The comic is about Cueball confronting Ponytail about her recent behavior and emotional state. It seems possible Randall is venting anger following the United States presidential election, 2016, although it is not mentioned.
Ponytail seems unwilling to acknowledge that anything she is doing is wrong, offering absurd justifications for her behavior.
Ponytail has retreated to video games for solace and to the point that her real life projects are suffering.
Stardew Valley is a video game in which a player creates and manages a virtual farm.
Cueball's comment about not being able to hide from everything is a common one for insecure people or for those trying to run away from their problems.
Ponytail's reply is in the form of a PolitiFact reply, claiming (possibly quite truly) that such assertions are mostly false, one of the six options but it is far from being the worst, acknowledging that you can't hide from everything, just mostly. See more about this in the comic 1712: Politifact.
Comments are something a programmer adds to their code such to make a note for themselves or others, typically to explain a complicated piece of logic or explaining external dependencies of a piece of code.
Instead, Ponytail has been writing unrelated notes filled with obscenities. Ponytail's reply is one of typical advice given to amateur fiction and non-fiction writers, that to "write what you know.", implying that all Ponytail knows right now is obscenities.
Functions are pieces of code which developers create to avoid repetition and make the code clearer (such as "calculate distance between points" or "process values"). A function which does nothing is almost useless (Sometimes programmers leave functions empty, when they create the skeleton of a program, then they usually fill them up later).
Ponytail replies that she is trying to avoid side effects (i.e. unexpected, unintended, and typically unwanted effects upon calling a piece of code), in line with a functional programming paradigm.
When Cueball points out that she has avoided all effects, Ponytail quotes the "Aliens" movie, replying that it's the "only way to be sure.".
The title text is a pun, interpreting the phrase "side effect" literally.
If you turn an object 90 degrees you will place it on its side, so thus making it a effect of putting something on its side, or a "side effect."
You can also turn 90 degrees, facing what was previously your side.
Ponytail's despondence is likely in response to Donald Trump's inauguration as 45th president of the United States on January 20, 2017. The title "Sad" is a common interjection in Trump's tweets. The time-frame of "the past few months" from the first panel is consistent with this, as the election was on November 8, 2016, and the comic was posted on January 25, 2017. The reference to fact-checking in the second panel is also reminiscent of the election and post-election coverage. The comic is also the second one posted following the inauguration of President Trump.
Not since Randall's wife's cancer diagnosis has there been so many sad/negative or depressing comics. This is the fourth since the election. The New Year comic was the first time that such a comic had such a depressive mood. But these two comics thus just followed the trend of the other two negative comics released after Trump's victory, the first being 1761: Blame and the second being 1773: Negativity, which both refer to the negativity on the internet spawned by Trump's election (among other things). In the first of these sad comics Cueball actually begins by stating that he is sad! Hopefully Randall is not spiralling into a depression as many others have due to Trump's election.
- [Cueball is looking at Ponytail on a computer.]
- Cueball: How are you doing?
- Ponytail: Hah.
- Cueball: You seem distant lately. For the past few months.
- Ponytail: Can't imagine why.
- Cueball (offscreen): Your projects have stagnated.
- Ponytail: But my Stardew Valley farm is doing great.
- Cueball (offscreen): You can't just hide from everything.
- Ponytail: FACT CHECK: Mostly false.
- Cueball: I'm glad you're including more comments in your code, but it would be nice if they were comments about your code. Or at least a bit less obscenity-filled.
- Ponytail: They say to write what you know.
- [Cueball leans forward]
- Cueball: All the functions you've written take everything passed to them and return it unchanged with the comment "No, YOU deal with this."
- Ponytail: It's a functional programming thing. Avoiding side effects.
- Cueball: You avoid all effects.
- Ponytail: Only way to be sure.
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This comic was made in winter, maybe it's about seasonal affective disorder? Cueball says that she has been sad for a few months.
My first instinct is that Ponytail is feeling despondent about politics. I am reading too much of myself into it? 188.8.131.52 17:25, 25 January 2017 (UTC)
- The title ("Sad" - a common interjection in Trump's tweets) strengthens this argument. 184.108.40.206 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- As does this being a problem that's been going on for the past few months. Contrary to what the explanation says, a programmer creating functions that don't do anything but return the same data back is not 'semi-common in regular life'. That and the title clearly indicate that this is about more than a programmer subverting complaints about their work. Something very bad is going on that has Ponytail, who also just happens to be a woman, depressed and angry. The election seems like the obvious thing. 220.127.116.11 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
- My reaction was based on the "Fact Check" reference, which is largely used in politics. 18.104.22.168 18:01, 25 January 2017 (UTC)
Could "sad" could also refer to the medical term "Seasonal Affective Disorder", a condition where people feel depressed during the winter as a result of getting too little sunlight? Mr. I (talk) 20:05, 25 January 2017 (UTC)
- I would have expected it to be in all caps if that were the case 22.214.171.124 20:42, 25 January 2017 (UTC)
- Well in principle it is written in all caps on xkcd, but that is because of the font. If you copy paste the title it does come out Sad. But if you read it on xkcd you would see it as SAD. That is why we have this site to clarify. She (or rather Randall) is really sad, and with the way Trump is going to ruin the US for over half the population many will be really sad. Horrible what he has already started within a week of his inauguration, and with Randall obviously feeling like this too, and even living under him (not like us foreigners) then he is very likely sad. :-( --Kynde (talk) 14:56, 26 January 2017 (UTC)
It is not really true that "side effects" in this context are "unexpected, unintended, and typically unwanted..." A side effect in functional terms is simply an effect other than on the output of the function. As the linked wikipedia article explains, these are very common and typically (but not always) how a program interacts with the outside world. In a pure functional language functions do not have side effects. Ponytail's job may or may not be (but probably isn't) to avoid side effects at all costs. 126.96.36.199 21:23, 25 January 2017 (UTC)
Having just been through a break up recently (and the resulting sadness that eventuates) I identified with the "No, you deal with this" as a classic response to "If you have a problem with what I did, deal with it." 188.8.131.52 02:00, 26 January 2017 (UTC)
- Even without suffering a break up I came to the same connection and interpret the whole comic in that way. Tbh I don't see any connection to Trump's inauguration at all. But I'm not from the USA, and I understand the arguments leading to this conclusion. Yet I think it could be inserted as an alternative interpretation. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 09:09, 26 January 2017 (UTC)
- For sure it is that which caused this. See my comment above, and the other Sad after Trumps election comic in the trivia. (And his I'm With Her comic). But a break-up also makes you sad, so if that is easier to relate to then this comic could also be for such a person. I do not live in the states but I'm sad because now we end up in a worse than current path scenario from the very bottom of the 1732: Earth Temperature Timeline comic. I would not be surprised if this election result will cause all ice to melt on Greenland very soon with devastating effect for Europe (because the Gulf stream may stop, so the "heat up" could case ice winters in Europe and cold summers) and many other places due to higher sea levels and wilder weather to boot. Sad? maybe, scared? for sure. We are not talking centuries, and maybe not even many decades the way things are going already and now Trump will make it worse by trying to stop scientist talking about their results and making oil lines through protected/fragile nature areas. ( Not to talk about the wall or women's rights etc. etc. etc.) --Kynde (talk) 14:56, 26 January 2017 (UTC)
- I recommend reading this http://waitbutwhy.com/2016/11/its-going-to-be-okay.html and this http://waitbutwhy.com/2016/11/its-going-to-be-okay-follow-up.html Those articles were written right after the vote, but they're still valid, I think. Yes, I agree with you that Trump might wreck havoc. But I object that he can do as much damage in (at most) 8 years as you worry about. He's no totalitarian dictator who can do whatever he wants (and if he can do, the US American system is seriously flawed. I know another democratic system which was seriously flawed and yes, the result was the worst catastrophe in the 20th century which indeed did influence the whole world in a very bad way). However, I don't want to argue about politics. And I don't want to say that the current explanation is wrong. I just want to say that there might be a (plausible) alternative interpretation. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 08:40, 27 January 2017 (UTC)
- I entirely agree with Elektrizikekswerk. The election was bad, but it isn't the source of all sadness these days. There's no indication that this is about the election, so I don't understand why everyone is automatically accepting that as truth. HisHighestMinion (talk) 11:18, 27 January 2017 (UTC)
- Because this is the fourth since the election that is sad and is released in relation to events related to Trump - see Sad Comics section above. --Kynde (talk) 09:25, 28 January 2017 (UTC)
When people talk about virtual farms, I assume that they're talking about Farmville, so I was a little surprised for them to mention Stardew Valley instead. Oh well. I guess it's just me. (#waiting-for-the-nintendo-switch-port) --JayRulesXKCD what's up? 12:02, 27 January 2017 (UTC)
I vote we remove anything about Trump and speculation on Ponytail's depression other than the fact that she's obviously depressed and the initial correlation to Trump. i.e. lines 2 through 5 ("Of course, such sadness..." through "a clear relation to this comic!"). The comic doesn't dwell on it and it just seems like a ton of word cruft. 184.108.40.206 21:27, 28 January 2017 (UTC)
Why is like half of the explanation info about Trump? I came here to have XKCD explained, not the current political situation. I can go to other sites for that. If the Trump correlation is really that relevant, I think mentioning just once should be enough. 220.127.116.11 21:35, 31 January 2017 (UTC)
- I'm with this guy. I'm commenting out the four Trump paragraphs as a test, seeing as every fact has been repeated a second time in the much more relevant Trivia section. If it turns out we need it the admins can just delete the comment markers.18.104.22.168 18:59, 1 February 2017 (UTC)
I come on here to fix a few spell check errors, until I realize I accidentally left my Firefox extension on and any mention of Trump is replaced with "King Cheeto", even here in the explanations. xD --JayRulesXKCD what's up? 18:29, 10 February 2017 (UTC)
- Can someone please fix this? I don't think I can undo edits, but if a mod or something would please revert back to before all the "King Cheeto" stuff, that'd be greatly appreciated Viperzer0 (talk) 22:20, 23 August 2017 (UTC)