554: Not Enough Work

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Not Enough Work
It's even harder if you're an asshole who pronounces <> brackets.
Title text: It's even harder if you're an asshole who pronounces <> brackets.


In some companies, programmers often find themselves with not much work to do. This is because these companies have little programming work that needs doing until something breaks or needs upgrading. As a result, coders need to make themselves available to perform these emergency fixes, but also have nothing to do in the meantime. This requires finding constructive ways to entertain themselves.

Dvorak is a keyboard layout that was proposed as an alternative to the more common QWERTY layout. The QWERTY keyboard became the standard in the US due to mechanical typewriters; to avoid jamming, the most common letters had to be placed far away from each other on the keyboard. (International variants like the AZERTY and QWERTZ layout were designed with similar goals in mind, but for other languages.) As a result, certain words are incredibly awkward to type on a QWERTY keyboard; for example, if you're a US touch-typist, look at your keyboard and think about how you would type "minimum" - your fingers have to constantly straddle the "j" key and awkwardly avoid each other. The Dvorak keyboard, by contrast, is designed to make words much easier to type, placing all of the most common letters (including all five vowels) on the home row and maximizing hand alternation (which makes typing faster). Of course, most people learned to type with a Qwerty keyboard, and switching is quite difficult, especially for longtime touch-typists (like, say, programmers). Seriously considering the switch is a sign that you really having nothing better to do.

Gopher is a defunct internet protocol, which has been completely superseded by HTTP. It's a perfect example of the kind of thing a programmer might implement in the absence of other, more useful work. (As an aside, the protocol is named for the mascot of the University of Minnesota, where it was developed.)

HTML and XHTML are markup languages used to describe web documents. XHTML-strict is a more restricted version of XHTML that excludes certain redundant tags like
, which is theoretically no longer necessary now that
and exist. Haiku, on the other hand, is a kind of Japanese poetry. Rather than having a rhyming meter like Western poetry, Japanese poetry has strict restrictions on syllable count; a haiku must contain three lines, containing 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. The section of code given is HTML markup, and would be read by a web developer like this:
Div class equals Main
Span ID equals Marquee
Blog! end span end div

Which meets the syllable requirements. Restricting yourself to writing markup in this form would be extremely challenging and time-consuming, so it, too, is a good sign your coders need more work. (As the title text notes, it would be even more challenging if you pronounce the angle brackets that all HTML tags have. Doing so is pointless and time-consuming, since anyone who knows HTML will also know what's meant to be a tag and what isn't, so Randall calls anyone who does this an asshole.)

Finally, the last panel mentions the biggest timesink of them all: webcomics. (Or, say, wikis devoted to explaining the jokes in webcomics.)


Narration: Signs your coders don't have enough work to do:
[Cueball sitting at his workstation, with Ponytail standing behind him.]
Cueball: I'm almost up to my old typing speed in Dvorak
[Two men standing by a server rack.]
Cueball: Our servers now support gopher.
Cueball: Just in case.
[Megan standing near her workstation speaking to Cueball.]
Megan: Our pages are now HTML, XHTML-STRICT, and haiku-compliant.
Cueball: Haiku?
Megan: Blog!

[Ponytail sitting at her workstation.] Ponytail: Hey! Have you guys seen this webcomic?

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I always pronounce tags like < / span > as "slash span." (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I thought the keys jamming thing was a myth... 04:27, 22 October 2013 (UTC)

You're thinking of the "slow typers down" qualification to that. QWERTY was designed to speed them up by stopping jams. Anonymous 06:14, 13 December 2013 (UTC)

An interesting note; Haiku is also the name of a free and open source operating system! The Alpha release was 6 months after this comic was written though, so this is likely a coincidence. 21:11, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

"Gopher" is also a pun on "go for". For this reason it's used to mean a general unqualified helper person, sent to fetch various items for the more senior people. For example, "He started on the racing team as a gopher". 21:33, 31 January 2014 (UTC)

There is no explanation on the title text... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

There is now, though not by me. It is written together with the explanation of the third panel before the last panel, since it refers to that panel --Kynde (talk) 11:51, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

There is a community portal discussion of what to call Cueball and what to do in case with more than one Cueball. I have added this comic to the new Category:Multiple Cueballs. Since only one of the two Cueballs in panel two speaks in this comic, he is still listed as Cueball. Just made a note that the other guy also looks like Cueball. --Kynde (talk) 11:53, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

Couldn't haiku refer to the alternative OS Randall has mentioned several times before? That seems more likely than putting the web tags into an actual haiku... 03:39, 19 November 2015 (UTC)

See above:
> An interesting note; Haiku is also the name of a free and open source operating system! The Alpha release was 6 months after this comic was written though, so this is likely a coincidence. 21:11, 26 November 2013 (UTC) 04:55, 19 November 2015 (UTC)

Hey, guys ,have you seen that webcomic? I think XKCD is referring to itself. 15:42, 29 August 2016 (UTC)

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