345: 1337: Part 5

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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1337: Part 5
This digital music thing will probably reach its endgame sometime in the next decade or so. These are very exciting times.
Title text: This digital music thing will probably reach its endgame sometime in the next decade or so. These are very exciting times.


Richard Stallman is the ardent defender of freedom and believer in copyleft, he also founded the GNU Project. (He is not really a swordfighter.)

Cory Doctorow is a blogger, journalist, and science fiction author who serves as co-editor of the weblog Boing Boing. He is an activist in favour of liberalising copyright laws and a proponent of the Creative Commons organization. He does not really travel around in a balloon or (usually) wear a red cape, but Randall introduced this idea in 239: Blagofaire and has continued it in later comics featuring Cory Doctorow.

Blogosphere is a name used to refer to all blogs on the Internet, many of which frequently link to and refer to other blogs. Here, the Stallman character talks about it as though it were a portion of the atmosphere.

Blogs often label posts with keywords, known as tags. A Tag cloud is a way of displaying the tags on a site where the more common tags appear in larger type than less-common ones. It has no relationship to actual water vapor clouds in the sky, but in the comic, the Doctorow character suggests that tag clouds are actually in the air, below the new blogosphere.

The Dread Pirate Roberts is a fictional character from the book and movie The Princess Bride. Roberts is the most feared pirate on the seas. But, "Dread Pirate Roberts" is merely a title that has been passed down as previous "Roberts" have gained enough money (from piracy) to retire comfortably. Westley, one of the main characters from The Princess Bride, becomes the Dread Pirate after being taken prisoner by the preceding Pirate Roberts.

At the end of the movie, Inigo Montoya has won the vengeance he has sought all his life, and expresses to Westley that he doesn't know what to do next. Westley suggests Montoya succeed him as Roberts, saying, "Have you ever considered piracy? You'd make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts." Cory Doctorow's line in the comic therefore mimics that line from the movie.

Bram Cohen is the founder of BitTorrent, a distributed method of downloading files. People can and do use BitTorrent both for lawful file downloads and also for sharing media files unlawfully. Its distributed nature, where someone does not download a file from just one other computer but rather in many pieces from many other computers with the same file, makes it more difficult for record and movie industry groups to police, and therefore a person with Elaine's motivations might be interested in helping design such a system.

Ubuntu is probably the most well known distribution of GNU/Linux. A GNU/Linux distribution (often referred to simply as "Linux") is any operating system that is based on GNU software and the Linux kernel.

All comics in "1337" series:

This series was released on 5 consecutive days (Monday-Friday) and not over the usual Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule.


[Two RIAA agents attack Elaine and Stallman. Elaine breaks RIAA #1, while Stallman disarms RIAA #2 in a flying manouvre.]
Elaine: Thanks, Stallman!
Stallman: 'Tis my pleasure.
Elaine: So, wait - how did you know we were in trouble?
Stallman: My friend here was tracking these thugs from his balloon. He called me and I thought I'd stop by
[Doctorow slides down a rope in red cape & goggles.]
Doctorow: -Hi! Cory Doctorow - It's a pleasure to meet you.
Elaine: Balloon?
Stallman: Aye. They're up there constructing something called a "Blogosphere."
Doctorow: Yup! It's twenty kilometers up, just above the tag clouds.
Bobby: Mom, I'm hungry.
Mrs. Roberts: Hush! I'm coding. You ate yesterday.
Stallman: You know, Roberts, GNU could use a good coder like you. Ever thought of joining us?
Elaine: Maybe someday. Right now I've got an industry to take down. Music doesn't need these assholes.
Doctorow: Begone! And never darken our comment threads again!
Stallman: Well, you won't fix the industry with random exploits. You need to encourage sharing in the public mind.
Doctorow: Hey; With your music and coding backgrounds, you should get into building better p2p systems.
Elaine: What? Straight-up piracy?
Doctorow: Sure- have you ever considered it? You'd make a wonderful dread pirate, Roberts
Elaine shared her ideas with Bram Cohen, who went on to develop BitTorrent.
Mrs. Roberts spends her time developing for Ubuntu, and defacing the websites of people who make "your mom" jokes to her daughter. Elaine still stalks the net. She joins communities, contributes code or comments, and moves on. And if, late at night, you point a streaming audio player at the right IP at the right time - you can hear her rock out.
~Happy Hacking.~

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Does anyone know if such an IP address really exists, where you can point a streaming audio player at the right time to hear her "rock out"? Saibot84 (talk) 05:33, 9 April 2013 (UTC)

It's definitely possible to set up a server to work like that, but I don't know of one that's been set up. 20:02, 9 February 2017 (UTC) HitiadlfElaineR (talk) 08:36, 19 June 2013 (UTC)

While this was a joke, I can find a more inspirational view. In this case, while Elaine Roberts is fictional, you (that is, the programmer who reads xkcd) can be excellent hackers. You have the potential to achieve exploits (not just cracking ones). You just have to work towards your goal. In other words, the reason why the IP address points to your home is because you have the 'spirit' of Elaine Roberts. Greyson (talk) 21:57, 20 January 2016 (UTC)

Shouldn't we mention Dread Pirate Roberts a.k.a. Ross William Ulbricht, the Silkroad founder? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Also, the joke is that the sentence from the Princess Bride _isn't_ exactly mimicked. Cary Elwes says "you'd make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts," where DPR is the full title. Elaine is told that she make a "great dread Pirate, Roberts," - Roberts being Elaine's surname. 23:28, 6 November 2014 (UTC)

  • Rather pedantic bit of critique. The comma is just there so the joke makes sense as a line.- Pennpenn 02:24, 20 January 2015 (UTC)

It should also be mentioned that the "Dread Pirate Roberts" was the nickname of the guy who ran Silk Road.-- 18:07, 29 January 2015 (UTC)

according to Wikipedia, he Silk Road wasn't started until years after this comic was published. Interestingly enough, the titular comic 1337 was, which coincidentally also happens to be titled "Hack." 17:39, 12 March 2015 (UTC)

Someone needs to put a stop to all these incomplete tags that are really just demands for more and more information. I tried clearing out all the "Tell me more" incomplete tags, but someone reverted them, and then added MORE. 23:05, 28 July 2016 (UTC)JWB

I reverted your changes. You removed every incomplete tag, including ones that were merited, within a time span that made it difficult to believe you were properly vetting the pages to make sure they were complete. The most telling part was your removal of the incomplete tag on 1608 without also removing the red text the tag was referring to, indicating that you weren't reading the messages on the tags either before judging that they were satisfied and removing them. Davidy²²[talk] 00:54, 29 July 2016 (UTC)

I reviewed the reasons given for the incomplete tags, and removed all the ones that boiled down to "more". Most of these were just things like "Needs more details", "It would be cool if" and even "Explain this complicated scientific concept to me". Hoverboard is an example of the last category I cleared, which was essentially "Please recreate this super-detailed thing Randall did with documentation of every single detail." That's not a realistic standard for a complete explanation, and therefore the incomplete project would *never* be finished.

657, for example, is a request that is both pointless and unfillable - you can't create a transcript for a chart. 1556 is "I don't like this explanation. 980 is "Reconstruct Randall's data".

These requests are entirely pointless and irrational for an explanation of the comic. The goal here is to EXPLAIN the comic, not simply create a second version. 10:58, 29 July 2016 (UTC)JWB

We transcribe charts because there are people who can't see them, due to physical condition or internet. A transcript that does not contain the contents of the comic is not sufficient to deliver the same content that sighted users experience, and it does not help us if someone comes by and deems vague transcripts good enough. We do aim to document every feature of large comics; see the pages for 1110 and 1190. Also, some explanations are legitimately lacking in information and when you delete the tags from ~30 pages within the span of 10 minutes, it is very difficult for me to believe that you're checking to make sure the pages are actually finished. I bothered to read the pages instead of batch rolling back all your changes for the day, but it would have been nice if you'd taken the time to do it yourself when deleting tags. Davidy²²[talk] 08:53, 30 July 2016 (UTC)

If I may ask, what are the specifics behind the incomplete explanation? Could we just say that Stallman wrote the GNU Manifesto (source: https://www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.en.html) where he asked for help working on GNU and his goal was to share it with everyone - hence encourage sharing in the public mind? The bit about defacing websites makes sense because, unlike a normal human who would more or less likely just start a fight with whomever made one too many mom jokes, she uses her hacking skills to mess with their websites. Is there anything else we need to say about that? Da_NKP (talk) 13:28, 22 August 2016 (UTC)

Bobby may be little because his growth is stunted by malnutrition (food insecurity) -- 18:43, 3 March 2017 (UTC)

I thought Bobby asking for food was a reference to Linus Torvalds's mom occasionally throwing him food every few days when he was holed up in front of his computer as a teenager. I think that's an anecdote of from his autobiography, "Just for Fun". (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Incompleteness: I've added yet another sentence (itunes removing DRM, rise of streaming services) to the title text explanation, which now seems sufficient to me. I therefore removed "title text explanation?" from the incompleteness notification. 20:33, 28 June 2017 (UTC)