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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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xkcd Survey
The xkcd Survey: Big Data for a Big Planet
Title text: The xkcd Survey: Big Data for a Big Planet

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: First attempt. There is probably more to come.

As the comic image states, it links to a survey created with Google Forms, containing a series of questions. The questions range from mundane typical survery questions such as “Do you have any food allergies?”, to rather strange, such as “Fill this text box with random letters by randomly mashing keys on your keyboard.”

The stated goal of the survey is to “create an interesting and unusual data set for people to play with”. A strange data set is a ripe opportunity for a sampling of readers. It's also supposed to be “a search for weird correlations” – presumably the goal is to be able to say things like “people who have been skydiving are (more/less) likely than average to dislike cilantro”.

This explanation will doubtless expand when the data comes in.

HTML image maps are a technique for marking up areas of an image on a web page, such that each area can be a link without the whole image being a link. Randall could use image maps to make only the “Click here to take the survey” button be a link, and none of the rest of the image. Not getting the hang of HTML image maps was also referenced on the banner for his book tour from September 2014

The Survey

The Survey starts off with the following statement.

This is an anonymous survey. After it's done, a database of everyone's responses will be posted. There's no specific reason for any of the questions. The goal is to create an interesting and unusual data set for people to play with. (This is obviously not going to be a real random sample of people, but in the interest of getting cooler data, if you're sharing this with friends, try sending it to some people who wouldn't normally see this kind of thing!) WARNING: This survey is anonymous, but your answers WILL BE MADE PUBLIC. Depending what you write, it's possible that someone may be able to identify you by looking at your responses. None of these questions should ask about anything too private, but don't write anything that you don't want people to see. If you're not comfortable answering a question, just skip it.

Plane

Have you ever been in a plane?

  • No
  • Yes

Skydiving

Have you ever been skydiving?

  • No, but I might someday
  • Yes
  • No

The Dress

  • When you first saw The Dress, what color was it? — Also see 1492: Dress Color.
    • White and gold
    • A color combination not listed here
    • I don't remember
    • Blue and black
    • What dress?

Popular food

  • What's a really popular food that you don't like?

Floaters

When you look at a blue sky, do you see those swirly floaters in your vision?

  • Yes, constantly
  • I'm not sure what things you mean
  • Yes, occasionally
  • No

Running out of gas

Have you ever had a car run out of gas while you were driving it?

  • Yes
  • No

Animals

  • Name the first five animals you can think of

Weather

  • What's the weather like where you are right now?

Activities

Which of these can you do reasonably well?

(Check all that apply)

  • Dunk a basketball — A "slam dunk" or simply "dunk" is the act of jumping up and putting the ball through the net with a lot of force
  • Tie a sheet bend or bowline — A sheet bend is a knot that joins two ropes together; A bowline is a knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope
  • Roller skate
  • Run in high heels
  • Drive a stick shift — See Manual transmission of a car
  • Solve a Rubik's cube
  • Dive headfirst off a diving board — See Springboard and Diving platform
  • Ice skate
  • Skateboard
  • Walk on stilts — Stilts are poles, posts or pillars used to allow a person to walk at a height above the ground
  • Ski
  • Cut vegetables with a knife
  • Swim
  • Ride a horse
  • Unicycle
  • Change the oil on a car
  • Do a back handspring — A handspring is an excercise in gymnastics in which you jump through the air landing on your hands, then again landing on your feet
  • Juggle — Toss juggling (the most recognizable form of juggling) consists in throwing objects into the air and catching them.

Spelling

What word can you never seem to spell on the first try?

Condiments

Do you eat condiments directly out of the fridge as a snack?

  • No
  • Yes

Thermostat

When you adjust a thermostat that was set by someone else, it's usually because you want the room to be ...

  • Cooler
  • Warmer

Clothing

What color is the shirt/dress/upper-body-clothing you're wearing right now, if any?

Colds

  • Do you get colds often?
    • No
    • Yes

Number

  • Pick a number from 1 to 100

Spelling

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how good at spelling are you? (Note that the question does not specify which end of the scale is good or bad.)

Myers-Briggs

Do you know your Myers-Briggs type?

  • No
  • Yes

Astrology

Siblings

  • How many older siblings do you have?
  • How many younger siblings do you have?
  • How many twin/etc siblings do you have?

Sleepiness

  • Do you feel sleepy a lot?
    • Yes
    • No

Movie star

  • Name a movie star
    • Text box

Time in sun

  • Do you spend a lot of time in the sun?
    • Yes
    • No

Broccoli

  • Does broccoli taste bitter to you?
    • Yes
    • I've never had it
    • No

Wakefulness

  • Do you regularly stay awake much later than you meant to?
    • Yes
    • No

Keyboard mashing

  • Fill this text box with gibberish by mashing random keyboard keys
    • Multi-line text box

Driving

  • On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is terrible and 3 is average, how good a driver do you think you are?

Allergies

  • Do you have any food allergies?
    • No
    • Yes

Thunder

  • Have you heard thunder or seen lightning in the past year?
    • Yes
    • No

Flavor preference

Which do you prefer?

  • Chocolate
  • Vanilla

Number (reprise)

  • Pick another number from 1 to 100

Internet

  • When you think about stuff on the internet, where do you picture it being physically located? Even if you know it's not really how things work, is there a place you imagine websites and social media posts sitting before you look at them? If so, where is it?

Roll tongue

Can you roll your tongue?

  • Yes
  • No
  • What?

Toes

Can you pick things up with your toes?

  • No
  • Yes

Age

How old are you?

Single line text box

Walls

What color are the walls around you right now?

Single line text box

Cell phone

What kind of cell phone do you have?

  • iPhone
  • Android
  • Other smartphone
  • Non-smartphone
  • I don't have a cell phone

Eating

What's the last thing you ate?

  • Single line text box

Difficult words

Which of these words do you know the meaning of?

Some of these words don’t appear in any of the following dictionaries: the Oxford English Dictionary, the New Oxford American Dictionary, Wiktionary, or Dictionary.com. These words were probably made up by Randall. Perhaps the goal is to people feel like they have a weak vocabulary because they don’t know many of the words, until they try look up the meanings and realize they have been tricked.

Dictionary.com has an index of difficulty (measured in pixels, with class name difficulty-indicator). We add it at the right of the words that have it. N/A means that a word isn't present in Dictionary.com, or that it doesn't have an index.

cat

Please type "cat" here:

Single line text box

Dreams

Do you usually remember your dreams?

  • No
  • Yes

Text editors

Do you have strong opinions about text editors? — See Editor war

  • Yes
  • No

Emoji

How do you feel about emoji?

  • Negative 😠 — Unicode 1f620 Angry face
  • Positive ☺ — Unicode 263a White smiling face
  • Neutral 😐

Snow

  • Does it ever snow where you live?
    • No
    • Yes

Taste of food

Do you strongly dislike the taste or texture of any of these things?

  • Eggs
  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Beer
  • White wine
  • Carbonation — Fizz
  • Red wine
  • Cilantro
  • Coffee
  • Tomatoes
  • Yogurt

Beverages

Which of these do you regularly drink?

  • Caffeinated soda — e.g. Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper
  • Noncaffeinated soda
  • Coffee
  • Fruit juice
  • Milk
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Tea
  • Maple syrup — This is a joke because maple syrup is not normally drunk
  • Water

Random words

Type five random words

Multi-line text box

Flying

Are you nervous about flying?

  • Yes
  • A little
  • No

Favorite number

On a scale of 1 to 5, which number is your favorite?

  • Buttons to select from the integers 1 through 5

Sandwich

Multiple selections allowed

Animal affinity

  • Which of these describes you?
    • Dog person
    • Cat person
    • Half-cat half-person
    • Part of a subterranean race of dog people
    • Literally named "Catherine Person"

Multiple selections allowed

Sense of direction

  • Would you say you have a good sense of direction?
    • Yes
    • No

Socks or underwear

Have you ever thrown out all your different pairs of socks/underwear, bought a bunch of replacements that were all one kind, and then told all your friends how great it was and how they should do it too?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I did the throwing out thing, but didn't talk to everyone about it
  • No, but I'm totally doing that now

See also

Transcript

Introducing
THE XKCD SURVEY
A search for weird correlations
Note: This survey is anonymous, but
all responses will be posted publicly
so people can play with the data.
Click here to
take the survey
Or click here, or here.
The whole comic is a link,
because I still haven't gotten
the hang of HTML imagemaps.


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