1695: Code Quality 2
|Code Quality 2|
Title text: It's like you tried to define a formal grammar based on fragments of a raw database dump from the QuickBooks file of a company that's about to collapse in an accounting scandal.
This comic is the second in the Code Quality series and is a direct continuation of 1513: Code Quality released a good year before this one. It was followed almost a year later by 1833: Code Quality 3.
It is because it is so clearly a continuation of the first that it is clear that it is Cueball who answers from off-panel.
As in the first we again see Ponytail being introduced to the source code Cueball has written, and where he is warning her that he is self-taught so his code probably won't be written the way she is used to. In the first comic she continues to describe poetically the total mess of a code she encounters, using references to a child building houses, recipes created by corporate lawyers or the transcript of a couple arguing at IKEA, as well as using emojis in the code (title text).
In this comic she continues this trend in four more abusive comments, after starting this sequel with a short remark on how she hates reading Cueball’s code. Cueball is not even shown in this comic, only replying twice off-panel, but as the title makes it clear this is a sequel there can be no doubt that it is Cueball. With the four remarks here as well as a fifth in the title text, she has now managed to make no fewer than nine derogatory remarks on Cueball's programming skills.
In the second panel Ponytail makes a reference to "OCR" (Optical Character Recognition), a technique for recognizing text in a picture using software. In this case she is referring to a picture of a Scrabble game, which is a popular word-making game in which players have a pseudo-randomized set of letters and must arrange them on a grid to form interlocking words. OCR software is notoriously imperfect at the time of writing, and the criss-crossing semi-random words on a Scrabble board fed through an OCR program would likely produce dubious results, certainly not fit for current code standards.
The third panel continues Ponytail's rant, this time referencing naval weather forecasts, avian interference and indentation. A weather forecast is a complex, multidimensional array of data used in predicting or assessing the atmospheric conditions of a geographical area over a set time. Naval weather forecasts use an extremely condensed code to send their information, rendering them unintelligible to an untrained reader. Transcribing it would be further complicated by a woodpecker (a bird noted for its rapid successive pecking motions) "hammering" (pecking) the Shift key on the keyboard, which would result in many letters being randomly capitalized. Indentation is the practice of shifting a section of text further from the starting margin, which in coding is typically used to organize functions and statements, but if done "randomly" would only serve to scramble the code hierarchy.
The fourth panel references famous poet E. E. Cummings and user name suggestions. Edward Estlin Cummings was a poet who used capitalization, punctuation, and line breaks in unconventional ways. Websites that offer membership often also require that users create a pseudonym (known as a "username") for use in tracking/authenticating their actions on the site, as well as identifying them to the site's community. Many of these sites also require usernames be unique. On popular sites, many common words, phrases and names have already been reserved by users, so when signing up for them many people run into situations where the name they want has already been taken. On many sites where this happens, the site may suggest alternate usernames, usually based on the one that was entered to begin with. For example, if the username "Hedgeclipper" is already reserved, the site may recommend "Hedgeclipper1234" or "H3dg3clipp3r" instead, depending on the algorithm behind the suggestions. In other cases, websites requiring users to enter personal information such as their name may suggest a username based on their name with a string of digits after it, such as "Joshua1128". An E. E. Cummings poem written entirely out of these semi-random suggestions would make the resulting poem even more "unusual" than his work is already considered.
The last panel's simile involves Markov chaining, chat-bots (presumably), bus schedules and potential gross vehicular negligence. Applied Markov chaining is a process used in many computer algorithms that try to simulate real-world concepts such as speech simulation and decisions-making. Its inherent randomness also makes it a candidate for unpredictable things such as stock market analysis and speech recognition. Bus schedules are often complicated and full of notation, and are notorious for confusing people who are not used to reading them. Chat-bots using applied Markov chains to recognize and respond to speech/text rely on the input being clear and well-organized in plain language. "Feeding" bus schedules to such a bot would likely result in the returns being complete gibberish and unreadable. The issue is further complicated when Ponytail suggests that the schedules are from a city where "the buses crash constantly", which would be horrifying if it happened so regularly that the schedules actually took crashes into account. However, the reason for the crashes is not stated, and it is not clear whether the passengers are in any danger. The buses might be safe if the problem is pedestrian suicides. Even more horrifying would be the further unpredictability of the output of the chat-bot from such unpredictable input.
Cueball finally comments that "… it runs fine for now" which indicates he knows the code has problems but is reluctant to fix them because it's more-or-less serving its function. Ponytail quips back that "So does a burning bus", which is technically true, but the "for now" part implies that disaster and injury could result at any moment, as would likely happen on a burning bus.
In the title text Ponytail makes a final remark. A formal grammar is a way of describing the structure of text such that computers can recognize or generate such text. A raw database dump is an export of the data from a database for the purposes of transferring it to another database or importing it into a program, viewed “raw” without processing to make it easy for humans to read. QuickBooks is an accounting software package. The company collapsing in an accounting scandal implies their accounting database would be a mess even in a human-readable format.
- [Zoom in on Ponytail sitting in front of a computer screen typing. Cueball speaks only off-panel, but since this is a direct continuation of comic 1513: Code Quality where Cueball is shown, there can be no doubt it is him.]
- Ponytail: Ugh, I hate reading your code.
- Cueball (off-panel): I know, I know.
- [Zoom out of Ponytail in an office chair in front of the computer on a desk.]
- [Zoom in on Ponytails head.]
- Ponytail: It looks like someone transcribed a naval weather forecast while woodpeckers hammered their shift keys, then randomly indented it.
- [Zoom out back to the setting of the second panel.]
- Ponytail: It's like an E E Cummings poem written using only the usernames a website suggests when the one you want is taken.
- [Zoom in to Ponytails head and the screen in a wider panel. Finally Cueball again answers off-panel.]
- Ponytail: This looks like the output of a Markov bot that's been fed bus timetables from a city where the buses crash constantly.
- Cueball (off-panel): Whatever, it runs fine for now.
- Ponytail: So does a burning bus.
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