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Long Story Short · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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“I don’t understand. What’s that?”

“Come on!” John protested. “Don’t pretend you’re a full-blown moron. What’s wrong with your brain?”

I looked at the screen of his computer. “I mean, compression algorithms produce binary compressed data, not plain text sentences.”

“Precisely,” he replied. “Lemme show you, you dimwitted noob.”

He tore a blank sheet from a notepad, took a pen and drew two rperpendicular lines. “This,” he began, “represents the size of the file, and that axis is the information content. All current lossless compressors work on size and preserve the information, this way.” He drew a horizontal line. “Mine goes this way.” He scratched a slanted line. “It compresses both in size and information. In other words, the software tries to understand what’s written in the file it works on and squeezes it into a single catch phrase. It’s a bit like JPEG or MPEG or even MP3, but for text.”

“How can you do that?”

“I leveraged some of the most recent developments in AI. Look!”

He dropped the pen and turned back to the keyboard. With an ease betokening years of uninterrupted practice, he typed:

szip --help

And the machine replied:

szip, a semantic compressor. © John Warwick 2018.
Usage: szip (flags) inputfile outputfile
-m: map text against a database of quotations.
All common text formats supported. Output in plain text.

“Okay, I don’t need the advanced class,” I said. “Just get straight to the point.”

He looked at me with eyes full of contempt. “Technical stuff has never been your cup of tea, eh?”

I didn’t answer.

“Okay,” he carried on. “Have a load of this. This is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. About 400 kilobytes of text. Are you ready?”

Without even waiting for an answer, he typed:

szip alice.txt -

There was a slight pause, presumably in order for the software to process the data, then Alice was a bright kid with a wild imagination. appeared on the screen.

I chortled. “This is amazing,” I said, “but I don’t see the point. I mean, maybe it’s fine for the students who want to cheat their exam, but—”

“Nah,” he cut in. “This is a great tool to extract the quintessence of any given book. And it’s not biased by any creed, belief or religion… Speaking of which—” He punched a bunch of commands on the keyboard. “So, this is the King James Bible. Are you ready to know the quintessential truth about it?” And without hesitation he committed the order that would submit the holy scripture to the cold, dispassionate inner eye of the computer.

God has a sick sense of humour. popped up on the screen after a minute or so.

He didn’t let me time to comment. “With the m option, you can map the contents against a database of famous quotations. Let’s do this again with it.”

He recalled the previous command line, modified it and relaunched the process.

There’s just enough religion in the world to make men hate one another, but not enough to make them love.

I whistled. “Nice one,” I said.

He turned to me. “Did you bring what I asked for?”

It took me a half step to figure out what he meant. “Oh, sure!” I said. I dove in my pocket and fished out a thumb drive, that I gave to him. “It’s the EPUB version of the Complete and Comprehensive Human History from 4,000 BC to the Present. I couldn’t find a most exhaustive volume at the uni’s library. Geez, it’s already over two gigabytes.”

“I suppose that’ll do,” John said.

With almost supernatural deftness his fingers flew over the keyboard and soon the file was fed into the innards of the computer.

“Fine,” he said. “This is going to take a couple of hours. Best thing is that you go back home and I’ll phone you tomorrow morning.”

When my cellphone rang the next morning, I eagerly answered. It was John alright, and his voice was carrying overtones of excitement and mirth with it. “You won’t believe it,” he said. “Best compressing ratio ever achieved!”

“Eh,” I replied. “What is it?”

I heard him snicker. Then he said: “It output just one five letter word! A two gigabyte EPUB down to five letters! Awesome!”

“Oh come on, spit it out!”

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#1 · 2
· · >>AndrewRogue >>Monokeras
So, is there a way of modifying the snark algorithm? I figure that would get in the way of objectivity. Otherwise, I had a chuckle, though I wish there'd been a stronger characterisation for the main protagonists. Nevertheless, a fun tale.
#2 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
This is cute. Not much progression, but I did smile at the jokes. Cutting that --help block to include another joke might not hurt; I don't think it's doing much for you. Nice job on a surprisingly literal prompt interpretation.
#3 ·
I double down on what Hat said: it’s a cute take on the prompt. Well it’s apparently set in the present but I doubt it could be implemented with today’s technologies. We’re in a (far flung?) future here.

On the other hand, I feel the end is bit underwhelming. It sounds to me like you had a good idea, the execution is fine enough even though, as Hat notes, there’s not much of an evolution, but a blowing punchline was not that obvious so you settled for a sort of half-assed ending, not weak, but not really strong either.

Maybe you could’ve had the algorithm crash or something, too, but I guess that would’ve amounted almost to the same. I have no real idea how you could’ve raised the stakes here, so… fairly well done.
#4 · 3
· · >>Monokeras
The idea is cute, but the actual execution in story ends up rubbing me the wrong way. As >>Zaid Val'Roa says, it is p. much pure snark. Which is fine and some people are going to love it, but it just ends up grating on me a little bit. I dunno, maybe this round is just proving a bit dour for me on the whole.

Always remember to spellcheck before you submit. I am amazingly bad at it and it always costs me. :p

Ultimately the biggest problem is that the final joke is obvious from the moment it is suggested, meaning the punchline falters. There's nothing wrong with it and it is worth a smirk, but yeah, when you're banking on a joke, the joke being obvious the moment you start telling it is a problem. Still, there is some humor to be had beforehand that keeps it reasonable entertaining, but yeah, I'd recommend maybe trying to find a different punchline.
#5 · 1
· · >>Monokeras
I found this solid and entertaining. For me the I-persona not being technical was a nice touch, I have this habit of glazing over as soon as I read something like 'compression algorithm' so I'm glad you kept it reasonably short, although since it's basically hand-waved away as 'latest in AI tech' I wonder how much technical explanation the story needs in the first place.

The final punchline didn't work for me the first time because I didn't know what it meant. I actually thought it was going to be “A smell of petroleum prevails throughout,” or "42" or something. That's not your fault, but I guess a word that isn't slang but has the same meaning would avoid that issue. Anyway, I did chuckle once I'd found out what it meant, so yeah, nice entry.
#6 ·
· · >>Monokeras
This is a story that I’m having mixed feelings about. On the one hand, the humor is pretty decent and usually lands well enough to give me a chuckle. The creator’s constant disdain at his plebeian pal certainly provided enough of a dynamic to keep the comedy working as well. I also think the story’s main concept (a program that summarizes written works) is certainly interesting enough to justify an examination of the topic.

However, the story doesn’t have much of a narrative thrust to it. These two friends just seem to look at the program as a quaint timesaver instead of a revolutionary digital product. By making them simply be mildly amused by every input, it gives the reader less of a reason to really get enveloped in the situation. And as many other readers have mentioned, the focus on snarky humor feels a tad too condescending in places. Maybe that could work if it was part of the joke (like the software’s capabilities turns people into snobbish jerks who think they can distill complex works into simple punchlines), but as is, it’s just snarky for the sake of it.

As is, it’s an okay humor fic. If you want to make it something a little more, give it a stronger narrative and try to keep the snarkiness in check.