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Explain X like I am a Y and you are a Z
August 30, 2013 9:26 AM   Subscribe

One popular subreddit, Explain Like I'm Five, is where you can find answers to questions dumbed down enough for five-year-olds to understand them. (What is Obamacare? What does the One Ring actually do?) But Explain Like I Am A takes things a step further:

Explain color like I'm blind.
Explain the possible North Korea vs. USA conflict like I have spent the last 5 months playing Civilization V
Explain how the female orgasm feels like I'm a man (and Explain what an erection feels like like I'm a woman)
Explain how war really is like I'm a 12 year old boy who plays Call of Duty for the "realism".
Explain C++ like IamA programmer from 1979 who only knows BASIC and you are Mufasa
Explain quantum physics like you are a writer for Cracked / I am completely terrified by words featuring any more than 4 letters.
posted by Rory Marinich (90 comments total) 102 users marked this as a favorite

 
Explain this post as if I was a MiFi newbie.
posted by sammyo at 9:52 AM on August 30, 2013


I'm fairly new to Reddit, but there are things like this that shine as wheat through the chaff. It really did take me a while to figure it out, but now that I did, I enjoy the limited time I spend there.

I wish Metafilter could find a way to stop pissing all over Reddit. It's like judging the NY Times by the comment sections of the articles.
posted by nevercalm at 9:56 AM on August 30, 2013 [36 favorites]


This is pretty good.

I work in plain language for a living, and I love simple, clear, direct communication - interestingly, it tends to be as valuable to highly intelligent, well-educated people as it is to five-year-olds (or people with limited language proficiency, or low literacy levels, etc).
posted by entropone at 9:58 AM on August 30, 2013


Well, the trouble as usual is that there's really no vetting that the explanation is correct. It's not like the people voting know what's right and wrong. The answers are well-written but I'm really never sure whether they're oversimplified or subtly factually incorrect.
posted by GuyZero at 10:00 AM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Although these examples with their bizarre conditions are pretty funny.

Explain postmodernism like I'm five and you're Rory Marinich.
posted by GuyZero at 10:01 AM on August 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


I wish Metafilter could find a way to stop pissing all over Reddit.

This is more a discussion to have in Metatalk if we need to (again) have it, but in any case Metafilter is, like Reddit, a big place full of lots of different people who do not act as a monolithic organism or subscribe to a single gestalt worldview. I understand what you're saying but you're not saying it in a particularly good way in the first place.
posted by cortex at 10:01 AM on August 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, the trouble as usual is that there's really no vetting that the explanation is correct. It's not like the people voting know what's right and wrong. The answers are well-written but I'm really never sure whether they're oversimplified or subtly factually incorrect.

Heh, as Michael Scott said, "Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that literally anybody in the world can get it, so you just know that you're getting the best possible information."
posted by entropone at 10:02 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was just going to say the same thing, entropone. Those criteria put ELI5 in the same camp as Wikipedia and AskMeFi
posted by Hoopo at 10:03 AM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Explain X like I am a Y and you are a Z

It's the letter immediately to your left and two places to my left.
posted by Gelatin at 10:04 AM on August 30, 2013 [60 favorites]


Explain postmodernism like I'm five and you're Rory Marinich.

The feeling you get as a five year old listening to Rory explain Postmodernism in 12,000 words is itself Postmodernism.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:04 AM on August 30, 2013 [11 favorites]


The answers are well-written but I'm really never sure whether they're oversimplified or subtly factually incorrect.

Any explanation of anything complex is going to be subtly factually incorrect at a level for 5-year-old (not literal 5 year olds, I know). But the upvotes pretty much guarantee that either it's (a) good enough to build on, or (b) funny.
posted by tyllwin at 10:08 AM on August 30, 2013


Well, the trouble as usual is that there's really no vetting that the explanation is correct. It's not like the people voting know what's right and wrong. The answers are well-written but I'm really never sure whether they're oversimplified or subtly factually incorrect.

In fairness, this is something that folks might apply to MetaFilter as well, at least if you read "favorites" for votes. Which you shouldn't, but you might.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:09 AM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Upvotes guarantee nothing. They're generally funny, sure, but I think most redditors will choose that over factual correctness, if they're even capable of assessing factual correctness in the case at hand.

I mean, why should I vote on "explain kidney failure like I'm five"? I don't know how the heck kidneys work. But that's not the reddit model.

if you read "favorites" for votes. Which you shouldn't, but you might.

Metafilter doesn't give more prominent placement to comments with a lot of favourites.
posted by GuyZero at 10:11 AM on August 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


What nevercalm said. Reddit is a huge, living, throbbing universe. It contains shit and sugar; diamonds and sludge. It isn't easy to figure out, but then huge, multifaceted things often aren't. It annoys me how people home in on the bad stuff, like ghouls hungrily and angrily trawling the worst tabloids whilst ignoring the quality press.
posted by Decani at 10:13 AM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Obamacare one is really excellent.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:16 AM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish Metafilter could find a way to stop pissing all over Reddit. It's like judging the NY Times by the comment sections of the articles.

Come on. Reddit has some cool stuff, to be sure. But pissing all over Reddit is like judging the NYTimes by everything but one section of the Times that happens to be good sometimes.
posted by The World Famous at 10:17 AM on August 30, 2013


I'm kind of a fan of ExplainLikeImCalvin
In the spirit of /r/explainlikeimfive, here's a place to come up with the best explanation you can on topics you know nothing about. Inspired by Calvin's brilliant dad, who knew everything.
posted by DigDoug at 10:19 AM on August 30, 2013 [13 favorites]


if you read "favorites" for votes. Which you shouldn't, but you might.

Metafilter doesn't give more prominent placement to comments with a lot of favourites.


Very true.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:20 AM on August 30, 2013


Well, the trouble as usual is that there's really no vetting that the explanation is correct.

So I guess you don't like the MeFi sidebar either?
posted by DU at 10:22 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I guess you don't like the MeFi sidebar either?

Now we can split hairs on "curations" versus "direct-vote democratic selection".

I trust a sommelier, I don't necessarily trust buying the #1 most popular wine in America.

Although to be fair, at least people who buy wine at least know something about it which is more than can be said for Redditors.

(And this is not a slam on Reddit, it's just an inescapable outcome of their voting model.)
posted by GuyZero at 10:31 AM on August 30, 2013


I trust a sommelier, I don't necessarily trust buying the #1 most popular wine in America.

TIL that the MeFi mods are experts in all topics.
posted by DU at 10:34 AM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Explain this post as if I was a MiFi newbie.

Because it's a cat.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:34 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Explain postmodernism like I'm five and you're Rory Marinich.

I eagerly await somebody else's attempt at this.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:37 AM on August 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


TIL that the MeFi mods are experts in all topics.

I think I see your point somewhat better now. I don't expect factually correct MeFi answers. Perhaps a better comparison would be "best answer" versus the sidebar. I don't think of the sidebar as being concerned with being factually correct. I would agree that "best answer" isn't even necessarily anywhere close to being "right" in some objective way, but most AskMe questions are not asking for explanations, merely soliciting opinions.
posted by GuyZero at 10:37 AM on August 30, 2013


So the problem I have with Reddit is that even the good parts have really, really bad parts, largely because so much of the total userbase originally came there for things like r/creepshots, and because there are so damn many of them they end up setting the social norms for the entire site. And so, even (for example) the local subreddits for San Francisco are just crawling with loud-and-proud homophobes, racists, misogynists, and their quiet tacit defenders.

they're also crawling with people who think that homeless people aren't people, but I think that might be reflective of underlying problems with San Francisco itself, rather than problems with the San Francisco subreddits.

Basically, I wish the people doing smart decent things on Reddit were doing smart decent things elsewhere, because the established norms of the site as a whole are so frequently corrosive to both smartness and decency.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:37 AM on August 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


and you become mentally retarded for about 2 seconds

*snorts soda all over keyboard*

Okay, now please explain to me what it's like to be mentally retarded as if I'm from another planet...
posted by Melismata at 10:37 AM on August 30, 2013


DU: TIL that the MeFi mods are experts in all topics.

They are certainly experts in MeFi posts and comments. I don't think the sidebar is intended to be a seal of approval or guarantee of accuracy, just a heads-up of something MeFites are likely to be interested in.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:37 AM on August 30, 2013


I don't think the sidebar is intended to be a seal of approval or guarantee of accuracy, just a heads-up of something MeFites are likely to be interested in.

And I don't see why this language/mindset can't be directly translated into Redditese: "Upvoted comments are not intended to be a seal of approval or guarantee of accuracy."

As with anything, don't take a single source's word for it. Read skeptically. You are definitely going to be lied to many times in your life, often by "vetted" sources. Trust but verify in all things. Neither votes nor sidebarring does a fact make.
posted by DU at 10:40 AM on August 30, 2013


From the C++ link, a dramatic reading of the answer, complete with "circle of life" backing track.
posted by bonehead at 10:43 AM on August 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


Neither votes nor sidebarring does a fact make.

Sure, but Reddit does promote highly-upvoted replies. (depending on how you have comments sorted). You're right that it is to some extent an unnecessary warning or an existential complaint to which there is no solution. I'm just saying that the particular conceit of explaining things to a five year-old lends itself to simplifications that are potentially bad.

But I'm an old, crotchety man and I prefer 'explain it like you give a shit and understand nuance and are willing to skip the cheap jokes'.
posted by GuyZero at 10:48 AM on August 30, 2013


For newish redditors, you can see a lot of these bubble up in /r/bestof (more popular) and /r/depthhub (more academic). The askhistorians and askscience subs have really high-quality moderation and comments as well.
posted by bonehead at 10:48 AM on August 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


Reddit has plenty of places for detailed, complicated discussions of things. But I am too simple to understand them, so I stick to the funny places instead.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:52 AM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: "Rory explain Postmodernism in 12,000 words is itself Postmodernism."

Ah, the summarized Rory Marinich experience, then.
posted by boo_radley at 10:57 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


You know, I hear the Rory Marinich Experience is reuniting for a 2014 tour. Rumor has it they're sticking to Iceland, though.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:00 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rjöri Marvinitʃ live at Þjóðleikhúsið! One night only.
posted by boo_radley at 11:20 AM on August 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can explain Reddit like I'm a data scientist: when somebody there says something stupid, click on his name and see to which gaming subreddit he posted recently.
posted by dhoe at 11:20 AM on August 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


The ELI5 subreddit is basically just a fact-based question forum at this point, compared to askreddit which is opinion-based questions. Still interesting, but not simple language or anything.
posted by smackfu at 11:29 AM on August 30, 2013


The Top - All Time page is a gold mine:

Explain hipters to me like I'm a hipster and you're a hipster and neither of us believe or are willing to believe we're both hipsters.

Explain the unwritten rules of the playground as if you were a hard-boiled detective in a noir crime novel.

Explain what is about to happen like I am your dog of 13 years who you are about to have put down.

Explain why I cannot go to the prom with my boyfriend, Comic Sans, like I am Cambria and you are my father, Times New Roman

Explain illegal dogfighting like I'm Ash Ketchum from Pokemon.

Explain why homosexuality is wrong like you are a sexually frustrated, deeply in denial closeted 'pray away the gay' minister and I am a shirtless Ryan Gosling

Explain why your boring desk job is so terrible like I'm a child slave.

Explain the clitoris like you are Barack Obama, and you can only use quotes from your old speeches.

Explain what's going to happen over the next few days like you have been bitten by a zombie, and I am your young, innocent child, who you tried to from the dangers of the apocalypse.

Explain why middle schoolers want to sit in the back of the bus like I'm Rosa Parks.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:44 AM on August 30, 2013 [42 favorites]


What nevercalm said. Reddit is a huge, living, throbbing universe. It contains shit and sugar; diamonds and sludge. It isn't easy to figure out, but then huge, multifaceted things often aren't. It annoys me how people home in on the bad stuff, like ghouls hungrily and angrily trawling the worst tabloids whilst ignoring the quality press.

People home in on the bad stuff because there's so much of it there. You have to sift through a couple tons of shit before you can find even a couple diamonds. The overarching atmosphere is pretty toxic unless you turn off most of the defaults, and even then the toxicity leaks in here and there. Case in point: /r/atheism and the recent rape and harassment claims in the skeptic community, where the defense of the assailants was pretty strident.

FWIW, I think it of it kind of like a big, weird, semi-legal sports bar. You walk in and there's a ton of TVs all blaring at you surrounded by people. The bigscreen TVs at full volume have stuff like Comedy Central and Spike and Fox News/CNN/MSNBC, and fairly regularly a rape joke or a puff piece on supermodels or discussion about how black people are inherently violent will come on, and a large and loud contingent people at the bar will express approval. Others might complain, but they're fairly well outnumbered. There's also a bunch of smaller TVs, some of which are in soundproof rooms of their own, that you can also watch, where a guy who knows the entire history of Rome or discusses the films of Luis Bunuel is on. One room just has famous people and fairly unique "regular" people come in and answer your questions (except for Woody Harrelson, who just keeps on saying RAMPART over and over again). Some of them feature stuff like women (and a few men) showing you their privates and buttholes. Up until recently, a few of them had TVs with pictures of tween girls in bikinis or privacy-invading upskirt shots and the managers had to close those rooms, but only because people complained and the news showed up and they reluctantly agreed to do so. If you want, you can come in through an entrance where you don't have to pass the bigscreen TVs and the sexist/racist/etc dudebros, but no one tells you until you're actually in the bar. All in all, there's some good stuff, but you have to deal with so much awfulness, especially in your first couple visits, that it's apparent that the place is poorly run and for the most part pretty shitty.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:50 AM on August 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


From the female orgasm link: "Think about it like you're driving a car."

Oh God, you need a license to use it, because it's so deadly, yet you can only use it in designated areas? Also, how does this relate to mudding?

From the male orgasm link: "Imagine all your blood rushing to one of your fingers, so much that you can't bend that finger anymore and your finger's all swollen."

Whaaaa, other guys can use their penis to hold a penis and write?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:53 AM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: "Whaaaa, other guys can use their penis to hold a penis and write?!"

...or scratch their noses.
posted by jquinby at 11:58 AM on August 30, 2013


That's a thing of beauty, BB, please don't edit it.
posted by box at 11:58 AM on August 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


I thought we all agreed that reddit=usenet? Reddit totally fills the void usenet left.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:59 AM on August 30, 2013 [7 favorites]


I thought we all agreed that reddit=usenet?

Shockingly that had never occurred to me but it's absolutely true. It's Eternal September on Reddit.
posted by GuyZero at 12:02 PM on August 30, 2013 [8 favorites]


That audio version of explain C++ like Mufasa is the buried lede here. (-;
posted by yoHighness at 12:06 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


reddit=usenet?

There's comparisons to be made.

It doesn't feel as big and diverse yet, but, at the same time moderation actually works, as do deletions and spam prevention.

Ordering posts (and comments) by votes rather than time posted is the biggest difference. Not sure that's a net positive.
posted by bonehead at 12:21 PM on August 30, 2013


A Minotaur Fighter?
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 12:22 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't see why this language/mindset can't be directly translated into Redditese: "Upvoted comments are not intended to be a seal of approval or guarantee of accuracy."


I can actually totally explain that but I feel like this "Reddit blargh!" stuff should just go to MetaTalk at this point because it fills up otherwise okay MeFi threads with noise.

Put another way: this is not a thread about Reddit in general. Please do not make it one. If we see posts-about-Reddit showing up on the front page more than "almost never" we'll talk more about it.
posted by jessamyn at 12:24 PM on August 30, 2013


Metafilter: a place to come up with the best explanation you can on topics you know nothing about.

don't ban me please
posted by Lucinda at 12:28 PM on August 30, 2013


largely because so much of the total userbase originally came there for things like r/creepshots,

That seems like a pretty big assumption, unless you have some kind of user data that proves this that you want to supply here.
posted by kbanas at 12:45 PM on August 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't think there's any controversy that creepshots and various jailbait subreddits were among the most visited on Reddit. That's not really disputed. But the question would be whether people visiting those sorts of subreddits mainly stayed in those subreddits or frequented other parts of Reddit as well.
posted by Justinian at 1:31 PM on August 30, 2013


I'm still really disappointed that my "explain Twilight LIA Elizabeth Bathory" didn't take off.
posted by NoraReed at 1:33 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Great. Now explain the Rory Manwich Experience to like I'm five and you're my uncle who can't cook.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:35 PM on August 30, 2013


The comments here that "well the answers could be factually incorrect!" are bizarre. It's more of a creative writing subreddit than anything else. As a fledgling English teacher, I love this and think it would make a fantastic project for students, one that could cut across to any number of content areas. Very nice!
posted by zardoz at 1:40 PM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


octobersurprise: The Rorgy Manwich Experience is what happens when you throw a lot of garlic and salt and cheese into a toaster and pull the trigger.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:43 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


From my not-extensive learning about the North Korean situation and my very extensive experience with Civ V, that answer seemed pretty dead-on (aside from perhaps overstating the viability of a ground-offensive into Seoul. )
posted by Navelgazer at 1:53 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reddit: "Yeah, I'm gonna explode the shit out of this finger."
posted by jonp72 at 1:57 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


North Korea's trying to pull a Gandhi but they're just barely into the atomic age thanks to all those research agreements with china. Lately they've been spouting off a lot of "Just thought your army looked a bit on the weak side, better watch your back" to America, who puppeted Seoul fifty or so years ago and currently has the majority of the world's army and definitely the highest tech advantage. The problem is North Korea took Autocracy, doesn't have any luxury resources left, and all their gold is going to military upkeep. That policy choice has basically alienated the entire world, most of whom have gone Freedom. They've been swimming in unhappiness for a long-ass time so Pyonyang hasn't exactly been growing. Especially since they made the rather daft decision to replace all their farms with mines and forts, some of their smaller cities have starved down to less than 5 population.
This is greatest thing ever. I say as someone with 700 hours in Civ V and several thousand hours in Civ IV and mods.
posted by Justinian at 1:58 PM on August 30, 2013 [6 favorites]


I say as someone with [...] several thousand hours in Civ IV and mods.

In other words, you're halfway through your first game of Caveman 2 Cosmos.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:07 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: " other guys can use their penis to hold a penis"

docking maneuvers aren't just for astronauts.
posted by boo_radley at 2:21 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


More of a Fall From Heaven 2 and Orbis modmod kind of guy, really.
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on August 30, 2013


Great. Now explain the Rory Manwich Experience to like I'm five and you're my uncle who can't cook.

Unfortunately no one can be told what the Rorgy Manwhich Experience is like, they must experience it for themselves.
posted by The Whelk at 2:41 PM on August 30, 2013


I know YANAD, but what should I do about this Rosy Man-itch?
posted by The World Famous at 2:48 PM on August 30, 2013


Just try some Rove-Y Manwraiths, should clear it rig up.
posted by The Whelk at 2:55 PM on August 30, 2013


I'm pretty sure that's how I got it in the first place.
posted by The World Famous at 3:01 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


And if that doesn't work, start drinking Rosé Manischewitz.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:10 PM on August 30, 2013


and let's play that new puppy-based tower defense game, Rover Manslaught
posted by The Whelk at 3:14 PM on August 30, 2013


I'm really mad at reddit right now because there is a meme totally misrepresenting A River Runs Through It. That shit is about drinking and fly fishing, not whatever nonsense you think it is about reddit! Buncha idiots.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:56 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rory! You're Mefi's own Bumblebee Crumplesnatch now!
posted by Navelgazer at 4:23 PM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rowing Manboysnatch
posted by The Whelk at 4:24 PM on August 30, 2013


Ayn Rand took care not to mention such business failures as Roarky Marinade.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:56 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Roy G. Biv Mantooths? Never heard of him.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:56 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


He plays bass in Roary Manticore.
posted by The Whelk at 5:14 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Explain what "pull a Gandhi" means like I'm someone who's never played any version of Civilization.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:55 PM on August 30, 2013


Because of an amusing bug, Gandhi was the most nuke-happy ruler in the first Civilization. Ever since then, they've made him as warlike as Genghis Khan.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:59 PM on August 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


Basically, in the original Civ game, they gave leaders aggressiveness ratings from 0-10. Gandhi being Gandhi, they gave him an aggressiveness of 0, but there was a mechanic by which choosing Democracy lowered one's aggressiveness by 1 point, which in Gandhi's case lowered him from 0 to 255, making him insanely hyper-aggressive, late in the game when Nukes were the weapon of choice. in Civ IV and V they added this nuke-happy trait back in as an inside joke.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:24 PM on August 30, 2013 [9 favorites]


In the Ask Science reddit, people can:
"Sign up to join the panel in the official panelist thread. It is where you apply to get flair if you are a scientist."

Readers can then see via a color code which answers come from respondents who claim credentials in a speciality.

Because on the Internet, no one can see that you're a doofus. (OR a MeFite).
posted by Twang at 7:30 PM on August 30, 2013


Basically, in the original Civ game, they gave leaders aggressiveness ratings from 0-10. Gandhi being Gandhi, they gave him an aggressiveness of 0, but there was a mechanic by which choosing Democracy lowered one's aggressiveness by 1 point, which in Gandhi's case lowered him from 0 to 255, making him insanely hyper-aggressive, late in the game when Nukes were the weapon of choice. in Civ IV and V they added this nuke-happy trait back in as an inside joke.


I have just stumbled upon an explanation for something that has hovered at or about 49% of my wanting to figure out some odd little thing threshold for many years, it is as if I have cast off a burden that I had forgotten I was carrying. Neato Mosquito as the teenagers say!
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:11 PM on August 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Top - All Time page is a gold mine:

These are brilliant! Thanks, Rory Marinich and Rhaomi.
posted by homunculus at 8:53 PM on August 30, 2013


The effect of Gandhi's aggressiveness being set to 255 on a scale of 0-10 was that he would build as many nukes as possible as soon as possible and then he would nuke the shit out of anyone who looked at him funny. And if you didn't look at him funny he'd nuke you just to be sure.
posted by Justinian at 10:09 PM on August 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was very hopeful that ELI5 would finally explain Object Oriented Programming to me, but it didn't. It repeated the same standard, half-jargon example-free explanations I've always seen but with smaller words, and a lot of mistaken understandings about how you do things in a non-object oriented way. I mean, they seemed to be comparing OOP to Assembly, as if the only two ways to code were everything using IF/GOTO or OOo. Needless to say, I'm less then impressed.
posted by Canageek at 11:44 PM on August 30, 2013


Yo dawg, I heard you like programs, so I put a program in your program so you can execute while you execute.

Did that help?

I have forgotten everything I ever learned in CS.
posted by NoraReed at 12:14 AM on August 31, 2013


Explain postmodernism like I'm five and you're Rory Marinich.

Either somebody's been up all day trying to revise their corpulent wordpile, or else nobody else is up to the task of being me. That's disappointing; I was hoping I could nab myself an earlier retirement. But I can't apparently go to sleep until I answer this, so here goes.

You like Legos, right? I'm sure you love building things with them. Well, do you like building things like scenes from your favorite books and movies? Do you like making buildings with people in them and then making those people act out stories? I bet you do; that's why Lego makes all those people and all those movie sets!

Well, congratulations: you're a Romantic. I mean, not really, there's a whole lot more to Romanticism than this, but for now it's useful to pretend like you are anyway. You're using Lego to tell idealized stories of heros and villains, of people who live satisfying, enjoyable lives doing all the things you find interesting, whatever those things might be. Again, that's not exactly Romanticism, but for the time being, let's roll with that, because Romanticism isn't what you asked me to explain.

Well, at some point artists moved away from Romanticism and towards Realism. Basically they said, "I'm tired of these stories where only the big heroic things happen! Those stories don't talk about all the parts of life that people experience!" It would be like if you made a Lego model of kindergarten class, but all the kids were bored and the teacher was mean. Or if you built your family car, going for a boring ride that takes for-EVER. Or a model of your house where you were waiting for dinner to finish cooking. That's what the Realists did, kind of. There was more to it than that, but you are a kid and odds are you won't ever care about this anymore.

Starting in around the 1900s, a movement called Modernism began. It is harder to explain what Modernism is, because it was a lot of things at once, but a big part of it was, people stopped making the sorts of things that they used to make. Imagine you sorted out all your Lego blocks by color, and then put all the reds and all the blues and all the greens together. Or you took the heads off everybody's bodies and stacked them in a tower. And you weren't telling stories, or maybe you were telling stories where every Lego person just said their name and then got thrown up into the air, I dunno. In a sense, that was Modernism: people looking at the mediums they were working in and saying, "I wonder what I can make with these things if I DON'T try to represent other things. What if, instead of these Legos being people and buildings and X-Wings, they were just Legos?" A lot of people were and still are confused about why anybody would do this, especially the Star Wars fans.

So after this came Post-Modernism! It was pretty much what happened when people realized that if Modernism was an okay way to make things, then maybe you didn't have to follow the rules at ALL. Why build things with Legos when you can eat the Legos instead? Or melt them in a fire? Or you mixed them up with Knex? Or you made a building out of Lego bodies and people out of Lego bricks? A lot of this isn't very pretty to look at, but that's okay, because it's FUN!

As people were playing with Post-Modernism, a whole bunch of new ways to make things were invented. Like Minimalism, which is where you make big buildings out of only one or two kinds of bricks. Or Pop Art, which is where you use a lot of bricks to make something really simple, like an enormous smiley face, or a great big Lego man. There were hundreds of different ways people played with making new things. But this was very confusing at times, because if you didn't know why people were making things the way that they did, you might think they were just being stupid or ugly for no good reason. And if you liked the way that everybody used to make things the exact same way, you might look at all the weird things people were doing now and complain that nobody knows how to make Lego things anymore. We call those people Grandpa.

A big part of that confusion has to do with the fact that art was once cultural, which is to say that it fit in with everything else that people did. If you like Star Wars and build Star Wars Legos, then everybody else who likes Star Wars will like your Lego too! But now cultures are way more mixed together than they were a hundred years ago, so the things that people like might be things you don't even know, and the Legos they make might be confusing. Which sometimes can make you feel lonely or excluded, like everybody is doing things without inviting you. That's why Pop Art is so fun, because it makes things that are so simple that everybody gets to enjoy it, but other people get mad that it's so simple, because they don't think it's as fun as all the games that Post-Modernists are playing. But you can make anything with Legos, so there's no reason not to like as many things as you can!

Because we're talking about this in relation to Reddit, let me bring up something that I've been researching and writing about for the last two years, which is why I never go out to play with you and break out crying so often. I'll call that something Platform Art, although nobody else calls it that, because it's not something people understand well enough to give it names. But Platform Art is really simple. You know how we've been talking about Legos this whole time? Well, Legos were just one way that you can build things! There are lots of ways to make new things, and thanks to computers and people we'll call "nerds", there are more ways to make things now than there ever have been before!

There's Legos. And then there's Knex. And then there's Dungeons and Dragons and EVE Online and Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress. And on the Internet there is Twitter and Reddit and Facebook and MetaFilter. And all of these things have different rules for how you can make things on them. But because of how those rules work, people come up with all sorts of cool new things that they can make! And lots of those new things could only be made with the platform that they were built on.

This leads to the same kinds of problems that happened with Post-Modernism. When everybody uses Legos, they all know what other people's Lego buildings are like. But when people start building things with other platforms, suddenly you don't always know what people are making, or why they are making it. And that's confusing! So sometimes people act really mean about other people's platforms, or they act like there's a good reason to use whatever they're using, and all the people that use something else are wrong. Usually there are good reasons for them to like what they use! But there are a lot of reasons to make things, so it's okay to make whatever you darn want to.

Because what matters is that people are making things. Even if they are things that are kind of stupid, it's better to make something than to make nothing. (Usually.) And in time, people will become more okay with more kinds of things, and that will lead to people making even cooler and crazier things! And more and more people will start to make things, which means you have more things to find and look at! And the more things you find, the more you'll understand why people make things the way that they do! It's all very exciting.

That idea is at the center of Post-Modernism, which is partly why we keep talking about Post-Modernism so many years after it began. Lots of things have happened since then, but the way we think about building things changed so much with Post-Modernism that nothing really big has happened since then. Maybe nothing more is possible either, though that's what everybody says whenever anything changes, so it might be silly to say that about Post-Modernism.

Anyway, "postmodern" has become an excuse that people use sometimes, and also an insult. As an excuse, it means: "I CAN do this thing that I'm doing, and that's OKAY!" As an insult, it means: "I don't understand or like why this person is doing this thing this way, and I wish they would do it more like this way that I like and understand better." But as time goes on, it means less and less, because pretty much everything is postmodern these days. So when somebody tells you how much they dislike postmodernism, or they make fun of something for being postmodern, you can assume that they don't know a lot about art, and that maybe you don't have to agree with whatever it is that they're saying. Which is true all the time, but it's helpful to have a reminder.

Anyway, you could say that Explain Like I Am A is a postmodern take or "deconstruction" of Explain Like I'm Five, in which the assumption of ELI5 (that explanations for five-year-olds will be shorter or easier to understand or moreful) is replaced with a bunch of different possibilities, some of which are surprisingly useful, and some of which are just silly. And now if you'll excuse me, it is past five in the morning, which means it is way past Lego Rory Marinich's bedtime. Please click me into bed so that I won't fall out until morning, and thank you for not eating my head.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:08 AM on August 31, 2013 [52 favorites]


Postmodern Rory trolling is best trolling.
posted by GuyZero at 9:59 AM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rory Marinich, that is great.
posted by JHarris at 11:20 AM on August 31, 2013


Rory Marinich gotta Rory Marinich
posted by sweetkid at 11:56 AM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think there's any controversy that creepshots and various jailbait subreddits were among the most visited on Reddit. That's not really disputed.

That's a pretty gigantic assertion: citation needed, with like numbers and stuff. Reddit is a big place, and I really can't believe those subreddits were ever "among the most visited"* without some credible evidence.

* except, perhaps, during the period just prior to their removal when they were getting lots of media attention.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:45 PM on August 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh oh postmodernism came up! This is a great opportunity to tell two jokes I made up!!

Why did the postmodern artist go to critique?
To get deconstructive criticism!

How do you know this joke's punchline?
It's written in italics!

Oh, and regarding the creepshots thing, I seem to recall that "creepshots" and "jailbait" were top terms that drove search engine traffic to reddit and that those subs were among the most visited/subscribed on the site, but I'm having a hard time finding those articles, so I could be wrong. Maybe someone else has links, though.
posted by NoraReed at 5:21 PM on August 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yes, jailbait was the #2 search term driving traffic to reddit for a while. Reddit being the #1 term. But that's admittedly very different than those subreddits being the "most visited" so I misremembered. It's quite possible that there isn't a very strong correlation between the search terms driving traffic the total traffic on various subreddits!
posted by Justinian at 10:10 PM on August 31, 2013


Scientists of Reddit: What's craziest or weirdest thing in your field that you suspect is true but is not yet supported fully by data?
posted by bukvich at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


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