A snarky co-worker has tracked down my Stack Overflow identity, and now I don't want to post any more questions on Stack Overflow for fear this person will either start hassling me directly about my "ignorance" or go to my boss and start bad mouthing me.

I'm looking for suggestions on how to deal with this. The only way would seem to be to dump my old Stack Exchange ID and get a new one, but I'd rather not lose my rep points, which I'm actually kind of proud of. Is there a way around this?

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    Are you experiencing such problems, or is it all hypothetical? – Bart Dec 19 '13 at 17:13
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    Don't ask questions that you would be embarrassed for your boss to find out about? If he is hassling you about things that honestly aren't bad, then just don't let it bother you. If he's hassling you about doing things that you really shouldn't be doing, then...don't do those things you shouldn't be doing. – Servy Dec 19 '13 at 17:13
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    It's stackoverflow, not facebook. What are you worried about? "He asked about prototypal javascript he's not competent to work here!" – Sterling Archer Dec 19 '13 at 17:13
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    This is not hypothetical, this is somebody I've tangled with before and he has to be "right" about everything. And no, I'm not doing anything I shouldn't be doing, I ask questions about stuff I don't know, that I need to understand to do my job. I just don't want this clown going to my management and saying "look at the ignorant questions this boob is asking - you should get rid of him." – user232247 Dec 19 '13 at 17:15
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    Wouldn't this be an issue to be raised with your employer rather than Stack Overflow? Seeing as there's little that SO can do.... – Pekka Dec 19 '13 at 17:16
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    Can't said employee see this as well? Not to mention if you really are asking simple questions you should know for your job, isn't that kind of bad? – Sterling Archer Dec 19 '13 at 17:17
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    @user1071914 If the questions demonstrate an appropriate level of understanding of concepts you should be familiar with, demonstrate appropriate effort, are well/clearly asked, are reasonable questions to have, and asking them has provided demonstrable value to your business, etc. Then he'll be the one who looks like an idiot bringing such an issue to management. You should be proud of the questions you've asked and be happy to show them to management yourself. – Servy Dec 19 '13 at 17:17
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    How can your coworker prove that it's your user?, I mean, he could just choose the worst SO user and say it's you for what it's worth – Lamak Dec 19 '13 at 17:25
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    SeanWM posted what SE can actually do in this case. But you really need to find more competent ways to deal with your problems at work. Usually bosses are more competent than to fire employees when coworkers complain about them. – djechlin Dec 19 '13 at 17:30
  • I'm curious what solutions there are to this, since this can broadly apply to any kind of stalking and harassment. This is one of the bad parts of the internet/real-life that websites frequently do a poor job of helping users manage. – Keen Dec 19 '13 at 17:50
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    Tempted to flag this for migration to The Workplace. – Esoteric Screen Name Dec 19 '13 at 18:25
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    Create a sockpuppet for questions that embarrass you. – user1228 Dec 19 '13 at 19:48
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    If you live on the East Coast, I know people in Jersey who can help you get rid of him. LMK. – Johnny Bones Dec 19 '13 at 20:43

I just don't want this clown going to my management and saying "look at the ignorant questions this boob is asking - you should get rid of him

That is a genuine consideration, however there is the flip side to that.
What is the "management" like? When I was a manager, had someone come to me and "reported" such activity I'd have frowned on him more for being a grass (unless there was good reason and you are bad at some things - bad security approach in code etc).

So the flip side is to say to your "boss"

I know my job and am good at it, but the world changes, technology changes and by reading and asking I'm keeping up with the times.
The "other bloke" (who reported) cannot know everything, so where I ask professionals on a site to get the best practice possible so my code and approach is of a high standard, what does the other bloke do when he doesn't know how to do something? Just guess? Do some bad code and avoid anyone seeing them asking questions?
Also, if he never asks, as I do, how does he learn new standards and improved technologies? For example, in PHP with the version updates, they release new and/or improved libraries which need to be researched and learned in order to use them within the workplace. A prime example is over the last X years OOP in PHP has gone from being a clunky hack-like usage to being part of the core libraries.


There's always two ways to skin a cat. You seem confident, and is right you are asking pros on Stack to learn new things and check you're following best practices and industry standard methods.
Just relay that to your colleague and see what they say.

If all else fails and they report to your boss, just be confident and explain you know your job very well but everyone needs to remain up to date, and if the other bloke isn't then maybe he needs evaluating...

If you're really that bothered, and think your current account has been successfully identified, then make a new one where you give nothing away.
There are millions of users on SO, it would be laughable if someone suggested one was you without clear evidence.


I found a couple links that might help you:

If you explain the situation, they might merge your data to the new account.

To answer the first part, I don't see a reason why he'd hassle you and/or go to your boss unless of course you're:

  • Giving out company information
  • Bad mouthing the company and/or coworkers

Besides that, who cares what he (co-worker) thinks.

  • Points can be carried over. – fredley Dec 19 '13 at 17:17
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    @fredley One of the problems with that, though, is that the posts that gave him the reputation would have to be associated with the new account in order for it to transfer over. Then he's back in the position of having all the same questions associated with his new account, and nothing has been achieved other than an ID change. – animuson Dec 19 '13 at 17:18
  • Account deletion requested. – user232247 Dec 19 '13 at 17:23
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    @user1071914 Booooo! Stand up to this bully and defend your right to seek information and knowledge from the Internet community. – Duncan Jones Dec 19 '13 at 17:24
  • @user1071914 before you delete the account, check my update. maybe you want to try to merge instead. – SeanWM Dec 19 '13 at 17:34

Why would you stop posting because of what someone thinks ?

Take a look at what I asked. Now that I look at it I think I could have thought about it a little more but the point is, we all start somewhere and no one (almost) is always asking good questions.

You can change account if you want using Shawn's tips but I highly doubt this would be helpful, as if he finds out you changed account because of him, it might become even worst (yeah that's how bullies work).

Stand up to him, you have the right to seek knowledge online and ask the question you want and if you're getting in trouble because of a question you asked online, change job man you deserve better than a bully boss too.

Also is this stalking user using Stack Overflow to stalk you (with his profile). If he does and if he bugs you on the site, you can always flag his non-constructive comments and explain your point in the Other section because I'm sure this kind of behavior isn't accepted here.


As a manager I exhort the people who work with me to use Stack Exchange and Stack Overflow in particular. I have learnt so much from answering questions on here that I would never have learnt on my own, and certainly wouldn't have been taught. It's actually reached the stage where the people I work with Google their problems, as they should before asking for help, and find my Stack Overflow answers, which solve their problem.

That's fantastic.

If being better at your job, being of more use to your clients, helping your co-workers, solving queries quicker by asking a question or helping the wider world is a bad thing then be scared of your co-worker. I don't think any of them are bad. I think they're amazing (and I'm a negative, sarcastic, ****, so that means something).

Asking decent questions shows an ability to succinctly describe and analyse a problem that is pretty rare. It's certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Be proud of your contribution to the world in general, your company and your own betterment and forget the co-worker.


It sounds like this coworker is creating a hostile work environment - to the point that fear of his harassment is harming your ability to do your job. This is the sort of thing that bosses generally want to be made aware of. You don't have to make it a big thing - just find an emotionally neutral time, grab a closed-door discussion with your boss, and let him know your concerns. The let your boss handle it. Keep using SO in a reasonable way and stop worrying about what this person thinks.


In all seriousness, I don't really know anyone who would hold your quest for more knowledge against you. As I said in another similar post, I've been on several interviews where I was asked something like, "If you have a question about how to code something, and none of your co-workers were available, what would you do?" The answer they weren't looking for is "Wait around for one of them to be available".

If you're completing your tasks on time and no one is complaining about your work (except this one person), don't get yourself worked up over it. One day that person will complain once too often and he'll be the one who has to worry about his job, because no one likes a whiner. Just do what you do, ask your questions, be helpful to your co-workers and you'll be fine.

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    There are plenty of low quality questions on SO. Were I a supervisor and I found out about a direct report's SO profile and found great questions I'd be very happy, were I to find poor quality questions demonstrating a lack of understanding of core concepts they ought to know about given their position and experience, it could well be an indication of a real problem. SO is practically founded on the idea that there really are bad questions. (For the record, this is not a commentary on the OP questions; it's merely hypothetical.) – Servy Dec 19 '13 at 21:20
  • I guess I've just been fortunate enough to have had managers who instilled an attitude of, "The only bad question is the one you didn't ask". And I've asked some really bad questions, both here and at places of employment. Every work environment is different, though. – Johnny Bones Dec 19 '13 at 21:23

I think it is a given that, in any field, there will always be problems that you encounter that you won't immediately be able to solve yourself. It might be a new technology or situation you haven't encountered before, or simply an unusual twist in an otherwise routine task. Whatever the case, your competency in your chosen field isn't about being able to avoid these situations, it is about having the experience and flexibility to find a solution to a problem you haven't encountered before.

Stack Overflow, and other the other Stack Exchange sites, are just another avenue (among many) for finding solutions to problems. It would be professionally irresponsible to not try to solve your problem (by, for example, glossing over the issue), and using Stack Overflow is a perfectly legitimate means of coming up with a solution.

In short, I think Stack Overflow can be a vital tool for a professional and competent programmer, and this other person who is giving you a hard time is essentially complaining that you're doing your job. Don't be ashamed to use Stack Overflow as part of your job - I do almost every day.

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