Disappearing Sunday Update
|Disappearing Sunday Update|
Title text: This comic won't exist in the archives. NOTHING IS REAL.
It was, of course, released on a Sunday (August 4th), becoming only the fifth comic to be released on a Sunday.
It is the first comic that was fully deleted from the xkcd archives, as it was replaced by the normal Monday update, leaving no trails on xkcd, but lots of trails in many other sites, like this one and in the Internet Archive of the Wayback Machine. Also the image was still on the xkcd image server after it had disappeared.
The entire comic was a link directly to https://xkcd.com/how-to/. This link was also mentioned in the text of the comic. But as Randall has never learned how to make a different part of an image into a different link, his Blag, the other link mentioned in the text, was not linked from the comic. The link to this is https://blog.xkcd.com/. When this comic was released the top blog post was the one about the How To book.
The first part of the comic, the advertisement, included a drawing of the cover, two sets of pages, showing the open book, and a sampling of the table of contents of the book. The full table of contest can be found in the Blag post mentioned above.
The second part of the comic, the joke, shows Randall (as Cueball) at the bottom where he in advance apologized for the various bots, that automatically catalog xkcd comics, which might break because of this special comic. See more under Unusual Means.
This Explain xkcd website is one example of such a page, where the bot that creates new pages, was assigning the comic a number of 2185 despite the comic not having a designated number at the time it was released.
The comic even broke the xkcd site itself as the previously released Friday comic, 2184: Unpopular Opinions, then had a next button that linked to comic 2185, which did not exist at time of release! So using that button from comic 2184 displayed a 404 error. Later this was fixed by giving this comic the number 2185, although only temporarily, see the Trivia section. At this time it was thus also included in the archive, see below regarding the title text.
In the title text it is stated that: This comic won't exist in the archives. NOTHING IS REAL.. However, as shown in the Trivia section, Randall had so many problems with his plans for this comic, that he ended up making it a normal numbered comic and thus also put it into the archives, ensuring that the title texts statement was not real. But when the normal Monday comic was released it was removed from the xkcd site, and the archive. But then so was this title text, so for most of the time it was available, it was not true!
Two weeks later he released a permanent comic with a reference to one of the chapters in his book with 2190: Serena Versus the Drones.
Randall notes that if you read xkcd through unusual means... ... I hope this ephemeral ghost comic doesn't break them too badly.
Between the dots he suggested different methods of reading xkcd, other than on the xkcd home page. These methods get progressively sillier (many still need explanations). Here is a list:
- The Android app easyxkcd was broken by this comic when used in offline mode, as reported here.
- An iOS app called xkcd: Open-Source is broken by this comic, permanently assigning the comic number 2185 to this comic, and not replacing it with the *actual* 2185 comic. Because of that, this comic can be viewed in the app, but the real 2185 isn’t viewable.
- Custom screen-scraping systems
- See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_scraping#Screen_scraping
- Google Reader clones
- Google Reader was an RSS/Atom aggregator that Google discontinued in 2013. Enthusiasts created a full-featured work-alike replacement, called The Old Reader.
- Twitter bots
- Scripts that automatically post content to a designated Twitter account.
- BASH scripts
- A popular Unix shell; one might, say, write a script in it to run on one's personal Unix machine, checking for a new xkcd comic and displaying it somewhere.
- Gopher portals
- Gopher was a method of surfing the Internet that predated the Web (by about five months) and was vastly more popular (for about three years).
- Lynx-based ASCII art browsers
- Lynx is a text-based Web browser. It can launch external programs to view images, but Randall is suggesting that instead a Lynx variant might convert images to ASCII art, which renders images using the 94 visible ASCII keyboard characters.
- Third-party Second Life feeds
- Second Life is a virtual world that opened in 2002 and has averaged about 40,000 simultaneous users for the past five years.
- RFC 2549
- An RFC is a proposal for how to run the Internet. RFC 2549 is about transmitting data using carrier pigeons (this was one of the earliest April Fools' Day RFCs).
- Massive Google docs sheets
- See #2180.
Another unusual method is UNIXkcd, which was reported here to have broken, but was later working.
- ~Special Disappearing Sunday comic~
- [Below the header to the right are the following text:]
- I'm posting this ephemeral Sunday update to let you know that I wrote a book! It's a guide to solving everyday problems in terrible ways using science.
- It comes out next month, and it's available for preorder now.
- [Below this text is an arrow to an image of the book to the left. The arrow comes from this text:]
- The cover looks like this
- [The book is shown to the left as a black rectangle with large blue text and smaller white text. On the book cover, in white drawings, are seen Ponytail with a ladder and either Black or White Hat (hard to say on black background). Both are looking up on Cueball who is floating in the air with a quadcopter beneath either leg, trying to plug in an electric light bulb in a naked lamp hanging down near him. It seems he has already removed the broken light bulb, as he has one in both hands. And now he tries to put in the new one. He could have let Ponytail use the ladder...]
- [The header in blue above it all:] How To.
- [Sub header in white to the left of Cueball:] Absurd Scientific Answers to Common Real-world Problems
- [Author name in blue below the drawing:] Randall Munroe
- [Sub header to this below in white:] Creator of xkcd
- [Sub header to this below in white:] Author of what if? and Thing Explainer
- [Below the text with the arrow to the book is the following text with an arrow pointing down to an image of two pages in the open book, shown to the right:]
- And the inside looks like this.
- [To the left of the open book are the following text:]
- Chapters include:
- How to charge your phone
- How to throw a pool party
- How to move
- How to build a lava moat
- How to ski
- [The open book to the right has almost only unreadable text. The left page shows a drawing of car in front of a trailer which is loaded with about 15 of boxes in four layers. Two stick figures are standing between the car and the trailer, talking with each other. The trailer is not attached to the car. There are some lines of text beneath the drawing and then what appears to be a chapter heading. It probably says something as "How to move", as this is mentioned as a chapter in the text to the left of these pages, but there one of two more unreadable words at the end of that heading. Beneath that the rest of the page is text and at the bottom there seems to be a footnote. The right page shows a house that seems to be floating a couple of meters above the ground, two arrows pointing up to the bottom of the house on either side. A stick figure stands to the left of the house which float at the figures head height. There is text beneath this drawing. Beneath that there is another drawing of a house towed on a truck, which speeds up a steep hill and jumps over a cliff to get to the other side. Seems like it will work. The speed of the truck seems to be very high as indicated by two curly lines indicating exhaust from the truck. It becomes three small clouds further behind the moving house. There is a footnote beneath the drawing. The driver of the truck yells as the truck jumps. This can actually be read:]
- Driver: Woooooo
- [Beneath the above text and pages are another image of the open book with two other pages. This time to the left. This time there is text to the right.]
- [These book pages are also mainly unreadable. At the top of the left page is a drawing of what could be a lake. Two people seems to be standing out in the water, only heads showing above the water. A sign is standing on the brink, is may say "Sorry"? Behind the lake is some mountains in the background. Beneath the drawing is some text of, then a smaller diagram like drawing which may show some black clouds above and below a line in the middle of this drawing. One of the clouds are beneath a curly bracket which are beneath the line. The curly bracket lies down and has the same length as the cloud. Beneath this drawing is more text and then a third drawing at the bottom. Here is shown a cross section of the lake. At the left side of the lake the water is shallow and a stick figure is standing in the water on the bottom, head above water with its arms held up in the air. It is directing its attention to the four stick figure standing on the brink to the left looking at the figure in the water. To the right the lake becomes more than three times as deep. Clouds are above the lake, one large just right of the stick figure and one smaller further right. At the right edge the lakes edge is vertical. On the brink is what may be a diving board protruding over the lake. Something is lying on top of the board. And above is what seems to be another cloud. To the right of the lake is a pile of earth with what appears to be a large black Nuclear bomb (with the nuclear icon on it) stuck with its tip in the pile. On the right page is a line coming down from the top, which then turns to the right ending in an arrow. There is a line of text above the horizontal part of the line. The arrow points to a large heading in two rows. (See below). Beneath the heading are a few lines of text. Then a drawing of a torn map (like an old treasure map whit a X at the end of a trail marked with dots. Mountains indicated with small "^" and coast line is visible. There seems to be text beneath the X. There are text beneath the drawing. Beneath that are a header with a line beneath it, and then text beneath the line.]
- How to Dig a Hole
- [To the right of these pages are the following text:]
- You can learn more and preorder it at xkcd.com/how-to
- And read an excerpt at blog.xkcd.com
- [Beneath all this Randall (drawn as Cueball) is telling about the problem this disappearing comic may cause:]
- Randall: If you read xkcd through unusual means, including apps, custom screen-scraping systems, Google reader clones, Twitter bots, bash scripts, gopher portals, lynx-based ASCII art browsers, third-party Second Life feeds, RFC 2549, or massive google docs sheets full of =IMPORTHTML() and =IMAGE() formulas, I hope this ephemeral ghost comic doesn't break them too badly.
- Randall: It will disappear with the normal Monday update.
- Randall: (At least, I think it will. I've never tried this before. So I'm honestly not sure what the server will do.)
- This August 4th 2019 Sunday comic was first posted on the front page without any number relating to it. Thus breaking the next comic button on xkcd.
- Since it was scheduled to be deleted on Monday August 5th 2019, when the next comic arrives on xkcd, it was not supposed to have a number or be in the archive. But seems like this caused too many problems for the xkcd site it self (not just for all the other sites Randall jokes about).
- So later it was given the next number in the comic list (2185) and was also included in the archive for the duration of its stay on the xkcd front page.
- It was later removed from the archive and 2185 was assigned to the Monday comic 2185: Cumulonimbus.
- Here are some pictures documenting that the comic at some point between release and the next comics release worked like a normal comic with number 2185 as shown in the web address at the top.
- It was also part of the archive with the release date showing corectly when hovering over the title:
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