Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Title text: Here at CompanyName.website, our three main strengths are our web-facing chairs, our huge collection of white papers, and the fact that we physically cannot die.
Beret Guy's business, as previously seen in 1032: Networking and 1293: Job Interview, is going well, although it is unclear why. The common theme in these three comics is that Beret Guy misuses common business cliches. The following are examples and phrases that Randall is likely making a joke about:
- "If you're reading this, the webserver was installed correctly.™" When a web server is installed automatically (like Apache through a package manager), it typically comes with a minimal configuration meant to deliver a single page saying all is working fine. Usually, a company will then configure the web server to provide actual meaningful content. It appears that in this case Beret Guy's company kept the page as is, but also trademarked the sentence as the company's motto, and proudly displays it under the company logo.
- "CompanyName.website": Companies are usually given descriptive or evocative names; Beret Guy's company, meanwhile, has been given a generic placeholder name that explains nothing about the company or website except that it is a company with a website. Currently, almost every middle-sized company runs a website, so it doesn't mean Beret Guy's company is in the information technology business (but many elements are specifically parodying Google).
- "Welcome to a meeting!" The usual way to start a meeting is to welcome the participants by telling them in which meeting they are (e.g. "Welcome to the meeting on..."). Here, the complete lack of specifics in this sentence is an indication that the meeting has, in fact, no purpose at all, except to be just "A meeting". It could also mean that Beret Guy does not know the proper way to welcome people to a meeting.
- "I'm almost out of words so I'll keep this short." A common theme in the busy world of business is lack of time, so "I'm almost out of time" would be a valid reason for keeping a meeting short, rather than a finite quantity of words. Aside from the fiction movie A Thousand Words or people taking a Vow of Silence, people usually don't have a particular quota on the number of words they have or can use. Beret Guy also seems to run out of words in the title text of 1560: Bubblegum.
- "Just wanna touch bases." Often business professions will contact a customer to "touch base," meaning to check in for a status update. The use of the plural "bases" suggests Beret Guy does not know what this means. This could also be a word play on the expression "Cover some bases".
- "Self-driving car project" Google has been working on self-driving cars, which usually shouldn't be lost track of and found by the police. The fact that it was launched "by accident" is concerning. It could mean the car was turned on by mistake and then left unattended, or perhaps that a driver of one of their cars fell asleep or otherwise stopped controlling the vehicle, but it is not clear because the accidental launch may refer to the project itself rather than the car. The involvement of the police may imply that the car crashed or otherwise obstructed traffic. That said, 90 miles before crash is a good result for a self-driving car, especially when you didn't even know you built a self-driving car. What's especially ironic is the implication that the employees were carpooling (sharing a single vehicle for their commute, for reasons of efficiency/economy) in the self-driving car, and yet this carpool activity ended with the car setting off with nobody in it at all. These types of car was the topic of the later comic 1559: Driving, maybe misusing one of Beret Guy's cars. Self-driving cars is a recurring topic on xkcd.
- "Sales, any luck figuring out who our customers are?" In the real world, when companies want to find out "who [their] customers are", they are talking about learning more about their existing customers (e.g. age groups, interests, genders) in order to more closely match these customers' needs, and to discover ways to attract more of them. Here, Beret Guy and Ponytail apparently use the phrase literally - they have no records of making any sales. A normal enterprise struggles to sell its products/services in order to get money. Getting cash from an unknown source would lead to serious troubles - failure to comply with tax code, suspicion of money laundering - but overall, most enterprises suffer the opposite problem: they try as hard as they can but don't get enough cash to be profitable (despite keeping precise information about where cash comes from).
- "Bug tracker" usually refers to systems for tracking discovery, analysis, and fixing of software bugs (errors and problems), not the physical location of insects.
- "Web-facing" (title text) usually refers to software or a server that is connected to the internet using a web interface. However, in this case the term is applied to chairs (Likely meaning they are placed in front of a computer with internet browsing capability).
- "White papers" (title text) are usually policy recommendations, but here Beret Guy is likely talking about actual (near-worthless) blank white pieces of paper.
- "Main strengths" (title text) typically refer to one's skills, but "we physically cannot die" may refer to the fact that incorporated companies are in a sense anthropomorphised — they're legally treated as "persons", with the ability to sue and be sued in civil courts; or, just as likely, that Beret Guy and his employees are literally immortal, in which case that would indeed be a great asset which could be used in a variety of ways, from things like making an unstoppable army (though they could still be captured or incapacitated) to investing for a long long time.
- [Beret Guy is shown in silhouette. Above Beret Guy there is a black sign with white (and grey) text. Above this is his address to those in the meeting:]
- Beret Guy: Welcome to a meeting! I'm almost out of words, so I'll keep this short. Just wanna touch bases.
- [White text in the black sign (.website in grey):]
- If you're reading this, the web
- server was installed correctly.™
- [Beret Guy stands in front of an office chair and a table talking.]
- Beret Guy: First, a few updates. We've learned from the state police that the self-driving car project we launched by accident during this morning's carpool has come to an end about 90 miles outside of town. Very exciting!
- [Pony tail sits at the table.]
- Beret Guy [off-panel]: Profits are up. Sales, any luck figuring out who our customers are?
- Ponytail: Nope. Money keeps appearing, but we have no idea how or why.
- Beret Guy [off-panel]: Great!
- [Back to the situation from frame two.]
- Beret Guy: Oh, and one last thing—I saw a cool red beetle in the hall. Can someone add it to the bug tracker?
- [person off-panel]: Just did!
- Beret Guy: Thanks!
- "CompanyName.website" is actually a domain name that was registered on 2014-11-20 and which redirects to xkcd.com. Presumably, it is owned by Randall, for the same reason as in 305.
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It's been registered since November, just what the hell was Randall planning on doing with this site four months ago? Schiffy (Speak to me|What I've done) 05:32, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- He's said before that he buys domains and holds them until he finds a use. Maybe this was one of those? -- Mikemk (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Just went to the site. It redirects to xkcd.com 18.104.22.168 16:01, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- I know another webcomic artist who upgrades daily and currently has a three-month buffer (comics drawn ahead until early June of this year). Maybe Randall also has a buffer, and this cartoon was originally drawn in November and has been waiting in the buffer ever since.22.214.171.124 03:15, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
I want to know what that "physically cannot die" thing is about. 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- Let's see... mystical powers check. Immortality check. If he weren't so naive and clueless, I'd think Beret Guy is supposed to represent God. Mikemk (talk) 07:54, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- The phrase that comes to mind is "Quantum Immortality", although that doesn't seem to produce what I want from a web-searth, so perhaps I've got the term wrong. Basically, at every point where a quantum-level decision leads (immediately or eventually) to death or life for an individual, we only follow the probability path (in a many-worlds type scenario) that leads towards life. The fully observed "living cat" in Schrödinger's experiment, each and every time you try the experiment, so to say. Forever, given that accidents can be avoided by taking a different route home, serious diseases can be avoided by not catching them, physical aging/illness can (probably!) be avoided by not accumulating various nasty biological copy-errors (not sure what happens with mental processes, even assuming the physical impediments to brain function (such as plaques) are already dealt with, but let's assume that there's a "best result" in this life-path, also). Call it "life save-scumming", perhaps. Given how White Hat seems to have a charmed life, it would certain explain how things things seem to always turn out for the better (and more interesting, in a nice way) for him. Though obviously there's also a "many worlds" White Hat company board that has been this 'lucky' so far but now finds that their offices get struck by a de-orbitting bit of space-debris, against all odds. (Not that we'd follow them. We'd be more likely to see the versions that had built/rented their offices fifty yards further down the street, thus avoiding that fate.) 188.8.131.52 11:50, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- That which can eternal lie, can not die.184.108.40.206 16:25, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- Remember that this is Beret Guy we're talking about. They may actually be unable to die. 220.127.116.11 19:54, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- I have a feeling that it's from Beret Guy's mystic powers, that maybe he actually can't die. In that case, while the other two "strengths" are pretty useless, Immortality easily makes up for them. 18.104.22.168 07:54, 3 March 2015 (UTC)
- This should be in the Strange Powers of Beret Guy 22.214.171.124 04:54, 30 June 2017 (UTC)
Ok I may be way off base here but could it be possible that he is referencing the show Helix? In the show there is a group of immortals who formed a corporation name Ilaria and it's not clear how they make their money. 126.96.36.199 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Now that we have three comics on the subject (arguably more), should we have a Category:Beret Guy's Business? LockmanCapulet I plead the third! 08:01, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- Done :-). --DaB. (talk) 16:01, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- I added the two other pages to the category, but then realised that the wiki was getting confused about slight character differences (’:U+2019 vs ':U+0027) so I set up a redirect and now Category:Beret_Guy’s_Business (broken link to keep this page out of the cat) contains its self? Halp (although it does seem fitting of how Beret Guy frequently bends the laws of physics). Pixali (talk) 23:52, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
Could the immoralitly refer to the whole "corporations as a legal person" thing? User:CDave
I think 'beetle' might refer to a VW Beetle given that they're talking about cars. --188.8.131.52 09:00, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- I doubt it, because it was in the hall. Probably a literal beetle. 184.108.40.206 16:01, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- Just because they were talking about a car earlier doesn't mean they're still talking about a car. I suspect he's talking about the insect. Adding a layer about Volkswagen into the joke just doesn't seem funny enough. I think the line claiming it could be a Volkswagen should be removed from the explanation. --220.127.116.11 18:52, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
Could this be an intentional parody of Randall's own business model for xkcd? Since, beyond the store and his book he hardly operates as a standard business, but people just keep giving him money to do what he does anyway. 18.104.22.168 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Is the "cool red beetle" a ladybug? Would be consistent with Beret Guy not knowing many common nouns. Djbrasier (talk) 15:42, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
To be fair, corporations aren't really immortal, in much the same way a football team isn't. The team, of course, is constantly changing out its members, and in this sense can remain vigorous long beyond the lifespan of an ordinary human. But corporations are vulnerable to the fatal flaw of being utterly dependent on engaging the interest of quite a lot of people during their whole lifespan. Football needs players, investors, managers and coaches, children playing and learning the game in the decades leading up to league level play - not to mention millions of fans. If any of those groups lose interest, the whole enterprise evaporates, practically overnight. So the chief concern of corporations, even above profits, is to convince large groups of people to engage them, as buyers, workers, suppliers and so on. I am not sure how aware they are of this, nor am I sure I want them aware of it, but that's what it boils down to. 22.214.171.124 16:38, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
I thought "State Police" (probably Highway Patrol) was a reference to a police car chase. Usually police chase cars to stop them for violating laws. This time the police chased a car just to stop it. 126.96.36.199 22:53, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
- I was under the assumption that the car was being chased down for some kind of violation. The statement "Has come to an end about 90 miles out of town" is the kind of thing you'd have in a news report describing the events of a real police chase. Of course, for Beret Guy, it looks like it was more or less a successful test. 188.8.131.52 07:54, 3 March 2015 (UTC)
I remembered the mysterious apple car spotted weeks ago, that "launched" by accident the company's self-driving car project rumors. Nantunes (talk) 13:40, 3 March 2015 (UTC)
It looks like Beret Guy turns into a child in the last panel . . . doesn't it? 184.108.40.206 19:52, 3 March 2015 (UTC)
- Using GIMP, I can see he's got about the same overall height, but the distance between his head and his feet is smaller, and his head is bigger, so it does look like he became a child. However, it's more likely a drawing mistake. If I remember correctly, Randall is more likely to draw things again than copy pasting for accuracy, and I suppose it's hard to draw things in exactly the same dimensions. 220.127.116.11 22:53, 10 December 2015 (UTC)
Aren't the "three main strengths" a reference to the Spanish Inquisition?18.104.22.168 21:54, 3 March 2015 (UTC)
- No. The part of the Spanish Inquisition sketches you're talking about have the Inquisitor saying more things than he's said at the start ("Our chief weapon is surprise and fear- Our two weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency-" and so on). This is just a list of silly things. -Pennpenn 22.214.171.124 00:32, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
I assumed the self-driving car was more along Toyota and the accelerator being stuck, or something like that. A runaway car. 126.96.36.199 01:59, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
- I also take it that it was a runaway car. I imagine a scene where all the people in the carpool jump out of the car while it's driving at high speed, just to see how far it will "drive itself". Saibot84 21:50, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
Just a random headcanon on this, but I get the feeling that CompanyName.Website's "web-facing chairs" are chairs pointed at actual spiderwebs. --188.8.131.52 10:49, 18 April 2015 (UTC)
Is it possible that Beret Guys business is a money manufacturing facility?as in place that prints money?184.108.40.206 20:33, 6 August 2015 (UTC)