309: Shopping Teams

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Shopping Teams
I am never going out to buy an air conditioner with my sysadmin again.
Title text: I am never going out to buy an air conditioner with my sysadmin again.

[edit] Explanation

Randall is comparing the ways different people look at choosing between similar products. In the first example, which Randall considers "bad", two "non-nerds" look at two products (without a description of any kind) and instantly decide which one they want. In the second example, which is considered good, one of the two is a nerd and the other one (the woman) is a non-nerd. The non-nerd instantly picks one of the products but the nerd evaluates the two and decides that the other one is better because it's a better deal. In both the first two cases, the pair are able to easily come to a decision.

However, in the third example two nerds are comparing the two boxes and both of them over-analyse the various merits and drawbacks on each of the two boxes. They are still there two hours later, unable to reach a clear agreement on which of the two boxes they wish to buy. One nerd comments that their definition of value is unclear, suggesting the discussion has gone on for so long because they are re-evaluating their definitions over something too trivial. Some might perceive this as typical "nerd" behaviour, over-analysing a problem which is in actual fact quite trivial, such as the decision whether to buy one box or the other virtually identical box. The non-nerd woman from the second situation who has watched the two nerds comparing the two products attempts to put this into perspective, by pointing out that an unclear definition of value is not their problem. The implication is that their problem is they are unable to reach an agreement on something that makes so little difference at the end of the day.

The title text suggests that Randall entered a similar situation attempting to buy an air conditioner with his sysadmin, short for System administrator. The sysadmin is a person in an organisation employed to manage the computer system or network, a role which requires technical skills and intelligence. The suggestion here is that a computer programmer, like Randall, put together with a sysadmin, would spend as much attention to detail as the two nerds in the comic, labouring over which of two trivially similar products to buy.

Randall deals with sysadmins again in 705: Devotion to Duty.

[edit] Transcript

[Each team is looking at a counter with two cubes on it.]
Bad: Two non-nerds
Friend 1: Let's get that one.
Friend 2: okay.
Good: non-nerd + nerd
Woman non-nerd: Let's get that one.
Cueball: Wait, I think that one might be a better deal.
Woman non-nerd: Okay, that one.
Very Bad: Two Nerds
Cueball: How about that one?
Friend 3: I think the other one might be the better deal...
Cueball: Hmm, I'm not sure...'
Two Hours Later
[Nerds are sitting in front of laptops with papers strewn about in front of display counter.]
Cueball: I think our main problem is our unclear definition of value.
Woman non-nerd: That is not your main problem!
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