I’ve always enjoyed the Dilbert comic strip, and out of curiosity, I discovered that the entire strip’s dialogue over the last 25+ years is embedded in the page source of each comic that’s posted online on Dilbert.com. I thought it might be interesting to examine the conversation word content over 11,700 comic strips.
I learned writing in Python, which I was previously unfamiliar with. And I also learned to use BeautifulSoup for this exercise. Since each strip’s URL ends with the date, I wrote a Python script to iteratively fetch a given date’s comic strip’s dialogue (as well as the date that the comic strip was published) and work backwards until the comic’s first strip in April 1989. Below is a sample (past 60 days) of the Dilbert comic strip dialog that I scraped:
2015-01-24 * Coworker: You know how studies always say one out of ten people have a particular problem. I'm always that guy. Statistically speaking, I keep nine people safe just by existing. Dilbert: That's not how statistics work. Coworker: And... everyone else in the department knows that?
2015-01-23 * Boss: A global survey says only 13% of employees feel engaged at work. Dilbert: If you're wondering which one of your employees is engaged, it's this guy. Boss: We need ten more just like him. Dilbert: I think I just figured out what's wrong with the rest of us.
2015-01-22 * Wally: I heard you invented a selfie camera for car steering wheels. Dilbert: Not exactly. I invented an ion-powered flying car, but all anyone cares about is the selfie camera in the steering wheel. Wally: Can you share the selfies on Facebook? Dilbert: Gaaa!
2015-01-21 * Dilbert: I designed a flying car that harvests ions from the air to power itself. We can build them for only $3,000 apiece. CEO: There's no market for ion-powered flying cars. Dilbert: I can put a selfie camera in the steering wheel. CEO: Much better. And let' say the car does not fly.
2015-01-20 * CEO: The board is getting on me for not having a succession plan. Find me a loser who is so incompetent that the board won't want to fire me. Boss: It's an honor to even be considered! Catbert: I was going to say that!
2015-01-19 * Boss: Are you interested in becoming a manager? Dilbert: That would never work. Managers are supposed to hire people who are smarter than they are. That's easy for you, but how would I ever find anyone to hire? Boss: I don't understand. Dilbert: And that makes you the perfect manager.
2015-01-18 * Dilbert: That isn't in my job description. Boss: What?! You should never tell your boss that a task isn't in your job description! It makes you sound like a whiney quitter instead of a resourceful entrepreneur. And don't forget all the personal growth that comes from taking on new challenges. Think outside the box. That is the key to greatness. Dilbert: So, according to you, the best way to achieve greatness is by assigning the wrong people to tasks? Are there any other dumb things I need to do to achieve greatness or is one thing enough? Catbert: Did you find someone to mow your lawn yet? Boss: Almost. He's putting up a fight.
2015-01-17 * Boss: We're looking for employees who are fierce! Applicant: Should I punch you or something? I don't know how to play this. Boss: Try acting normal, but angrier.
2015-01-16 * CEO: The quality we look for in our employees is "super pumpedness." Alice: Blechhhh!!! I told you to bring a bag.
2015-01-15 * Boss: I keep saying leader-ish things, but the employees are still terrible. Catbert: Try using this hickory branch as a wand. Boss: Qualitos improvimentus! Wally: I'll be on the Harry Potter.
2015-01-14 * Coworker: Wally, did you finish the... Wally: Get off my back! Why can't you just trust me to do my work on time?!?! Coworker: Sorry... Dilbert: Who were you yelling at? Wally: Beats me. It didn't seem important.
2015-01-13 * Boss: I forget why I walked over here. Dilbert: Were you planning to spew empty jargon in my direction to create the illusion of leadership? Boss: Oh, right. But now it feels as if the moment has passed.
2015-01-12 * Catbert: Your co-workers are complaining that your tube clothes distract them from work. Dilbert: I can make some modifications so I'm less sexy. That should cut down on the distraction. Catbert: We might not be on the same page. Dilbert: I could wear a corduroy tube. That's a libido killer.
2015-01-11 * Wally: Asok, the key to winning at your job is the taper. Asok: Taper? Wally: At the start of any new job, you want to put in long hours and create a good first impression. Then you should start to gradually taper off your effort. But be sure you taper slowly. You don't want to be obvious. Boss: Wally, is it my imagination, or are you working slightly less every day? Wally: It only looks that way because I'm working smarter, not harder. Just the way you taught me. Boss: Okay, that sounds right. Wally: Always keep that round in the chamber. Asok: You scare me, but in a good way.
2015-01-10 * Alice: I only slept three hours last night. Topper: That's nothing! I used kunk fu to divert an asteroid that was on a collision course with Earth. Alice: Topping needs to be in the same category! Topper: Only if you're bad at it! Hoo-ha!
2015-01-09 * Woman: I want a guy who loves me for me, and not for the way I look... or the things I do. Dilbert: That doesn't leave me much to work with. Can I love you for your money and your vanilla-scented body lotion? Woman: You could love me for my mind. Dilbert: That might have worked two minutes ago.
2015-01-08 * Dilbert: I discovered that I can wear my tube clothing in the shower! It's like doing laundry and taking a shower at the same time! I can add one more efficiency, but I'd need to replumb the shower drain. Tina: Please stop talking!!!
2015-01-07 * Dilbert: Tube clothes! I invented that style! Did it reduce the number of decisions you need to make every day? Man: I'm just a guy wrapped in a carpet. Dilbert: Oh, I thought you were like me. Man: I don't have to take these insults.
2015-01-06 * Woman: I want to be in a serious relationship that can lead to marriage. Dilbert: Marriage is a financial contract. How much money do you have? Woman: All I have is me. Dilbert: So... more vendor than spouse?
2015-01-05 * Woman: Have you been dating a lot? Dilbert: I call it A-B testing. I go on dates and then compare the analytics to see who I click with most.Woman: What exactly are you measuring? Dilbert: Asks too many questions.
2015-01-04 * Boss: That doesn't sound like a work call. Carol: It isn't I don't have time to do my personal stuff on my own time. I have to do it on work time. Boss: I pay you to do work stuff, not personal stuff. Carol: Then how would I get all of my personal stuff done? Boss: That's not my problem. Carol: Then why did you bring it up. Boss: Because I need you to do work. Carol: I told you I can't get all of my personal stuff done if I do your work! Boss: Okay, okay. I probably could have handled that better.
2015-01-03 * Dilbert: I'm starting to realize that my market value as a single guy is higher than I thought. Men such as you have set the bar so low that all I need to do is have a job and be taller than most women in heels. I thought they were turned on by my tube clothing, but they actually like me for me. Wally: You're welcome.
2015-01-02 * Woman: Mom, this my date, Dilbert. He only wears tube clothes. Dilbert: For the efficiency. Whoa! Before I touch that paw, have you been to any Ebola hot spots lately? Woman: He has a job. Dilbert: My time has come!
2015-01-01 * Dilbert: I noticed you eyeing my tube clothes. You're thinking I am a man who values substance over style and it turns you on. Woman: No, I'm thinking I'll date anything that has a job. Dilbert: I have one of those!
2014-12-31 * Dilbert: I got 9,752 responses on this dating site and I haven't even completed my profile. All I said is that I'm six feet tall, I have hair and a job. Meanwhile, everywhere: Women: Hair... height... job! Triple threat!
2014-12-30 * Dilbert: I only wear tube clothes now because it reduces my number of daily decisions. Tina: You mean decisions such as... where to go on a date? Because I don't see that coming up. Dilbert: I'm still fine-tuning the system.
2014-12-29 * Dilbert: I call my invention "tube clothes." The idea is to eliminate as many daily decisions as possible, the way Mark Zuckerberg does with his gray t-shirt. I like to understand what makes people successful. Dogbert: And you narrowed it down to his shirt?
2014-12-28 * CEO: You didn't promptly respond to my email last night. Dilbert: You sent that email at 1 a.m. CEO: I expect my employees to be checking email at all times. Dilbert: Sleep is necessary for normal brain function. Anyone who succumbs to your leadership on this topic will turn into a dysfunctional moron in 48 hours. CEO: I don't see where you're going with this. It's all so confusing to my brain. So tired... can't stay awake... Dilbert: I don't usually win conversations this decisively.
2014-12-27 * Dilbert: We found the "bliss point" for immersive 3-D headgear. The product is so good that 87% of our customers starved to death while using it. CEO: We never get the customer retention part right.
2014-12-26 * Dilbert: Hey, Ted, how do you like our new 3-D immersive goggles you've been testing for two weeks? Some people say the experience is so good that you forget to eat. You're dead, aren't you...
2014-12-25 * Boss: I only have enough in the budget to hire an employee who is incompetent half of the time. But if I don't use the budget, I will lose those funds next year. Employee: And I am proud to say that I'm 75% competent. Boss: I wish I could afford that.
2014-12-24 * Tina: What are you talking about? It sounds interesting. Dilbert: We were saying that our smartphone technology has caused us to speed-evolve into a meta-organism that is the sum of our connected parts. Tina: In my defense, from across the room it looked interesting.
2014-12-23 * Carol: Warren Buffett says my career will be better if I show passion for my job. I'll have to fake the passion because everything I do in this job is mindless and boring. Later. Carol: Woo-hoo! I forwarded an email!
2014-12-22 * Boss: You need to show more leadership on your project. Dilbert: How do you know my leadership is a problem? Maybe the team members are bad followers. Boss: It's your job to fix it either way. Dilbert: The way you just fixed me with your leadership?
2014-12-21 * Coworker: I should warn you that I'm a perfectionist. Dilbert: I appreciate the warning. Do you have any other psychological problems or just the one? Coworker: I don't think of it as a "problem." Dilbert: I guess that's what makes it so bad. I see a lot of other psychological problems in your writing. Cognitive dissonance, unrealistic optimism, and some projection bias. But I can see why you think your perfectionism is the worst part. Coworker: You're a jerk. Dilbert: ...and here come the anger issues.
2014-12-20 * Tina: I heard you had a freak accident while vacuuming your house naked. Dilbert: That's a rumor. I don't know how that stuff spreads. Tina: Now I feel a little bad that I told thirty people.
2014-12-19 * Carol: Dilbert called to say he'd be late for your meeting. He said something about having a freak accident while vacuuming naked. Dilbert: Did you tell him traffic was bad? Carol: More or less.
2014-12-18 * The Marketing Guy. Marketing Guy: I don't see why engineers get paid more than marketing professionals. Dilbert: Maybe because engineers designed and built every important part of modern civilization and all you did was misrepresent it. Marketing Guy: My point is that you need both. Dilbert: You really don't.
2014-12-17 * Wally: I'm thinking of getting into the strategic planning game. If I understand the job description, you basically hallucinate about the future and then something different happens. Dilbert: You also have to pretend it's useful. Wally: Really? That sounds hard.
2014-12-16 * Financial Advisor. Advisor: Convertible notes... preferred stock... municipal bonds... covered call options. These are things you can never hope to understand. So trust me and try to forget that my only career ambition is to drain your account like a giant mosquito. Boss: That sounds reasonable. Advisor: I'm always surprised at how easy this is.
2014-12-15 * Financial Advisor. Dilbert: You kept me waiting in the lobby for five minutes. So I used that time to learn everything that matters in the field of personal investing. Did you know that you don't know much? Financial Advisor: I did not know that.
2014-12-14 * Wally: What's it like to work hard? I'm curious because the reward for hard work seems to be identical to the reward for pretending to work. It seems as if it would be demotivating to work so hard for no incremental benefit. If I had to pick one word to describe my day, it would be "relaxing." But you took the harder path, and for that, you have my respect. Alice: I don't want the respect of a loser! Wally: If it makes you feel any better, I don't actually respect hard work.
2014-12-13 * Boss: Hold on, I have a text message that is probably more important than you. I will demonstrate my power over you by handling a text message while you sit there, waiting for a pellet of my attention. Stop texting me! Dilbert: Mmm... pellet.
2014-12-12 * Wally: Here's the analysis you asked me to do. Coworker: Oops. I forgot to tell you, I don't need this anymore. Wally: What? I did all of that work for nothing? Coworker: Wait... this is nothing but... gibberish. Wally: That is a separate issue.
2014-12-11 * Wally: I would love to help you, Alice, but Dilbert says everything you are doing is misguided. Alice: What? I will whip him to death with his own intestines! Wally: Can you either do that quietly or wait until after my nap time?
2014-12-10 * Wally: I added air bags to my underpants to avoid accidental assignments. Boss: Hey, Wally, I need you to... Maybe I'll ask someone else. Wally: The system works!
2014-12-09 * Dilbert: I don't know how you juggle work plus a family. Carol: Spending time with my family is like fighting porcupines in a salt mine. I come here just to get away from them. Dilbert: So... you like your job? Carol: No, but at least I can go home to get away from it.
2014-12-08 * Wally: If you need me, I'll be in the cloud fixing a software issue. There's no cell coverage in the cloud, so it might seem to you as if I am at home doing nothing. If you need me, I'll be at home doing nothing. Dilbert: Why would anyone need you?
2014-12-07 * Woman: I like dancing and... Dilbert: I'm out. I avoid any relationship that has a risk of dancing. Woman: You're rejecting me because I like to dance? Dilbert: Yeah, it would start out all innocent... but two months into it you'd be guzzling wine and dragging me toward live music. Then you'd start doing all this... and this... and some of this... Woman: I also enjoy doing yoga to release my chakra energy. Does that bother you? Dilbert: I think I'm getting hives.
2014-12-06 * Dilbert: Your rule is that no more than eight people should attend a meeting, so I can't let you sit down. CEO: When did I say that? Dilbert: It was in a book you co-wrote. CEO: I knew I should have skimmed that thing. Dilbert: Your unknown co-author is quite wise.
2014-12-05 * Dinosaur: Ha ha! I am now the coolest member of the household because I have a smartwatch. Hello, watch. What time is is? Watch: This is the anthropocene epoch. Dinosaur: Wow, that carbon dates me.
2014-12-04 * Dinosaur: All I need is my flip phone, my Windows XP, and my basic cable television. Did I sound like a big, dumb dinosaur that time? Dogbert: Pretty much. Dinosaur: Wow... there is no cool way to describe my life.
2014-12-03 * Dinosaur: I don't own a smartphone. I use a flip phone because it does everything I want. Alice: Why are you proud of being a big, dumb dinosaur with a terrible phone? Dinosaur: I"m sensing a lot of judgement in that question. Alice: Wait until you hear my follow-ups.
2014-12-02 * Boss: Do you want some constructive criticism? Dilbert: No, but I would love some under-informed opinions about things you don't understand. Boss: That took a lot of fun out of it.
2014-12-01 * Boss: I couldn't open the document you sent with your project update. Wally: Try erasing your hard disk and reinstalling the operating system. Boss: I guess I don't need it that badly. Wally: After all the work I put into making that document?
2014-11-30 * Boss: Would you like some feedback on your performance? Dilbert: No. Boss: You're supposed to appreciate feedback because it makes you feel valued. Dilbert: How does listening to you belittle me about things you don't understand make me feel valued? Boss: Well, I don't know. It must be an indirect thing. Maybe we should just try it and see how it feels. Dilbert: Whatever. Boss: I don't actually watch you work, so I'm mostly guessing about the things you do wrong. I accuse you of being slow and disorganized! Is it working yet? Dilbert: Yes. If that makes you go away.
2014-11-29 * Alice: I feel so rested and relaxed after my vacation. I wonder how long this afterglow will last because... excuse me while I check this text message. Dilbert: Is it too late to start timing it? [Alice is on fire]
2014-11-28 * Dilbert: Let's skip to the part where I tell you how you should have engineered it instead of whatever you did. Coworker: You don't know what I did. Dilbert: I have five minutes to pretend that matters. Coworker: That's all I need.
2014-11-27 * Dilbert: If our business plan fails, do we have a plan for that? Boss: Only losers plan for failure. Dilbert: I think we're on the same page, but for some reason you're angry about it.
2014-11-26 * Boss: Are you going to meet the launch deadline? Dilbert: No. There were unexpected problems. Boss: I need solutions, not unexpected problems! Did that mean anything? Dilbert: Almost. Good try.
2014-11-25 * Dilbert: And I plan to launch the beta version in two months. Group: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Dilbert: I have a credibility problem. Dogbert: And I should believe that?
2014-11-24 * Dilbert: The good news is that we had the winning bid for the project. The less-good news is that we don't make the product we just sold, nor could we make it for the price we bid. My plan is to put out an RFP to secretly subcontract the work to a bigger liar. CEO: That could work.
2014-11-23 * Wally: Is it okay if I telecommute on "Bring Your Kid To Work" Day? I'll show my kid how I work from home. Boss: How would I know you were working? Wally: What??!! That is exactly the sort of distrust that corrodes the motivation of employees! How can I feel good about my job in this toxic atmosphere? Boss: Okay, okay. You can work from home on "Bring Your Kid To Work" Day. Dilbert: You don't have a kid. Wally: I hear they ruin your naps.
I originally wanted to examine the most frequently-used words over the course of the strip, to see how the comic’s conversation topics evolved over the years. Unfortunately, I discovered that the dialogue isn’t separated by the panel of the strips, and the attribution of the dialog isn’t consistent, creating some challenges. The recent strips have the character name followed by a colon, followed by the dialogue (Dilbert:”Did you finish the TPS report?”), but in the older strips, this is done differently (Dilbert replies, “Did you finish the TPS report?”), so finding a way to filter this content was challenging. Moreover, looking over the frequently-used words in this data was far less interesting than expected, even after accounting for common words. I’m not sure exactly how I’ll visualize these results, so I don’t have a sketch. I may have to examine the findings in a different way.