Authors@Google: Randall Munroe of xkcd

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 11.12.2007

>> NORVIG: Thank you all for coming. This is great. This was the biggest room we could
get on short notice and it's great to see it so packed. So, in every generation, an
artist comes along that redefines the way we look at art, you know. So, Jackson Pollock
did this and the immediate reaction was, "My kid could do better than that"; and then,
people realized he was a genius. And Mark Rothko did this and people said, "My kid could
do better than that." And then they realized he was a genius. And Randall did this and
people said, "Oh, wait, actually, my kid can do better than that. Here's one she did when
she was eight." You know, I think it's pretty good. Maybe you guys afterwards, just think
about it. But, of course, you know, we don't watch xkcd for the artwork, we do it for the
poetry, for the math, the drama, the romance, the originality. You know, they're all so
original; well, not quite all of them. You know, there was one--those of you who were
here two years ago may remember the great fiasco, it's two years ago this week with
the sign-ups for the holiday party where some of the records were getting dropped from the
sign-up sheets and, you know, you may remember--so I just want to say here what a genius he is
with this kind of stuff. But you may remember this message that I sent in response to that.
And, you know, I don't want to say anything but it did show up a few months ago, a rather
similar--and what I learned from that, well, you probably learned the same thing is, at
least, in my sequel, the semicolons are not allowed into the input so that actually--that
exploit wouldn't work. >> MALE: Last week, we tried that but we came
upon some sort of difficulty. >> NORVIG: Yeah, well.
>> MALE: The standards can be changed a little bit; but we also checked Windrop tables which
serve as add-in which was something. It was either the late '80s or early '90s. That's
it regarding the colon. >> NORVIG: Well, anyway, so that's fine. There's
accuracy in comics. And we got some stuff for you. So, here, we got some t-shirts and
you could see other people are making t-shirts. We--Ellen made you a cake shaped like the
Internet. I wanted to give you your very own official Google ball pit ball. Does anybody
else want to give him one? Okay. So let's get started. At the end, we'll have time for
questions and cake. Use the microphones when you have to but now let's welcome Randall
Munroe. >> MUNROE: Well, first of all, thanks, everyone,
for having me here. I wasn't actually expecting to give a talk when I was making the trip
out here. I was just coming through unrelatedly and asked if I had an invitation to come by
and visit. And I emailed about that and said, "Oh, you know, there are probably some people
who want to hear you talk here." And, apparently, there are. So, before anything else, I want
to take a chance to apologize. I don't know who here works on the Google Maps--if anyone
works on Google Maps but a couple of years ago, I was playing with this--I was looking
at this Web site and I'm a big fan of Maps and I found there was some group, I forgot
who did this, but they did a map of London with all the transit times in colors which
the map is this. And I'm curious what will happen if I put the computer under here. Whoa!
Hey, it worked. Okay. So, some group did this map where they are color-coded by time and
it shows, you know, how long it takes for you to get--like here, this is for public
transit system. So here are the stations and so on. And I said, this is a really cool idea
and I want to try this for the US for driving times. So, I put together a script which would
take your starting position and go to Google Maps and just pull up the page, not using
the API or anything, just pull up the page for directions from here to point one, here
to point two, here to point three. So, I first did this for my neighborhood around Newport
News which is down in Virginia, so starting off in the center of the map up here, and
this is how long it takes to get around the peninsula and over here. And these are transit
times in minutes. The idea is then I could then convert this into a color map. And then
I said, "Well, this is kind of cool but it's pretty low resolution." This is, you know,
30 by 30. So, I started--but I found that, you know, there's a time delay. It takes a
little while to ping. You know, it takes a little while to get the map back. And I said,
okay, to get a good resolution, I want to do--I forgot what it was--several 100 by several
100 or ending up with, I think, a 500,000 pixel map. So, I wrote the script, you know,
split it up across about eight servers and just started them all requesting segments
of this map. And, you know, that had been running for a little while. And then I went
and read the terms of service. It didn't--I think that as they were written at the time,
it didn't really explicitly prohibit what I was doing but it was pretty clear that they
were saying, you know, "Don't do that." And I noticed this when my servers actually stopped
getting results all of a sudden. So, I don't know if I had tripped some filter or, you
know, what stopped working there. But I never did get to finish that map. It occurs to me
that that would be a fun project especially if, you know, you have access to these systems.
You know, you could have an app showing how far it is from building 42 to everywhere in
the country driving. If you're doing it over the country, by the way, you probably want
to normalize it; like, you know, the time--the travel time divided by the as V as the curve
flies time, you know, or distance or something like that, just so the map won't be just a
mountain, you know, fast here, you know, slow far away. If anyone does that, I would love
to see what turns out. So you can just email that to me. I figure--so, I've been doing
these comics and people have a habit of acting out the comics. I first--I did a comic about
Cory Doctorow; you know, he wears red cape and goggles when he blogs and a week or so
later, he was given an award. And he went up on the stage; they presented him with a
red cape and goggles. I have done a comic little before that about Richard Stallman
suggesting that he sleeps with the katana, you know, just in case. And, sure enough,
they sent him, some fans pitched in together and sent him a katana. He had never heard
of the comic. He was very confused. And I decided, okay, this is going to get out of
hand. So, shortly after all that, I did comic about Janeane Garofalo jumping a motorcycle
off of the International Space Station as it crashes over an island with a volcanic
eruption and Tyrannosaurus. And I said, okay, if someone can make that happen, but until
they do that. The other thing I want to say is about a comic I've done recently--I did
recently. It's sort of a warning. Let's see if this works. Okay. I was playing with one
of these and it did brightness balancing; you could move your hand around and get shapes
to appear but--and then I ended up playing with the projector for a few minutes instead
of, you know, being usefully entertaining. So, I did a comic a little while ago about
programming ability as a function of what I'll call content. And you're now seeing here,
here's your normal ability and as you get progressively more intoxicated, it drops down
but then there's a spike. And the important thing here is to precisely hit the spike and
as I mentioned in the comic, if you get a little bit off of the spike, you'll end up
with Windows ME. Now, one thing that not too many people noticed and I'm not sure of exactly
the numbers, but I gave as the bounce of the spike, I think, a .29 or .28 and .39 or .028
and .039. I think that's--is that right? I love--other people know my comics better than
I do. So if you take--what you can find with that which not a lot of people picked up on
this and emailed me but if you want to get your BAC right at the peak and if this--you
know, depending on what this is and what kind of delta functions it says it can back and
make a big difference, you want to get right at the peak. You--probably in the middle of
those numbers; you want to be about .1337. Now, a
related issue is the question of solving the Rubik's cube. I noticed awhile back that as
I got--I went to do Rubik's cube awhile ago. There might be someone in here who has played
this one before. Once you've learned the sequence of steps to solve it, it's not so much, you
know, a brain-twisting puzzle, it's more like, "You know, okay, do you remember the sequences?
Can you do this faster and faster?" So, the question is how much does getting drunk get
in the way of that? And I tried this a year or so ago. You know, I have a drink, you know,
wait a bit, I videotaped myself solving the Rubik's cube because I didn't trust myself
to, you know, take notes accurately, and I found that when I got, you know, I could get,
you know, I could solve the cube here and my time back then was hovering near a minute
but it's now--which, I mean, isn't--the professionals are, you know, down to the twenty-secondth
range. But--so, I was here at about a minute to a minute-thirty, somewhere in there. But
I found that as I got more and more drunk, you know, my time got worse but not by all
that much. You know, it seemed I could still do it when I was stumbling, you know, falling
down drunk. It seems to be a lot more, you know, muscle memory and shoe-tying. What I
found out was that I did have trouble finding it and picking it up. And in the last stream
of the video, I took out--in the last run, I spent a few minutes talking about how proud
I am, "Look what I found? I found this cube, it's--I can do this," you know. Now, the problem
is we didn't actually get any hard data on this. You know, I have these videos but I
didn't, you know, document--I didn't do a good job of the science of this. I didn't
document, you know, how much am I drinking, how much time has passed, what's my calculated,
you know, BAC; and some people decided that was unacceptable. So, a couple of nights ago,
we decided to fix this. So we got some alcohol, some mixers, and a stop watch. We put together
a table and I solve the Rubik's cube over the course of a couple of hours; you know,
on precise timing, taking a shot, 20 minutes take the second shot and start the Rubik's
cube, take ideally just a couple of minutes to finish the Rubik's cube but maybe later
in the experiment longer. And we--by the end--so, first of all, what we had, it was some cheap
vodka and random juice and, by the end, I didn't--I was getting toward the middle of
the night and I was, "Okay, you know, this stuff, this isn't quite a much as it was when
I started," and toward the end, I never wanted to see vodka again. I got a little further;
I never wanted to see a Rubik's cube again. But what we did find is that when we got to
the point where I refused to drink anymore, you know, my time had gone up by maybe 10
to 15 percent. But it certainly didn't stop. So, that's an interesting result. The Ballmer
Peak data--if anyone wants to do a similar experiment while, you know, working on Google
Search and wants to send me their data they get, that would also be pretty cool. Now,
for the bulk of this talk, it's going--I would just like to do Q and A because I find that's
generally the most fun part of things. So, first--say, if anyone has any questions about
the comic, you can be formulating those. First of all, I also--I apologize for the Google
Maps thing and I would like to thank you for Google--Google has solved my problem of Your
Nation. Specifically--okay, there are--this will make sense. There are men's bathrooms
which have, a lot of the time, urinals that sort of stick out from the wall, there's no
barrier between you and the people next to you and there's the whole shy kidney thing.
You know, you're standing there and there's everyone--there are people all around me,
elbowing in on me, leaning over, you know, staring at me so--which brings us to the Google
Apps aptitude test. I don't know how many of you took this. It went out, I think, in
the back of Mensa a couple of years ago when I'm still in college and it was a bunch of
very interesting questions: How would you color some kind of an icosahedron using one
of three colors on each phase? How many different combinations can you find? You know, really
interesting questions. I think the follow-up to that one was, and what colors would you
choose? So it was a good mix and I decided to do this test but I didn't want to send
it in unless I've done it perfectly because, you know, man, Google. And there was a problem
on there which involved an infinite grid of resistors. I don't know if anyone here has
done this. So, the problem was you have a lattice of one-ohm resistors. So, each of
these links represents a one-ohm resistor and this goes out to infinity. The question
is: What is the equivalent resistance between two points that are a knight's move away?
I worked on this for awhile trying to find some, you know--starting with a few resistors
and then adding them on and trying to find some way to build a sequence that then could
be rolled up into some kind a recursive call and evaluated in one way or another. And I
could not do it. You know, I was stuck. I worked on that for a couple of days. Then
I went to one of physics professors and said, "Okay. I've given up on solving this myself;
but do you want to see if we can work through this together?" We filled the blackboard with
trying to find different, you know, approaches to a simple solution using resistor addition.
We couldn't do it. So, at that point, these resistors dancing through my head, you know,
"Oh, we could add a layer like this, then another layer, then another layer. Okay, how
does that change the equation? You have the terms here. Oh, no..." So, all those are going
through my head. I'm finally, I'm like, okay, I need to go look this up. I looked it online
and they were actually only a few pointers; someone saying, "Oh, I think you can you can
find the result here in this paper." So, I go to the library, you know, check out the
Journal of Physics—-a couple of relevant articles and find this puzzle was only solved
in the last 30 years or so. It was solved once in the late '60s with an extremely complicated
approach and then generalized—-someone in the '90s found a good solution to it which
used--which was a simple solution by which it means it still used math way beyond anything
I had run into. So, I was a little bit irritated that this, you know, modern physics research
problem had been dropped in the Google labs tests around other much simpler problems.
But the side effect of this is—-so--and I never actually finished the test; but what
did happened was—-so when I go into a bathroom, you have a urinal here, you know, and the
and there will be tiles.
So I walked into the bathroom, stand in front of the urinal, people always cluster around
me—-why do people-—people stand around me and I'll be thinking, "Oh, man, there are
these people," and then I'll glance ahead at the grid and I'll sort of, you know, just
idly thinking about grid, you know, chess moves or I'll think, you know, I'll look at
two points that happen to be a knight's move apart and then start to think like, "Okay.
Well, maybe I missed something important. What if you go back, what if you build the
grid this way, build..." And, by that time, I've tuned out everything else and I can finally
urinate. So thank you all for that. So, now, if we can do questions from the audience;
I think there's a mike up here. If you can't get to the mike, I can just repeat your question.
But does anyone have anything to start us off? Sure.
>> MALE: Talking about acting out comics, do you expect me to be able to fly?
>> MUNROE: So, I started writing my first python code. Okay. So, the question is, with
regards to acting out comics, should I expect him to be able to fly? No. I started doing
python. I wrote my first python code sometime within the last week or so, and drew the comic
immediately after the day when I had written. There's something called Project Euler, which
is online--and I just realized that--so it's a programming competition site where it has
a bunch of simple algorithms problems which can be solved within one minute with a fairly
simple piece of code. And they're fun. It's a good way to practice algorithms. You know,
now that I am out of college, I don't have those assigns so it's a neat source and it's
sort of competitive; you know, you race with your friends. I just realized that by mentioning
this here, I may be dooming my standing. But--and so I said, "Okay. I'm going to take this as
a chance to learn python," and it really was this breath of fresh air because I learned
programming on old school, like, it was some DOS-C compiler. And then I did Perl, which
is a lot more, you know, flexible and everything just works but at least as ugly. And then
I tried Python recently-—and, you know, I understand there are some things that it's
not as great for, you know, as edge cases that—-someone was complaining about splits
and joints but, other than that, it was just like, I can just type the pseudocode here
and it works. You know, it executes. I mean, as someone said, that if python is basically
executable pseudocode and if that's the case, then Perl is executable line noise. But, yeah,
from what I hear, it is a library that you can import; you just have to find it form
the anti-gravity library, you just have to find it in direct repositories. Maybe that's
how Cory Doctorow gets to the balloon. Anyway, do we have any other questions?
>> MALE: I'm going to ask you two questions; and Ellen wants me to ask, ask one and then
I want to ask another one. So the one that I want to ask is: Have you thought about doing
animated cartoons? And Ellen's question is: What is your n log log n algorithm for searching?
>> FEMALE: Do you know who the questioner is?
>> MUNROE: Donald Knuth? Well, it's really an honor to meet you, first of all. So, okay,
the second question was the n log-—what is my n log n or log log n algorithm for searching.
I'm sorry. You'll have to bring that up with Elaine. The other--we're going to move away
for talking about searching algorithms for a moment now. No, I just implemented binary
search in Python a day or two ago and I was happy with that, you know. And the other question
is about animated cartoons which is—-it's something I played with. I feel like though--if
anyone here has heard of Don Hertzfeldt's Rejected, it was like one of the earlier viral
videos which he actually did as a short film. You know, he's very upset when it's replayed
on the Internet, which he thinks it's, you know, a resample and low quality and he wants
it to be on a--he has, you know, strong opinions about stick-figure art, which I can certainly
understand. But I feel like, if I stepped into animation, he has already done that perfectly.
You know, it's a different genre. But I feel like—-he can stick to that as long as he
doesn't start doing still-stick figure art and show me up, I won't step into animation
and try to muddy his waters. But it's a very different genre. You know, I don't know anything
about animation and how it works. I've watched, you know, I watch animated TV shows and I've,
you know, Futurama that we all sort of grew up on. But, well, I mean, I grew up on it—-I
didn't see any of these until college but I still think of it as, you know, sort foundational
parts of our culture like The Simpsons. But I actually read a whole lot of comics, I was
never into anime but I read—-I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes, first of all. It was the
first comic that I discovered. And I actually remember the moment that I found this book
on my parent's bookshelf and took it down and I had really never seen comics before.
So, you know, I flipped it open. I said, "Okay, there are pictures of people and there are
words attached-—okay, so they're saying this words." And I remember reading that first
strip where Calvin says, you know, "So long, [INDISTINCT], I'll check my tiger trap." And
from then on, I was pretty much hooked. I read all the Calvin and Hobbes strips. I went
to the library. I read all of-—there's a whole set of comics where I've read every
single strip they've published mostly more than once, which includes, you know, Calvin
and Hobbes. There's—-maybe not Bloom County--Garfield, I really went through all the Garfield strips
up until 1997. There was Dilbert, a whole slew of other comics. And Peanuts, except
I'm pretty convinced that no one has read all of Peanuts--the guy did him himself for
close to 50 years and doing every comic himself which is completely unheard of. You know,
everyone who has been doing them that long has a staff at this point except--I mean,
Bill Watterson did them all himself and Charles Schulz. So he's really impressive. I'm reminded
of the anecdote actually about someone coming up to Donald Knuth here at a party, I think
it was supposedly Steve Jobs, you know, maybe you can verify this because on Wikipedia--now,
this story is on Wikipedia because I looked this up and I think there us a citation needed
tag attached to it. But the story is that someone, you know, came up to him at a party-—Steve
Jobs was with Bill Gates and said, "It's a pleasure to meet you. I've read all your books,"
and that, you know, he replied with, "It's nice to meet you. No, you haven't." You know,
or "You're full of shit," something like that. So, has this ever happened? I mean, now, the
thing is this is original research so I can't, you know, ask you and then put it on the article
but maybe if this is being filmed. >> KNUTH: Well, people tell me that all the
time and it might have been Steve, I don't know, but I only met him a couple of times
and, in each case, I was impressed by him probably more than he was impressed by me.
>> MUNROE: Yeah. He says, he's been retold the story himself a number of times and that
he's met those people-—he isn't sure exactly how exactly how it happened-—on each of
the meetings he was much more impressed by them than they were by him which--so, yeah,
I don't know, I don't know about that. But maybe that's just Steve Jobs reality distortion
field kicking in. So the question started out somewhere over by animation—-we can
wander back there too. It's interesting. There are some trains that have advertisements in
the train tunnels where they'll—-as you are going by, there is a strobe of some kind
so that you see out the window of the train, one frame, the next frame, the next frame,
the next frame and it makes a little movie. And I knew some folks, who will remain nameless
who hang around MIT and were looking for interesting pranks and were seeing if they could commission
me to do a 300-frame animation, which they could then put on cards and tile the walls
with one night in one of the T-lines actually and get it so that when you drove by one morning,
you'd actually see animation. So that might be the one place where you will see an xkcd
animation. You know, I don't know who's going to be doing this or where or what but it was
definitely something I've started thinking about. So, do we have another question? Right
here. >> FEMALE: How much time did you spend on
this? >> MUNROE: How much time do I spend on this?
Well, first of all, about 90 percent—there's a theory that your workload increases to fill
the amount of time that you have and I have found I managed to use up all my time doing
xkcd-related things no matter how much free time I managed to give myself. But the actual
comics sometimes take... >> NORVIG: You can take your choice.
>> MUNROE: Now, so, is this coming from people who are watching elsewhere or are this people
in here just typing up here because that's easier than talking?
>> MALE: Both. >> FEMALE: Both.
>> MUNROE: Okay. Well, so as for the time, I've actually—-there are a few comics. You
know, most the time, I'll write it and I can take anywhere from, you know, days to a few
minutes. You know, sometimes, it's like, oh, I'll just be walking along, talking to someone
and suddenly stop and be like, "I need to put an S-fuel injection in a baby's name,"
yes, and you know, that will be where the comic comes. And then, sometimes, I'll spend—-I
do all the comics at a very high resolution actually and I'll spend, you know, six, eight,
ten hours just putting it all together, you know, deciding, "Okay. I'll put this guy here,
have the dialogue here"; do all the arrangement of that and especially when there's any of
the comics with the shaded background, there was the one about the guy doing--falling asleep
reading a lisp book and waking up, you know, floating in space with the blue lights and
everything. And I remember, I said, "Okay. And I'll just add some shading and that ended
up taking me close to three or four hours to get it all right." You know, I finished
them and I'm like, "Oh, it looks too dark over here" and then go back and work that.
So, you know, I'll start off with the incredibly rudimentary stick figures and then somehow
manage to be perfectionist about that. And so it appears that we have questions coming
along here. Okay, if a raptor would attack me in this room, how would I escape? There
is a lot of glass. I've noticed this coming in. Anytime you have--and if you go back to the source material on raptors
which is the original Jurassic Park movie, there is the scene where they get the door--Elliot
gets the door locked. You know, it's a Unix system. I know this and she navigates through,
locks the door and then the raptor--you know, it's all oh okay, we're all saved and then
a few moments later, the raptor cuts through the glass. So my big concern has always been
glass, that if you can get all the big picture windows, if you can get somewhere you don't
have any of those, you can lock and bar the doors and buy yourself some time. So, from
here, I'd be basically trying to move to where there's less open glass windows which means
away from there. I see light coming from there that might be sunlight so probably through
there. This is if I were alone. However, it occurs to me that there is a lot--between
me and any raptors, there is a great deal of flesh. So, it's like the old joke goes,
I don't actually have to escape the, you know, outrun the raptors, I just have to outrun
you guys. So that would be my strategy. I don't know. Well, so, a lot of time, I'll
just sort of--I would look towards the ceilings. When I went to school, there were very high-ceiling
rooms but then again, as Muldoon said, they're astonishing jumpers so that's also a problem.
You have to get pretty high up. So as far as I'm concerned, you know, Jurassic Park
I is the great movie and then Two--Two was pretty entertaining. It had Jeff Goldblum
and everything. Then Three, I never realized that--I never thought that I could go to a
movie in which dinos--the only thing that happens is the dinosaurs are chasing to eat
people and not be entertained because, really, I was like I want--you know, I was thinking,
I just want them to drop the plot and just have, you know, an hour and a half of dinosaurs
chasing--what I need is a movie that's an hour and a half of River Tam beating up dinosaurs.
Oh, men. What secret project do you hope Google is working on? Do you have any sort of an
animation or movie department? Because, right now, that has taken precedence over anything
else that I was hoping that you were doing. So I'm going to do a question from in here.
You're right here, yes. >> MALE: So my favorite--one of my favorite
drawings of yours is the science one. >> MUNROE: Which science one?
>> MALE: And I was wondering if you have ever gotten any negative feedback on that.
>> MUNROE: Once or twice, there's a--some people have really worn the shirt. You know,
it's generally pretty well-received. People don't tend to, you know, if they see something
that bothers them. They tend to just sort of leave the person alone. I did have someone
who is on a train station, somewhere pretty conservative, who said that they had been
stopped by, you know, a very upstanding looking mother saying, "I'm offended. You wear that
shirt where my kids might see it, you know", and the person said, "Well, I'm not sure which
word are you offended by, bitches or science?" But, generally, it's going pretty well, you
know. Now and then, I'll have someone who--and this is especially with people, you know,
from a generation above me who say, you know, the bitches and worry about the sexism there.
For my--sometime in the last, you know, couple of decades, bitches really translated to--it's
no longer really a term of strong gender connotations; it's just an expression of sort of triumphant
superiority. But I think it has really drifted away from its original meaning, you know,
and people don't think gender when they hear that, at least, you know, the people who I'm
used to talking to--people my age. Let's see, that--so, overall, that shirt has been pretty
well-received. Sometimes, people write in and say, you know, this shirt, you know, it's
just insulting to women how, you know, your readers might wear this but don't, you know,
I don't like it very much because I think that women don't appreciate this and I can
always point out, you know, I sell--that shirt, I think, might be are--the one that we sell
to more women proportionally than any other shirt. So, you know, there's that. Okay, what's
this? How did this get here? This was like two nights ago on a piece of paper. I'm going
to talk with someone here. Okay, now, we can see--okay, here is--so it starts off, I think
my best time came 1:11 so that's after I had had--this is after the first drink had kicked
in and I had the second one. Possibly, I have to figure out with the scales. I didn't type
this--I don't know where this came from. So, every now and then, and someone had mentioned
this, you know, "Your comics are so close to my life, you know, are you somehow spying
on me to get all of these things?" Or I'll have people write in every now and then saying,
"I know everyone says that but, seriously, this latest comic, do you know someone I know,
are you spying on me?" I'm not spying on you guys but, apparently, you guys are spying
on me. So unfortunately, we couldn't hold the drink steady and we couldn't--what I really
wanted to do is do this with a BAC meter which I've done to play with before--we didn't have
when we were doing this. I saw actually last night, it went up on right after,
you know, we had finished the project. And so it was a shame--we could--I could repeat
the project with that although I think, the morning after, I made some resolution. You
know, it says I'm never going to drink again. No, I'll probably drink again. I'm not going
to do the Rubik's cube project again. But I don't remember saying any of these things--wow,
okay. So here's our data which, you know, we're putting together, you know, graphing
it. I'll probably use a BAC calculator of some kind, you know, with my weight and try
to work out, you now, how much alcohol is in the system and get the best data that we
can out of this. I don't know where you submit this kind of thing for peer review. I guess
the--I was going to say the [INDISTINCT] Research which is a wonderful publication. I actually
just go to the Ig-Nobel Prizes recently. I think it's something like the 30-something
first annual Ig-Nobel prizes. Do we have any another question?
>> FEMALE: Hey, so I think probably my favorite comic is the one where, you know, a girl and
a guy busted on a guy on the Internet and, basically, they shoot up his computer with
an EMP blast. >> MUNROE: That's the first comic where I've
had someone stop me on the street and hug me. I was really, like when I finished that,
I was like, you know, I feel strongly about this because I've been in an iron seat for
so long and, you know, this just drives me nuts the way, like you can come on, depending
on how gendered your nick is, you get treated completely differently by people who should
know better, you know, by people who have--it has been a generation since the biggest, you
know, the 60s and the feminism and so on, and it's like it has turned ironic now, but
they still do it and it's not any better. And so that, and I was just--I spend a long
time on that one trying to figure that exactly, you know, how to say it as concisely as I
can, you know, in a comic. And I was really worried that I hadn't, you know, it hadn't
hit, that people wouldn't get what I was saying or think that I was to being to preachy or
something, but then the response has been great. So...
>> FEMALE: Yeah, I was just going to ask if, like, all of your female friends, I don't
know how many female friends you had, but you're like, beating you over the friend.
Hey, you know... >> MUNROE: Yeah.
>> FEMALE: I'm just saying because me and all my female geek friends, like, "Oh, my
God, I love that comic. It's exactly what I want to do." Yes, yes, exactly.
>> MUNROE: How did you get to that drawing? I did that drawing but--the paper for that
is at home. How did it get on the Internet? It's interesting. Actually, the first IRC
Channel--oh, man, why am I telling this story? The first IRC Channel I hung out in was actually
majority female. It was a strong majority female. I was there socially. You know, I
had some friends who wanted into this but it was--so it was actually a fan fiction IRC
channel, erotic fan fiction. You know, I was really, you know, I didn't really read the
fiction but I got to know the people there. They were all lovely people, you know, and
then I moved from there into the larger IRC where it's a little bit more gender-balanced
or, you know, gender-skewed the other way which is where I've been lurking since. But
it was always interesting, you know, and there's that mean that's going around now, there are
no girls on the Internet in various forms which, you know, it was sort of funny when
you joked about it for a second and now it has become like a thing people think every
time a girl comes into a channel. You know, anytime there's anyone with a feminine nick
and they make the joke about like a girl on the Internet, that's impossible. And the people
who use IRC with androgynous nicks in any of the channels where I am, just get treated
completely differently and that generally sucks; and I think it's people who really,
it's not people who are so much prejudice as that they don't know any better at this
point. You know, I think we've gotten over a lot of, what sexes I'm used to be and we're
on to a much more modern, refined form of sexism. But I think--and I feel like we're
actually at the point now where a gentle reminder might be all that's needed to make a decent
change because that's what I was sort of hoping to do with that.
>> FEMALE: I thought the EMP kind of... >> MUNROE: Yeah. Well, a gentle reminder as
a first warning and then the second warning is the EMP Canon. So, next question. The top
one. Hey, you said I could pick my own. I actually noticed that Chris once said of Christ
Onset [ph] of Aikwood did a Google logo, at one point, drew it out of the characters.
So let's see. I'm going to get, I'm going to think about this one for a moment and I
wanted to go down, though, to one of these other questions. Visit the office at Cambridge?
Okay, we lived nearby and we have Guitar Hero. Okay, I'm sold. Yes, so Guitar Hero Three
and Rock Band are both out now--I have been looking at--okay, well, so, yeah, well, Rock
Band Three and Guitar Hero, I've played both of them. The impression I get is that Guitar
Hero Three is not done by the same group as, I think, Harmonics. Like, most of them have
left and worked on Rock Band and then three is actually the one that's--it's a lot more
produced by executives and marketing and not quite so much fun. So I've been--and I've
enjoyed what I see at Rock Band a lot more so I guess that's the one that I have to learn;
although I'm enjoying--I don't like learning new things, I don't know. So I've been playing
Guitar Hero Two over and over and trying to get all those songs and I've got some of the
mod-ed songs. I've had a wish list for a long time of songs that I wanted to see in Guitar
Hero. And they got a couple of them; Free Bird is a great one. I've also thought that
Flight of the Bumble Bee would make a great Guitar Hero song. It would be like Misirlou
but, you know, three times as fast. >> MALE: Put in your helmet and become real.
>> MUNROE: Yeah, well, some people are actually now doing these mod-ed discs so I need to
find a PlayStation that can play those. What I found--I find someone has done another one
off my wish list which is Dueling Banjos which is, like, you know, three or four minutes.
So, okay, this is easy, you know. And I love to play it for someone who has never heard
the song or, you know, doesn't know it because, you know, it's three minutes of just, you
know like, okay. And that goes on and on, and on and on and then, suddenly, "Oh, God
it's covered in notes, you know. And so I'm--hopefully, we get a chance to play that soon. And I also
wanted The Devil went down to Georgia. It was another one on my wish list. And that's
in Guitar Hero Three but they've also--they got all these crazy stuff they're adding,
you know, with, you do this combo to get this thing and you have to play certain sequences
of notes--any there are lots of trigger bonuses and you get random things and it seems like
they've complicated it a lot more from just like--I just like to play the notes in the
original song. It's plenty fast on the guitar. That's the challenge I like.
>> MALE: It's downloadable in normal form. >> MUNROE: So let's see. Am I spying on you?
This was established. You guys are the one spying on me. And what does xkcd really stand
for? Actually, so I've been using that as just a unique point in the space of four character
strings to point to me. You know, I've been using it as my name on every service box,
you know, since at least the 90s, and because I got tired of changing my name every time
my interest changed. You know, I started out when I was 10 years old when AOL first popped
up and I was on there as, you know, I think I had, first, skywalker4 and then, anamorph7,
and then, you know, I picked other names that had to do with, like Redtailedhawk6 or something.
And then, eventually, I was like I'm tired of names that point to other things, you know,
that identify me with those things. I want to get a string that will just point uniquely
to me that's not my name because, you know, that's kind of boring. And so I--and I decided
to just go through--to generate random strings and find one that had a certain set of qualities
which included none of the letters could be mistaken for other letters in either case
or, you know, numbers, so no L because L, lower-cased, can look like IR1; and it couldn't
have any obvious acronym decoding. It couldn't be--or be an existing acronym, and it couldn't
be pronounceable because, then, it would sound like words. And, you know, it would sound
like a word and people would think of other words like it. So I--and I searched though
a bunch of names that weren't taken—-until I found one that wasn't taken on all the services
I wanted. So I've used that to sign up on every service except I ran into—-I've ran
into--I ran into one that really--that really bothered me that would not let me register
names under six characters. >> FEMALE: It's possible.
>> MUNROE: Okay. And then I figured now--but the thing is, now, that doesn't uniquely point
to me anymore. You know, I had this whole idea, "Okay. I'll have this--this will be
a unique identifier for me or for me only. Like, when I Google it, it will only turn
up things related to me or, occasionally, a binary file that happens to ask you to xkcd.
You know, when I started xkcd, I remember there were--when I started the comic, there
were, I think, something 3 or 400 Google hits for the string xkcd, and about half of those
were message boards so things that I had something to do within the last year or two, and the
rest data files that just happened to contain the string and set into a larger set of random
strings. And so I've gotten to track my--the comic's progress by xkcd search results climbing,
and they jump up and down wildly. I mean, I don't know—-it's like, you know, they're
climbing and climbing, and then, suddenly, it will drop off sharply, you know, to half
the size, and I--it seems that someone was tweaking the algorithm because people generally
take, you know, pages take a little bit of time to fall off. But I think it's at something
like 2 or 3 million now, which is--and I noticed recently—-oh, and then these Google trends,
I don't know if--I don't know if I'm on the search results. What I did notice was after
I did the comic recently where I mentioned a couple of the--oh, okay. Right here was where I left NASA because,
at that point, I was like, "Okay. This is big enough. You know, I can do this now."
Man. The comic officially started here. This is something--I found this on Wikipedia, not
sourced or anything giving me, telling me things about the comic that I'm pretty sure
aren't true like that I started in, you know, May of 2005. I'm pretty sure I started at
September 2005, but--and then I put up a few comics, you know, this was just my personal
site, stopped it and then restarted it seriously here, and since then, it has fit an exponential
growth curve pretty well. We actually found out it fits the logistic curve better of the
basic curve you can fit it to; the visits per, you know, day, visits per month. The
thing is, each month, the logistic curve that it fits is bigger. So I'm not quite sure what
to make of that. You know, clearly, we need some more sophisticated analysis. And I'm
trying to remember, this is related to something. I think that's the map of--the map of online
communities; that spike right there. We've had a couple of comics that I put up that
just sort of like--that I got feedback within a few minutes. I got some e-mails and I mean--I
was like, "Oh, boy, this is--this one--this is going to be another one of those ones that,
you know, shows everywhere." The first one that happened was the Sudo Make Me A Sandwich.
And it just blew my mind to see people who were taking pictures, probably, none in here;
it's fairly strict about picture-taking, but there was one about--there was one--someone
had drawn it up on the wall of Amazon—-at Amazon, and it was, I think, at Microsoft
too although, I mean, Microsoft, why would they be interested in Sudo? Didn't it come
out recently that the--not recently, a couple of years ago that the server that Microsoft
is using to distribute one of the--to talk about one of their server products was actually
using Apache. >> MALE: No. But I think they're using Acamine
[ph] attaches. >> MUNROE: Oh.
>> MALE: It wasn't really then. >> MUNROE: Okay. I didn't know what the back
story was behind it. Are you sure there's Google in Braille?
>> MALE: Yes. >> MUNROE: Nice. I did--I did actually learn
to read Braille at one point, you know, slowly and--I had a little card in my wallet so when
I was--when I was waiting outside somewhere, I would, you know, find the Braille signs
and just try to figure out, basically, decoding it, like a substitution cipher, and to work
out what each of the characters mean. It's tricky though because normal written Braille
does a whole bunch of packing where they'll have several characters compressed into, you
know, every one character to stand for common things like TH. I don't think TH might have
one; but, you know, other characters like that which made it a little bit trickier,
but it's a lot of fun. And you can look for discrepancies between the messages that are--that
are written in the Braille messages. Like, for example, they say, you know, "For help,
push red button." That's when where I found it, and then I read Braille, and it said,
"For help, push three-inch button." Because, obviously, you know, if you're reading the
Braille, you're going to have trouble seeing it's a red button. And that made a lot of
sense. I just never really thought about that. Oh, the Braille is, as I understand, fading
away now because of the Internet, and because of computers are so cool that everyone can
just use Text-To-Speech for so much stuff. And I know a couple of blind hackers who are
doing all these useful stuff that would have been so much harder to do, you know, even
10 years ago, which is really cool. Now... >> NORVIG: Question there.
>> MUNROE: Yes. So--oh, yes, I'm sorry. You asked earlier.
>> FEMALE: I guess I should have worn something brighter. I'm just wondering how you feel
about comic scrapers? >> MUNROE: Comic scrapers, I am happy for
anyone to read the comic basically through any means. You know, I--we encourage hotlinking;
unlike many other comics and many older sites because--I think it's because people are finally
figuring out the easier you make it for people to locate your stuff, the better you're going
to do online. And, you know, people say, "Oh, well, you have to come to this site. You have
to register to view this or you have to pay, you know, this minor fee. Like, publicity
and wide readership is worth so much more than any of the things you get out of that
that I just try to set things up so it's as easy as possible for people to read the comic--to
copy and read the comics anywhere, which is, you know, the idea behind Creative Commons.
I think, right now, the xkcd comic directory is publicly indexable, which I didn't have
any real reason for that, but I figured, if someone finds a way to play with that to make
the comics reachable through another thing, great. You know, as long as they're linking
back to the site and pointing to where it came from, I'm happy with—-I'm happy for
that, you know. I know that there's RSS readers that just pulled down ridiculous amounts of
content and then leave them on your laptop, and I'll do that when I'm flying on a plane.
You know, I'll just pull down the last month's worth of feeds from all those places and then
that would be my reading material. So I'm happy with any kind of scraping that people
want to do. You know, if there's anything that we don't support, we're looking at implanting
that. >> NORVIG: WE have time for one more question.
What--were you going to do the doodle? >> MUNROE: Well, let's see. I would--so I
had this problem that I ran into with and effects the comic has had on my social life
which is that when I meet new people, I don't realize always, they already know all my jokes.
And I will know nothing about someone, and so I'll be going out, you know, and start
doing a story, you know. Yeah, when I'm hanging out somewhere like this, I always choreograph
these elaborate fight scenes in my head, and I'm like, we know. So I've always wanted to
see this movie that has—-that's just someone fighting for... We'll have--we'll have someone
here who's just sort of concerned by this whole thing. Yeah. And then, what can we have
someone doing? >> FEMALE: [INDISTINCT].
>> MUNROE: We're going to have this. Let's see. What is this person doing? So what's
another—-what's another weapon? >> MALE: The nunchucks.
>> MUNROE: Oh, we need the nunchucks. >> MALE: The stars.
>> MUNROE: Has anyone played with those rings that are—-it's like a cylinder with wavy
edges that you're supposedly can throw hundreds and hundreds of yards?
>> MALE: Yes. >> MUNROE: I've been meaning to try that because
that--that sounds fun. There are all these kids' toys now that actually--that actually
work. You know, let's see. Does it have a launcher or is it--was I doing it wrong? Okay.
And he is thinking about cake. Let's see. And then let's see if we can fit this here.
Is this--is this gaffer tape, acrylic [ph] tape or duct tape? And, now, we'll have another concerned person here.
No, no, you know, what we have here is--so she has been at it awhile so we'll have a
dead body.
And then he is thinking about--here we go.