I don't know Hans Passant, but he's the 5th highest rep user on SO, and I'm sure that's no fluke. He clearly is very active and knows what he's talking about.

His answer to the question at VB.NET - Interrupt form loop and end form did not satisfy the OP. He asked for the answer to be accepted and the OP declined. So what?

In steps Reddit. Someone made this post linking to an image of the "offending" comment (image at https://i.sstatic.net/qznWu.jpg, comment has been deleted in what I assume was an attempt to end the onslaught of downvotes).

This reddit is the top post on /r/programming, which is read by quite a few people. Hans got -70 votes (he just deleted his answer), a mediocre question got 26 upvotes, and a mediocre answer got 41 upvotes.

Is this fair? Is there anything we can do to restore some of Hans's lost rep, or right the balance of the SO universe? It seems like the users who engaged in mob behavior abused their ability to vote down.

  • 8
    The rep will be restored now that @Bill the Lizard deleted the answer (He didn't delete it himself.) I note that Reddit seems to have quite an obsession with Stack Overflow?
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 3:58
  • 2
    @Pekka particularly with posting questions and answers that represent the worst aspects of our community, not the best (trolls, rude comments, stupid questions, stupid answers). Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 4:01
  • 56
    Haters gonna hate. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 4:04
  • 36
    Hum. A trite answer to a question where the user obviously has no idea what he's doing. Encouraging the user to ask a question that's been asked before on SO isn't all that great an idea either. Yeah, good riddance. However, proper respect to Mr. Passant for refraining from posting a "why the downvotes?" comment.
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 4:35
  • 17
    Hans can get his rep back easily enough; it's much more ridiculous that a post has the second-highest score of all posts over the last week because somebody complained on Reddit. People focus on posts with too many downvotes, but having a disparate number of upvotes causes problems too Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 5:05
  • 17
    good trick to get a "peer pressure" badge Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 9:34
  • 2
    You know, until now I automatically assumed that Hans was asking for his answer to be marked. However, in rereading what he said, "this one" could be interpreted to mean "this answer" or "this question."
    – Robaticus
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 13:28
  • @Michael: I'd say that it's even worse that an answer that uses a function (DoEvents) that Microsoft cautions you to avoid (msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/…) has a score of 73. The answer might be fine for this situation, but a score that high might imply to future readers that it's a really great answer.
    – ho1
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 16:19
  • @ho1 Sure, but just leave a comment about it on the answer Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 16:21
  • @Michael: Just doing that now :)
    – ho1
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 16:21
  • 1
    @Michael - For another example of too-high voting, see the top question in the [iphone] tag: stackoverflow.com/questions/209170/… , which was propelled there by one mention by John Gruber. I'm not even sure that it's ontopic. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 18:25
  • @Brad Wow. I'm pretty sure that's not on-topic at all Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 18:55
  • 2
    @Brad WOAH.. 1k rep and 3 gold badges just for asking one subjective and extremely short question, which I also agree is off topic.
    – user50049
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 19:15
  • 3
    @systempuntoout a gold peer pressure badge(if there is one)
    – abel
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 20:43
  • 1
    @abel this should get a platinum one! :)
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 22:30

7 Answers 7


I'm not going to defend the overall hostility of the comments, which Hans has already apologized for, but one thing bears mentioning, and that is that several people here seem to have thoroughly misunderstood the meaning of one his comments.

People, please, if you don't know what an idiom means, look it up instead of guessing:

pay the piper

to accept the unpleasant results of something you have done | pay the price
After fooling around for most of the semester, now he has to pay the piper and study over vacation

There is no way, no how, that he actually meant "accept my answer" by "pay the piper". It just doesn't make idiomatic sense. And considering that the top-voted answer in this question thread uses precisely such an interpretation, it's indicative of the fact that several people got the wrong idea.

It's plain as day to me what he actually meant. The comment meant, "If you insist on doing this the wrong way (using DoEvents to mimic an asynchronous task) then you have to deal with the negative consequences (requiring extra code to stop the task or else having the application hang). That's it. And speaking as a Winforms developer of... many years, I can attest to that being completely, 100% correct.

Again, I'm not defending the overall tone of those comments or the answer itself, but the assumption people seem to be making here - that he was demanding his answer be accepted before he would offer any more help - is completely and unequivocally wrong.

Pretty sure that a lot of the reddit folks weren't familiar with the expression either and downvoted on the same wild and false assumption.

  • 18
    A good illustration of why using English idioms on an International site can come back and bite you. (See what I did there?)
    – ale
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 23:23
  • 1
    No doubt about that, @AlE. A few times I've received confused comments because I used an expression that somebody on the other side of the globe wasn't familiar with. Never downvotes, though, and especially not mass downvotes; the timing and placement of that particular idiom was rather unfortunate - but not malicious or self-serving, IMO.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 23:26
  • 30
    Thank you for this post. I assumed Hans was the piper, and he threatens to steal the OP's children.
    – Kobi
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 9:30
  • 5
    @AlEverett So just because you disagree with the answer you think it's OK to bite the author? Disappointing. Wait till Reddit hears about this.
    – user200500
    Commented Aug 26, 2013 at 21:59

IMHO, he should not bug the OP to accept the answer. SO is a place where knowledgeable and experienced people help out others in need. If you answer it in a way that it creates another question, then the answer is not good enough. So, if the answerer does not want to give more detail to his answer, no problem, it's all voluntary.

BUT, he should not bug OP to accept answer. There is a line between being politely asking to accept the answer and rudeness, which the answerer somehow crossed. It can be asked politely but not in the way "You have to pay the piper. Your loss, good luck sorting this out by yourself."

And yes, once you are on Reddit for wrong reasons, expect the s**t to hit the fan.

  • 24
    This is not about getting the mark to improve some score. This is about some basic respect for getting free professional help, and the check mark is a symbol for that. If it turns out that the OP has an entirely separate question, it is fair to ask them to start a new one. SO users don't have an obligation to make the asker a happy customer. If the asker denies that basic courtesy - remember, it is them who want something! - it is fair, in polite words of course, to tell them to go screw themselves. Now the style in which this was done was not a good one, but the basic point still stands.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 12:02
  • 16
    I don't think Hans's "That's a very different question, don't hesitate to ask it after marking this one answered" really asked for accepting his answer (even though there was only a single answer at the time of that comment).
    – Arjan
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 12:12
  • 2
    @Pekka, I completely agree with you on the basic point. Also, being polite always saves the trouble. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 12:13
  • @shamit re being polite: yes, that is undoubtedly true.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 12:14
  • 26
    @Arjan, it was the next comment, "You have to pay the piper though. Your loss, good luck sorting this out by yourself." which went over the edge. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 12:15
  • 5
    Even the "You have to pay the piper though", to me, does not sound like "Give me the reputation" if that is what it sounds like to you? To me, it still refers to changing the question after someone answered the previous one. But I cannot look inside Hans's head of course. (And surely I am not a .Net expert, so don't even know if Hans's answer did answer the first question. A comment by the OP to the accepted answer kind of tells me it did though: "I was originally asking if [...] but it sounds like this isn't possible." But again, I'm not a .Net expert.)
    – Arjan
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 12:59
  • 23
    Look, you don't have to re-iterate that it was a dumb comment. It's clear to everybody, including me. I already concluded that posting to SO after killing a 6-pack while making the pancakes isn't a smart thing to do. But please, at least quote the comment in full. Leaving out the last part makes it unnecessarily sound more inflammatory. It makes this a popular post but not a very balanced one. It makes it a reddit post. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 13:00
  • 2
    I don't see why it's wrong to answer a question in a way that creates another question, that's often the best way of teaching someone something rather than giving them a finished solution that they might not even understand and just implement blindly.
    – ho1
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 16:15
  • 1
    @ho1: The answer itself was worded in a way which sounded superior. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 20:41
  • @Andrew: I was disagreeing with a bit of shamittomar's answer that seems to be generic rather than specific to Hans' answer. Regarding Hans' actual answer, I can't say that I find it superior or derogatory, but this might be because I'm not a native English speaker. Though I agree that the answer is terse and I wouldn't have voted it up.
    – ho1
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 6:16
  • 5
    Not that it's going to make any difference at this point, but I've downvoted this answer because it makes an entirely false assumption. He never bugged the OP to accept his answer. That is a major misinterpretation/misrepresentation of his statements. He was tactless, and that's worthy of criticism, but this particular answer is criticizing something that never occurred.
    – Aarobot
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 18:30
  • 1
    Since what you're complaining about never happened, your entire post is useless and counterproductive. You and your upvoters need to make sure you have a clue what you're talking about before joining in the dogpile.
    – Brad Mace
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 22:03
  • 3
    -1 for being absolutely completely wrong.
    – TRiG
    Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 16:31

Developer Art thinks I should apologize and I agree. I am deeply sorry for posting such a horrible and insensitive comment. This is not something I normally do, I almost always try to work with the questioner to get to a resolution, often through a long comment trail. Yesterday was not a great day, I'd like to forget it soon and hope everybody will let me.

Having one of the lowest downvote rates of the top users at SO is something I hold dear and I will remember to not again put that in jeopardy. Kindly focus on my achievements at SO instead of the one-time stupid slip-up of a crabby and tired contributor. And my personal apology to Phil. In the end he got an answer that was helpful to him, I trust that this restores his confidence in SO as a place to get help, my regrettable behavior not withstanding.

  • 4
    Glad to see you've come to your senses. It's a right thing to do. Though I'm not sure your appeal reaches the OP. Might go an extra mile of writing him directly or as an alternative responding in public directly on Reddit.
    – user136634
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 15:50
  • 22
    Hmya, I'll never live this down. Humbly asking isn't enough. I'm going to nurture that bad boy image for a while, trying to be a reputable hard-working SO contributor hasn't done much for me. I'll start with you: go find somebody else's chain to jerk. Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 16:57
  • 6
    You definitely do have an attitude problem and an ego high as the sky.
    – user136634
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 18:27
  • 11
    @Developer: No, no... Only a proper pilgrimage will do. On his knees. In the snow. hands Hans a black leather jacket
    – Shog9
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 18:38
  • 2
    To the Pope!
    – mmyers
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 19:15
  • 17
    I’m a bit late to the game but let me just say that your answer was 100% appropriate even if the comments weren’t (but they weren’t too bad either). I find it infuriating that a technologically sound answer got first downvoted into oblivion and then deleted because some morons decide that they disagree, despite being ignorant about the subject matter. The current state of the question is disappointing. The OP was given a fish, rather than being taught how to fish. SO bows to Reddit. How very uplifting. Commented Jan 30, 2011 at 18:58
  • 12
    I agree with Konrad; it's disappointing the reactions of many SO users posting answers/comments here. Nothing to do with Reddit. As a native English speaker, I struggle to find anything arrogant, insulting, offensive, or inappropriate in either Hans's answer or comments. Terse and not as helpful as they could have been, perhaps. Showing signs of frustration that the OP didn't necessarily deserve, perhaps. But nothing justifying the interpretation of many SO users posting here, nor the onslaught of downvotes for a technically accurate and insightful answer. Commented Feb 1, 2011 at 4:05
  • 3
    @Hans: Cheer up.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Feb 1, 2011 at 8:43

To be clear, I don't support mob justice, but there was some validity to the complaint in this case.

  • 46
    The comment was out of order, but I'm a bit astonished by your lack of support for your #5 user who has been attacked by a random mob looking for some cheap self-righteous entertainment.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 11:55
  • 5
    @Pekka, SO mods have deleted the answer and he will get back the lost reputation points. I think it's pretty fair. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 12:11
  • 10
    @shamit the points are not what I mean.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 12:37
  • 15
    Who votes, if not the mob?
    – Greg
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 14:43
  • 10
    @Pekka: The comment AND the answer was out of order... "Remove the DoEvents() call from your code. That will make the UI freeze, now you start thinking about BackgroundWorker."... While it points in the proper direction, it really comes out as an insult. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 19:18

enter image description here

  • 2
    Could not fit them all, 25 total. Well, Jeff thought there was some validity to it, can't complain I guess. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 10:11
  • 8
    I'd hope you agree there was some validity to downvoting your original answer. What you post here is "serial downvoting", it will be corrected by a nightly script, or you can contact the moderators and they will remove the downvotes.
    – Andomar
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 10:16
  • 28
    @Andomar - There was not, it was a good answer. There was no hint whatsoever in the OP that DoEvents was the cause, I figured it out without it. The comment was dumb, it should have been flagged as offensive. Judging an answer by whomever posted it instead of its merit is fundamentally wrong. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 10:27
  • 3
    @Hans Passant: You had a bad day. Serial downvoting is seriously wrong. But, everyone of us knows how Reddit works. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 11:10
  • 46
    @sham - I got 100 downvotes from SO users, not reddit users. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 11:34
  • 21
    I don't think there was any validity to downvoting the original answer. I get angry when people leverage their "check mark power" to milk follow-up answers that weren't part of the original question, too. That doesn't mean the comment was okay, but there wasn't anything remotely in it to justify this kind of random mob violence.
    – Pekka
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 11:35
  • 1
    Related "checkmark blackmailing" issue, where a user came back with a new question a month later: Removed accepted answer… what about the reputation?
    – Arjan
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 12:15
  • 2
    @Hans Passant: Imho, you really should not point a beginning VB developer to multi-threading. That is "unhelpful".
    – Andomar
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 13:15
  • 7
    @Pekka, I'd hardly describe down voting as 'violence', if only to avoid desensitizing the term's literal meaning.
    – user50049
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 13:23
  • 8
    @Andomar - re-read the answer. I quite explicitly recommended commenting out DoEvents. And merely suggested to "start thinking". On what planet is that not good advice to a beginning developer? Attack me for the offensive comment, but please leave me a shred of dignity on my expertise. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 13:24
  • 23
    There's some serious irony behind this. All these downvotes were for old answers, it pushed them back to the home page. Where they got upvoted 8 times already. Even got a Nice Answer badge for one of them. It pays to be notorious. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 14:15
  • 2
    IMO, the combination of the answer/comment was decidedly "not useful".
    – Greg
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 14:42
  • 1
    @Hans Passant: The suggestion for multi-threading might have been in the comment. I'm really just having a break from work with coffee, a waffle, and some Stack Overflow. If that is "shredding dignity", that must be a good thing ;)
    – Andomar
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 14:47
  • How do downvotes push answers back to home page?
    – user138231
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 15:58
  • 13
    if you are still seeing random downvote patterns in 24-36 hours email me and I will fix it. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 21:08
  1. There is value in the learning process. Saying, "Take this out, then try and understand what's happening" is not a bad thing, but it's not an answer. At best that was a comment posted as an answer.
  2. There is value in posting a quick almost-answer/hint to a question to help the person get started, even if one knows one won't be able to elaborate further later. Getting a clue within 2 minutes of posting a question is just awesome.
  3. Demanding that one vote and/or accept a particular way with the implication that the person making the demands has the answer, and will not provide further help until their demands are met is deserving of at least a few thousand downvotes due to poor behavior.
  4. Being able to retract what one says due to community disapproval, and knowing that the downvotes ultimately won't count, is obviously very nice.

The first two steps are ok. The third was wrong, and the fourth is the community's existing solution to the problem of mob downvoting.

In other words, the system handled both problems beautifully.

  • Can't be said in better words. :) Very good answer. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 20:36
  • True to character :)
    – Tobu
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 22:59
  • 7
    #3 did not happen
    – Brad Mace
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 22:33
  • 1
    @BradMace - did too. OP asked "how do I do this". He was told how to do "this", using approach X. (in a very poor way, but that's beside the point). OP decided "Oh, I actually SHOULD have asked 'how do I do this without approach X'". Which was NOT the original question. Changing OQ in a way that invalidates an existing answer is discouraged on SO, and a CORRECT approach is to ask a new version in a new Q. Instead, OP stated "I won't accept to reward your effort till you answer my new separate question asked via a comment". That's #3
    – DVK
    Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 21:22

I just looked at the screenshot at reddit and what... people I'm just shocked.

A user with 130K reputation did this???

Clearly that large figure got into his head. You just don't do things like this.

That's not just arrogant and rude, it's offensive and insulting. That probably touched the OP deeply. How deep is shown through this reddit post - not a light wound. And that I can understand.

While I'm earning much reputation I question it even more every day: "Do I really deserve it?". The more I get the more humble I learn to be for I learn more of how much I don't know.

That's the thing Hans could also try - being humble.

The comments were extremely arrogant and unbecoming of a user with that much reputation. Clearly it shows that those numbers mean nothing. As the primer says, reputation is a reflection of one's communication skills - hardly in this case.

The attitude is a reason enough not to hire that guy - even with 130K worth of reputation.

And what bugs me most in the whole story, is that after all Hans didn't even come to the idea of... apologizing to the guy. Saying something like "Sorry it was a bad call on my side, don't know what came up on me, I'm truly sorry, please come back to SO and I will help you and provide assistance to the best of my abilities". That would be the right thing to do. But it never happened. And that not doing alone says more of the person than those initial comments.

As to restoring the reputation lost in the mob action - I would recommend to Jeff to cut that rep in half - 50% off for the improper behavior and for the loss of SO reputation out there. A lesson needs to be taught.


After Hans had made a populist move to sort of apologize, here's a fresh word from our "Most tactful":

enter image description here

Hans, you do need professional help. Stop wasting time on SO and use time to take some basic social skills lessons. You sure need them.

  • 8
    Meh...Everyone has a bad day. I imagine Hans will think twice about it the next time.
    – user102937
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 21:09
  • 14
    Imho you are exaggerating a little bit (ok, a lot), everyone could have a crappy day c'mon and nobody deserves to be crucified in such way. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 21:15
  • 3
    But that everyone could also apologize.
    – user136634
    Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 21:35
  • 5
    People on reddit expressing their protest -- they seemed very deeply hurt. Commented Jan 24, 2011 at 23:11
  • 16
    I'll never understand why people think good information is insulting. He didn't say "your mother is ugly and dresses you funny". He told him what he was doing wrong, and gave him an avenue of approach to take to fix it. The OP was just too lazy to want to do any research and work based on that. Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 17:49
  • 23
    Do you seriously think that telling a stranger he "need[s] professional help" and "basic social skills" is more polite, civilized or mature than the one line that caused all this?
    – jscs
    Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 3:30

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