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Panel from "Philosophy"
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Geek humorMen's romance
xkcd is a webcomic created by Randall Munroe, a former contractor for NASA. Munroe describes it as "a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." It is a widely read webcomic (it tallied between 60 and 70 million page views during October 2007) and has been recognized in mainstream media such as The Guardian and The New York Times.
Munroe states there is no particular meaning to the name and it 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 subjects of the comics themselves vary. Some are statements on life and love (some love strips are simply art with poetry), and some are mathematical or scientific in-jokes. Some strips feature simple humor or pop-culture references. Although it has a cast of stick figures, the comic occasionally features landscapes, intricate mathematical patterns such as fractals (for example, strip #17 "What If" shows an Apollonian gasket, or #543 "Sierpinski Valentine" and #95 "Sierpinski Penis" for a Sierpinski triangle), 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. New comics are added three times a week, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at midnight Eastern Time, 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.
2 Recurring items
3 Activities inspired by xkcd
4 Awards and recognition
7 Further sources
8 External links
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," making xkcd a self-sufficient webcomic.
In May 2007, the comic caught the attention of many by depicting online communities in geographic form. Various websites were drawn as continents, each sized according to their relative popularity and located according to their general subject matter. This put xkcd at number two on The Post-Standard's "The new hotness" list.
xkcd is not an acronym, and Munroe attaches no meaning to the name, except in a joking manner within the comic. 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. 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.
On September 23, 2007, hundreds of people gathered at coordinates mentioned in a strip: 42.39561 -71.13051. Fans converged on a park in North Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the strip's author appeared, commenting, "Maybe wanting something does make it real," reversing the conclusion in the last frame of the same strip.
On April Fool's Day 2008, xkcd was part of a three-webcomic prank involving Dinosaur Comics and Questionable Content wherein each comic's URL displayed another comic's web page: questionablecontent.net displayed the Dinosaur Comics website, qwantz.com (the Dinosaur Comics website) displayed xkcd, and xkcd.com displayed the Questionable Content website. The prank was orchestrated by Randall Munroe, as Jeph Jacques, author of Questionable Content, announced on his website on April 2:
For those of you still baffled/alarmed by yesterday's little switcheroo, I remind you that it was April 1st. Thank you for all the well-intentioned "I think your site has been hacked!" emails. I can't take credit for the prank as it was Randall's idea, but it was too good not to take part in (also thanks Ryan for playing along and bearing the brunt of my readers' confusion).
As the prank page is not included in the xkcd archive, it is notable that the only sequential number not to return a page is #404.
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."
 Recurring items
While there is no specific storyline to the comic, there are some recurring themes and characters, many of which are touched on in an xkcd parody of the Discovery Channel's I Love the World commercial.
"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. 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.References to Wikipedia articles or to Wikipedia as a whole are an occasional theme in xkcd.xkcd also frequently makes reference to Munroe's "obsession" with potential raptor attacks, and to many "your mom" jokes. 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.
Although the artist does not maintain a list of characters, 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 his trademark 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. This character first appeared in the comic Poisson (the twelfth comic published on the website). The character refers to himself as a "Classhole" (a portmanteau of "classy" and "asshole"). He does not shy from pointing out the failures of others and has at times used extreme violence in order to emphasize a point. 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 #542. 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"). 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.
The most common recurring female "character" is known as Megan in several strips; she was first referred to by name in comic #159 - Boombox, and again several times afterward. 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.
Another set of recurring characters is the nihilist and the existentialist. Until comic #291, they had only been seen together, never separately. They are first seen in the "Nihilism" comic, and again in "Kayak," "Hypotheticals", and "Dark Flow."
Fictionalised versions of well known real-life figures in the computing and scientific community sometimes appear, such as free software advocates Richard Stallman,Cory Doctorow, and physicist Richard Feynman.
Mrs. Roberts was a main character in the "1337" 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.
Firefly character River Tam—and actress Summer Glau, who played her—have appeared in a few comics, usually in a dream sequence where a character in the strip makes reference to her.
 Activities inspired by xkcd
"Wikipedian Protester" in Cambridge, Massachusetts, September 23, 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 was sent a katana and was confronted by students dressed as ninjas before speaking at the Yale Political Union – inspired by "Open Source".
When Cory Doctorow won the 2007 EFF Pioneer Award, the presenters gave him a red cape, goggles and a balloon – inspired by "Blagofaire".
xkcd readers sneaking chess boards onto roller coasters – inspired by "Chess Photo"
A subgroup of "geohashing" xkcd readers has emerged, members of which travel to random nearby latitude/longitude locations calculated by the geohashing algorithm described in "Geohashing".
In October 2007, a group of researchers at University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute conducted a census of the internet and presented their data using a Hilbert curve, which they claimed was inspired by an xkcd comic that used a similar technique.
YouTube has placed a feature on comments that plays back the comment aloud on "Audio Preview", possibly based on the strip "Listen to Yourself".
Running the following code is an easter egg in Python 3.0: import antigravity, inspired by the strip "Python".
In the xkcd cartoon "Troll Slayer" (591), 4chan's /b/ boards are taken over by Twilight lovers. In response to this, /b/ was temporarily renamed "Twilight Appreciation Station", and included the text "We have met the enemy and he is us", which appears in the cartoon as a note added by Randall Munroe. In order to prevent /b/ trolling the xkcd forums, registration was blocked for several days after the comic appeared.
GNU Emacs 23.1 introduced M-x butterfly easter egg, in response to "Real Programmers".
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 AwardInspired by "Blagofaire"
 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."xkcd was also voted Best Comic Strip by readers in the 2007 Weblog Awards and 2008 Weblog Awards. It was also nominated for a 2009 NewNowNext Award in the category 'OMFG Internet Award'.
Many xkcd comics have been translated into Spanish by one reader. The comics available are the ones that, according to the translator, can be translated without losing their humor. A community of readers translated nearly half of the comics into Russian, and almost all of them into French. There is also a German translation .
^ 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 on May 30, 2008. "... Randall Munroe, the 23-year-old creator of xkcd, a hugely popular online comic strip (at least among computer programmers)..."
^ a b Guzmán, Mónica (May 11, 2007). "What's Online". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. D7. http://www.seattlepi.com/lifestyle/315214_stayonline11.html. Retrieved on 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."
^ 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 on March 6, 2007.
^ The Times (June 6, 2007) xkcd.com; The click; Wednesday. Section: Features; Page 2. (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.'")
^ a b c d "About xkcd". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/about/. Retrieved on March 6, 2007.
^ 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 on September 17, 2008.
^ 100 top sites for the year ahead The Guardian (18 December 2008). Retrieved on 18 December 2008.
^ When Pixels Find New Life on Real Paper The New York Times (19 April 2009). Retrieved on 21 April 2009.
^ Kalamazoo Gazette (August 17, 2006) Ad lib. Section: Ticket.
^ "What If (#17)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/17/. Retrieved on May 21, 2008.
^ "License". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/license.html. Retrieved on June 25, 2007.
^ xkcd » Blog Archive » Ghost
^ 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
^ 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)
^ "What xkcd Means (#207)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/207/. Retrieved on March 6, 2007.
^ "x+k+c+d=42". Short Minds. http://shortminds.com/2008/08/11/explaining-greatnes/. Retrieved on September 6, 2008.
^ Dream Girl (#240)
^ Cohen, Georgiana (September 26, 2007). "The wisdom of crowds". The Phoenix. http://thephoenix.com/Boston/News/48208-wisdom-of-crowds/. Retrieved on September 27, 2007.
^ Questionable Content (Number 1112: Quick Thinking)
^ Katz, Farley (October 15, 2008). "Cartoon-Off: XKCD". The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/cartoonlounge/2008/10/cartoonoff-x.... Retrieved on January 17, 2009.
^ 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=.... Retrieved on November 22, 2007.
^ "xkcd Loves the Discovery Channel (#442)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/442/. Retrieved on June 27, 2008.
^ See, for example, xkcd comics #37, #53, #60, #75, #79, #148, #168, #174, #236, #259, #287, #296, #326, #331, #389, #437, #451, #559, #590, and #605.
^ See, for example, xkcd comics #155, #214, #256, #265, #285, #333, #444, #446, #451, #545, #547 and #548.
^ 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.... Retrieved on April 23, 2007.
^ See, for example, xkcd comics #87, #135, #155, and #292.
^ See, for example, xkcd comics #116, #176, #320, and #366.
^ Peter Trinh (September 14, 2007). "[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=16.... Retrieved on September 16, 2007. A comic you can’t pronounce]". Imprint Online. 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=16.... Retrieved on September 16, 2007. . Retrieved on September 16, 2007.
^ 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_.... Retrieved on September 22, 2008.
^ xkcd comic 12
^ Munroe, Randall (March 6, 2006). "Classhole (#72)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/72/. Retrieved on October 3, 2008.
^ "Words that End in GRY (#169)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/169/. Retrieved on March 6, 2007.
^ "Join Myspace (#146)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/146/. Retrieved on March 6, 2007.
^ "Cover Up (#542)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/542/. Retrieved on February 11, 2009.
^ "Actuarial (#493)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/493/. Retrieved on July 31, 2008.
^ "Secretary: Part 1". http://xkcd.com/494. Retrieved on January 21, 2009.
^ Munroe, Randall (September 20, 2006). "Boombox (#159)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/159/. Retrieved on November 26, 2008.
^ Munroe, Randall (January 26, 2007). "Letting Go (#215)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/215/. Retrieved on November 26, 2008.
^ Munroe, Randall (May 7, 2007). "Jealousy (#420)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/420/. Retrieved on November 26, 2008.
^ Munroe, Randall (September 19, 2008). "The Staple Madnes (#478)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/478/. Retrieved on November 26, 2008.
^ The boy appears in comics #1, #11, #22, #25, and #31
^ "Nihilism (#167)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/167/. Retrieved on October 4, 2007.
^ "Kayak (#209)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/209/. Retrieved on November 1, 2007.
^ "Hypotheticals (#248)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/248/. Retrieved on October 23, 2007.
^ "Dark Flow (#502)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/502/. Retrieved on 18 15, 2008.
^ "Open Source (#225)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/225/. Retrieved on November 17, 2007.
^ a b "1337 Part 5 (#345)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/345/. Retrieved on November 17, 2007.
^ "Blagofaire (#239)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/239/. Retrieved on November 17, 2007.
^ "Nash (#182)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/182/. Retrieved on January 2, 2009.
^ "Unscientific (#397)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/397/. Retrieved on January 2, 2009.
^ "1337: Part 1". http://xkcd.com/341. Retrieved on September 5, 2008.
^ "Exploits of a Mom". http://xkcd.com/327. Retrieved on January 10, 2008. Help I'm Trapped In A Driver's License Factory Elain Roberts' name is given in the tooltip for this comic.
^ "Action Movies". http://xkcd.com/311. Retrieved on January 21, 2009.
^ "Life Imitates xkcd, Part II: Richard Stallman". xkcd. April 19, 2007. http://blag.xkcd.com/2007/04/19/life-imitates-xkcd-part-ii-richard-stall.... Retrieved on August 20, 2007.
^ "Stallman trumpets free software". The Yale Daily News. http://yaledailynews.com/articles/view/21889/. Retrieved on October 19, 2007.
^ "Richard Stallman Debate". Blog of the YPU. October 18, 2007. http://www.yale.edu/ypu/blog.html. Retrieved on October 21, 2007.
^ "Cory Doctorow, Part II". xkcd. March 28, 2007. http://blag.xkcd.com/2007/03/28/cory-doctorow-part-ii/. Retrieved on September 5, 2007.
^ Chun Yu (November 12, 2007). "The man [hiding] behind the raptor". The Tartan. http://www.thetartan.org/2007/11/12/pillbox/xkcd. Retrieved on November 12, 2007.
^ "People Playing Chess on Roller Coasters". http://xkcd.com/chesscoaster/. Retrieved on August 20, 2007.
^ Paul McNamara (October 9, 2007). "Researchers ping through first full 'Internet census' in 25 years". Buzzblog. Networkworld.com. http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/20390?t51hb. Retrieved on October 10, 2007.
^ "62 Days + Almost 3 Billion Pings + New Visualization Scheme = the First Internet Census Since 1982". Information Science Institute. October 8, 2007 (Last modified October 9, 2007). http://www3.isi.edu/about-news_story.htm?s=178. Retrieved on October 10, 2007.
^ "Map of the Internet (#195)". xkcd. http://xkcd.com/195/. Retrieved on October 10, 2007.
^ Moore, Matthew (October 10, 2008). "YouTube 'play back' feature to humiliate inane commenters". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/3173494/YouTube-.... Retrieved on October 10, 2008.
^ McNamara, Paul (October 9, 2008). "YouTube Takes a Page From xkcd". PC World. http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/152109/youtube_takes_a_pag.... Retrieved on October 10, 2008.
^ "Source of antigravity.py". October 15, 2008. http://svn.python.org/view/python/trunk/Lib/antigravity.py?view=markup&p.... Retrieved on April 24, 2009.
^ "emacs 23 has been released!". 28 July 2009. http://emacs-fu.blogspot.com/2009/07/emacs-23-is-very-near.html. Retrieved on 31 July 2009.
^ "2008 List of Winners and Finalists". Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards. http://www.ccawards.com/2008finalists.html. Retrieved on 6 January 2009.
^ Aylward, Kevin (11 November 2008). "The 2007 Weblog Award Winners". http://2007.weblogawards.org/news/the-2007-weblog-award-winners.php. Retrieved on 6 January 2009.
^ Aylward, Kevin (15 January 2009). "The 2008 Weblog Awards Winners". http://2008.weblogawards.org/news/the-2008-weblog-award-winners/. Retrieved on 9 July 2009.
^ "2009 NewNowNext Awards | The Best in Gay & Lesbian Pop Culture | Logo Online". Viacom International Inc.. http://www.logoonline.com/shows/newnownext_awards/vote.jhtml?qn=nnn_poll_13. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
^ Warn, Sarah (2009-05-21). "Photos: 2009 NewNowNext Awards". AfterEllen.com. http://www.afterellen.com/people/2009/5/nnn-awards-red-carpet-photos. Retrieved on 2009-06-14.
^ xkcd-es - Un webcómic sobre romance, sarcasmo, mates y lenguaje
^ "xkcd-es". http://es.xkcd.com/xkcd-es/archive/. Retrieved on 30 August 2008.
^ "ru_xkcd". http://xkcd.ru/. Retrieved on 7 November 2008.
^ "xkcd en français". http://xkcd.free.fr/.
^ "xkcDE". http://xkcde.dapete.de/.
 Further sources
Munroe, Randall (February 2007). "Once a Physicist: Randall Munroe". Physics World. p. p. 43. http://physicsworldarchive.iop.org/index.cfm?action=summary&doc=20/2/phwv20i2a40@pwa-xml.
Erg (March 26, 2007). "Talking xkcd with Randall Munroe". Comixtalk.com. http://comixtalk.com/talking_xkcd_with_randall_munroe. Retrieved on May 12, 2008.
 External links
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: xkcd
Wikinews has related news: Randall Munroe, writer of xkcd, talks about the comic, politics and the internet
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xkcd"
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