518: Flow Charts

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Not to be confused with 1195: Flowchart or 1488: Flowcharts.

Flow Charts
At 8 drinks, you switch the torrent from FreeBSD to Microsoft Bob. C'mon, it'll be fun!
Title text: At 8 drinks, you switch the torrent from FreeBSD to Microsoft Bob. C'mon, it'll be fun!


Flowcharts are diagrams that represent processes in a graphical form. While predominantly used in computer programming to visualize the structure of source code, flowcharts can in theory be used to depict any real or virtual procedure. In this comic, this idea is subverted by employing a flowchart to explain how flowcharts work. Flowcharts are a recurring theme on xkcd.

This seems like a faulty basis for explaining anything, but the basic functionality of flowcharts is quite intuitive, and the attempted self-description is almost unnecessary. In fact, the comic does not actually explain how to use the flowchart: it just uses an example of a very simple flowchart to demonstrate to the reader that they can easily work out how to follow it. If the reader attempts to "game" the system by either giving contradictory answers, or refusing to acknowledge that they can see the "Yes" and "No" labels, the flowchart gets confused or becomes abusive. Just like a real computer.

If you confirm or demonstrate that you can follow the flowchart, it inevitably leads to the "Let's go drink" box, which gives rise to the assumption that the whole chart was only a pretense for drinking.

FreeBSD is a unixoid operating system for computers that is generally considered to require advanced skills. The question whether GNU/Linux or (Free)BSD is the preferable operating system is a question of almost religious belief to some. The comic takes a shot against FreeBSD by implying that one would only decide to install it when under the influence of alcohol. This may also be a reference to 349: Success.

The title text mentions Microsoft Bob, a software package published in 1995 by Microsoft. The product was targeted towards beginners, and Microsoft decided to use a cartoon-style interface instead of a more 'professional' environment. It was a commercial failure, and still serves as an inside joke among IT professionals.

"Torrent" refers to BitTorrent, a peer-to-peer filesharing protocol that is often used to share large files, such as the files for an operating system, via the internet. BitTorrent allows users to, rather than downloading whole files from a central server, download small pieces from each of many "peers" who are downloading the same file concurrently. In the title-text, the reader initially torrents the FreeBSD operating system in order to install it. The reference to "switching the torrent" suggests that if you were even more drunk than you would need to be to download FreeBSD, you would start downloading Microsoft Bob instead.

In xkcd: volume 0, there is an extra step, from installing FreeBSD to "more drinking".


[A flow chart is shown beneath a caption. There are 14 boxes, five rhombus shaped and the rest rectangular. From all the rhombus boxes there are one arrow entering and two arrows leaving (with yes/no labels on them). One of the other boxes is the start with only one arrow leaving, and three of these boxes are endings with only one arrow entering. Three have two arrows entering and one leaving. And two have one in and one out. Caption:]
A guide to
understanding flow charts
presented in flow chart form.
Box 0: Start
[Arrow to Box 1.]
Box 1: Do you understand flow charts?
[Arrow to Box 2.] Yes
[Arrow to Box 4.] No
Box 2: Good
[Arrow to Box 3.] Yes
Box 3: Let's go drink.
[Arrow to Final Box.] 6 Drinks
Box 4: Okay. You see the line labeled "Yes"?
[Arrow to Box 6.] Yes
[Arrow to Box 5.] No
Box 5: But you see the ones labeled "No".
[Arrow to End-Box 1.] Yes
[Arrow to End-Box 2a.] No
End-Box 1: Wait, what?
[No Arrows.]
End-Box 2a: Listen.
[Arrow to End-Box 2b.]
End-Box 2b: I hate you.
[No Arrows.]
Box 6: ...and you can see the ones labeled "No"?
[Arrow to Box 2.] Yes
[Arrow to Box 7.] No
Box 7: But you just followed them twice!
[Arrow to Box 8a.] Yes
[Arrow to Box 8a.] No
Box 8a: (That wasn't a question.)
[Arrow to Box 8b.]
Box 8b: Screw it.
[Arrow to Box 3.]
Final Box: Hey I should try installing FreeBSD!

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Paper on flowcharts, with this flowchart in it. A candidate for fulfilling 1447: Meta-Analysis? Davidy²²[talk] 20:34, 21 November 2014 (UTC)

Hello from the future, where FreeBSD is actually installable :) 05:10, 23 January 2016 (UTC)

Installing and using FreeBSD while drunk is more like a drinking game rather than stupid drunk decision... (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)