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I have seen this "thank me" motivational remark made by Snoop Dogg during his Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony, several times and found it hilarious. I wondered if using it at the end of the acknowledgements section of a thesis in the form of a QR code for a light-hearted comedy would be academically appropriate.

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    If you do it, consider using Wayback machine to archive it for posterity.
    – The Doctor
    Feb 12 at 12:10
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    They have different purposes. arXiv.org is for preprints and Wayback machine is for archiving web content, e.g., websites, videos, etc. When you archive a screenshot of a website you can access it even if the original website is taken off-line. This is very useful to keep politicians accountable of what they say online on social media, so they cannot simply delete content and lie about never writing certain things.
    – The Doctor
    Feb 12 at 12:44
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    Tangential: something to watch out for is QR code services are not always above board. The link could be malicious or could turn malicious. If you go this route, you need to be extra sure about the website providing this service. Feb 12 at 14:25
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    Baroque artists are masters in having a high density of in-jokes. However, all these jokes are such that they can be deciphered hundreds of years after they have been made. It's a good idea to keep in-jokes self-contained in your work. External dependencies rot. Feb 12 at 16:56
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    @CameronWilliams - QR Code Services? Just encode the URL into the QR, no need for a third party service Feb 13 at 15:58

7 Answers 7

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The video clip is funny but not hilarious. The joke is pretty obvious. There is a high chance that the people who read your thesis won't find it as funny as you do.

Also social media is full of links to little humorous video clips like that, and a person might prefer not to be confronted with even more of that kind of thing when they are reading a thesis.

Unlike CrimsonDark I think a QR code and video clip is worse than a joke that is written there and can be seen with no effort. Going to "a little bit of effort" and then finding an unfunny joke is annoying.

The joke by Steven Skiena is funny. Like him you should try to come up with your own joke rather than put a link to someone else's.

See also Should academic papers necessarily carry a sober tone?

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    I think it's far more likely that readers (especially older academics) will simply not follow the QR than that they will follow it and form a negative impression. Feb 14 at 17:22
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    This answer is based on the somewhat questionable premise that anyone will actually read the thesis or the Acknowledgements in particular. I agree the joke doesn't add anything and might only serve to annoy, but in all likelihood it really doesn't matter since nearly no one is going to see it anyway. I'd say anyone with enough time to be digging through QR codes in the Acknowledgement section of a student thesis is already wasting their own time and shouldn't expect much more than a Rickroll. Feb 14 at 18:46
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Fine to include, but the tone is wrong.

I think the speech is funny, and would be possible to include - but the general tone of academic acknowledgement jokes is subtle. The consistent addition of a cat as co-author in one field of physics or mathematics, puns in dead languages, obscure quotations, callouts to common paper phrases - the idea is to be smart, and to make the reader work for it. This doesn't fit with those.

So, instead of the QR code, I'd put something like:

The author would like to thank C. Cordozar Broadus Jr for his inspiring remarks, and agrees with the sentiments of his speech on insert date and occasion

The difference between "flippant and inappropriate" and "academic paper humor" is how much you make the reader work for the reference. The goal is to trip someone up a little who is reading this, and send them down a 10 minute research rabbit hole, before discovering the slightly stupid joke.

edit: I can't find out if snoop dogg was awarded any honorary doctorates - but feel free to include them properly after his name.

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    It is better not to waste the reader's time. But "The author would like to thank C. Cordozar Broadus Jr ..." is not a bad idea. You just need to make it as funny as possible and avoid making the reader investigate an in-joke, scan a QR code, etc.
    – toby544
    Feb 13 at 12:21
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    Honorary doctorates? Ah, sadly no! But he has a great criminal record. Also, the mentioned video captures the ending of his speech which starts with "Last but not the least... " given during his Hollywood Walk of Fame award.
    – codebpr
    Feb 13 at 12:24
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    @toby544 - in the body of the paper, I'd agree. In the acknowledgement section? the odds are no one will ever read it. If they do, and look up the reference, it's pretty quick to get to the video. And looking up a person noted for their "inspiring remarks" in the acknowledgements is only something I'd do if I'm already wasting time :P
    – lupe
    Feb 13 at 12:31
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    🤓 This is the way™️ Feb 14 at 5:10
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    +1 if the joke is good, the popular search engine of 2076 will still find it.
    – Karl
    Feb 14 at 14:31
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I disagree completely with @toby544 . To my mind it is irrelevant to your decision whether he, or I, finds the joke hilarious, funny, or just plain dull. (I found it hilarious). And I certainly don't think that you have to be "original" in your acknowledgements; in other words, I would disagree entirely that "you should try to come up with your own joke rather than put a link to someone else's." Most dull, boring, gray acknowledgements are completely unoriginal copies of the template of every other dull, boring, gray acknowledgement. Many contain completely unoriginal quotes from some million-times-repeated source ... and I think that that too should be completely irrelevant to your decision. You want dull, gray and boring? You want to be the 100,000th person to quote Sinatra and say "I did it my way"? Go for it!!

It is generally appreciated in the academic community that the acknowledgement section of a dissertation is a private[^1] personal space in which the writer can do very much as they would like.

I have seen the acknowledgement sections of numerous dissertations, not all from the same university. Humor appears in a goodly number of them (i.e., my humor-detector was triggered); sometimes subtle, sometimes not. But I should add that some of what I have found hilarious was quite possibly unintended, and some things I've read without detecting any humor might have been intended to be side-splittingly funny. Again, to my mind, it's completely irrelevant.

That said (having shown the video and the reply of @toby44 to some other people) that the possibility exists that culture not only plays a part in determining what is funny, but also in what might be OK in an acknowledgement. So I would still check with someone you trusted. You don't want to antagonize your markers (a very remote possibility in my culture)

By the way, I really like the idea of using a QR code! It means that whatever the joke, it isn't "in your face". The reader will have to go to a little bit of effort to appreciate it. Assuming you actually intend to put in a list of other people (which you might not!), I could imagine ending with "... and to others, too numerous to name (insert small QR code here)", or somehow make the QR code a footnote. Think of the creative opportunities!

I think it is in the book "Combinatorics and Graph Theory with Mathematica" by Steven Skiena that I recall reading something along the following lines: "I would appreciate being alerted by readers to any errors that you might find in the text. I will then find out who is to blame". (Some people would find that very unfunny).

Note: This answer has been heavily edited and reorganized. None of the original content has been omitted. It also turns out that I have mis-quoted Skiena. The original wording is either more funny, or much less funny, depending on the tuning of your humor-detector.

[1] Thank you to @greg-martin for pointing out that "personal" is a much more apposite description than is "private".

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    I think it is notable that the person who found it hilarious thinks it is okay and the person who found it not hilarious thinks it isn't a good idea. Feb 12 at 23:13
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    @user1558604 Come on! Gimme a break. ... My answer wasn't just based on that either :) Feb 13 at 0:16
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    @user1558604, I too notice that. Also, the person who didn't find it hilarious got so many upvotes. I wonder if the majority of users here on this site side with not use a Snoop Dogg quote due to academic sobriety :D
    – codebpr
    Feb 13 at 4:11
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    For anyone interested, the correct quote, actually from Pemmaraju, S. V. & Skiena, S. S. (2003). Computational Discrete Mathematics, is It is traditional for the author to magnanimously accept the blame for whatever deficiencies remain. We don't. Any errors, deficiencies, or problems in this book are somebody else's fault, but report them to bugs@ com binatorica.com so we can determine who to blame. Feb 13 at 5:52
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    @toby544 No. It wasn't. There is no objective funny, funnier, etc. That's a completely misconceived and muddle-headed idea. You found / didn't-find something funny ... a fact that is irrelevant both to the question and to any answer. Feb 14 at 10:53
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A QR code containing only a fragment of text might be acceptable, although the number of people with a reader which didn't assume it was a URI is probably small.

A URI referring to an arbitrary server is very much not. A thesis survives- in theory- forever, and the likelihood that any given online resource be hijacked to contain something socially or politically unacceptable is substantial.

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Be very careful with this. I know someone who actually did it; his thesis' Acknowledgment section devoted the first paragraph to thanking himself. Literally. Seriously. Not as any kind of joke. Such people exist, and I really don't think you want to taken for someone with such a high opinion of themselves.

So while including a joke is fine, it's your thesis after all, I would be very careful with this joke since it isn't particularly funny and it is close enough to reality that some people will not know if you mean it as a joke or if you truly believe it is appropriate to thank yourself. I can tell you from experience that the latter does not go down very well with anyone reading the thesis.

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    The statement, oft repeated on this page, that "it isn't funny" suggests that some people but not others have a privileged insight into the nature of funny-ness that has universal applicability. Yet you only need to look at the various comments to appreciate that some people think it isn't funny, and others think it is, and that even the dichotomy is nonsense because the perceptions actually fall on a spectrum. In my culture, I haven't yet found a single person who thought it anything other that a great joke ... and not all of the people in my culture are aliens with three heads Feb 15 at 5:15
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    @CrimsonDark I don't understand what you're trying to say here. Yes, humor is subjective and different people find different things funny. I don't find this funny. Others do. That's perfectly normal and each of us can only give their personal opinion.
    – terdon
    Feb 15 at 9:35
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    The statement "it isn't funny" does not equal "I did not find it funny". Feb 15 at 10:18
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    @CrimsonDark um, OK. I don't see what else it could mean, there is no universal standard of humor so statements like "it is funny" or "it isn't funny" are obviously statements of opinion. But in any case, it seems strange that you are focusing on what is only a very minor point. The main issue is that this kind of thing can very easily be taken seriously, at face value. I know a person who devoted an entire paragraph in their thesis' Acknowledgements to thanking themselves. In all seriousness and with no joke implied. So making this joke seems like a particularly bad idea.
    – terdon
    Feb 15 at 10:47
  • @CrimsonDark, the idea for this Question was based on someone who did it already, which is going viral on Social Media. Here's the link
    – codebpr
    Feb 15 at 12:24
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It sounds like you want your acknowledgements section to be a parody of a genuine acknowledgements section. Well, I suppose the sky won't collapse if you do that, but there are some possible unintended consequences you might want to consider:

  1. If there are people you are sincerely thanking in your acknowledgements section, then when those people see you are using the space of the acknowledgements section for a subversive satirical critique of the "stuffy" academic custom of thanking people who helped you in your academic journey, they might wonder if your thanking them is meant as a part of the parody. They might be offended that you can't bring yourself to thank them plainly without resisting the temptation to also throw in some half-assed attempt at ironic humor.

  2. If your acknowledgements section is entirely satirical and isn't genuinely meant to thank anyone, the same people you might have thanked in an "honest" acknowledgements section might be equally offended by your thoughtlessness in failing to mentioning them and to sincerely acknowledge the help they generously gave you.

Bottom line: tread carefully. I know sincerity is hard for some people, but there are times and places that call for it and when it can be a powerful method of communicating. Likewise, humor and sarcasm are awesome when used effectively, but there are times and places to employ them as well, and other times and places where their application might easily fall flat.

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There is a lot of discussion here whether the joke is appropriate. Focusing on the question whether a QR code is appropriate, I go with

Yes, but…

  • It should be about the reference, not the QR code itself (in the referenced video, the code is very prominent).
  • For the digital version (PDF, HTML, …), you should also employ a proper, clickable hyperlink.
    In case of a printed document, the QR code may provide ease of access to the URL. However, it should not to be the only way to access an otherwise obscure reference.
  • A textual description should also exist (in case the linked target ceases to exist).
  • The joke should be part of a dedicated acknowledgement section, not in the thesis body (I concur with lupe's comment).

In my opinion, we are a visual species. People like references to pop culture and memes (still images and videos alike). Academics should be allowed to participate in a reasonable manner. I would appreciate to see it like this (note that I put the entire reference in a footnote): sample page showing the use of QR code

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  • Finally, someone answered about the main theme: The use of QR code! The very well-written and informative answer, Kudos!
    – codebpr
    Feb 16 at 16:47

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