554: Not Enough Work
|Not Enough Work|
Title text: It's even harder if you're an asshole who pronounces <> brackets.
In some companies, programmers can find themselves under-employed. This may be because these companies have little programming work until something breaks or needs upgrading, or perhaps they are between projects, or simply waiting for a go-ahead. Coders still need to make themselves available to perform emergency fixes, but they may have no other assigned work. This requires them to find constructive ways to spend their time. Or unconstructive, if that is more fun.
Dvorak is a keyboard layout that was proposed in 1936 as an alternative to the existing, entrenched QWERTY layout, developed in the 1870s. The QWERTY keyboard is the standard in the US, but some features in its layout are based on mechanical considerations rather than the optimum placement for typing speed. For example, common letter combinations such as 'st' and 'th' had to be arranged so that their operating levers were separated from each other, lest they cause jams and slow down the typist. More than sixty years later, such mechanical considerations could be overcome, and Dvorak designed his keyboard layout with typing efficiency in mind.
The Dvorak keyboard was ultimately unsuccessful. It still persists today, but has never threatened the dominance of the QWERTY keyboard. Even if the Dvorak layout is more efficient (which is still a matter for debate, see the uncomfortable truth in 561: Well), QWERTY was and is the standard. This means that every keyboard user has to learn QWERTY anyway, and there is insufficient benefit in spending the time to learn a new layout, especially when you would have to switch back and forth between Dvorak and QWERTY as the situation demands.
Therefore, even seriously considering the switch is a sign that you really have nothing better to do. Another joke is that even though the coder has plenty of spare time on his hands to practice on Dvorak, he has only been able to 'almost' match his old typing speed.
This was the first comic to refer to Dvorak, but since then it has become a recurrent theme on xkcd. A later comic, 1445: Efficiency, mentions, in the title text, how you could waste lots of time testing to see if Dvorak is faster.
Gopher is a defunct internet protocol, which has been completely superseded by HTTP. It's a perfect example of the kind of thing a programmer might implement in the absence of other, more useful work. (As an aside, the protocol is named for the mascot of the University of Minnesota, where it was developed.)
HTML and XHTML are markup languages used to describe web documents. XHTML-strict is a more restricted version of HTML that excludes certain redundant tags like <center>, which is theoretically no longer necessary now that <div> and <span> exist. Haiku, on the other hand, is a kind of Japanese poetry. Rather than having a rhyming meter like Western poetry, Japanese poetry has strict restrictions on syllable count; a haiku must contain three lines, containing 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. The section of code given is HTML markup, and would be read by a web developer like this:
- Div class equals Main
- Span ID equals Marquee
- Blog! end span end div (or alternatively slash span slash div)
Which can be divided in syllables like this:
- Div - class - e - quals - Main
- Span - I - D - e - quals - Mar - quee
- Blog! - end - span - end - div
This meets the syllable requirements. Restricting yourself to writing markup in this form would be extremely challenging and time-consuming and pointless, so it, too, is a good sign that coders need more real work to do. The title text notes that if you are one of those assholes that are actually pronouncing the angle-brackets, then it would be even harder to write HTML in Haiku format. "Left angle bracket" and "right angle bracket" take up five syllables each on their own. (The asshole part is Randall's opinion about those who do pronounce <>). Haiku was mentioned later in 622: Haiku Proof.
Finally, the last panel mentions the biggest timesink of them all: webcomics! (Or, even worse, wikis devoted to explaining the jokes in webcomics.)
A haiku-compliant programming language does in fact exist: David Morgan-Mar (a creator of many esoteric and parodic languages) invented Haifu, a language that will only compile if it is arranged into subsets of 5 + 7 + 5 syllables. Unlike the HTML example in the comic, Haifu derives its functions and syntax from concepts in Eastern philosophy (such as naming its variable types after the five elements, replacing true and false with yin and yang, and defining arithmetic in terms of creation and destruction).
- [Above the first two panels there is a caption:]
- Signs your coders don't have enough work to do:
- [Cueball sitting in an office chair at his workstation, with Ponytail standing behind him.]
- Cueball: I'm almost up to my old typing speed in Dvorak
- [Cueball is standing next to a server rack pointing at it while looking the other way at a Cueball-like guy. There are three sections filled with servers, two of them together, and space for several more above and below and betwen those two and the one at the bottom. Behind the rack wires comes down tot he floor from all three servers together and the wires then exits the panel to he right along the floor.]
- Cueball: Our servers now support Gopher.
- Cueball: Just in case.
- [In a frame-less panel Megan is standing near her workstation to the right speaking to Cueball to the left.]
- Megan: Our pages are now HTML, XHTML-Strict, and Haiku-compliant.
- Cueball: Haiku?
- <div class="Main">
- <span ID="Marquee">
- [Ponytail sitting in an office chair at her workstation.]
- Ponytail: Hey!
- Ponytail: Have you guys seen this webcomic?
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