906: Advertising Discovery

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Advertising Discovery
When advertisers figure this out, our only weapon will be blue sharpies and "[disputed]".
Title text: When advertisers figure this out, our only weapon will be blue sharpies and "[disputed]".


On Wikipedia, a well-referenced text or statement indicates credibility. References for particular facts are linked to by bracketed blue little numbers in superscript.[1][3][4] When faced with a statement followed by these, readers will normally believe it without further ado,[6][10] since they take it on trust that there are directions on the bottom of the page, leading to a reliable source or two, agreeing with what the statement says. The effect becomes strengthened when such information is often confirmed to be correct.

In the comic, Cueball reads part of an ad for a penis enlargement drug. As the footnote numbers[1][2][3] are not a contiguous sequence[1][3][4] starting from 1, the ad contains other content[5] before the shown portion.[2][4][6]

Advertisers have realized that it has gone so far that people in general will take any nonsense for granted if there is just the right amount of Wikipedia-style reference tags to it. The penis enlargement e-commerce business can suddenly flourish (again?) and the spammers won't even need to bother making up findings to cite.

Turgidax® is something Randall formed from turgid, meaning swollen. One reason that the attaching of -ax creates a typically pill-like name is simply that -ax (and -ex) are common Latin adjectival word endings, and that many drugs have names formed from Latin words. -Ax is also, specifically, the root of the -acious ending in English, as in "audacious" or (appropriately) bodacious, meaning "extra" or "especially". Therefore, the name suggests that the drug causes male genitals to become extra or especially turgid.

Cardiovascular means relating to the heart and blood vessels. While it is plausible that the enlargement of genitals could increase sexual attractiveness, unless it is so excessive as to cause an unintended effect, enlargement itself is unlikely to affect cardiovascular health.

The title text is about how Wikipedia users have been able to add "disputed"-tags (nowadays "disputed – discuss") after challenged facts, with this template, since the dawn of time.[11][disputeddiscuss] So when faced with the new advertising trick IRL, we could counter by scribbling those tags all over with blue Sharpie marker pens, and so automatically revive the critical thinking.


[Caption above the panel:]
Advertising discovery:
[Person sits at computer, reading an ad on the screen. The bracketed superscripts are blue.]
Ad: Turgidax® triples[2] your penis size overnight,[2][5] improving both your sexual attractiveness[2][7] and your cardiovascular health.[7][8][9]
Person (thinking): Sounds legit.
[Caption below the panel:]
Wikipedia has trained us to believe anything followed by little blue numbers in brackets.


  • Randall changed the image name from advertising_discovery.png to citations.png, since adblocking extensions interpreted it as an ad and made the comic blank. He had the same problem just three months earlier with 870: Advertising.


  1. Aha! I fooled you and this is a real ref tag! However, there are no references.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


It's only trained Wikipedia veterans who believe that. Most people have no idea what the square brackets mean. Davidy²²[talk] 01:45, 17 April 2013 (UTC)

[citation needed] Promethean (talk) 02:17, 24 April 2013 (UTC)
You could just do this: [citation needed] Beanie (talk) 10:49, 4 May 2021 (UTC)
[Dubious:Discuss] 17:23, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
This just in. Wikipedia veterans are gullible idiots.
I knew it all along. Cflare (talk) 21:47, 18 August 2014 (UTC)

On the other hand, What if? has conditioned the readers to assume that anything with a [Citation Needed] sign next to it is an obvious fact and doesn't need a citation. Caeleste Alarum (talk)

vice versa, the Wikipedia geeks all get a heart attack when reading What if? (or Explain Xkcd) for the first time. Dontknow (talk) 04:19, 13 April 2017 (UTC)

THE FOOTNOTES AREN'T IN A VALID ORDER IF THE BIT SHOWN IN THE COMIC IS THE ONLY PART OF THE AD! sorry, just needed to vent that annoyance. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

To poster of above comment: If I wanted to know who made this edit, I wouldn't be able to. Please use ~~~~ to sign your posts or, if you have done so, edit your signature to link to your userpage. Sorry if I'm coming across as harsh, but I want to look at a comment and see who made it. Sincerely, {)|(}Quill{)|(} 19:51, 19 May 2021 (UTC)

As a Wikipedia editor, I found myself constantly trying to click on the pseudo-markup, or floating the mouse over it to see what it was referencing. Nitpicking (talk) 03:00, 12 September 2021 (UTC)