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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 15:42, 8 August 2012

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For obvious reasons, the prize is awarded at a different time of year from the others, while it's still fresh in the committee's memory.
Title text: For obvious reasons, the prize is awarded at a different time of year from the others, while it's still fresh in the committee's memory.


Snapchat is a photo-sending app that allows the receiving user to only view the photo (known as a "snap") for a few seconds before it is deleted. The Pulitzer Prize is famously awarded for exceptional journalism and photojournalism (there are many categories; see here).

Cueball reads that the Snapchat Pulitzer Prize has just been awarded but then, when Megan states that she heard the picture was really good, Cueball becomes disappointed because he realizes he has already missed out on the chance to see the prize winning entry due to the temporary nature of Snapchat. Note that Megan also missed the opportunity to see the snap.

A given snap can be send to a semi-public "Story" and the user decides how long any user can see the snap in a range from 1-10 s. Any specific snap is only accessible for 24 hours even if it is a story. Cueball would thus have more than 10 seconds to access the snap, also after the first user views it (in the committee). Given the time, however, it takes for the committee to decide which snap wins the prize, it is realistic that Cueball learns about the prize after the 24 hours is up, and so even though every user who can follow the snaps of the winner, will still not be able to see it after that time. In principle it is possible to circumvent the Snapchat rule and take a screen shot or in other ways save the content of the snap. In the case of a Pulitzer Prize winning photo, someone would probably have saved it, if it was in real life. On the other hand, the only way for the photo to be recognized as a snap, that could win the prize, was if no one could see it for more than 10 seconds. So the a ruling could be that any picture that was saved would not be able to win the prize.

The title text extends this ephemeral nature of Snapchat's content to the prize awarded for it: The other Pulitzer prizes are announced annually in April and awarded in May (except for 2016, the centennial year, when an awards dinner will be held in October). The Snapchat Pulitzer Prize alone must be awarded as quickly as possible after the winner has been decided, before the prize committee forgets what the winning picture looked like. This of course underlines how silly this idea is, because only images seen during the assembly of the prize committee can be seen and remembered, and it is not possible to arrange this based on any knowledge of when a Pulitzer Prize "worthy" snap will be released.

Randall is first of all making fun of Snapchat (hence the title), and the idea that you cannot save the images for later (although as mentioned with screenshots, it is possible - to many's regret after having send something very personal, like naked pictures of them selves).

But Randall is also mocking the Pulitzer Prize for having too broad a spectrum of categories. The awards were always intended to include the Arts, as well as reportage, but not so many people may realize that Photos, Poetry, Drama and Music also get rewarded, alongside the traditional forms of journalism and prose.

The new medium of Snapchat is certainly a hybrid form of art and information/opinion dispersal, both at its best and at its worst, but too short lived to be awarded any prizes what so ever.


[Cueball and Megan standing together. He holds a smartphone in his left hand and looks at it.]
Cueball: Oh, the Pulitzer Prize for Snapchat was just awarded.
Megan: Yeah.
Megan: I hear the photo was really good.
Cueball: Aw, maaaan...

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