1254: Preferred Chat System

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Preferred Chat System
If you call my regular number, it just goes to my pager.
Title text: If you call my regular number, it just goes to my pager.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect:
Please include the reason why this explanation is incomplete, like this: {{incomplete|reason}}

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As more options become available for communication, it becomes more and more difficult to determine the social etiquite of how you choose to communicate with people. It is generally customary to return a communication from someone in the same medium that they contacted you. For example, a voicemail is generally returned with a phone call, or an email with an email, etc. However, sometimes people repond through a different channel, such as texting a response to a voicemail or emailing a reply to a text. This can create confusion that Randall is pointing out, because the recipient doesn't know whether to go back to their original communication method, or whether the response was a signal that the recipient prefers the new communication method. Similarly, it becomes commonplace for people to know which communication is preferred by the recipient or most likely to reach the recipient quickly and generate the fastest response.

In this comic, Randall portrays the difficulty Cueball is facing when communicating with a seemingly irrational recipient. Today's multitude of social networks and communication systems only amplifies the problem. Cueball is leaving a voicemail for his intended recipient to clarify the best way to reach them. He is doing so, he says, because he initially tried texting the recipient which they replied to with one message on the instant-messaging service Google Talk (commonly called Gchat). This is unusual because instant messaging services are usually used to engage in longer conversations than one message. Cueball further is confused because the recipient, although silent on Google Talk, continues responding on IRC (presumably to others or in public chat rooms). Cueball then attempted to communiacte by email, but the response came on Skype, another instant messaging service that features voice and video chat along with text. The recipient mentions that the email "woke [them] up", which is generally something that might happen with a ringing phone call, but is not common with email that generally people do not set their devices to give immediate audible notice of.

Cueball clarifies that he appreciates that the recipient is very quick to respond, but his confusion stems from his inability to determine the proper medium to use. As he finishes his voicemail, an Owl flys towards him carrying a written message. This appears to be a reference to owl post, which is a form of communication in the {{w|Harry Potter]] lore which itself is presumably based on the real-world usage of Carrier pigeons. The owl post message indicates that the voicemail was recieved, and suggests using Google Voice next time, which is an alternative form of voice and text to the standard telecom companies.


[Cueball talks on a cell phone.]
Cueball: Sorry for the voicemail, but I'm confused about how to reach you.
Cueball: When I text you, you reply once on GChat, then go quiet, yet answer IRC right away. I emailed you, and you replied on Skype and mentioned that the email "woke you up".
Cueball: You're very responsive - I just haven no sense of how you use technology.
[An owl appears in the sky.].
[Cueball reads the letter brought by the owl.]
did you try to call me? use my google voice number next time.

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It seems like an owl to me, a Harry Potter reference maybe. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Please sign your posts with --~~~~. But you are right, it's an owl.--Dgbrt (talk) 11:12, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
I'd like to suggest this could also be a reference to IP over Avian Carriers: http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1149 --Erkurita (talk) 08:24, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
I don't know, the person might just be Black Hat. This seems like something he would do. --~~~~

Clearly that owl is a reference to the owl who carries written messages in the Harry Potter series.

Google voice bills itself as a number that is "tied to you [the user]" instead of a device [like a phone]. Cueball is operating under the assumption that like begets like; that is, if I phone you, you are on a phone. Google voice negates this because it allows the user to control how messages reach the receipient. The comic takes this a step further and applies it to any method of communication Zim (talk) 12:32, 21 August 2013 (UTC)zim 12:01, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

Can I coin the term "e-synaesthesia"? 13:50, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

If that were a Facebook post, I would *like* it. 14:11, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

Cueball's friend might just be avoiding expensive mediums. Because of how cellular carriers price their services in some countries, some plans charge far more for voice or SMS than for low-bandwidth data such as IRC or VoIP. Wired ISPs in many countries even offered unmetered data or close to it (Comcast's quarter TB per month). --Tepples (talk) 14:43, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

It is quite common that my mobile phone is off and reloading in another room, while I am actively engaged on my PC and receiving email immediately. So I kind of relate to the comic. With today's notification possibilities (SMS, Email, ...) and interconnected services (e.g. receive Facebook chat messages with a personalized facebook email address and be notified to another email of yours), this gets kind of confusing what is the individual's preferred way of communication. Sebastian -- 17:19, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

When he said the email woke him up it reminded me emails from an a**hole maybe he is a reader. Prussell84 (talk) 20:04, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

Frame 4, amazing future tech: They know where cue ball is, then remote control the owl's brain to deliver the message. Indistinguishable from magic indeed. MarcoLinux (talk) 21:17, 21 August 2013 (UTC)MarcoLinux

Nah, they simply trained the owl to go to this place. It's not like their time was limited, they already send the owl in a way it appeared just after the voicemail was sent, which suggest they send it BEFORE the voicemail started as owls are not really able to move at speed comparable to wireless signal. -- Hkmaly (talk) 07:51, 22 August 2013 (UTC)
Audible email

On the contrary, standard unix behaviour is to make a noise when email arrives. Only it's a single short beep of ctrl+G and computer must be running for it to be played, so it's not really probable it would wake up someone ... at least not if they are sleeping at bed. It may wake up someone dozing off while sitting at the computer. -- Hkmaly (talk) 07:55, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

The iPhone (and I imagine any smartphone) sounds an audible tone when an email comes in, and many of us sleep with the phone very near the bed. Gardnertoo (talk) 16:02, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

Yeah, most Android phones do that, too, by default, so unless you change the settings or put your phone silent in the night, getting woken up by email is actually not that unusual. (Luckily we have good spam filters today, otherwise sleeping near a smartphone would be a real problem.) -- 09:23, 24 August 2013 (UTC)

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. George Bernard Shaw 12:47, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

I removed the incomplete tag, as the explanation was more thorough than many complete ones. The only thing it needs is a link to the (3-5?) other comics that mentioned RFC. --Quicksilver (talk) 21:38, 25 August 2013 (UTC)