Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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The form of presentation can say a lot about the content. File extensions are a quick way of checking the type of a file, and this comic comments on how file extensions can tell us a few things things about the contents.
- .tex is for TeX and LaTeX source files; it's often used by academics, especially in mathematics and the hard sciences. .tex means serious business.
- .pdf is a document format by Adobe, frequently used for publication — a final product, a polished work.
- .csv is just a bunch of data delimited by commas, probably computer-generated and containing raw data (from, say, a scientific experiment).
- .txt is a plain text file; it's usually programmers who use these (e.g. README files).
- .svg is a vector graphics format used a lot for diagrams, such as on Wikipedia.
- .xls and .xlsx are spreadsheets, used by Excel as part of the Microsoft Office bundle. Anyone with Windows could easily make one of these. Mostly these contain a mix of raw data (as with .csv) and calculations using that data. .xls is for Excel versions previous to 2007. .xlsx is for Excel versions 2007 and later.
- .doc is a rich-text document format, used by Word as part of the Microsoft Office bundle. Anyone with Windows could easily make one of these, which is probably why Randall doesn't trust it much.
- .png is a bitmap image format designed for the Internet. It is enjoying wide popularity for providing crisp, full-color images with lossless (invisible) compression.
- .ppt refers to a Microsoft Office Powerpoint file. Again, anyone with Windows can make one of these, but they are usually used for presentations, not documents. Thus, the information will be arranged differently, possibly to "dumb down" the content.
- .jpg or jpeg is a bitmap image format, excellent for storing photos, but not too good for most other things. This file format is prone to annoying compression artifacts; storing numerical or textual information in a JPEG file is typically a bad idea. Digital cameras use .jpg, so .jpeg means that the photo has been edited with a photo manipulation software or that the file doesn't contain a photo at all. Therefore, you can't trust the content of a .jpeg file. Further, there is also the possibility that viruses can get embedded into jpeg files.
- .gif is a bitmap image format capable of short animations. It was once the Internet image file format until PNG gradually replaced it for many good reasons. It made a comeback in recent years, mostly for silly clips of cats falling into boxes. Since its the only common format for animated images, it's also the preferred format for blinking website ads that tell that you're the 100,000,000th visitor and have won a prize (570 makes fun of this). It's also very popular in the online adult industry, both for content and for ads. In addition, because it can be animated, people will often make seemingly normal images that then have something pop out and startle you.
- Trustworthiness of Information by File Extension
- [A bar graph charting this. No units or figures are given, but for ease of comprehension this transcript will arbitrarily designate the highest score as "+100"; subsequent scores are estimates based on the size of their bars.]
- .tex: +100
- .pdf: +89
- .csv: +85
- .txt: +67
- .svg: +65
- .xls/.xlsx: +49
- .doc: +21
- .png: +15
- .ppt: +14
- .jpg: +3
- .jpeg: -8
- .gif: -36
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