2615: Welcome Back

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Welcome Back
'We're shocked by the Notre Dame fire. Click for our tribute to--' [okay] 'Now that we're all staying at home these past few weeks thanks to this new coronavirus, we--' [okay]
Title text: 'We're shocked by the Notre Dame fire. Click for our tribute to--' [okay] 'Now that we're all staying at home these past few weeks thanks to this new coronavirus, we--' [okay]


Cueball is opening an app called TornadoGuard, a reference to comic 937: TornadoGuard. In that comic the app is described to have a function so it "plays a loud alert sound when there is a tornado warning for your area". Tornadoes are a recurring theme on xkcd.

In the background, a tornado is approaching, so presumably a loud alert sound has just played and Cueball has opened the app. It is also possible that the app didn't play any alert, but Cueball saw the tornado and thus opened the app to check whether it had any news.

However, before he can interact with the app and learn more about the tornado, he has to click through various old messages from the app, since he hasn't opened the app in a while. This is feasible because May, which is the month in which this comic was published and typically the most active month for tornadoes, had seen fewer-than-average tornadoes in the previous two years but not during this year – see this Tornado Central story. So Cueball would have been more likely to have to worry about tornadoes this year than in the previous two years.

The comic is poking fun at the obtrusiveness of these kind of messages by presenting a scenario where they cause a significant delay before Cueball would be able to read the very urgent information about current tornadoes.

The messages include a description of a big update, a response to user feedback about one specific feature, and a social post seemingly unrelated to the app.

This continues in the title text where there are two more messages that refer to specific world events and can therefore be dated: The fire that damaged the church of Notre Dame in Paris April 15th 2019; and the early attempts to limit the spread of Covid-19 disease, which was declared a pandemic on March 11th 2020. It has been a while since the last reference to the pandemic, actually the previous comic about this, 2563: Throat and Nasal Passages, was released almost exactly 4 months prior to this one.

The two mentioned news stories were relevant about three and two years before this comic was published, respectively. Neither of these are important to know right now, whereas an announcement about an update that changes its functionality could be important to know about.

Although it is possible that there are no more messages to click through if nothing of significance has happened subsequent to the title text ones, the reader can easily imagine that the development team has posted further 'real time' messages that Cueball will still have to scroll through and/or dismiss, with very little immediate importance compared with the imminent proximity of an actual funnel-cloud.


[A large cloud fills the upper 3/4 of the panel. That it is a cloud is indicated by curved lines at the bottom of the cloud. Below the cloud lines is a tornado in the right part of the background. It is throwing up dust on or near the mid-distance horizon and creating an active debris cloud. In the foreground Cueball is standing holding his phone up in one hand, looking at the screen, which is on as indicated by five "light lines" coming of his display. Three paragraphs of text fills most of the white cloud space above Cueball, they are connected by lines, with the last leading down to the top of Cueball's phone. There are two rounded boxes to the right and below the first two paragraphs with text. They represents buttons Cueball presses on the screen to get to the next text message.]
Hi! The TornadoGuard™ team is proud to announce a big update! We've added-
Note to users of sentinel mode: We've heard your feedback, and the controls are now-
Got it
The TornadoGuard™ team saw this cool leaf shaped like a spider; do you want to see...
[Caption below the panel:]
When you open an app for the first time in a while, you have to wait around while it tells you about all the cool adventures it's had.

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I'm terrible at writing descs so somebody note how he's opening the app to check for a tornado which is already approching Mushrooms (talk) 06:42, 5 May 2022 (UTC)

No the tornado is far away.‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Is it? Or is it small? 08:20, 5 May 2022 (UTC)
I didn't say it was close I said it was approachingMushrooms (talk) 07:17, 5 May 2022 (UTC)

A new What If came out. I added it to the what if? page, and there was a comment there telling me to also post in the latest talk section about it. So here you go. 08:29, 5 May 2022 (UTC)

Interesting to note that two of the images don't appear to have the usual hovertext 'side-gag commentaries'. Though the filenames that show in leiu (on this device's browser) are suitably esoteric in their own right, so not a big problem... ;) 11:40, 5 May 2022 (UTC)
Thanks for that note. I'd taken What-if out of my RSS reader subscriptions because I thought Randall stopped doing them. Although I guess it's not surprising that he'd resurrect it in advance of the book. Barmar (talk) 18:17, 5 May 2022 (UTC)
Yes thanks for that. That comment on posting here was from me! It's four years since last except for 17. days... And before that there was more than a years break. So I would not have noticed it. He also changed the layout to match his what if 2 book page. I added links to the original post, to make it easier for others to quickly navigate there. Thanks again --Kynde (talk) 11:14, 6 May 2022 (UTC)

In a slightly-related vein, Pokemon Go has a feature where you click to say you're safe during/after severe weather. It seems rather pointless though. I'm unlikely to be playing Pokemon Go after a tornado has destroyed my house. "Yes, I am safe, although my house is gone, power lines are down, I have a broken leg and internal injuries, but I need to spin my local Pokestop to maintain my daily streak". Beechmere (talk) 06:13, 6 May 2022 (UTC)Beechmere

Is this not just 'gamifying geo-personal metadata'? Like the online mobile games that got users to actually try to make the most optimal journeys between two points that the Algorithm wanted feedback about. Or the use of road journey tracks to backform traffic/congestion info at various times of day. Here, by announcing your (relative) state of being unscathed you may be downgrading the AI's initial prediction that your area was badly hit (and those who don't check in reveal their area as being full of at least people a bit too involved in a clear-up to worry about capturing an Augmented Reality cartoon creature...). To what financial end, I wouldn't know, but I bet there's one. Even if one with philanthropic intent in there too. 06:33, 6 May 2022 (UTC)
I think it is to prevent people from running out to catch a rare Pokémon if the weather is severe. Tornadoes are very rare, and in most part of the world non existing. But severe storms, snow etc could also be dangerous to go out in, as can heat waves. I have played and seen this under several weather conditions. I think it is really just their way of making sure you cannot say you where not warned if you get injured playing their game. Like they always cautions you to look out where you are going. --Kynde (talk) 11:14, 6 May 2022 (UTC)

I've had some videogames do this when I haven't played for years... 06:30, 6 May 2022 (UTC)

I have a game on my phone that opens every time with a series of six separate ads for items in the in-game shop. Then I get the same six ads any time I run out of the game's central resource. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 06:54, 8 May 2022 (UTC)

I just made the page for the new comic, 2616. It isn't linking and I am in well above my knowledge level. Help? https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/2616:_Deep_End SqueakSquawk4 (talk) 23:06, 6 May 2022 (UTC)