2574: Autoresponder

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  • This was the ninth comic to come out after the Countdown in header text started and the one that was on the front page when it ended! Just minutes before the next comic came out.


Cueball and White Hat are going to some kind of show (a movie or concert, perhaps), and Cueball asks White Hat if he is ready to go, who affirms this but asks for Cueball to email him the tickets before they go.

When Cueball does this he apparently opts to send them to White Hat's work email address. When White Hat is not at work, he has an autoresponder activated that tells people to not disturb him as he is not at work. Usually this means that his email server sends an automatic response telling the sender of the mail that he is not at work, and not to expect an immediate reply.

But in this comic, White Hat has a physical autoresponder standing behind him, drawn as a human with thicker/rougher lines as if clad in bulky clothing, wearing spiky knee and elbow guards and a spike-embossed and notably scarred crash-helmet upon its head. It holds a glinting, sharp sword in its hand. When Cueball inadvertently activates it, it plunges forward to 'defend' White Hat from being disturbed by work related things during his spare time. It is so aggressive that it even violently pushes White Hat out of the way, with a blow to the face so that he falls back and dislodges his hat, as it prepares to confront the perpetrator, Cueball.

In the caption below, Randall states that he feels bad when he activates his friends' autoresponders. It is unclear if this is because he thinks he disturbs them with what they might think is work, because he then knows he will not get a reply or if he feels attacked (like Cueball in the comic) by their "aggressively worded" auto-replies.

In the title text Cueball shouts out (in all caps) to the autoresponder "I admire how you set boundaries and I hope your colleagues respect them! Please spare my life!" He therefore thinks it is a good idea to have time away from work where you cannot be contacted by your colleagues.

It is unclear if the autoresponder is a human or a robot, but the open-faced helmet reveals the fringe and neck-length hair generally seen on female characters, although for instance Megan's hair is usually longer and not so messy as this creature. This would be reminiscent of the Android series, especially 600: Android Boyfriend, where one of the androids moves past its owner.


[Cueball and White Hat are talking to each other while Cueball is typing on his smartphone. A dark-haired figure stands behind White Hat, drawn with thicker/rougher lines as if clad in bulky clothing; wearing spiky knee and elbow guards, a spike-embossed and notably scarred crash-helmet upon its head; and is holding a glinting sharp sword in its hand.]
Cueball: Ready to go?
White Hat: Yup! Can you email me the tickets before we leave?
Cueball: Sure, one sec.
[The next panel is nested inside the first, although at first it just looks like two individual panels. This could indicate the second panel is an immediate response to the first. The armored figure aggressively moves forward towards Cueball, who drops his phone in surprise. The armored figure has its sword-arm raised, the other hand pushing White Hat behind it, by pushing him in the face which causes him to stumble backwards so his hat starts to fall off.]
Cueball: Okay, I sent it to-
Armored figure: It is outside work hours!
Armored figure: Prepare to die!
Cueball: Augh!
[Caption below the panel:]
I always feel bad when I trigger my friends' work autoresponders.

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In Russia, this comic won't be relatable. Bosses here still use e-mail, and use regular phone calls for ASAP-like urgent requests. 05:21, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

(This comment reinstated. Looks like an editing error by the person who added something else... Is definitely relevent.) 15:11, 30 January 2022 (UTC)
Actually in Germany my boss uses email, too and I have an autoresponder for that case. He also can call me if it is urgent but he only very rarely does do that.--Gunterkoenigsmann (talk) 10:53, 31 January 2022 (UTC)
Sorry for deleting this while upset. What relevence do you see? I think the poster was unaware that autoresponders are an email and phone thing. Or I was trying to angrily convey to them that we don't have message androids _yet_ but that our media has blamed misleading messaging associated with Russia for some of our severe problems. 17:20, 2 February 2022 (UTC)
I think you're reading the wrong things into this. Our Russian commentator says that Russian bosses send Russian workers emails/etc, regardless of the time. (Contrast with Belgium where now Government workers no longer have to answer calls or emails after hours, by law, as of a few days ago, and other territories have previously tried to go further). Nothing to do with your residual memories of Russian interference in the US election (I presume you mean), which you seem to dismiss outright and have therefore decided to delete this as a knee-jerk response just because you felt triggered by something you thought you found uncomfortable. Anyway, never mind. 19:24, 2 February 2022 (UTC)

1) Why is White Hat is hairless, and 2) what’s with the nested panels? ISaveXKCDpapers (talk) 06:48, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

White Hat never has hair. Yes the nested panel is a bit special but not unique. But should be mentioned in the transcript. I think it is to indicate the immediate response. --Kynde (talk) 07:27, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

Is the harness an auto responding exoskeleton?--Gunterkoenigsmann (talk) 06:59, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

I'm definitely going to need to come back when this has an explanation. I know what an email autoresponder is but that doesn't explain the joke. 07:23, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

Randall's riffing on the theme of advanced technology trickling into the commonplace. The autoresponder is a robot made with AI. 18:53, 29 January 2022 (UTC)
It could also be seen as a more subtle joke that people are enslaving members of opposing political parties to be their autoresponders. 09:45, 30 January 2022 (UTC)
Very subtle. I don't see it. It's the absurdity of a physical in-presence response, given how most rogue out-of-workhours emailers wouldn't even be a mere shove away from being responded to in such a way. (Now, if everyone had a swordsperson/-bot behind them and your own one of these attacked you when it sensed/was told you had made such an email. That would be 'workable', if strange to implement. This comic has a (usually) unworkable solution that's even stranger!)
I guess I'm joking about the responses that ended up in the description, and the intensity of our current issues, and how so much power can stem from simple meme, suggestions, nonsensical responses or misunderstandings. The joints are obviously gears, not human garb. The bot doesn't look like any of the female comic characters at all. The description treats this as ambiguous which is maybe a little dangerous but also important if people see it that way. I was exposed to how the new political AIs were used to predictably influence women for sex, so it scared me. 17:10, 2 February 2022 (UTC)
Not gears. Elbow/Knee-pads with spikes on. Mad Max-like. Seems obvious to me, and already mentioned in the explanation. Character-wise, the hair might indicate Knit Cap Girl as a template, if not a slightly shorter-haired Megan. (Don't understand your political AIs comment at all, it doesn't make sense to me and I think you missed some words or punctuation, so ignoring that for now.) 19:24, 2 February 2022 (UTC)
PS., I think it works best with a (to my eye) female adversary, whether swordswoman or fembot. An armoured Cueball (or most anybother male character) wouldn't have the same "Summer Glau"-type femme fatale thing about them. La Femme Nikita, Mrs Steed, etc. "The female of the species is deadlier than the male" sort of thing. Good choice of characterisation, Randall! 15:11, 30 January 2022 (UTC)
This is a consterning comic. I think it makes the most sense to me now if I see it as joking about how modern systems can over-respond to us. Technology taking over the world like a zealous puppy. Many systems are run but AI now, see ubuntu's "operators" that do system administration with AI. 17:25, 2 February 2022 (UTC)

I've never once been sent an autoresponder message about the hour, just OOTO vacations and the like. Are the former common these days? What about people in different time zones? Or who work different shifts? Isn't the whole idea about using asynchronous email instead of synchronous chat or DM or whatever that the time of day doesn't matter? Weird. 08:03, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

Some territories, and/or businesses are moving to a situation which respects work/life-balance, again, after the 24/7 always-online world started to eat into (mostly) after-hours time off - e.g. the EU's Working Time Directive, or the automatic shutdown of office computers at the end of the (nominal) working day. But there are still ways for employer/employee to get round these measures if they 'need' to (or feel pressurised to).
The US as a whole isn't that advanced in such things, I understand... Certainly regressive in other employment issues. But it would depend upon what position White Hat actually has in what kind of business. It seems he can (and feels he can) set up something, but of course he seems to have gone over oard in the configuration of it! 12:29, 29 January 2022 (UTC)
I'm perfectly happy to ignore emails until an appropriate hour, but I don't want someone to forgo sending me an email they or I need because of the time. That's what asynchronous means! This is just nuts. 17:33, 29 January 2022 (UTC)
Me, too. But with many people checking email on their phones, it has become more common to expect them to be handled at any time. Barmar (talk) 16:06, 31 January 2022 (UTC)

Deletion of: "(probably, as electronic tickets with one-use QR Codes, in case they are separated before they arrive, to save time.)" - I found that necessary to be explained, myself. I can't see how/why the email is even sent, otherwise. Like being given your physical ticket, in advance (but only yours) after someone else bought the set of 'Upper Circle, Row F seats 15-20' for your little group, in advance. Either that or Cueball keeps the tickets (physical or electronic) and is there to get his whole party (WH and anybody else they'll plan to meet on the way) past the entrance to the theatre/arena/whatever by showing them all to the gatekeeper/whatever. 15:08, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

I had to go all the way down here to find any explanation whatsoever of “email [a way to send information] the tickets [physical pieces of paper]” but at least the explanation (of sorts) is here somewhere. 22:45, 29 January 2022 (UTC)

Also, separate point, this is one of the first comics to not only not be about the pandemic, but seems to indicate normality with no notable remaining effects of it, suggesting it is not even a significant background factor. Though of course we can't know what precautions (reduced-capacity spacing, recent negative testing documents, proof-of-vaccination, whatever) might be seen off-strip, at the event itself, and I know it'd be a rash set of xkcd characters that aren't still fully aware and (somehow) reducing the ongoing risks, still. But for those who complained about too much Covid-focus, here you are, and then sorry I mentioned it (even for the good reason of making it clear that they should feel happier now, if they hadn't already realised it). 15:11, 29 January 2022 (UTC)