I recently went into a SO C++ chat and was needlessly suspended. My chat transcript starts from this message. (Note that some messages were flagged and have since been removed.)

Upon entering the room, I was told to "f off" and was accused on trolling because they assumed I was a continuation from an earlier troll also named "Smith." The user apologized for the mistaken identity, but I was still not appreciative of it.

Next, I asked a question about an algorithm involving permutation cycles. I gave an example of what I was looking for and was suddenly ganged up upon, and people were asking like I was asking something outlandish. They accused me of being a self-proclaimed "math genius," "on my high horse," and proceeded to post images calling me retard amongst other things.

I was then silenced from the chat because everyone was ganging up on me and I was trying to defend myself.

I think this is honestly a pretty egregious abuse of moderator power. I went into the chat, attacking no one, asking a very benign question about an algorithm while providing an example to explain what I was looking for. It got out of hand for no reason at all and I was punished for nothing. It's all in the chat transcript (happened a few minutes prior to this post being made)

Sorry if this is the wrong place to post this!

  • 8
    @Lucifer I was respectful. I went into the chat attacking nobody and asked a simple question and was treated disrespectfully. – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:03
  • 1
    How do you expect us to look at this without linking to the transcripts? Should we have to look for it for you? Link! – Jeff Mercado Jun 1 '12 at 14:03
  • 5
    @Lucifer well, if the OP's report is accurate, it wasn't him who wasn't respectful – Pekka Jun 1 '12 at 14:03
  • 1
    I think I found it. chat.stackoverflow.com/transcript/10/13-14 scroll down to midway when I enter the room, read on – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:07
  • 2
    OK, from reading a large chunk of the transcript, you were being a little insulting in a discussions about a question you probably should have posted on SO – murgatroid99 Jun 1 '12 at 14:09
  • 15
    Why did you not ask your question on SO after the people in chat told you to do so and explained they didn't grasp the concepts you were trying to discuss? – Bart Jun 1 '12 at 14:10
  • 3
    @murgatroid99 I got defensive because only because people were ganging up on me and being snarky first, and acting like I was asking a completely unreasonable, arcane question. I should have probably asked on SO but it doesn't detract from the problem I am bringing to light here. – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:11
  • 11
    You should have asked the question on SO proper. Instead, you went and bothered a chat room about it, and then started questioning people's intelligence when they didn't understand your confusing and incomplete explanation of a problem they weren't obligated to solve. – murgatroid99 Jun 1 '12 at 14:13
  • 6
    It's well known that the C/C++ chat room is not the most cozy place on earth... If you can't stand the tone there (I know I couldn't), I guess the solution is to stay away from there and to ask the question on Stack Overflow, where it belongs. I agree the flagging thing is unfair (as it takes just a couple of users who don't like you to block you), but well... – Pekka Jun 1 '12 at 14:14
  • 3
    @John: When people are requesting for links to what you are talking about, you should oblige and get them without question. Not everyone understands what you're talking about. Killan asked for links to a definition, your explanation was not sufficient. I asked you for links and you eventually got it. Don't make it hard for us to understand what you're talking about... if we need more clarification, give it to us, don't expect us to know everything you're talking about. – Jeff Mercado Jun 1 '12 at 14:17
  • 3
    OK, that description of cycles is not complete, which makes it confusing. To make it understandable you need to include what happens when there are more than two elements in a cycle. People in a chat room are not obligated to do research to understand you, or even try to answer your question at all. Why did you not go to SO? – murgatroid99 Jun 1 '12 at 14:18
  • 7
    @JohnSmith: If you'd said "permutation cycle", that may have helped (since "cycle" isn't Googleable). I'll admit even I didn't know what you meant, and I do have a math background. – Manishearth Jun 1 '12 at 14:18
  • 3
    @JohnSmith Imagine walking into a room of strangers, asking them about a certain concept. But they are unfamiliar with it (and apparently uninterested in it). Yet instead of taking their advice you continue on about it.... I'm not saying I would have flagged you, but especially in chat (which is a different beast from SO) I can't say I'm surprised. – Bart Jun 1 '12 at 14:20
  • 5
    @JohnSmith Just a nitpick: "if i had the cycle (12)(34)". (12)(34) isn't a cycle, it's the product of two cycles. A cycle has only one nontrivial orbit. – Daniel Fischer Jun 1 '12 at 14:59
  • 6
    For posterity: He reenters chat, nerdrage flaming: chat.stackoverflow.com/transcript/message/3977326#3977326 – Sam DeHaan Jun 4 '12 at 13:32

I have unsuspended you (it would have only lasted for a few more minutes though). For the record, as you know this was the message that was removed as offensive, causing the suspension:

@sbi then this is a case of "people not reading" and then trying to defend their BS instead of acknowledging that they are wrong

I can see why people would flag that. A few of your earlier messages weren't quite on the nice side either. But I can also see why you weren't in your best mood considering how the conversation went before that.

Two things to take away from this:

  1. Stop using the chat rooms as support hotlines; we have pretty useful Q&A websites that are made for getting answers to questions.
  2. For hanging out in the C++ room, you should grow a very thick skin. Always think of http://xkcd.com/386 – I, at least, find that always helpful for staying calm :)
| improve this answer | |
  • 19
    I kind of want to upvote your point #2 separately. – Bill the Lizard Jun 1 '12 at 14:26
  • Fair enough. Thank you all – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:29
  • 1
    Ha, see, I knew it! We aren't "snobby stuck up pricks", we are SO's "pretty cool bunch"! Take that, madhouse! – sbi Jun 6 '12 at 8:51
  • Damn that comic is so fitting! – thecoshman Sep 18 '12 at 15:19
  • @balpha can you explain the commic and how it relates to the C++ room? – user1271772 Apr 16 at 23:41

It looks to me you like you brought a math question to the C++ chat room. You were asked (politely at first) to take it to SO proper, but some mild hostility arose when you told people to Google the math concept and to just not answer if they don't know what you're talking about. That's really not how you should behave in a room that's set aside for a specific purpose (and not the purpose you're using it for).

The whole conversation took about 30 minutes before you were eventually booted from chat. Why didn't you just ask your question on SO before that?

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I figured it was a simple enough question that didn't warrant an entire SO question. I'm not sure "politely at first" holds overall when I was told to "f off" from the moment I entered chat. I only told people to Google it because I felt my earlier example that I explicitly laid out was sufficient in explaining what I was after, so I was not sure what more I could possibly add to make it any clearer. – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:20
  • 1
    @JohnSmith I don't see where you were told to "f off". It was probably deleted by the chat mod, but if you were told that immediately, I'm sure it was due to the case of mistaken identity and not your question. – Bill the Lizard Jun 1 '12 at 14:23
  • 9
    Why didn't you Google it and provide a link to a resource like Wikipedia? – murgatroid99 Jun 1 '12 at 14:23
  • @BilltheLizard It was a case of mistaken identity, but it falls in line with my overall complaint, here, that people can bend rules as long as they're regulars/bandwagoning together, but if I retaliate or defend myself, I get punished. – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:25
  • @murgatroid99 again because i felt the example I posted was more than enough to understand what I was looking for, that's all. Maybe I overestimate/give others too much credit in understanding, and that may be the case here. I thought it was overly obvious for anyone to understand regardless of background – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:26
  • 9
    Your example was insufficient to convey a complete understanding of the concept you were describing. It's not other people's background or their intelligence. It's the fact that you provided an incomplete explanation to people who had no reason to care, and then, as you just did again, insulted their intelligence. I would not have understood what you said if I had not recognized the syntax you were using and remembered what it meant. – murgatroid99 Jun 1 '12 at 14:29
  • 28
    @JohnSmith "I thought it was overly obvious for anyone to understand regardless of background" - That attitude, which you clearly displayed in the chat room, is incredibly condescending (and is likely why you were met with increasing hostility). Especially after people said they didn't understand / follow what you were talking about, and you continued to say that you thought it was so simple anyone would get it. If you don't see how that's rude, I'm not sure how to explain it to you. – Josh Darnell Jun 1 '12 at 14:29
  • @jadarnel27 So you are telling me that the example I gave was not obvious? "if i had the cycle (12)(34) this means first and second element swap, third and fourth swap. example permutation is 2 1 4 3" This is somehow completely crazy and hard to understand? I felt like for someone to claim otherwise was to try to troll me. – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:33
  • 19
    @JohnSmith -- FYI, I have a PhD, and on reading the transcript I hadn't the faintest idea what your notation was supposed to mean. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Jun 1 '12 at 14:34
  • 19
    @JohnSmith You're still doing it. – Josh Darnell Jun 1 '12 at 14:35
  • 3
    That example does not completely describe what you mean. For example, that does not provide enough information to infer what would be meant by say (1)(234). Your example implies that swaps are the important operations, which is incorrect and misleading. – murgatroid99 Jun 1 '12 at 14:35
  • @murgatroid99 I disagree with you but I see where you're coming from – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:46
  • 10
    @JohnSmith - I'm an algebraist by training--meaning that I've done mathematical research in abstract algebra--and, in fact, I've taught abstract algebra to both undergraduate and graduate students. Looking at your question, I knew what you were asking (despite your horrible attempts at explanation). However, had I been in the chat room, your rude and condescending behavior wouldn't have earned an answer from me. If you want help from someone, don't be an asshat. – user164207 Jun 2 '12 at 3:49

I am a long-time resident in the C++ chat room. I was present when this happened. I validated some of those flags. Here's my take on the issue.

This chat room is not a room where people are exclusively to discuss any professional, theoretical, or whatever problem thrown at them by whoever comes by. It's called "Lounge" for a reason: The room's goal is to be a place for SO's C++ programmers to hang out, chat, and recreate. And it's pretty damn successful at achieving that goal. Per agenda, almost anything is on topic in this room, including, but not limited to, math, sex, drugs, and C++.

Over time, the room has developed its own peculiar culture. Among that is, for example, its very own FAQ, coined "newbie hints", always linked to from the top of the right-hand panel ("starboard"). Regulars are, erm, regularly encouraging newcomers to go and read that first.

The newbie hints' very first paragraphs explain the room's approach with people coming and asking questions. To paraphrase: You can try, but it's a recreational setting, and if nobody is interested, you better try at SO proper. To quote literally: "Specifically, nobody in the chat feels any obligation to answer questions." (Note: To stress this point, this part got its own wiki page since I wrote this paragraph, so you won't find those literal words anymore at the page I originally linked to.)
Now, that shouldn't come as a surprise, because it is actually true for any forum on the Internet: If you do not manage to interest others in your problem, you will not get any interesting answers. This is, however, especially true in a recreational facility that's a mere appendix to a (set of) site(s) specifically dedicated to answer any (on-topic) question thrown at it.

That doesn't mean one should not try. If there's someone in the room who's in the know and interested, almost any kind of question could discussed and answered. I specifically remember one of the regulars discussing UML diagrams with a newbie a whole damn night, also C#, Java, and VB issues being discussed, and one guy getting help with (I'm not kidding!) his French language homework. If there's someone in the room who's in the know, interested, and has time to kill, if the questions are understandable — and if whoever asks does not come across condescending, rude, or insulting, such questions might have a chance.

So much for the preliminaries. (Yes, I am long-winded, but it's you who wants something from me, so you will have to deal with me the way I am or forgo my input altogether.) Here's how I view the incident:

You came into the room with a problem, threw the users present a few bones which were hard to identify and looked icky. The room inhabitants nevertheless stayed polite, tried to sort through those bones in order to discuss and, eventually, answer your problem, and tried to get out of you what you were actually asking about. When that failed, they lost interest and advised you to better ask a well-formulated question on SO proper. — However, you became increasingly hostile, were ignoring advice, and in the end you even insulted the room's inhabitants.

Well, guess what, if you step into a room and you start to annoy and insult those chatting away there, then they will very likely consider you annoying and insulting. (You might want to write this down and memorize it, because it isn't specific to SO, or that chat, or that room, at all, but is true universally.) However, there's a difference between that real-world scenario and the chat: There is a built-in mechanism in the chat through which users can express that they are feeling annoyed and insulted over specific messages you say — and the system will react to that automagically by removing those messages and banning you for a while.

That is to say: Nobody explicitly kicked you out, everybody was just expressing their annoyance. Of course, having been in the chat for a while, most of the users present knew exactly that kicking you out would be a byproduct of expressing their annoyance — but you made sure that many of us used the flagging to that effect, and that nobody shed a tear over you getting thrown out.

The irony is that in the Lounge there are rather strong sentiments against flagging to the point where the newbie hints even warn about flagging. To break that habit, it takes a strong incentive. You seem to have provided just that.

Now, when I look at the comment discussions here, it truly feels like not only haven't you taken away a lesson from what happened to you in that room, you didn't even learn anything from the critique expressed here — despite the fact that some of it was by users who not only weren't in the room when you were flagged, but who are even rather open about not liking the room and its inhabitants very much. In other words: They actually should be more inclined to side with you and against us on the issue; If they are siding with those they otherwise openly sneer at here, then that's a very strong indication that this whole thing should provide an important lesson or two for you to learn about changing your own behavior.

Let me repeat it plainly: If you want others to help you, you will have to work hard to make them understand your problem, you will have to consider their advice, you will have to be polite, you will have to respect their culture, and you will have to accept when they give up on you. It might seem annoying to you, but it really boils down to a simple rule: You want something from me for free, you make it easy for me. You fail to do so ==> no cookies from me.

One more hint: If there's one driver coming at you in the wrong lane, it's likely he's the problem. If everybody is driving the wrong lane, however, it's likely you are the problem. Believe me, I know what I am talking about. I was young once, too, and I still have a couple of very lousy shirts hidden in the rear of my wardrobe.

| improve this answer | |
  • I agree, but you need to understand why I responded the way I did. What set me off was sehe's "Since no one here appears to understand your idea of a cycle" as if I was making something up. If you Google what I am talking about you will see that it is well-established convention. This is why I said it was "easily Googled," but then Sam decided to reply, "We're not here to Google your problems." My "arrogance" was a retaliation against things being said that I felt were inaccurate criticisms. I was also already on edge from the needless accusation from entering the room. – John Smith Jun 4 '12 at 2:15
  • 3
    @JohnSmith - You chose a poor example and explained it even more poorly. You then refused to elaborate or provide any links to any sources that could coherently describe what you were trying to describe. The blame here belongs to no one but you. End of story. – user164207 Jun 4 '12 at 4:00
  • 7
    @John: You still haven't grasped this. No, I do not need to understand. It was you who came to us asking for a favor. We have no need to understand you, but you have a need to be understood. I am honestly sorry you were accused seemingly wrong, but that's it. If you are annoyed by our critique, be perfect. – sbi Jun 4 '12 at 6:24
  • 10
    @JohnSmith You don't walk into a disco bar and get upset that they aren't playing jazz. If you do, the club is under no obligation to care that you don't like disco, much less why. I can't put it any plainer than that, and the fact that you won't let this bone go provides quite a bit of insight into why things happened the way they did. – Tim Post Jun 4 '12 at 12:59
  • @sbi And you need to understand that I never "needed something from you." Again, here is another example of me giving you a snark-free response only to get more arrogant crap from you. "You don't need to listen to me"? Exactly what I'm talking about, here. Why are people here so highfalutin? And I'm the arrogant one?! Give me a break! – John Smith Jun 4 '12 at 13:02
  • 3
    @JohnSmith I'm asking you, as politely as I can to just let it go. I am not going to let this comment thread get so long that the system suggests that you take it to chat, for fairly obvious reasons :) – Tim Post Jun 4 '12 at 13:04
  • @TimPost Yes, walking into a C++ room and asking about an algorithm is really the same thing as walking into a disco bar and asking that they play jazz. C++ and algorithms are totally unrelated. – John Smith Jun 4 '12 at 13:04
  • 1
    @JohnSmith: Have you ever, even once, considered that they might not simply be insulting, but could be right about what they call you? – sbi Jun 4 '12 at 13:10
  • 3
    @JohnSmith: now you provide a link. Like I said, you never did so before, and in the chat, while you mentioned the words "cycle" and "permutation", you didn't string them together in a way that said "these are the words you want to Google" until much later. – Manishearth Jun 4 '12 at 13:13
  • 1
    @sbi Not when I have evidence to back up my claims, no. Ever thought that maybe you're just being arrogant and not acknowledging that maybe I'm right about what I'm saying here? I came into the room asking about a well known mathematical concept and people were responding with undue arrogance and dismissiveness. – John Smith Jun 4 '12 at 13:14
  • 4
    @JohnSmith You might want to read the transcripts again. Much as I'd like to bash the C++ crowd (I'm a C man ;), apart from the initial accusation of trolling by one, they all were pretty reasonable until the whole thing degraded, starting roughly at "it's.... super basic stuff here". I'm not saying it's all your fault - it's not - but your contribution wasn't negligible. – Daniel Fischer Jun 4 '12 at 13:44
  • @DanielFischer And I acknowledge that. What is upsetting me is that nobody else is acknowledging any fault whatsoever, acting as if it's all on me when it isn't. That's why I am being so persistent in this. What I was describing was not made up notation and it's well-known in the mathematicial community (all the more annoying when people are coming on here with the whole "I'm some hardcore math phd and you're talking nonsense" thing when Wiki, MathWorld, Google, and other forums prove it's standard. A bunch of people jumped on me, unmerited, and then wondered why I got defensive. – John Smith Jun 4 '12 at 13:48
  • 2
    @JohnSmith 1.: I think you're misinterpreting the phrase "your idea of a cycle". I don't think it's meant to imply you made it up, it's rather "the idea of cycle you're referring to". 2.: It's the C++ Lounge, you can't expect them to know math concepts (beyond what everybody knows), you have to explain the ones you use (of course, some or even all of them will already know the concepts, but you can't assume that). Start with a rough overview, and when people say "huh?", explain further. On no account is "it's...super basic stuff" an appropriate way to get people interested in helping you. – Daniel Fischer Jun 4 '12 at 13:59
  • For the record, I never stated that @JohnSmith was talking nonsense, merely that he provided a terrible explanation of permutation cycles. – user164207 Jun 4 '12 at 14:55
  • @Daniel: You need to consider that his most offensive messages were flagged and removed, and thus aren't even present in the transcript. – sbi Jun 5 '12 at 8:45

you're telling me you are not capable of understanding when i say "like if i had the cycle (12)(34) this means first and second element swap, third and fourth swap. example permutation is 2 1 4 3"

i find that hard to believe

Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

| improve this answer | |
  • 14
    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like? appears to be an attempt to write a sentence. I've read it about 10 times now, but I still can't understand what it means. Can you rephrase this? – Kevin Vermeer Jun 1 '12 at 15:03
  • 5
    @KevinVermeer I have no idea if you are serious, but in any case: knowyourmeme.com/memes/… – murgatroid99 Jun 1 '12 at 15:15
  • 4
    I was serious. I did not know my meme. How embarrassing. Still, I feel that any humor should be coupled with an actual answer: Memes are OK, but not when they're an alternative to useful content. – Kevin Vermeer Jun 1 '12 at 15:22
  • It's Friday, so I'll let this one go. +1 – Kalamane Jun 1 '12 at 19:30

I am not sure I have much to say that hasn't been said in the extensive comments above, but the thing about chat rooms is that they develop a culture. You have to respect the culture, or folks will react very negatively to you. There are some chat rooms where asking math questions is OK; in that one, it's not.

Imagine walking into a pub, sitting down next to a group of blokes and asking them to consider your math problem -- they'd kick you to the curb in a New York minute. It's really the same thing. Those guys were actually pretty polite -- they asked you to bring your question to SO.

| improve this answer | |
  • I agree with everything up until your last point. That was far from polite. – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:34
  • 9
    @JohnSmith How is telling you the appropriate place to go, when you're in the wrong place, impolite? – Servy Jun 1 '12 at 14:37
  • 2
    @JohnSmith I recall telling you, in very polite way to ask that on SO, and you flat out ignored me. – Etienne de Martel Jun 3 '12 at 20:33
  • 1
    The C++ lounge has seen tiring and exhaustive math discussions. None of those who asked behaved as badly as you did, though. – sbi Jun 3 '12 at 20:47
  1. The room itself is rather hostile, I do agree to that. Remember, the chatrooms aren't really for answering questions, SO is for that.
  2. You used the vague word "cycle". It's not googleable, returns too much noise. Someone would have to search "permutation cycle" to get it. You didn't mention that until much later.
  3. You could've just given them links when they asked for them. Not too hard. It's easier for you to Google it and give them links, you already know what it is, it's easy. They don't, so they can't Google it as easily as you can. Some of them were initially trying to help-- when people try to help you, please don't be arrogant with them.
  4. There was some mistaken identity, which may have turned some of the members against you from the start.

Finally, it wasn't a mod but an automatic process which banned you due to some flags that were probably reviewed out-of-context. Not sure of this, though.

| improve this answer | |
  • I explicitly mentioned more than "cycle." From the start I mentioned partitions, cycles, and permutations in the same context (in the transcript you will see Konrad understood that this was more than just "cycle" without having known it before and Googled it fine). I was not being vague. Points 1, 3 I agree with. Point 4 is part of my complaint. – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:36
  • 1
    @JohnSmith: (2) My main point still holds: what's so hard about giving them links? (4) Well, I sympathize with you about point 4--fact is, we do get lots of socks--and these guys must have had a bad case of sockpuppeteering in their room recently. After having dealt with lots of socks, the flaggers probably tend to get a bit more aggressive, less patient to investigate/wait more. You were collateral damage :\ – Manishearth Jun 1 '12 at 14:41
  • Next time I just won't ask questions in the chat room. :/ – John Smith Jun 1 '12 at 14:44
  • 3
    @JohnSmith: Yeah, it's better that way. I mean, you can ask, but don't push it if they don't want to answer. Asking questions is fine in many chats, and not-so-fine in others. It's up to the members if they feel up to answering :) – Manishearth Jun 1 '12 at 14:45
  • We had a case of sockpuppetry which involved two user names with "Smith" as their last name (as well as other user names) mere minutes before John arrived. He was accused of being just another instance, defended himself, and was acquitted immediately by some regulars who remembered him. As far as I had seen, the case was closed and nobody based their opinion about John based on that anymore. He did provide other evidence enough to base a negative opinion on, after all. – sbi Jun 3 '12 at 22:03
  • 1
    Oh, and if you think the C++ room is hostile, you should try hanging out at meta. :) – sbi Jun 3 '12 at 22:03
  • 3
    @JohnSmith: See, and I don't care whether you care. It happened, the one(s) who did it apologized, I already said I am sorry it happened, and I also said I don't think there was a need to employ any prejudices which might have been left over from that. Of course, you are certainly free to keep whining about it, but, again, we are under no obligation to react to that in any way. – sbi Jun 4 '12 at 13:08
  • @sbi Thanks for proving my point. – John Smith Jun 4 '12 at 13:11
  • 1
    @JohnSmith: I am now sorry I wasted the time to write down my POV of this issue for you to consider. You don't seem to be of the considering kind. – sbi Jun 5 '12 at 8:47
  • @sbi Yes, likewise. – John Smith Jun 5 '12 at 13:13

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .