"Is it acceptable to shoot people if they annoy you?"

Well, that's not exactly what was asked, but it's pretty close. And then people write serious answers saying "No, that's not ok at all" - as if it's not trivial.

Is it just me or is that question and its answers kind of farcical?

  • 7
    It seems that at the very least, the professor who wrote the webpage that is the subject of that question thought it was OK...
    – ff524
    Dec 4, 2018 at 20:00
  • @ff524: Are you hinting at what I think you're hinting? :-)
    – einpoklum
    Dec 4, 2018 at 20:04
  • 6
    I wasn't hinting at anything. All I meant is that what is trivial to many, is not trivial to all.
    – ff524
    Dec 4, 2018 at 20:08
  • @ff524: I thought you meant to suggest that maybe the poster of the question is the Professor who wrote the blog post, who was feeling some pangs of guilt...
    – einpoklum
    Dec 4, 2018 at 21:36
  • 2
    @einpoklum Interesting you might entertain that, I had thought the opposite, that this person was disgusted with this professor for this or another reason and made the post to shame and draw attention to them...
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 5, 2018 at 23:20
  • 12
    This is a rather ironic post considering this question is a rant in disguise.
    – tox123
    Dec 7, 2018 at 1:25
  • @tox123: On the contrary, that's part of what's annoying me about it.
    – einpoklum
    Dec 7, 2018 at 8:34
  • 1
    @einpoklum I think 'this question' means 'your question'. Dec 16, 2018 at 12:42
  • 1
    @henning: My question is a rant without a disguise. I did say "discussion" and "I'm annoyed". But point taken.
    – einpoklum
    Dec 16, 2018 at 13:16
  • 1
    There is also a comment under StrongBad's answer by one Peter A. Schneider saying "I think making fun of students who are that stupid is entirely acceptable;". While I sincerely hope this user is joking, it may be not so clear to all that one should not mock their students (and not call them "stupid").
    – Haque
    Dec 17, 2018 at 23:41

4 Answers 4


Is it just me or is that question and its answers kind of farcical?

It’s just you.

To wit, one of the posted answers, posted by a well-known professor from the US, actually tries to downplay the severity of the online shaming described in the question, saying it is in “bad taste” but very pointedly refusing to denounce it as anything to get excited or particularly upset about. That answer currently has 16 upvotes. So, it’s not just in countries in Europe where there’s a history of professors behaving in a condescending and bullying manner towards students, as Massimo explained in his answer, that there are people for whom the answer to the question “is it acceptable?” is very much not obvious.

The question is not just a valid question but in fact a good question, and StrongBad’s answer with its upwards of 300 votes, far from being farcical, does a good service to the community by making it clear (to those relatively few people who apparently need it to be made clear to them) where the vast majority of people stand on this.


In a comment now moved to chat, I wrote this:

It should be said, however, that in some countries this kind of public shaming happens sometimes during public oral exams. For instance my country is filled with horror stories of students publicly humiliated for a wrong answer, especially in certain fields like the humanities and medicine. And when I was a student I certainly witnessed a few episodes myself.

Maybe my short comment doesn't give enough idea of the level of shaming that happened, and probably still happens in some cases, but my main point is: There are professors who think that this is perfectly acceptable behaviour, and so the question is not a farce.

And, well, an excellent answer would be one capable of convincing that professor that such a behaviour is not ok.

  • Your county, meaning Italy? Also, while I realize the Professor who had published the blog hails from a culture where this is inappropriate, the question poster is targeting an international crowd, and I have the impression s/he knew full well that it is inappropriate.
    – einpoklum
    Dec 5, 2018 at 13:46
  • @einpoklum Italy, but not only. Dec 5, 2018 at 13:47
  • 1
    @einpoklum In fact, the example from the question is not from Italy. Dec 5, 2018 at 13:48
  • 6
    @einpoklum That professor seems to be in France, a country which, as far as I know, had its share of "horror" stories in universities too. Dec 5, 2018 at 13:51

Yes. When I answered the question it had a score of -1. When I read the question I thought it was pretty reasonable: I think this is inappropriate, but want to crowd source to make sure I am not crazy. My answer was basically a throw away answer of yeah, don't do that. Then it hit the HNQ and I now have a new highest upvoted answer.

Hopefully it will fall off the HNQ soon and it will disappear into obscurity and we will have another piece of evidence that the HNQ does not really promote good stuff.

The only real downside is a few users (including me) picked up 400 points of easy rep.

Overall I don't think the question, or my answer, or any of the other answers is a farce. I think it is simply the voting that got out of hand because of the HNQ.

Also a better answer would have addressed the legal issues and GDPR and the use of first name, last initial and providing the class year, and then probably concluded that it is not acceptable to shoot people.

  • 2
    I asdked "is it X or Y?" And your answer is "Yes"...
    – einpoklum
    Dec 4, 2018 at 21:35
  • 3
    @einpoklum and I stand by my answer ;) It kind of is farcical and it kind of is not farcical.
    – StrongBad
    Dec 4, 2018 at 21:37

The answer to the question is demonstrably not an obvious or trivial one, given the site that was referred to and the frequency with which one sees academics mocking the silly answers of their students.

Moreover, I'm not aware of any reason for which a question being a simple one justifies closing it.

Sure, it's not the best moment in the history of the site, but I don't see any reason to get worked up about getting rid of it.

  • 2
    I gues it must be the best moment in history if it gets a +309 upvote answer. I'm gonna go on math.stackexchange.com next and ask "My Professor said 2+2 = 5, is that wrong?" ...
    – einpoklum
    Dec 6, 2018 at 14:26
  • 5
    @einpoklum as I said - the answer is demonstrably not obvious to all.
    – Flyto
    Dec 6, 2018 at 14:53
  • 6
    @einpoklum Well, Math.SE does have this highly upvoted question...
    – Anyon
    Dec 6, 2018 at 19:51
  • 3
    @Anyon Thanks, that question was a lot of fun :)
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 6, 2018 at 21:12
  • @einpoklum in certain forms of math, high values of two indeed would equal five.
    – user94036
    Dec 9, 2018 at 6:14

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