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Revision as of 19:09, 27 February 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained 5 xkcd comics, and only 1706 (34120%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

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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") within 24 hours of its posting, and for only 10 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 realises 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 sent to a semi-public "Story" and the user decides how long any user can see the snap in a range from 1-10 s. In principle, any specific snap is only accessible for 24 hours even if it is a story. A committee of users could have more than 10 seconds to access the snap, by viewing in sequence. Given the time it might take for a committee to decide which snap wins the prize, it is realistic that Cueball learns about the winner after the 24 hours is up; Thus even a user following the outcome might not be able to see the winning entry after that time. In practice 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 recognised as a snap, eligible to win the prize, would be if no one could see it for more than 10 seconds. So one of the possible rules might be that any picture which was saved would not be able to win the prize. (This would be effectively impossible to enforce.)

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 could be making fun of Snapchat (see the title), and the idea that you cannot save the images for later; As mentioned regarding screenshots, it is actually very easy to save pictures from Snapchat. (To many a user's regret after having sent something very personal, such as naked pictures of themselves.) The comic could also be seen as mocking the Pulitzer Prize for having too broad a spectrum of categories. Alongside the (photo)journalistic and prose awards, the Pulitzers also honor a variety of artistic pursuits, including Poetry, Drama and Music.

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 arguably its popularity may be too short lived to make the awarding of prizes bear any ongoing noteworthiness whatsoever.


[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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