979: Wisdom of the Ancients

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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[[Category:Comics featuring Cueball]]
[[Category:Comics featuring Cueball]]

Revision as of 15:20, 7 March 2014

Wisdom of the Ancients
All long help threads should have a sticky globally-editable post at the top saying 'DEAR PEOPLE FROM THE FUTURE: Here's what we've figured out so far ...'
Title text: All long help threads should have a sticky globally-editable post at the top saying 'DEAR PEOPLE FROM THE FUTURE: Here's what we've figured out so far ...'


This comic refers to a common experience that those trying to solve tech problems have. Typically, people search on Google to try to find solutions to the problem. Sometimes the solution can be found on a software program's website, but the most helpful solutions frequently come from discussions on message boards, particularly for more obscure problems. This is because the odds are rather high that someone else, years ago, had the same problem you're having and resolved it.

However, in this comic, Cueball is unable to find any mention of the problem he's currently facing except for one forum post about it that did not include the problem's solution. This is akin to finding an FAQ with questions but no answers.

The title is a satirical reference to the notion that the "ancients," i.e. from thousands of years ago, possessed knowledge that has been lost to the centuries (such as exactly how Stongehenge was built), and that artifacts from those times do not fully divulge such knowledge. The fact that the "ancient" referred to in the comic is from 2003 (only 8 years before the comic was published) is an exaggeration of the feeling that the forum poster is lost to the sands of time, but in some sense this feeling is nonetheless true, since Cueball is unlikely to be able to contact him.

The title text is a suggestion to forums to be aware of the fact that people are likely going to come across such posts in the future and therefore to provide handy summaries of the most helpful conclusions of long threads for them, since combing through several false starts and failed attempts to resolve a problem can be quite tedious.


[A poem is written outside the only panel, right justified along the left edge of the only panel.]
Never have I felt so close to another soul
And yet so helplessly alone
As when I Google an error
And there's one result
A thread by someone with the same problem
And no answer
Last posted to in 2003
[A person stands in front of his computer, shaking it violently while looking at the screen.]
Cueball: Who were you, DenverCoder9? WHAT DID YOU SEE?!

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"There was uh, a thing called a segfault that made my computer like, all blurry and stuff." Davidy22[talk] 06:58, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

That was one reason why StackOverflow came to life: main authors fed up with (mis)using forums for query & answer site --JakubNarebski (talk) 23:03, 15 June 2013 (UTC)

Just two googling steps brought me here: http://www.mirrorsoferis.com/forum/thread05232003a.html Relevant for "Trivia"? Even the year fits! 11:28, 12 September 2014 (UTC)

From the HTML source:
<!-- Well, you got me. -->
<!-- This is a spoof; a reaction to xkcd.com/979/ -->
<!-- Okay? -->
<!-- Apologies. -->
Cute theory, though. - 12:23, 10 December 2014 (UTC)

The link above seems to be dead now. DNS failed. 09:03, 22 August 2016 (UTC)

2nd paragraph of the explanation is nonsense! A forum post is nothing like a FAQ entry. The problem didn't get solved and was probably put away and forgotten. Happens all the time. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

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