Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: If you close an account while it's still friends with people, it contributes to database linkage accumulation slowdown, which is a major looming problem for web infrastructure and definitely not a thing I just made up.
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is very slowly following the described process of removing himself from a social network
. Such actions are not necessary on any well-designed website, and actively unfriending people individually could be perceived as rude or antisocial. At the point Cueball reaches in the comic, however, his friends' reactions suggest they think he is suicidal. Distancing oneself from social contact
is an early warning of suicide.
There are dozens of social media websites and forums (e.g. Orkut and Hi5) that have faded into obscurity, either because they have outlived their usefulness, or because no one uses them. But even though one may not have visited them for years, they are still sitting there, gathering one's "friends'" statuses. It is often surprising to receive an email from a forum or social media website one has not visited for years. The comic is saying that one should always unfriend everyone when leaving a group, so that one does not keep getting statuses for "friends" one no longer cares about. The reverse order is because one unfriends the people one has known for the shortest period first.
Alternate explanation: The reverse order to unfriend people could refer to the correct memory allocation and deallocation processes in programming languages like C. When allocating a memory block A, the pointer a-> will save the starting address of this memory block. The next memory blocks B, C, and D may use pointers saved inside of block A. If ones starts the deallocation process at Block A, one loses all information about the other blocks and thus can not deallocate them. If the process repeats over and over, its memory usage will accumulate and will eventually result in an out of memory error.
The comic may alternately refer to databases and the query language SQL. Modern web sites are always saved in such databases by using references from one entity to another. A entity in this context is a thing in the modeled world; in this case, Cueball and his "friends". Using the entity–relationship model, the friends will still have a relationship to the nonexistent user Cueball, and the links are orphaned.
In the title text, "database linkage accumulation slowdown" really is a thing that Randall just made up. This may be a satire of popular fears of made-up technological problems, often held by those who are not technologically savvy.
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- [Cueball sits at a desk, using a laptop.]
- The internet is filled with derelict accounts aggregating news about friends long forgotten.
- Uhh, is everything OK?
- Dude, what the hell?
- When you find yourself drifting away from a community, remember to clean up after yourself by slowly unfriending everyone, one by one, in the reverse order that you added them.
Kind of reminds me of all these movies where someone deletes something from a computer by dramatically backspacing everything. Like in Daredevil, for example. 188.8.131.52 07:34, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
- Ugh. I hated that scene. lcarsos_a (talk) 08:49, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
- Ugh. I hated that movie. DD (talk) 10:14, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
- I hate it when CTRL+Backspace doesn't work as expected, or starts adding non-printable characters instead. Saibot84 (talk) 12:42, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
It wouldn't surprise me if FB kept a list of all the people who unfriended you. I know that they don't delete accounts that have been deleted. Hax (talk) 14:45, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
The reference to defriending in reverse order could be a joke about memory management in programming: You free up memory in reverse of the order you allocated it --Eqdw (talk) 16:49, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
- I agree with Eqdw on the memory management reference; the title text especially seems to reference memory leak problems. Unfortunately, I lack sufficient technical knowledge to provide a good explanation of this for the description. TheGreatSasquatch (talk) 17:15, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
- I did a first simple try.--Dgbrt (talk) 19:17, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
I remember using Noroom's List Manager to clean up my block/allow lists after a person has removed me from their contact list in good old MSN with good old MSG Plus! (with good old ***ware) 184.108.40.206 19:06, 12 August 2013 (UTC)
Some bullshit on the page. Not sure if it could be edited to something that makes sense, if not it probably should be erased: "But it also may refer to databases and the query language SQL. Modern web sites are always saved in such databases and using references from one entity to an other. A entity in this context is a thing in the modeled world, in this case Cueball and his friends. By using the entity–relationship model the friends will still have a relationship to the nonexistent user Cueball, the links are orphaned.". Problems: 1) Modern web sites tend to shift from SQL to No-SQL databases, especially sites like social networks; 2) The described behavior is not a problem in a properly designed SQL database, since absence of orphaned links is ensured by foreign constraints. 220.127.116.11 07:08, 14 August 2013 (UTC)
- I disagree. At the title text Randall mentions a major looming problem belonging to databases. And all modern websites like wordpress, or even this wiki, using SQL databases in the background. No-SQL is an alternative, but still rarely used.--Dgbrt (talk) 10:27, 14 August 2013 (UTC)
- In any good database, when you remove a table it should clean up all the links that when to and from it. There is no such thing as "database linkage accumulation slowdown". Even IF all the derelict links persisted, the only way that a system would slow down is if it was continually trying to access each and every dead link. Even then the system would be very quick to return an null value. An automated cleanup program would take very little time to process all of the "garbage" - IF there was garbage. Likely, the slowdown could refer to "The internet is filled with derelict accounts aggregating news about friends long forgotten.", the fact that when people abandon their old accounts, the system is still functioning and automatically processing whatever "services" they offer and every abandoned account is accumulating data, which could consist of actual data and/or links to other data. As the comic suggests, without users to "clean up" their old accounts the systems would slow down because of this automated data accumulation - which is 95% fiction (imho). Jarod997 (talk) 14:09, 30 January 2014 (UTC)
Anything that needs to scale significantly gets away from SQL. It is not rarely used, it is the only option beyond a certain size. Facebook makes extensive use of No-SQL. 18.104.22.168 02:41, 1 November 2013 (UTC)
Nevermind the language used to implement current or historical database type websites. This detail is inconsequential to the comic. No program or database would rely on the actions of the everyday user to maintain the integrity of the system. All system maintenance required surrounding account deletion would be handled by separate systems and processes. The looming problem of 'database linkage accumulation' is obvious fiction dressed in technical language to fool the uninitiated. The joke is that Cueball is using a fallacious argument centered in a knowledge of good programming practice to justify a rude behaviour that he finds enjoyable as it provokes reactions in other users.
Paragraph two of the explanation should be edited to describe good programming practice centering around memory management. re: de-allocation and ordering paragraph three and four can be deleted in favour of explanation on why relying on user input to maintain the health of the system is foolish and would not be considered in such an implementation and the confirmation of d.b.a.s. as a false problem made up to justify Cueball's provocative behavior. Mrarch (talk) 00:17, 3 December 2013 (UTC)
Should we explain that derelict means abandoned? This comic is about abandoned accounts, not about deleting rows from a database. 22.214.171.124 13:02, 29 January 2014 (UTC)
- I agree with the derelict->abandoned idea. But what others are talking about is not deleting rows, but tables - if you want to look at it that way. What I believe the comic is suggesting is that if you remove a table which had a number of links pointing to it, those now dead links may be difficult to find and remove later. Jarod997 (talk) 21:24, 29 January 2014 (UTC)
I change a bit my comment: This comic is comparing abandoning an account with deleting a table from a database; it is not about deleting tables from a database only. 126.96.36.199
12:48, 30 January 2014 (UTC)