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Obligatory Forum Comments

I’ve seen people post “Obligatory XKCD” comments everywhere, from Reddit to Hacker News. So I wondered where that expression came from.

Here’s an example:

I think we’re hoping (even if it’s a double edge sword) that the aliens are smart enough to communicate with us not the other way around. We have been unable to fully decipher the “language” of dogs beyond some body language. And they have lived with us for millennia.

Obligatory xkcd: https://xkcd.com/638/

Obligatory XKCD

This is the earliest “Obligatory XKCD” mention I could find is from the Civilization Fanatics Forum, on July 31, 2007:

Obligatory xkcd link.

XKCD started in September 2005, and Wikipedia says it “garnered widespread attention by depicting online communities in geographic form” in May 2007.

Obligatory Simpsons

I found this thread about “Obligatory XKCD” on Hacker News where Jeffrey Wasserman explains that

Prior to xkcd, I recall seeing Obligatory Simpsons Quotes on either usenet or slashdot back in the late 90’s.

The first “Obligatory Simpsons” mention I could find is from May 1, 1990.

’’ So, who else thinks they’re the best half-hour show on the tube these days?

’ I agree! Did anyone here about the school down south i believe

They and the Married with Children family are the only thing I can find worth watching.

Obligatory simpsons:
“My two sisters in law, the gruesome twosome.”

I also found this thread from March 31, 1992, where someone asks about the meaning of “ob”:

’ Will someone tell me what the Ob stands for, please? (Obvious? Obsessive? Obligatory?) Nothing I can think of seems to fit all the contexts I’ve seen this prefix used in.

Ob stands for obligatory. As in ObSimpsons, it means “Obligatory Simpsons remark,” or whatever. When people post to newsgroups and stray off the subject, they insert an Obwhatever in a feeble attempt to show the rest of the readers that they know they shouldn’t have wasted the bandwidth in the first place :-)

Jargon file

In the “Obligatory XKCD” thread on Hacker News Aaron Miller mentioned he first saw this use of “Obligatory” in the Jargon File in 1993.

The first use I found is in version 2.1.5 of the Jargon File, from 28 November, 1990:

OB (ob) pref. Obligatory. A piece of NETIQUETTE that acknowledges the
author has been straying from the group’s charter.

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