due to it being common.). In that thread a number of people went back and rated all of the xkcds, getting a quantification of strip quality over time. I think the results of those quantifications were mixed but supported the idea that there was a year or two early in the comic that surpassed time before and after it.

My opinion is that the low-hanging fruit are mostly picked, and the magic is mostly gone. But it's still a good enough comic to keep in your RSS feed.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Kewangji » Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:56 am UTC

This is the thing of which Vaniver speaks: http://xkcdsucks.blogspot.com/
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Weeks » Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:25 am UTC

I think it could be the effect of reading the first few in a breeze, instead of having to wait. If you have to wait, an otherwise acceptable or "average" comic will be just bad. Also, over time we grow to expect more from the comic, and there's more people doing the expecting.

I don't think Randall could get away with doing #34, "Flowers" again. This comic (#54, Science) would be pure pandering now. And I bet if he made one of these (#39, Bowl) now, most people would think it's bad. On the other hand, a comic like #901, "Pregnant" (with a messier, more scribbly look) might just fit right in with the first few.

Regardless, I don't know if his comics are actually getting worse on average. I think they're getting verbose and he's referencing Wikipedia a lot more, but I can't provide good evidence for that beyond memory. Also, yeah, he's been dealing with family illness stuff for a good while, which might affect his creativity, sense of humor, overall mood, time to make the strip, etc.

Vaniver wrote:In that thread a number of people went back and rated all of the xkcds, getting a quantification of strip quality over time. I think the results of those quantifications were mixed but supported the idea that there was a year or two early in the comic that surpassed time before and after it.
Well, he started the comic when he was still working at NASA, and he began working full-time on the comic about a year later, when NASA didn't renew his contract. That might explain the "before" part of that.

I haven't missed a comic, but sometimes I'll stop reading it for weeks. When I first found it I thought it was outstanding and hilarious (and I think this will keep happening to many new readers), but I haven't and don't feel the need to follow it religiously, and rarely recommend it. I think it can be very funny if you read it without expecting too much.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Izawwlgood » Sun Jul 03, 2011 4:57 am UTC

... with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.

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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby SecondTalon » Sun Jul 03, 2011 5:49 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:This argument has been going on for years. (For example, here's someone getting bored with xkcd in May of 2010. There was a blog about how xkcd sucks that had some discussion here a while back, but I can't find a link to the discussion (searching 'sucks' doesn't work, and I can't search for 'xkcd' due to it being common.). In that thread a number of people went back and rated all of the xkcds, getting a quantification of strip quality over time. I think the results of those quantifications were mixed but supported the idea that there was a year or two early in the comic that surpassed time before and after it.

My opinion is that the low-hanging fruit are mostly picked, and the magic is mostly gone. But it's still a good enough comic to keep in your RSS feed.

You should have tried that as one word instead of two.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Vaniver » Sun Jul 03, 2011 6:48 am UTC

SecondTalon wrote:You should have tried that as one word instead of two.
Thanks! That's the discussion I was looking for.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby ShootTheChicken » Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:45 pm UTC

Kewangji wrote:This is the thing of which Vaniver speaks: http://xkcdsucks.blogspot.com/


Man, that guy just... man.

I can deal with people bashing things I like, but it's not even intelligent criticism.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby cephalopod9 » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:07 am UTC

I don't understand the fixation The Internet* has withing declaring the exact date when a serial media "jumped the shark". I can start to dissect it from a couple different angles, but I really just don't get it.

There's the compression effect, where not only does going through the archives at your first introduction give a more concentrated experience, the good stuff is more memorable so the past gets a major advantage when compared to the present.

There's also this weird Internet Game of trying to appear the least affected. Related to "trolling", where in the goal is to get others worked up while remaining aloof and unemotional, however that term has been diluted to apply to any antagonistic behavior. So there's some sense, in that context, in wanting to be above it all, or too cool to enjoy things. Yet it comes out in a particularly aggressive way with "things were good, but now they suck!".

It could be a way of externalizing one's diminishing ability to enjoy the same things over again, as well. I can sort of see how a person doesn't want to fully acknowledge that they are growing, aging, etc. and of course it's everything else that's moving and changing while you are a perfect, stationary, objective observer.

*I swear it's 40% of the discussion on IMDB: "Has [x show] jumped the shark??" it's episode 4!
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby phlip » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:52 am UTC

It's one of the many things on my "would be fun to do, eventually" is a BestThing-style voting site to put all the xkcd strips in order by popular vote... settle this argument once and for all...

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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby ShootTheChicken » Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:56 pm UTC

But it wouldn't actually, would it? It would just make everyone rank their fondest ones from the past and validate the whole discussion here that our first exposure was the bestest.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby phlip » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:40 pm UTC

Well, it'd at least eliminate the archive-binge bias... that the strips from before you started reading seem funnier because you're seeing them faster, and it's easier to forget the unfunny ones... It wouldn't get rid of the nostalgia filter on individual strips, of course.

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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby tastelikecoke » Wed Jul 06, 2011 9:13 am UTC

Anything before 600 is I would call the 'classics', while other people claim it's '<200' or '<400', so I guess the bias is really a bias. It still jars me when the xkcd strip is central to new technologies (or new shiny plastics) like iPad. It's like cutting a newspaper article and doodling about it. But Randall is still shining bright of awesomeness imo.

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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby thicknavyrain » Fri Jul 08, 2011 11:40 am UTC

Definitely still a completely enjoyable comic. Despite being a massive fan of SMBC, Perry Bible and quite a few more (Anybody like chainsawsuit?) XKCD manages to be one of the comics where I think "Oh yay! It updated!". It's not always rip-roaringly hilarious or insightful but it's pretty awesome and I'd say it's still very appealing in the same way it always was.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby willpellmn » Sat Jul 09, 2011 8:33 am UTC

I think the quality has maybe decreased a little but certainly not much. It's always been slightly hit-or-miss, though the margin seems a trifle wider. But there are still plenty of things that resonate with me (the most recent I can think of is the one where the new homeowner drills holes in his walls just because he could - I relate to that mentality a lot), and every now and again there's still a classic (the most recent one being "Advertisers"; I just howled at the line, "It would be hard for the phrase 'the more you spend, the more you save' to be more wrong".)

I can think of two major changes over the comic's lifetime. One, he has entirely stopped doing art, and his gorgeous colored-pencil-or-whatever drawings in the early part of the archive are something I miss greatly (the one with the mountain is my favorite, closely followed by the zero-gravity tree, and I consider the Red Spiders series a cult classic that's well worth doing again). And two, there seems to be a recent trend toward graphs, especially linear graphs which semi-arbitrarily assign values to particular numbers or ages or whatever - "Number Line" and "Ages Line" (not sure what it's officially called) are the typecasters, but others that seem similarly flat to me include the "phrases that show up in google a lot with a certain year attached" graph and the "future of the internet projected from actuarial tables" thing - all of this is rather dry unless you're a particularly extreme variety of nerd/geek/whateverthepolitetermisthisweek (oh hey that rhymes).

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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Stig Hemmer » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:36 pm UTC

What we really need to do is find someone who has never seen the strip before and have them read through the archives in reverse order. Then ask them how the quality has chanced.
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Re: Settle an Argument: is XKCD getting worse or is it the s

Postby Mous » Wed Jul 13, 2011 3:21 am UTC

I imagine they'd get confused near the end when it's just pretty line drawings and graph paper.
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Is XKCD dead ?

Postby bobf » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:51 am UTC

Okay so I don't like XKCD and never have done; each to their own etc., etc..

That said, people still show me the occasional XKCD comic (oft with claims that it is funnier than usual. Or significantly worse than usual, which is probably a better incentive for me to look). I'm sure we can all agree that XKCD has got worse and worse over the years. Going on the last few comics I've looked at in recent months, it seems to me that it's really hit rock bottom. I understand that the website and merchandise is the author's primary source of income, but might it not be time to stop flogging a dead horse and perhaps move on to something else ?

It obviously doesn't affect me if the comic continues to degrade - I wasn't personally a fan when it was at its peak - but I can't help feeling that it's really gotta suck to be the author of XKCD and [hopefully] knowing that you've run out of ideas and are just pumping pulp to earn a living. I would like to suggest the author cuts his losses and liberates himself that he might find a new canvas for his creativity.

If the author is smart enough he could even employ a ghostwriter to continue releasing XKCD comics while he does something a little more rewarding. Maybe this is what has already happened. :)

So ! In the hope that we might release an artist from the shackles of a parasitic fanbase, perhaps some of you could suggest alternative vocations for the weary comic maker ?

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Re: Is XKCD dead ?

Postby Ulc » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:06 am UTC

bobf wrote:I'm sure we can all agree that XKCD has got worse and worse over the years.


Nope, not really. Take a look at the last five threads about this subject.

Beyond that, I honestly can't figure out why you give a fuck about a comic you don't like? It's fine that you dislike it, but why waste everyone's time rather tha just ignore it then?
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Re: Is XKCD dead ?

Postby thicknavyrain » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:20 am UTC

Ulc wrote:Beyond that, I honestly can't figure out why you give a fuck about a comic you don't like? It's fine that you dislike it, but why waste everyone's time rather tha just ignore it then?


Because self-unaware people like me are just waiting to have their opinions on a comic they like to be completely upturned by a simple outside perspective, OBVIOUSLY. I mean, given that XKCD is now a steaming pile of shitball, something I hadn't realised until it was given to me as unquestionable truth just now, I think this guy has a valid point.

Although, if people start not reading it, it'll be cool and underground again!

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