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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Discussion

The big problem with nerds is that they so frequently fail to place value on their own time. If you search through newspapers to find the best coupons to save a couple of dollars, I highly doubt that the amount of money you are saving is more than minimum wage. This applies to anything nerds end up spending so much time on. If you spend that time shopping around, clipping coupons or trading in TF2 because its fun, fine. But if you are in it for some sort of profit, its probably a waste of time. 108.162.245.217 06:38, 6 June 2014 (UTC)

People always do math against the person's earning potential. However, that's such a fallacy. If said person was bored of work after a 40 hour week / 8 hour days, clipping coupons would be a relief. And in this case since their earning potential has been reached (because they are unwilling to work more hours), but they are ok with clipping coupons, this is actually more profitable than watching TV. Also, if the person had a family and managed to turn the activity into a family activity, then not only did they gain bonding time, they are also limited to how much time they can work. Unless you want to assume that some person can work more than 40 hours a week at optimal effort up to the limit which affects their health, no, not every minute is equal in earning potential. Cflare (talk) 14:29, 21 July 2014 (UTC)
Sysadmin?

Who is Randall's sysadmin? Does he even have one? --199.27.133.189 04:48, 25 June 2014 (UTC)

Quote from the about page: "Server maintenance and most of the coding for these sites is done by my friend davean, who tries hard to remain invisible but can be reached at [email protected]" Davidy²²[talk] 09:45, 25 June 2014 (UTC)
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