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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 05:35, 4 March 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". xkcd comics, and only Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". (Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",".%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

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LIFEHACKS: You can just take all the luggage off the airport conveyer belt and leave with it. They don't check that it's yours at the door!
Title text: LIFEHACKS: You can just take all the luggage off the airport conveyer belt and leave with it. They don't check that it's yours at the door!


Cueball in this comic, as is often the case, is some sort of programmer or at least logically minded person. He reads through the terms that are handed to him, and finds some sort of loophole. This is a play on the fact that programmers often find loopholes in programs and code, and exploiting them is nothing more than a "cool find" or an interesting idea.

The insurance agent foresees this, and explains that this "cool hack" - which is known as insurance fraud - is illegal. The comparison here is that exploiting a program's faults can be regarded as interesting or fun, while exploiting the faults in a legal document will most certainly result in some sort of legal repercussions.

The insurance agent is also already prepared for the following question - how he knew Cueball would be looking for loopholes, and it's because many programmers visit him.

The title text provides another example: While airport luggage security certainly is exploitable, following through with this particular "lifehack" is also criminal - a theft.

This would appear to be a sequel to 1469: UV

Lifehacks vs. IT hacks

The term hacking in IT is ambiguous and goes from simple code development to "using a hack". A hack would then refer to a tricky piece of code doing the intended job in a way that the framework or project in which it is inserted was not intended to. Hacking a system would also refer to some illegal way of acheiving a goal against the will of the original developers of the system, like getting a copy of all the data available or taking advantage of some unwanted behavior.

This comic is making fun of what would IT hacks look like in real world. Surely, taking many luggages from an airport is technically possible and probably not so difficult, but first, it looks weird, and second, it's also obviously illegal. The weirdness of such behavior is more obvious in real life than in IT.


[Cueball is standing in front of a desk, which a man sits behind. The man is presumably an insurance agent, and is handing Cueball a paper.]

Insurance agent: Here's a page explaining the terms of your new fire insurance policy.

[Cueball reads the paper.]

Cueball: Hey, what if I -

Insurance agent: And here's a page explaining that the "cool hack" you just thought of is called "insurance fraud". We already know about it and it's a crime.

Cueball: Oh. Right. How did -

Insurance agent: I see a lot of programmers here.

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