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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I honestly didn't think you could even USE emoji in variable names. Or that there were so many different crying ones.
Title text: I honestly didn't think you could even USE emoji in variable names. Or that there were so many different crying ones.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Needs fine-tuning and explaining of Ponytail's three comments

Ponytail is about to look at some source code Cueball has written, and he is warning her that he is self-taught so his code probably won't be written the way she is used to. Although few programming languages require a perfectly rigid style so long as the code is syntactically accurate, most programmers follow some sort of style to make the code easier to read. This includes indenting lines to show levels and using descriptive variable identifiers with CamelCase (or camelCase) or snake_case capitalization (capitalizing each word except for the first, and separating lowercase words with underscores, respectively). In spite of Ponytail's initial (polite) optimism, she comments in three increasingly harsh and absurd similes. Firstly, she suggests that reading his code is like being in a house built by an unskilled child, using a small axe to put together what he thought was a house based on a picture. Secondly, she suggests that it looks like a salad recipe, written by a corporate lawyer (who are notoriously difficult to understand), on a phone with autocorrect that only corrected things to formulas from Microsoft Excel (which are notoriously complicated). Thirdly, she suggests that it is a transcript of the dialogue of couple arguing at IKEA (a world-wide chain of furniture stores which feature large, maze-like showrooms as well as a large warehouse area where you can pick up the furniture you want to buy in flat, some-assembly-required packaging; especially on weekends when many people crowd in to a store, they can be stress-inducing places), the transcript of which was then randomly edited until the computer compiled it with no errors. Finally, Cueball surrenders and makes the rather weak assurance that he will read “a style guide”.

A common technique for self-taught programmers is to follow and adapt tutorials, and to find examples of similar problems being solved and try to copy the code. This can (but doesn't always) lead to code that is hard to follow or otherwise "messy" as various different pieces of code are jury-rigged together and tinkered with until they seem to work. Once a piece of code is working, it is usually considered too hard to go back and rewrite it to be cleaner or clearer, also at the risk of breaking something that has been working. This practice is known as refactoring and code projects that incorporate cycles of refactoring tend to be easier to read and maintain than those that don't.

The title text refers to emoji, or "smiley faces". They exist in Unicode, or can be simulated using ASCII characters. Many languages will allow variable names to include underscores, so a variety of sad face ASCII emoji will be legal variable names, such as T_T, p_q, ioi etc. Progressively more possible crying-face emoji are possible if variables can include UTF-8 characters or full Unicode. To this end, Ponytail is implying that at least a portion of, and possibly most or all of Cueball's variables were emoji variables.

In the realm of Unicode, there are many crying emojis, as the comic states (e.g. 😢,😭,😂,😿,😹) In most programming languages it would be impossible to use them in variable names, as the symbols would break the language's syntax rules. Notable exceptions to this are Go and Swift, Apple's new programming language, in which the code can understand and use emojis in variables. Java, as another example, allows unicode characters in variable names as long as they are letter, numeric, combining or non-formatting marks. (See [1] and [2]). Also, some C++ compilers support foreign Unicode characters and can have emoji in that manner.

Transcript

[Cueball showing Ponytail his laptop]
Cueball: Keep in mind that I'm self-taught, so my code may be a little messy.
Ponytail: Lemme see - I'm sure it's fine.
[Ponytail sits at desk]
Ponytail: ...Wow. This is like being in a house built by a child using nothing but a hatchet and a picture of a house.
Ponytail: It's like a salad recipe written by a corporate lawyer using a phone autocorrect that only knew Excel formulas.
Ponytail: It's like someone took a transcript of a couple arguing at IKEA and made random edits until it compiled without errors.
Cueball: Okay, I'll read a style guide.

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