Randall Munroe: “xkcd” | Talks at Google

>>NORVIG: Thank you all for coming. This
is great. This was the biggest room we could get on short notice and it’s great to see
it so packed. So, in every generation, an artist comes along that redefines the way
we look at art, you know. So, Jackson Pollock did this and the immediate reaction was, “My
kid could do better than that”; and then, people realized he was a genius. And Mark
Rothko did this and people said, “My kid could do better than that.” And then they realized
he was a genius. And Randall did this and people said, “Oh, wait, actually, my kid can
do better than that. Here’s one she did when she was eight.” You know, I think it’s pretty
good. Maybe you guys afterwards, just think about it. But, of course, you know, we don’t
watch xkcd for the artwork, we do it for the poetry, for the math, the drama, the romance,
the originality. You know, they’re all so original; well, not quite all of them. You
know, there was one–those of you who were here two years ago may remember the great
fiasco, it’s two years ago this week with the sign-ups for the holiday party where some
of the records were getting dropped from the sign-up sheets and, you know, you may remember–so
I just want to say here what a genius he is with this kind of stuff. But you may remember
this message that I sent in response to that. And, you know, I don’t want to say anything
but it did show up a few months ago, a rather similar–and what I learned from that, well,
you probably learned the same thing is, at least, in my sequel, the semicolons are not
allowed into the input so that actually–that exploit wouldn’t work.
>>MALE: Last week, we tried that but we came upon some sort of difficulty.
>>NORVIG: Yeah, well.>>MALE: The standards can be changed a little
bit; but we also checked Windrop tables which serve as add-in which was something. It was
either the late ’80s or early ’90s. That’s it regarding the colon.
>>NORVIG: Well, anyway, so that’s fine. There’s accuracy in comics. And we got some stuff
for you. So, here, we got some t-shirts and you could see other people are making t-shirts.
We–Ellen made you a cake shaped like the Internet. I wanted to give you your very own
official Google ball pit ball. Does anybody else want to give him one? Okay. So let’s
get started. At the end, we’ll have time for questions and cake. Use the microphones when
you have to but now let’s welcome Randall Munroe.
>>MUNROE: Well, first of all, thanks, everyone, for having me here. I wasn’t actually expecting
to give a talk when I was making the trip out here. I was just coming through unrelatedly
and asked if I had an invitation to come by and visit. And I emailed about that and said,
“Oh, you know, there are probably some people who want to hear you talk here.” And, apparently,
there are. So, before anything else, I want to take a chance to apologize. I don’t know
who here works on the Google Maps–if anyone works on Google Maps but a couple of years
ago, I was playing with this–I was looking at this Web site and I’m a big fan of Maps
and I found there was some group, I forgot who did this, but they did a map of London
with all the transit times in colors which the map is this. And I’m curious what will
happen if I put the computer under here. Whoa! Hey, it worked. Okay. So, some group did this
map where they are color-coded by time and it shows, you know, how long it takes for
you to get–like here, this is for public transit system. So here are the stations and
so on. And I said, this is a really cool idea and I want to try this for the US for driving
times. So, I put together a script which would take your starting position and go to Google
Maps and just pull up the page, not using the API or anything, just pull up the page
for directions from here to point one, here to point two, here to point three. So, I first
did this for my neighborhood around Newport News which is down in Virginia, so starting
off in the center of the map up here, and this is how long it takes to get around the
peninsula and over here. And these are transit times in minutes. The idea is then I could
then convert this into a color map. And then I said, “Well, this is kind of cool but it’s
pretty low resolution.” This is, you know, 30 by 30. So, I started–but I found that,
you know, there’s a time delay. It takes a little while to ping. You know, it takes a
little while to get the map back. And I said, okay, to get a good resolution, I want to
do–I forgot what it was–several 100 by several 100 or ending up with, I think, a 500,000
pixel map. So, I wrote the script, you know, split it up across about eight servers and
just started them all requesting segments of this map. And, you know, that had been
running for a little while. And then I went and read the terms of service. It didn’t–I
think that as they were written at the time, it didn’t really explicitly prohibit what
I was doing but it was pretty clear that they were saying, you know, “Don’t do that.” And
I noticed this when my servers actually stopped getting results all of a sudden. So, I don’t
know if I had tripped some filter or, you know, what stopped working there. But I never
did get to finish that map. It occurs to me that that would be a fun project especially
if, you know, you have access to these systems. You know, you could have an app showing how
far it is from building 42 to everywhere in the country driving. If you’re doing it over
the country, by the way, you probably want to normalize it; like, you know, the time–the
travel time divided by the as V as the curve flies time, you know, or distance or something
like that, just so the map won’t be just a mountain, you know, fast here, you know, slow
far away. If anyone does that, I would love to see what turns out. So you can just email
that to me. I figure–so, I’ve been doing these comics and people have a habit of acting
out the comics. I first–I did a comic about Cory Doctorow; you know, he wears red cape
and goggles when he blogs and a week or so later, he was given an award. And he went
up on the stage; they presented him with a red cape and goggles. I have done a comic
little before that about Richard Stallman suggesting that he sleeps with the katana,
you know, just in case. And, sure enough, they sent him, some fans pitched in together
and sent him a katana. He had never heard of the comic. He was very confused. And I
decided, okay, this is going to get out of hand. So, shortly after all that, I did comic
about Janeane Garofalo jumping a motorcycle off of the International Space Station as
it crashes over an island with a volcanic eruption and Tyrannosaurus. And I said, okay,
if someone can make that happen, but until they do that. The other thing I want to say
is about a comic I’ve done recently–I did recently. It’s sort of a warning. Let’s see
if this works. Okay. I was playing with one of these and it did brightness balancing;
you could move your hand around and get shapes to appear but–and then I ended up playing
with the projector for a few minutes instead of, you know, being usefully entertaining.
So, I did a comic a little while ago about programming ability as a function of what
I’ll call content. And you’re now seeing here, here’s your normal ability and as you get
progressively more intoxicated, it drops down but then there’s a spike. And the important
thing here is to precisely hit the spike and as I mentioned in the comic, if you get a
little bit off of the spike, you’ll end up with Windows ME. Now, one thing that not too
many people noticed and I’m not sure of exactly the numbers, but I gave as the bounce of the
spike, I think, a .29 or .28 and .39 or .028 and .039. I think that’s–is that right? I
love–other people know my comics better than I do. So if you take–what you can find with
that which not a lot of people picked up on this and emailed me but if you want to get
your BAC right at the peak and if this–you know, depending on what this is and what kind
of delta functions it says it can back and make a big difference, you want to get right
at the peak. You–probably in the middle of those numbers; you want to be about .1337.
Now, a related issue is the question of solving the
Rubik’s cube. I noticed awhile back that as I got–I went to do Rubik’s cube awhile ago.
There might be someone in here who has played this one before. Once you’ve learned the sequence
of steps to solve it, it’s not so much, you know, a brain-twisting puzzle, it’s more like,
“You know, okay, do you remember the sequences? Can you do this faster and faster?” So, the
question is how much does getting drunk get in the way of that? And I tried this a year
or so ago. You know, I have a drink, you know, wait a bit, I videotaped myself solving the
Rubik’s cube because I didn’t trust myself to, you know, take notes accurately, and I
found that when I got, you know, I could get, you know, I could solve the cube here and
my time back then was hovering near a minute but it’s now–which, I mean, isn’t–the professionals
are, you know, down to the twenty-secondth range. But–so, I was here at about a minute
to a minute-thirty, somewhere in there. But I found that as I got more and more drunk,
you know, my time got worse but not by all that much. You know, it seemed I could still
do it when I was stumbling, you know, falling down drunk. It seems to be a lot more, you
know, muscle memory and shoe-tying. What I found out was that I did have trouble finding
it and picking it up. And in the last stream of the video, I took out–in the last run,
I spent a few minutes talking about how proud I am, “Look what I found? I found this cube,
it’s–I can do this,” you know. Now, the problem is we didn’t actually get any hard data on
this. You know, I have these videos but I didn’t, you know, document–I didn’t do a
good job of the science of this. I didn’t document, you know, how much am I drinking,
how much time has passed, what’s my calculated, you know, BAC; and some people decided that
was unacceptable. So, a couple of nights ago, we decided to fix this. So we got some alcohol,
some mixers, and a stop watch. We put together a table and I solve the Rubik’s cube over
the course of a couple of hours; you know, on precise timing, taking a shot, 20 minutes
take the second shot and start the Rubik’s cube, take ideally just a couple of minutes
to finish the Rubik’s cube but maybe later in the experiment longer. And we–by the end–so,
first of all, what we had, it was some cheap vodka and random juice and, by the end, I
didn’t–I was getting toward the middle of the night and I was, “Okay, you know, this
stuff, this isn’t quite a much as it was when I started,” and toward the end, I never wanted
to see vodka again. I got a little further; I never wanted to see a Rubik’s cube again.
But what we did find is that when we got to the point where I refused to drink anymore,
you know, my time had gone up by maybe 10 to 15 percent. But it certainly didn’t stop.
So, that’s an interesting result. The Ballmer Peak data–if anyone wants to do a similar
experiment while, you know, working on Google Search and wants to send me their data they
get, that would also be pretty cool. Now, for the bulk of this talk, it’s going–I would
just like to do Q and A because I find that’s generally the most fun part of things. So,
first–say, if anyone has any questions about the comic, you can be formulating those. First
of all, I also–I apologize for the Google Maps thing and I would like to thank you for
Google–Google has solved my problem of Your Nation. Specifically–okay, there are–this
will make sense. There are men’s bathrooms which have, a lot of the time, urinals that
sort of stick out from the wall, there’s no barrier between you and the people next to
you and there’s the whole shy kidney thing. You know, you’re standing there and there’s
everyone–there are people all around me, elbowing in on me, leaning over, you know,
staring at me so–which brings us to the Google Apps aptitude test. I don’t know how many
of you took this. It went out, I think, in the back of Mensa a couple of years ago when
I’m still in college and it was a bunch of very interesting questions: How would you
color some kind of an icosahedron using one of three colors on each phase? How many different
combinations can you find? You know, really interesting questions. I think the follow-up
to that one was, and what colors would you choose? So it was a good mix and I decided
to do this test but I didn’t want to send it in unless I’ve done it perfectly because,
you know, man, Google. And there was a problem on there which involved an infinite grid of
resistors. I don’t know if anyone here has done this. So, the problem was you have a
lattice of one-ohm resistors. So, each of these links represents a one-ohm resistor
and this goes out to infinity. The question is: What is the equivalent resistance between
two points that are a knight’s move away? I worked on this for awhile trying to find
some, you know–starting with a few resistors and then adding them on and trying to find
some way to build a sequence that then could be rolled up into some kind a recursive call
and evaluated in one way or another. And I could not do it. You know, I was stuck. I
worked on that for a couple of days. Then I went to one of physics professors and said,
“Okay. I’ve given up on solving this myself; but do you want to see if we can work through
this together?” We filled the blackboard with trying to find different, you know, approaches
to a simple solution using resistor addition. We couldn’t do it. So, at that point, these
resistors dancing through my head, you know, “Oh, we could add a layer like this, then
another layer, then another layer. Okay, how does that change the equation? You have the
terms here. Oh, no…” So, all those are going through my head. I’m finally, I’m like, okay,
I need to go look this up. I looked it online and they were actually only a few pointers;
someone saying, “Oh, I think you can you can find the result here in this paper.” So, I
go to the library, you know, check out the Journal of Physics—-a couple of relevant
articles and find this puzzle was only solved in the last 30 years or so. It was solved
once in the late ’60s with an extremely complicated approach and then generalized—-someone in
the ’90s found a good solution to it which used–which was a simple solution by which
it means it still used math way beyond anything I had run into. So, I was a little bit irritated
that this, you know, modern physics research problem had been dropped in the Google labs
tests around other much simpler problems. But the side effect of this is—-so–and
I never actually finished the test; but what did happened was—-so when I go into a bathroom,
you have a urinal here, you know, and the flush and there will be tiles. So I walked into the bathroom, stand in front
of the urinal, people always cluster around me—-why do people-—people stand around
me and I’ll be thinking, “Oh, man, there are these people,” and then I’ll glance ahead
at the grid and I’ll sort of, you know, just idly thinking about grid, you know, chess
moves or I’ll think, you know, I’ll look at two points that happen to be a knight’s move
apart and then start to think like, “Okay. Well, maybe I missed something important.
What if you go back, what if you build the grid this way, build…” And, by that time,
I’ve tuned out everything else and I can finally urinate. So thank you all for that. So, now,
if we can do questions from the audience; I think there’s a mike up here. If you can’t
get to the mike, I can just repeat your question. But does anyone have anything to start us
off? Sure.>>MALE: Talking about acting out comics,
do you expect me to be able to fly?>>MUNROE: So, I started writing my first
python code. Okay. So, the question is, with regards to acting out comics, should I expect
him to be able to fly? No. I started doing python. I wrote my first python code sometime
within the last week or so, and drew the comic immediately after the day when I had written.
There’s something called Project Euler, which is online–and I just realized that–so it’s
a programming competition site where it has a bunch of simple algorithms problems which
can be solved within one minute with a fairly simple piece of code. And they’re fun. It’s
a good way to practice algorithms. You know, now that I am out of college, I don’t have
those assigns so it’s a neat source and it’s sort of competitive; you know, you race with
your friends. I just realized that by mentioning this here, I may be dooming my standing. But–and
so I said, “Okay. I’m going to take this as a chance to learn python,” and it really was
this breath of fresh air because I learned programming on old school, like, it was some
DOS-C compiler. And then I did Perl, which is a lot more, you know, flexible and everything
just works but at least as ugly. And then I tried Python recently-—and, you know,
I understand there are some things that it’s not as great for, you know, as edge cases
that—-someone was complaining about splits and joints but, other than that, it was just
like, I can just type the pseudocode here and it works. You know, it executes. I mean,
as someone said, that if python is basically executable pseudocode and if that’s the case,
then Perl is executable line noise. But, yeah, from what I hear, it is a library that you
can import; you just have to find it form the anti-gravity library, you just have to
find it in direct repositories. Maybe that’s how Cory Doctorow gets to the balloon. Anyway,
do we have any other questions?>>MALE: I’m going to ask you two questions;
and Ellen wants me to ask, ask one and then I want to ask another one. So the one that
I want to ask is: Have you thought about doing animated cartoons? And Ellen’s question is:
What is your n log log n algorithm for searching?>>FEMALE: Do you know who the questioner
is?>>MUNROE: Donald Knuth? Well, it’s really
an honor to meet you, first of all. So, okay, the second question was the n log-—what
is my n log n or log log n algorithm for searching. I’m sorry. You’ll have to bring that up with
Elaine. The other–we’re going to move away for talking about searching algorithms for
a moment now. No, I just implemented binary search in Python a day or two ago and I was
happy with that, you know. And the other question is about animated cartoons which is—-it’s
something I played with. I feel like though–if anyone here has heard of Don Hertzfeldt’s
Rejected, it was like one of the earlier viral videos which he actually did as a short film.
You know, he’s very upset when it’s replayed on the Internet, which he thinks it’s, you
know, a resample and low quality and he wants it to be on a–he has, you know, strong opinions
about stick-figure art, which I can certainly understand. But I feel like, if I stepped
into animation, he has already done that perfectly. You know, it’s a different genre. But I feel
like—-he can stick to that as long as he doesn’t start doing still-stick figure art
and show me up, I won’t step into animation and try to muddy his waters. But it’s a very
different genre. You know, I don’t know anything about animation and how it works. I’ve watched,
you know, I watch animated TV shows and I’ve, you know, Futurama that we all sort of grew
up on. But, well, I mean, I grew up on it—-I didn’t see any of these until college but
I still think of it as, you know, sort foundational parts of our culture like The Simpsons. But
I actually read a whole lot of comics, I was never into anime but I read—-I grew up on
Calvin and Hobbes, first of all. It was the first comic that I discovered. And I actually
remember the moment that I found this book on my parent’s bookshelf and took it down
and I had really never seen comics before. So, you know, I flipped it open. I said, “Okay,
there are pictures of people and there are words attached-—okay, so they’re saying
this words.” And I remember reading that first strip where Calvin says, you know, “So long,
[INDISTINCT], I’ll check my tiger trap.” And from then on, I was pretty much hooked. I
read all the Calvin and Hobbes strips. I went to the library. I read all of-—there’s a
whole set of comics where I’ve read every single strip they’ve published mostly more
than once, which includes, you know, Calvin and Hobbes. There’s—-maybe not Bloom County–Garfield,
I really went through all the Garfield strips up until 1997. There was Dilbert, a whole
slew of other comics. And Peanuts, except I’m pretty convinced that no one has read
all of Peanuts–the guy did him himself for close to 50 years and doing every comic himself
which is completely unheard of. You know, everyone who has been doing them that long
has a staff at this point except–I mean, Bill Watterson did them all himself and Charles
Schulz. So he’s really impressive. I’m reminded of the anecdote actually about someone coming
up to Donald Knuth here at a party, I think it was supposedly Steve Jobs, you know, maybe
you can verify this because on Wikipedia–now, this story is on Wikipedia because I looked
this up and I think there us a citation needed tag attached to it. But the story is that
someone, you know, came up to him at a party-—Steve Jobs was with Bill Gates and said, “It’s a
pleasure to meet you. I’ve read all your books,” and that, you know, he replied with, “It’s
nice to meet you. No, you haven’t.” You know, or “You’re full of shit,” something like that.
So, has this ever happened? I mean, now, the thing is this is original research so I can’t,
you know, ask you and then put it on the article but maybe if this is being filmed.
>>KNUTH: Well, people tell me that all the time and it might have been Steve, I don’t
know, but I only met him a couple of times and, in each case, I was impressed by him
probably more than he was impressed by me.>>MUNROE: Yeah. He says, he’s been retold
the story himself a number of times and that he’s met those people-—he isn’t sure exactly
how exactly how it happened-—on each of the meetings he was much more impressed by
them than they were by him which–so, yeah, I don’t know, I don’t know about that. But
maybe that’s just Steve Jobs reality distortion field kicking in. So the question started
out somewhere over by animation—-we can wander back there too. It’s interesting. There
are some trains that have advertisements in the train tunnels where they’ll—-as you
are going by, there is a strobe of some kind so that you see out the window of the train,
one frame, the next frame, the next frame, the next frame and it makes a little movie.
And I knew some folks, who will remain nameless who hang around MIT and were looking for interesting
pranks and were seeing if they could commission me to do a 300-frame animation, which they
could then put on cards and tile the walls with one night in one of the T-lines actually
and get it so that when you drove by one morning, you’d actually see animation. So that might
be the one place where you will see an xkcd animation. You know, I don’t know who’s going
to be doing this or where or what but it was definitely something I’ve started thinking
about. So, do we have another question? Right here.
>>FEMALE: How much time did you spend on this?
>>MUNROE: How much time do I spend on this? Well, first of all, about 90 percent—there’s
a theory that your workload increases to fill the amount of time that you have and I have
found I managed to use up all my time doing xkcd-related things no matter how much free
time I managed to give myself. But the actual comics sometimes take…
>>NORVIG: You can take your choice.>>MUNROE: Now, so, is this coming from people
who are watching elsewhere or are this people in here just typing up here because that’s
easier than talking?>>MALE: Both.
>>FEMALE: Both.>>MUNROE: Okay. Well, so as for the time,
I’ve actually—-there are a few comics. You know, most the time, I’ll write it and I can
take anywhere from, you know, days to a few minutes. You know, sometimes, it’s like, oh,
I’ll just be walking along, talking to someone and suddenly stop and be like, “I need to
put an S-fuel injection in a baby’s name,” yes, and you know, that will be where the
comic comes. And then, sometimes, I’ll spend—-I do all the comics at a very high resolution
actually and I’ll spend, you know, six, eight, ten hours just putting it all together, you
know, deciding, “Okay. I’ll put this guy here, have the dialogue here”; do all the arrangement
of that and especially when there’s any of the comics with the shaded background, there
was the one about the guy doing–falling asleep reading a lisp book and waking up, you know,
floating in space with the blue lights and everything. And I remember, I said, “Okay.
And I’ll just add some shading and that ended up taking me close to three or four hours
to get it all right.” You know, I finished them and I’m like, “Oh, it looks too dark
over here” and then go back and work that. So, you know, I’ll start off with the incredibly
rudimentary stick figures and then somehow manage to be perfectionist about that. And
so it appears that we have questions coming along here. Okay, if a raptor would attack
me in this room, how would I escape? There is a lot of glass. I’ve noticed this coming
in. Anytime you have–and
if you go back to the source material on raptors which is the original Jurassic Park movie,
there is the scene where they get the door–Elliot gets the door locked. You know, it’s a Unix
system. I know this and she navigates through, locks the door and then the raptor–you know,
it’s all oh okay, we’re all saved and then a few moments later, the raptor cuts through
the glass. So my big concern has always been glass, that if you can get all the big picture
windows, if you can get somewhere you don’t have any of those, you can lock and bar the
doors and buy yourself some time. So, from here, I’d be basically trying to move to where
there’s less open glass windows which means away from there. I see light coming from there
that might be sunlight so probably through there. This is if I were alone. However, it
occurs to me that there is a lot–between me and any raptors, there is a great deal
of flesh. So, it’s like the old joke goes, I don’t actually have to escape the, you know,
outrun the raptors, I just have to outrun you guys. So that would be my strategy. I
don’t know. Well, so, a lot of time, I’ll just sort of–I would look towards the ceilings.
When I went to school, there were very high-ceiling rooms but then again, as Muldoon said, they’re
astonishing jumpers so that’s also a problem. You have to get pretty high up. So as far
as I’m concerned, you know, Jurassic Park I is the great movie and then Two–Two was
pretty entertaining. It had Jeff Goldblum and everything. Then Three, I never realized
that–I never thought that I could go to a movie in which dinos–the only thing that
happens is the dinosaurs are chasing to eat people and not be entertained because, really,
I was like I want–you know, I was thinking, I just want them to drop the plot and just
have, you know, an hour and a half of dinosaurs chasing–what I need is a movie that’s an
hour and a half of River Tam beating up dinosaurs. Oh, men. What secret project do you hope Google
is working on? Do you have any sort of an animation or movie department? Because, right
now, that has taken precedence over anything else that I was hoping that you were doing.
So I’m going to do a question from in here. You’re right here, yes.
>>MALE: So my favorite–one of my favorite drawings of yours is the science one.
>>MUNROE: Which science one?>>MALE: And I was wondering if you have ever
gotten any negative feedback on that.>>MUNROE: Once or twice, there’s a–some
people have really worn the shirt. You know, it’s generally pretty well-received. People
don’t tend to, you know, if they see something that bothers them. They tend to just sort
of leave the person alone. I did have someone who is on a train station, somewhere pretty
conservative, who said that they had been stopped by, you know, a very upstanding looking
mother saying, “I’m offended. You wear that shirt where my kids might see it, you know”,
and the person said, “Well, I’m not sure which word are you offended by, bitches or science?”
But, generally, it’s going pretty well, you know. Now and then, I’ll have someone who–and
this is especially with people, you know, from a generation above me who say, you know,
the bitches and worry about the sexism there. For my–sometime in the last, you know, couple
of decades, bitches really translated to–it’s no longer really a term of strong gender connotations;
it’s just an expression of sort of triumphant superiority. But I think it has really drifted
away from its original meaning, you know, and people don’t think gender when they hear
that, at least, you know, the people who I’m used to talking to–people my age. Let’s see,
that–so, overall, that shirt has been pretty well-received. Sometimes, people write in
and say, you know, this shirt, you know, it’s just insulting to women how, you know, your
readers might wear this but don’t, you know, I don’t like it very much because I think
that women don’t appreciate this and I can always point out, you know, I sell–that shirt,
I think, might be are–the one that we sell to more women proportionally than any other
shirt. So, you know, there’s that. Okay, what’s this? How did this get here? This was like
two nights ago on a piece of paper. I’m going to talk with someone here. Okay, now, we can
see–okay, here is–so it starts off, I think my best time came 1:11 so that’s after I had
had–this is after the first drink had kicked in and I had the second one. Possibly, I have
to figure out with the scales. I didn’t type this–I don’t know where this came from. So,
every now and then, and someone had mentioned this, you know, “Your comics are so close
to my life, you know, are you somehow spying on me to get all of these things?” Or I’ll
have people write in every now and then saying, “I know everyone says that but, seriously,
this latest comic, do you know someone I know, are you spying on me?” I’m not spying on you
guys but, apparently, you guys are spying on me. So unfortunately, we couldn’t hold
the drink steady and we couldn’t–what I really wanted to do is do this with a BAC meter which
I’ve done to play with before–we didn’t have when we were doing this. I saw actually last
night, it went up on Woot.com right after, you know, we had finished the project. And
so it was a shame–we could–I could repeat the project with that although I think, the
morning after, I made some resolution. You know, it says I’m never going to drink again.
No, I’ll probably drink again. I’m not going to do the Rubik’s cube project again. But
I don’t remember saying any of these things–wow, okay. So here’s our data which, you know,
we’re putting together, you know, graphing it. I’ll probably use a BAC calculator of
some kind, you know, with my weight and try to work out, you now, how much alcohol is
in the system and get the best data that we can out of this. I don’t know where you submit
this kind of thing for peer review. I guess the–I was going to say the [INDISTINCT] Research
which is a wonderful publication. I actually just go to the Ig-Nobel Prizes recently. I
think it’s something like the 30-something first annual Ig-Nobel prizes. Do we have any
another question?>>FEMALE: Hey, so I think probably my favorite
comic is the one where, you know, a girl and a guy busted on a guy on the Internet and,
basically, they shoot up his computer with an EMP blast.
>>MUNROE: That’s the first comic where I’ve had someone stop me on the street and hug
me. I was really, like when I finished that, I was like, you know, I feel strongly about
this because I’ve been in an iron seat for so long and, you know, this just drives me
nuts the way, like you can come on, depending on how gendered your nick is, you get treated
completely differently by people who should know better, you know, by people who have–it
has been a generation since the biggest, you know, the 60s and the feminism and so on,
and it’s like it has turned ironic now, but they still do it and it’s not any better.
And so that, and I was just–I spend a long time on that one trying to figure that exactly,
you know, how to say it as concisely as I can, you know, in a comic. And I was really
worried that I hadn’t, you know, it hadn’t hit, that people wouldn’t get what I was saying
or think that I was to being to preachy or something, but then the response has been
great. So…>>FEMALE: Yeah, I was just going to ask if,
like, all of your female friends, I don’t know how many female friends you had, but
you’re like, beating you over the friend. Hey, you know…
>>MUNROE: Yeah.>>FEMALE: I’m just saying because me and
all my female geek friends, like, “Oh, my God, I love that comic. It’s exactly what
I want to do.” Yes, yes, exactly.>>MUNROE: How did you get to that drawing?
I did that drawing but–the paper for that is at home. How did it get on the Internet?
It’s interesting. Actually, the first IRC Channel–oh, man, why am I telling this story?
The first IRC Channel I hung out in was actually majority female. It was a strong majority
female. I was there socially. You know, I had some friends who wanted into this but
it was–so it was actually a fan fiction IRC channel, erotic fan fiction. You know, I was
really, you know, I didn’t really read the fiction but I got to know the people there.
They were all lovely people, you know, and then I moved from there into the larger IRC
where it’s a little bit more gender-balanced or, you know, gender-skewed the other way
which is where I’ve been lurking since. But it was always interesting, you know, and there’s
that mean that’s going around now, there are no girls on the Internet in various forms
which, you know, it was sort of funny when you joked about it for a second and now it
has become like a thing people think every time a girl comes into a channel. You know,
anytime there’s anyone with a feminine nick and they make the joke about like a girl on
the Internet, that’s impossible. And the people who use IRC with androgynous nicks in any
of the channels where I am, just get treated completely differently and that generally
sucks; and I think it’s people who really, it’s not people who are so much prejudice
as that they don’t know any better at this point. You know, I think we’ve gotten over
a lot of, what sexes I’m used to be and we’re on to a much more modern, refined form of
sexism. But I think–and I feel like we’re actually at the point now where a gentle reminder
might be all that’s needed to make a decent change because that’s what I was sort of hoping
to do with that.>>FEMALE: I thought the EMP kind of…
>>MUNROE: Yeah. Well, a gentle reminder as a first warning and then the second warning
is the EMP Canon. So, next question. The top one. Hey, you said I could pick my own. I
actually noticed that Chris once said of Christ Onset [ph] of Aikwood did a Google logo, at
one point, drew it out of the characters. So let’s see. I’m going to get, I’m going
to think about this one for a moment and I wanted to go down, though, to one of these
other questions. Visit the office at Cambridge? Okay, we lived nearby and we have Guitar Hero.
Okay, I’m sold. Yes, so Guitar Hero Three and Rock Band are both out now–I have been
looking at–okay, well, so, yeah, well, Rock Band Three and Guitar Hero, I’ve played both
of them. The impression I get is that Guitar Hero Three is not done by the same group as,
I think, Harmonics. Like, most of them have left and worked on Rock Band and then three
is actually the one that’s–it’s a lot more produced by executives and marketing and not
quite so much fun. So I’ve been–and I’ve enjoyed what I see at Rock Band a lot more
so I guess that’s the one that I have to learn; although I’m enjoying–I don’t like learning
new things, I don’t know. So I’ve been playing Guitar Hero Two over and over and trying to
get all those songs and I’ve got some of the mod-ed songs. I’ve had a wish list for a long
time of songs that I wanted to see in Guitar Hero. And they got a couple of them; Free
Bird is a great one. I’ve also thought that Flight of the Bumble Bee would make a great
Guitar Hero song. It would be like Misirlou but, you know, three times as fast.
>>MALE: Put in your helmet and become real.>>MUNROE: Yeah, well, some people are actually
now doing these mod-ed discs so I need to find a PlayStation that can play those. What
I found–I find someone has done another one off my wish list which is Dueling Banjos which
is, like, you know, three or four minutes. So, okay, this is easy, you know. And I love
to play it for someone who has never heard the song or, you know, doesn’t know it because,
you know, it’s three minutes of just, you know like, okay. And that goes on and on,
and on and on and then, suddenly, “Oh, God it’s covered in notes, you know. And so I’m–hopefully,
we get a chance to play that soon. And I also wanted The Devil went down to Georgia. It
was another one on my wish list. And that’s in Guitar Hero Three but they’ve also–they
got all these crazy stuff they’re adding, you know, with, you do this combo to get this
thing and you have to play certain sequences of notes–any there are lots of trigger bonuses
and you get random things and it seems like they’ve complicated it a lot more from just
like–I just like to play the notes in the original song. It’s plenty fast on the guitar.
That’s the challenge I like.>>MALE: It’s downloadable in normal form.
>>MUNROE: So let’s see. Am I spying on you? This was established. You guys are the one
spying on me. And what does xkcd really stand for? Actually, so I’ve been using that as
just a unique point in the space of four character strings to point to me. You know, I’ve been
using it as my name on every service box, you know, since at least the 90s, and because
I got tired of changing my name every time my interest changed. You know, I started out
when I was 10 years old when AOL first popped up and I was on there as, you know, I think
I had, first, skywalker4 and then, anamorph7, and then, you know, I picked other names that
had to do with, like Redtailedhawk6 or something. And then, eventually, I was like I’m tired
of names that point to other things, you know, that identify me with those things. I want
to get a string that will just point uniquely to me that’s not my name because, you know,
that’s kind of boring. And so I–and I decided to just go through–to generate random strings
and find one that had a certain set of qualities which included none of the letters could be
mistaken for other letters in either case or, you know, numbers, so no L because L,
lower-cased, can look like IR1; and it couldn’t have any obvious acronym decoding. It couldn’t
be–or be an existing acronym, and it couldn’t be pronounceable because, then, it would sound
like words. And, you know, it would sound like a word and people would think of other
words like it. So I–and I searched though a bunch of names that weren’t taken—-until
I found one that wasn’t taken on all the services I wanted. So I’ve used that to sign up on
every service except I ran into—-I’ve ran into–I ran into one that really–that really
bothered me that would not let me register names under six characters.
>>FEMALE: It’s possible.>>MUNROE: Okay. And then I figured now–but
the thing is, now, that doesn’t uniquely point to me anymore. You know, I had this whole
idea, “Okay. I’ll have this–this will be a unique identifier for me or for me only.
Like, when I Google it, it will only turn up things related to me or, occasionally,
a binary file that happens to ask you to xkcd. You know, when I started xkcd, I remember
there were–when I started the comic, there were, I think, something 3 or 400 Google hits
for the string xkcd, and about half of those were message boards so things that I had something
to do within the last year or two, and the rest data files that just happened to contain
the string and set into a larger set of random strings. And so I’ve gotten to track my–the
comic’s progress by xkcd search results climbing, and they jump up and down wildly. I mean,
I don’t know—-it’s like, you know, they’re climbing and climbing, and then, suddenly,
it will drop off sharply, you know, to half the size, and I–it seems that someone was
tweaking the algorithm because people generally take, you know, pages take a little bit of
time to fall off. But I think it’s at something like 2 or 3 million now, which is–and I noticed
recently—-oh, and then these Google trends, I don’t know if–I don’t know if I’m on the
search results. What I did notice was after I did the comic recently where I mentioned
a couple of the–oh, okay.
Right here was where I left NASA because, at that point, I was like, “Okay. This is
big enough. You know, I can do this now.” Man. The comic officially started here. This
is something–I found this on Wikipedia, not sourced or anything giving me, telling me
things about the comic that I’m pretty sure aren’t true like that I started in, you know,
May of 2005. I’m pretty sure I started at September 2005, but–and then I put up a few
comics, you know, this was just my personal site, stopped it and then restarted it seriously
here, and since then, it has fit an exponential growth curve pretty well. We actually found
out it fits the logistic curve better of the basic curve you can fit it to; the visits
per, you know, day, visits per month. The thing is, each month, the logistic curve that
it fits is bigger. So I’m not quite sure what to make of that. You know, clearly, we need
some more sophisticated analysis. And I’m trying to remember, this is related to something.
I think that’s the map of–the map of online communities; that spike right there. We’ve
had a couple of comics that I put up that just sort of like–that I got feedback within
a few minutes. I got some e-mails and I mean–I was like, “Oh, boy, this is–this one–this
is going to be another one of those ones that, you know, shows everywhere.” The first one
that happened was the Sudo Make Me A Sandwich. And it just blew my mind to see people who
were taking pictures, probably, none in here; it’s fairly strict about picture-taking, but
there was one about–there was one–someone had drawn it up on the wall of Amazon—-at
Amazon, and it was, I think, at Microsoft too although, I mean, Microsoft, why would
they be interested in Sudo? Didn’t it come out recently that the–not recently, a couple
of years ago that the server that Microsoft is using to distribute one of the–to talk
about one of their server products was actually using Apache.
>>MALE: No. But I think they’re using Acamine [ph] attaches.
>>MUNROE: Oh.>>MALE: It wasn’t really then.
>>MUNROE: Okay. I didn’t know what the back story was behind it. Are you sure there’s
Google in Braille?>>MALE: Yes.
>>MUNROE: Nice. I did–I did actually learn to read Braille at one point, you know, slowly
and–I had a little card in my wallet so when I was–when I was waiting outside somewhere,
I would, you know, find the Braille signs and just try to figure out, basically, decoding
it, like a substitution cipher, and to work out what each of the characters mean. It’s
tricky though because normal written Braille does a whole bunch of packing where they’ll
have several characters compressed into, you know, every one character to stand for common
things like TH. I don’t think TH might have one; but, you know, other characters like
that which made it a little bit trickier, but it’s a lot of fun. And you can look for
discrepancies between the messages that are–that are written in the Braille messages. Like,
for example, they say, you know, “For help, push red button.” That’s when where I found
it, and then I read Braille, and it said, “For help, push three-inch button.” Because,
obviously, you know, if you’re reading the Braille, you’re going to have trouble seeing
it’s a red button. And that made a lot of sense. I just never really thought about that.
Oh, the Braille is, as I understand, fading away now because of the Internet, and because
of computers are so cool that everyone can just use Text-To-Speech for so much stuff.
And I know a couple of blind hackers who are doing all these useful stuff that would have
been so much harder to do, you know, even 10 years ago, which is really cool. Now…
>>NORVIG: Question there.>>MUNROE: Yes. So–oh, yes, I’m sorry. You
asked earlier.>>FEMALE: I guess I should have worn something
brighter. I’m just wondering how you feel about comic scrapers?
>>MUNROE: Comic scrapers, I am happy for anyone to read the comic basically through
any means. You know, I–we encourage hotlinking; unlike many other comics and many older sites
because–I think it’s because people are finally figuring out the easier you make it for people
to locate your stuff, the better you’re going to do online. And, you know, people say, “Oh,
well, you have to come to this site. You have to register to view this or you have to pay,
you know, this minor fee. Like, publicity and wide readership is worth so much more
than any of the things you get out of that that I just try to set things up so it’s as
easy as possible for people to read the comic–to copy and read the comics anywhere, which is,
you know, the idea behind Creative Commons. I think, right now, the xkcd comic directory
is publicly indexable, which I didn’t have any real reason for that, but I figured, if
someone finds a way to play with that to make the comics reachable through another thing,
great. You know, as long as they’re linking back to the site and pointing to where it
came from, I’m happy with—-I’m happy for that, you know. I know that there’s RSS readers
that just pulled down ridiculous amounts of content and then leave them on your laptop,
and I’ll do that when I’m flying on a plane. You know, I’ll just pull down the last month’s
worth of feeds from all those places and then that would be my reading material. So I’m
happy with any kind of scraping that people want to do. You know, if there’s anything
that we don’t support, we’re looking at implanting that.
>>NORVIG: WE have time for one more question. What–were you going to do the doodle?
>>MUNROE: Well, let’s see. I would–so I had this problem that I ran into with and
effects the comic has had on my social life which is that when I meet new people, I don’t
realize always, they already know all my jokes. And I will know nothing about someone, and
so I’ll be going out, you know, and start doing a story, you know. Yeah, when I’m hanging
out somewhere like this, I always choreograph these elaborate fight scenes in my head, and
I’m like, we know. So I’ve always wanted to see this movie that has—-that’s just someone
fighting for… We’ll have–we’ll have someone here who’s just sort of concerned by this
whole thing. Yeah. And then, what can we have someone doing?
>>FEMALE: [INDISTINCT].>>MUNROE: We’re going to have this. Let’s
see. What is this person doing? So what’s another—-what’s another weapon?
>>MALE: The nunchucks.>>MUNROE: Oh, we need the nunchucks.
>>MALE: The stars.>>MUNROE: Has anyone played with those rings
that are—-it’s like a cylinder with wavy edges that you’re supposedly can throw hundreds
and hundreds of yards?>>MALE: Yes.
>>MUNROE: I’ve been meaning to try that because that–that sounds fun. There are all these
kids’ toys now that actually–that actually work. You know, let’s see. Does it have a
launcher or is it–was I doing it wrong? Okay. And he is thinking about cake. Let’s see.
And then let’s see if we can fit this here. Is this–is this gaffer tape, acrylic [ph]
tape or duct tape? And,
now, we’ll have another concerned person here. No, no, you know, what we have here is–so
she has been at it awhile so we’ll have a dead body. And then he is thinking about–here we go.

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