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<   No. 1159   2006-03-30   >

Comic #1159

1 Me: Oh man...
2 Me: I hate it when webcomics have an immense amount of text that you feel obligated to plough through in order to understand what's going on. Sometimes they refer obliquely to past events that you have to be fully immersed in the comic's backstory and history to even follow, which makes you feel like they should have explanatory footnotes*. It makes you wonder sometimes if the author realises that comics are primarily a visual medium, and shouldn't rely on overly verbose exposition of what characters are feeling or have them explain past events to other characters. And once you're about halfway through the mountain of dialogue and you realise that it doesn't really say anything particularly interesting after all, you end up feeling as though you have to continue because you've made it this far. So you keep on reading, because you've already invested this much effort into it, but it doesn't get any better; if anything it gets even more turgid and unbelievably laborious. It's at about this point that you seriously start to wonder if it's really worth continuing, and you question whether you might be better off spending your time painting the house instead, since it would probably take less time and be more rewarding. You even wonder if you should keep this comic on your reading list at all, since this particular strip just continues to defy your expectation of what a webcomic should be like, with its execrable overburdening of the dialogue at the expense of the artwork, and if a comic isn't about the artwork then does it really deserve to be called a comic at all? But then you approach the end and your heart lifts, because you start to feel that you've endured the pain, that whatever this author has in mind, it must really have required this much detailed explication to set up and give all the vital information, and that finally it will all pay off with a fantastic joke... *If I ever made a comic, it wouldn't have footnotes.
3 Me: And there's no punchline.

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I almost pasted the full text of James Joyce's Ulysses here into the annotation.

I remember back when I was at university. A fellow student put the entire text of Shakespeare's Richard III into his .plan file. Woe betide if you should ever happen to finger his account name.


2015-07-28 Rerun commentary: I suppose these days I might have to explain that last bit.

On a Unix mainframe or minicomputer system with shared access for multiple users at once, there is a command called "finger", which can be used to see the status of any other given user on the system. By issuing a command of the form:

finger <username>

at the command line, you would get an output which showed some brief information about the named user, including whether they were currently logged in or not, and the text of a customisable file which that user would set as a message for anyone who happened to finger them. This customisable text was known as a .plan file (as it existed in a file by that name).

Normally, the contents of a .plan file would be something like a schedule or information on where you could be found if you didn't happen to be logged in at the moment, perhaps including a phone number or a class timetable, for example. Most people's .plan files were thus useful, and consisted of just a few lines of text, which would fit comfortably on your terminal screen.

The entire text of Richard III, in contrast, is over 5000 lines. And on an old style dumb terminal, this would take the better part of a minute to scroll up your screen.

After you tried fingering the aforementioned fellow student two or three times, you never did it again, believe me.

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