1783: Emails

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Hey Rob, sorry it took me a while to get back to you! Sure, I'd love to see WALL-E opening weekend! Are you still doing that, or...?
Title text: Hey Rob, sorry it took me a while to get back to you! Sure, I'd love to see WALL-E opening weekend! Are you still doing that, or...?


In this rather late New Year comic (January 9th), Megan asks Cueball if he has any New Year's resolutions. New Year's is, to many people, a time for thinking about the year and coming up with resolutions to improve themselves. These kinds of resolutions hardly ever work.

Cueball replies that he has one resolution. It's to finish reading and replying to his backlog of emails from 2008, 9 years prior to this comic. He obviously does not read his email when they arrive in his inbox, and he now vows to at least get those e-mails from 9 years ago read.

As he further states in the caption below, he now (finally) begins to doubt his method for replying to e-mails, since his backlog now approaches 10 years. Some would probably say he should have found this out when his backlog approached 10 days, or at least when it reached a month.

A common technique for some more productive or efficient users of email is to batch reply to email instead of replying to each one individually as they come. The principle is that setting aside specific times to reply instead of always being "on call" gives the messages the attention they deserve while avoiding the urge to constantly check your email when you should be doing important work. Such a technique could be to check and answer all your emails once a day, or once a week, for instance and allocating a specific amount of time like one hour every day to do so. It is unlikely that somebody would wait years to start the task of checking emails, so obviously the time reserved per unit of time is way too short, if even existing. This would create a backlog of emails, that could soon be so large it would take years to catch up to the e-mail you just got right now.

Another technique for efficient people is not to answer certain e-mails; if a subject really is important, the sender will send a reminder a few days later. (If he does not, the sender can be presumed to have solved the problem himself, saving lots of time on the receiver's side. Of course then you have to check your e-mails to realize if someone has sent a reminder.) Cueball has possibly used this technique on a friend's request, but became remorseful after nine years.

The title text is a reply to an email in which Rob wished to see the movie WALL-E, a film that came out in 2008, with Cueball during its opening weekend. However, the opening weekend is now far in the past, and yet Cueball doesn't realize it and trails off with "are you still doing that, or...?" Mentioning the release of a popular movie and then making it clear that it will soon be ten years ago that the movie came out, feels a lot like a hidden comic to make one feel old, but it may be stretching it to include this directly in that category. But it is a technique often used by Randall, quite clearly in most of that category, for instance 891: Movie Ages.

A real (and useful[citation needed]) New Year's resolution would involve trying to answer his emails as they arrive (instead of spending any more time on years old emails), which would have avoided the mess he's currently in, and will stop it from getting worse in the future.

In this comic Cueball may represent Randall. He receives so many e-mail due to the xkcd comic that he may have a hard time going through them all. Then there is his what if? email, and possibly many more. Hopefully he has a separate e-mail for friends that wish to send him a request for going to the opening of new recent movie. On the about page on xkcd he does write the following for one of the e-mails he cites as contact:

press @ xkcd.com -- Press questions, etc (may take a long time to get to me).


[Megan and Cueball are walking along.]
Megan: Did you have any New Year's Resolutions?
Cueball: Gonna finally finish dealing with those emails from 2008.
[Caption below the panel:]
As my email backlog approaches 10 years, I'm starting to have doubts about my approach.

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Added the starting point of the explanation. Please add onto my work. --JayRulesXKCD what's up? 12:14, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

(BTW, Rob, if the offer's still on the table, I'll go with you to WALL-E if Cueball's not around. 😉 ) --JayRulesXKCD what's up? 12:15, 21 June 2008 (UTC)

Dammit, another Time Ghost! 13:41, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

Another thing to point out: for a long time (since 276: Fixed Width) there has been a little side debate of "should a single cueball be referred to as Rob?" (and should a single ponytail be referred to as Joanne). The title text of 1783: Emails I think officially confirms that we should not. Yosho27 (talk) 14:00, 9 January 2017 (UTC)

You mean this? That's right, Jacky720 just signed this (talk | contribs) 14:57, 9 January 2017 (UTC)
Yes that discussion is also relevant but the Joanne part must have been discussed elsewhere... Completely agree though that there is no doubt that any generic character does not only go by one name. Only the three with hats are clearly meant to have specific traits. But even White Hat can appear very different from comic to comic. leaving only Black Hat and Beret Guy to (mainly) stay true to their general behavior. Randall uses names when he find that would be most useful in a given comic. Apart from Megan and Rob, he has hardly used any name more than a few times. And in this comic it is clear that Cueball is not Rob. On the other hand there is no reason to believe this Rob is the same as Rob from the early cartons. But still relevant that he used this name again after so long without it being used. --Kynde (talk) 11:12, 10 January 2017 (UTC)

this story is surely related to: https://www.explainxkcd.com/wiki/index.php/606:_Cutting_Edge 19:54, 10 January 2017 (UTC)

Email bankruptcy

This is related to Email bankruptcy ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email_bankruptcy ) --ElfQrin (talk) 07:47, 8 August 2017 (UTC)

I've removed the emphasized "productive people" bit because I find it somewhat insulting. A person doesn't have to set aside special times for reading/replying to emails in order to qualify as a "productive person". A farmer or factory worker "produces" plenty, and for office workers, they can work inefficiently and still get things done. This implication that only well-organized people who manage their time well count as "productive people" (especially with that emphasis-added; without that it would just be a fact: productive people [often] use this technique", not "productive people check their email in batches, unlike non-productive people (cough, cough Jim!)" 06:01, 18 January 2018 (UTC)