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I am asking questions in SO, and this guy starts to answer in such a way that implies:

  1. He knows what he talks about, irrespective of whether other disagree.
  2. He is always right.
  3. More importantly for me, implying that I always don't know what I am talking about.
  4. Rather than just answering the question, I get things like "it turns out that you have been spreading this misinformation" and the condescending "it is interesting you say this" before rubbishing those who say this. Thanks to the others at SO, the first one is now downvoted to oblivion.

Added to that, and this is not particularly offending to me but I thought I should mention, most of his answer turn to some kind to advertisement at the end.

I know that in the real world I would look into a harassment or a restraining order or something if this continues. My question is what happens in SO?

Thanks everyone, I think I need to clarify a few things.

First, I wasn't hoping to identify the person who I had problems with. A few have identified him, and many of you will find the messages are not that bad. It was both the frequency and the assumptions that put me under stress, with somebody actually going through all my (admittedly few) questions in a short time. More importantly, I wanted to find my options, if it comes to that.

My current strategy, a modified form of what advice I got here, is that if I get annoyed I don't answer that comment or claim for a couple of days, then I find out if I still have to reply.

I am afraid the people who followed my messages and tried to understand what I was saying got it basically wrong. For those who believe that I was covering my lack of qualifications with whatever.

The guy, call him X, knows his area. I have never claimed otherwise. The problem is that he comes out and say technology X is better than technology Y, which I certainly believe he is less knowledgeable and less qualified than me on. For somebody to give a reasonable reply on a comparison between X and Y he should have enough knowledge about X and Y.

All of you have technical background here. Who of you believes that technology X is better than every other technology in all aspects? And fells that whoever says otherwise is spreading misinformation?

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In the real world I would either punch them in the face if I felt that it was justified or, even better as this is something you can do without being physically in the same location as the other guy, ignore him. –  perbert Aug 4 '10 at 1:27
Example? Or it never happened ... –  Tim Post Aug 4 '10 at 12:40
Indeed, I just looked at your profile, and only two users have posted more than one answer across your five most recent questions. (Granted one of them is likely the one in question, as IDed by George Stocker.) –  Pops Aug 4 '10 at 16:08

6 Answers 6

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Two options

Quick Simple Flag

Click Flag > Click Requires Moderator Attention > Explain the problem.

Email (If it continues)

Email team@stackoverflow.com with the user's profile link, offending posts, and an explanation to the problem.

Those two options will let the moderators know what is going on. They have various tools for dealing with offensive users.

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Thanks. I missed the email option. –  Muhammad Alkarouri Aug 4 '10 at 1:30

See here for what I consider to be a comprehensive list of valid responses.

I wrote out some "Do" and "Don't" actions, but I think the things Not to do are more important.


  • Insult them back.
  • Become accusing.
  • Assume they are jerks.
  • Assume you know anything about why they behave this way.

For this response, I've highlighted the third point. This is an important one. If you are angry at someone, it is likely that anything they say will seem snarky or mean.

This is the internet, it is literally filled with jerks, BUT, it also means that a lot of nice people will seem like jerks just because of our assumptions that they already are.

I think the first step once someone annoys you is to take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to re-read their responses pretending they were written by your best friend. At that point, it will be much easier for you to take it lightly, and not let them get under your skin even when they are being jerks.

As noted in other responses, it is worth remembering that we all come to StackOverflow because there are other people who know better, and they are donating time which would usually be quite expensive.

The other part of this is that some people have no tact. Getting offended won't change them. They have value to contribute if you can ignore their tone. You still come out on top, because you get free advice from someone who would normally charge for it.

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#4 on your bullet list should be in the FAQ, if not already there. +1 –  Tim Post Aug 4 '10 at 12:39
Thanks. I effectively used variations of the techniques suggested here, and I would suggest that this be in the FAQ as Tim says. Although I still find it sad that somebody can go though your profile and fault you everywhere. SO should probably do something about that. –  Muhammad Alkarouri Aug 8 '10 at 17:14
@Muhammad: Unfortunately, no amount of clever algorithms or automated measure will ever disrupt the human penchant for jackassery. I wish it could though. People like you are helping simply by not being jerks, we raise the level of discourse. –  devinb Aug 8 '10 at 17:27

Don't take it so personally.

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Thanks. I need to do that. –  Muhammad Alkarouri Aug 8 '10 at 17:21

Just flag the posts as offensive, that's what that flag is for.

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We receive what we give.

After studying several posts and comments from you to your target, it would appear that you're both guilty of hubris.

For example, the comments in this answer can be reduced to the following:

You: .NET (F#) isn't as good as Erlang.
Him: You really don't understand .NET.

If you're having a real problem with this user, you have two options:

  1. Don't respond to what he writes.
  2. Contact team@stackoverflow.com and report your problems with this user.
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Agreed. Getting dragged into a firefight just leaves everyone on fire. I'm pretty sure that's how the metaphor goes. –  devinb Aug 4 '10 at 13:06
It's just like primary education, if you hit back you were both fighting. –  Noctrine Aug 4 '10 at 13:50
@devinb: There's also "I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it." Although the part about the pig liking it always confused me a little. Do they really like wrestling? –  gnostradamus Aug 4 '10 at 15:05
@gnovice I like that site now :) "No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched." is exactly what I've been attempting to say in oh-so-many posts. –  devinb Aug 4 '10 at 15:18
@gnovice: I always saw it as "Don't mud wrestle with a pig." –  David Thornley Aug 4 '10 at 21:38
@George Stocker: while I appreciate your comment you are missing a few things: that answer was after I asked here, and it started with an attack in the answer (before the comments) by referring to my earlier Python discussion that had nothing to do with this question. And know, I asked because I wanted to know the differences, not because I believed one is better than the other. His answers are "X is better than Y" and while he knows X very well, he doesn't know Y to compare. In short, either keep out of the fight or if you want to interpret things see the context. –  Muhammad Alkarouri Aug 8 '10 at 16:54
@George Stocker: in short, Noctrine's point about primary education is good. I should have seen what I am doing at the time, although it unnerves me that someone could go through my history and do all that. If you want to help you can treat it as such, and definitely do better than a misguided interpretation or get into details. –  Muhammad Alkarouri Aug 8 '10 at 16:57
@devinb: I've always heard Gandhi's "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." –  GreenMatt Aug 8 '10 at 18:41

I checked the messages from That Guy (let's name him J.), and I must say that they're not so offensive and not so personal. (If J. is really the one you're talking about).

The thing is that such behavior isn't necessarily caused by J.'s offense against you. Perhaps, he just learned by experience that you are not qualified enough, that you usually post incorrect information, and ask bad questions. If he thinks that, he might also want to guard the rest of StackOverflow community from supposedly incorrect information, and that's why he pays more attention to you than to anyone else.

I think the best option would be flagging really offensive posts of J., and trying to read and understand the rest--perhaps, he's sometimes right?

For now, it seems to me that you're trying to guard your lack of qualification with administrative measures. This is just disgusting.

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(-1) Your response starts at "I don't believe you" and ends with "Your behaviour is disgusting". That is not a helpful commentary, more of an attack. –  devinb Aug 4 '10 at 12:10
@devinb, using administrative measures to win a technical argument is disgusting and despicable. That's not an attack, it's a fact. Was it what happened? I'm not sure, but it seems to me that it is. Is it a personal attack?--and what could it be if I think Mouhammad is abusing us in his private interests, and I want to share my thoughts? And isn't Mouhammad conducting a personal attack here, by posting his question in the first place? –  Pavel Shved Aug 4 '10 at 14:38
@Pavel. Look carefully. Mouhammad does not mention the user's name. How can it be a personal attack if there is no person? He is asking what to do in this situation. The answers tell him to use administrative measures. I don't see the part of his question where he asks anyone else to do something about it. He is asking what HE can do about it. That's the opposite of what you're accusing him of. –  devinb Aug 4 '10 at 14:45
@devinb, he explicitly mentioned "real-world" administrative measures in his answer, and asked if something like this is available on SO. Some answers say "go on, use these: flags, complaints", and mine says "it's mean to act like this". –  Pavel Shved Aug 4 '10 at 16:20
@Pavel, sure, I would never act like that. However, the way that I would want people to act is by discussion and engagement. Calling someone's behaviour disgusting is a disengagement. You aren't attempting to help, you're attempting to belittle. You are acting in a manner that you would not want him to respond with. –  devinb Aug 4 '10 at 17:42
@devinb, ok, I see your point. You posted another answer, which is based on the same assumptions as mine, but in a more polite and encouraging manner. Now we've covered all possible ways of affecting people--some can only respond to a punch in their face instead of encouragements of any kind. So, I guess, so we can finish this discussion :-) –  Pavel Shved Aug 4 '10 at 20:10
@devinb: However, if the identity of Mouhammad's nemesis is easy to find, does he have to mention the name specifically? –  David Thornley Aug 4 '10 at 21:42
@Pavel Shved: see my other answer. I would like to know what incorrect information have I posted. He has good expertise in one area but not enough about others to compare with them. Another point that should make you less angry is that I have asked about my options, I haven't used them. And by the way, that was exactly what I am doing in my answers, guarding SO against incorrect information, unless you can objectively show that any disagreements we had he was factually right. –  Muhammad Alkarouri Aug 8 '10 at 17:09
@David Thornley: Ok. Given that this is my first question in meta, and that I don't know the email to forward my issues to, would it make sense if I told you that I didn't know that it is so easy and expected to go through the logs at the time? –  Muhammad Alkarouri Aug 8 '10 at 17:23

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