554: Not Enough Work

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Not Enough Work
It's even harder if you're an asshole who pronounces <> brackets.
Title text: It's even harder if you're an asshole who pronounces <> brackets.

[edit] Explanation

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), 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 having 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.

Gopher is a defunct internet protocol, which has been completely superseded by HTTP.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 XHTML 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

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 your coders need more work. The title text notes that pronouncing the angle-brackets would be even more challenging to write HTML in Haiku format, prompting Randall to name anyone who does this an asshole.

Finally, the last panel mentions the biggest timesink of them all: webcomics. (Or, say, wikis devoted to explaining the jokes in webcomics.)

[edit] Transcript

Signs your coders don't have enough work to do:
[Cueball sitting at his workstation, with Ponytail standing behind him.]
Cueball: I'm almost up to my old typing speed in Dvorak
[Two men standing by a server rack.]
Cueball: Our servers now support Gopher. Just in case.
[Megan standing near her workstation speaking to Cueball.]
Megan: Our pages are now HTML, XHTML-STRICT, and Haiku-compliant.
Cueball: Haiku?
Megan: <div class="main"><span id="marquee">Blog!</span></div>
[Ponytail sitting at her workstation.]
Ponytail: Hey! Have you guys seen this webcomic?
comment.png add a comment!

Discussion

I always pronounce tags like < / span > as "slash span." 107.204.46.198 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)


I thought the keys jamming thing was a myth... 184.66.160.91 04:27, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

You're thinking of the "slow typers down" qualification to that. QWERTY was designed to speed them up by stopping jams. Anonymous 06:14, 13 December 2013 (UTC)


An interesting note; Haiku is also the name of a free and open source operating system! The Alpha release was 6 months after this comic was written though, so this is likely a coincidence.108.162.219.195 21:11, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

"Gopher" is also a pun on "go for". For this reason it's used to mean a general unqualified helper person, sent to fetch various items for the more senior people. For example, "He started on the racing team as a gopher". 108.162.246.5 21:33, 31 January 2014 (UTC)
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