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 often find themselves with not much work to do. This is because these companies have little programming work that needs doing until something breaks or needs upgrading. As a result, coders need to make themselves available to perform these emergency fixes, but also have nothing to do in the meantime. This requires finding constructive ways to entertain themselves.
Dvorak is a keyboard layout that was proposed as an alternative to the more common QWERTY layout. The QWERTY keyboard became the standard in the US due to mechanical typewriters; to avoid jamming, the most common letters had to be placed far away from each other on the keyboard. (International variants like the AZERTY and QWERTZ layout were designed with similar goals in mind, but for other languages.) As a result, certain words are incredibly awkward to type on a QWERTY keyboard; for example, if you're a US touch-typist, look at your keyboard and think about how you would type "minimum" - your fingers have to constantly straddle the "j" key and awkwardly avoid each other. The Dvorak keyboard, by contrast, is designed to make words much easier to type, placing all of the most common letters (including all five vowels) on the home row and maximizing hand alternation (which makes typing faster). Of course, most people learned to type with a Qwerty keyboard, and switching is quite difficult, especially for longtime touch-typists (like, say, programmers). Seriously considering the switch is a sign that you really having nothing better to do.
Gopher is a defunct internet protocol, which has been completely superseded by HTTP.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
Which meets the syllable requirements. Restricting yourself to writing markup in this form would be extremely challenging and time-consuming, so it, too, is a good sign your coders need more work. (As the title text notes, it would be even more challenging if you pronounce the angle brackets that all HTML tags have. Doing so is pointless and time-consuming, since anyone who knows HTML will also know what's meant to be a tag and what isn't, so Randall calls 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.)
- 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?