This is the first time we've had to deal with this, so I'd like to lay it out there (as well giving the user a chance to respond.

User johne has posted three questions on the site, all of which have generated significant controversy and lots of mod requests.

The first one was about the parity lower bound, and became an unusually long question about the difference between EE and CS regarding the importance of circuits.

The second appeared to be a complaint about the use of contradiction/diagonalization in the proof of the halting theorem, and was closed for lack of clarity and concern about whether the concept of a contradiction was itself being called into question.

The third question to my mind seemed more genuine, asking if there were any constructive (my rephrasing) proofs of the Halting theoreom, but has since devolved (in comments) into a bit of a mud-slinging war. The one legitimate answer provided appears to have generated very little response from the user.

In addition, the user also answered a question about DLOGTIME and NLOGTIME with what appeared to be another discussion about differences between the VLSI community vs the TCS community, which I feel is not relevant or helpful.

This is the first time we've had such an issue come up, and I'd like to discuss how we should proceed. I was loathe to make this about the user (and not just about the questions), but I believe there is a sufficient pattern to warrant a discussion here. In each case, the specific issue can be resolved at the source itself using standard methods (downvoting/closing) so maybe there's nothing to discuss.

  • $\begingroup$ Can johne respond to this? He might lack the rep. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ you need 5 rep to participate in meta, and 50 rep to comment. johne currently has 92 rep and should be able to participate. I've also linked to this thread at the third question comment feed. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ His latest question cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/3852/… is particularly long with extremely technical details, but is essentially attempting to prove P=NP by reducing 3SAT to CVP. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ He seems very energetic! How can someone type so much? Is he copy-pasting material? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2010 at 2:05

6 Answers 6


Dijkstra once said that if you can spend 20 minutes to save each of your readers 1 minute, then it is polite to do so if you expect at least 20 readers. Johne is not impolite in the usual sense, but he is impolite in Dijkstra's sense. The long-winded questions take a very long time to read and they could be made more focused with more effort on his part. More annoyingly, he seems to not really listen to the answers he receives, to the point that it looks as if he asks questions to teach rather than learn.

I hope he will listen to what others say about his behavior.

If not, then I wish there was a way to ignore users. I'm not a big fan of banning users and related measures.


User @johne writes unusually longwinded questions/replies, and seems to lack basic etiquette that a forum like this requires.

I normally would have answered at least a one of questions you mention except that my reply would have been masked by all the noise that @johne seems to bring along. Others may have felt likewise and not responded and this can be a big problem, especially if the user starts "answering" lots of questions.

Let us hope the standard methods can take care of these situations. We will have to revisit if the user continues to add irrelevant comments to the other threads/questions and generally "pollute" the site.

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    $\begingroup$ I wish that we do not have to appeal to etiquette because it differs from person to person. I agree about “Let us hope the standard methods can take care of these situations.” $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 14:43

Hi, I just wanted to venture that the following might be helpful:


Even though the intention of this research was originally descriptive, it seems that these maxims are what the StackExchange sites are evolving to organically in their FAQs.

So in this particular case, the problematic user seems to have violated the Maxim of Quantity in particular, with other problems in the Maxims of Manner. At least this will help us name what he is doing so we can get a better grip on the problem.

Maybe there could be some mention of these in the FAQ to help users create better questions.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. I had never heard of these before. While I'm not personally inclined to place such firm strictures on the discussions here, it's a good model to organize our thoughts on what might be wrong with particular posts or not (as you point out) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 21, 2010 at 6:07

As I wrote in a comment on V Vinay’s answer, I hope that the standard methods can handle these issues. Indeed, the Stack Exchange server has a few ways to “hide” posts with low score, which I think can be used to mitigate the ill effects of poorly written posts, not limited to the ones posted by a particular user.


I have not read all posts/comments in detail but my impression was not that the use is particularly ill-mannered. He might not prefix every sentence with "In my opinion..." or "No offense intended..." but I can live with that. Not all comments by others were packed with etiquette, either.

The fact that he does not seem to be familiar with the TCS point of view to the point of seemingly painful ignorance is not a fault in itself. In fact, I like the fact that an EE comes over here to expand his views. We as self-perceived TCS elite should easily be able to "set him straight". If we cannot, that might be our fault or his but in neither case specific action is warranted. If he annoys enough people in the end, few will care about his posts anymore.


Just a suggestion: If a question/answer is down-voted enough, mods can delete it.

I specially suggest it for answers. The enough part should be decided upon; I suggest:

Questions: -10.
Answers: -5.

Please up-vote this post if you agree, and down-vote if you disagree. I make it CW as well.


I draw your attention to Vinay's answer:

“I normally would have answered at least a one of questions you mention except that my reply would have been masked by all the noise that @johne seems to bring along.”

Cross-ref: When should questions be deleted by others?

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    $\begingroup$ I do not think this is needed or desirable. If someone posts many low-score answers and does not delete them, it tells something about that user. If moderators delete them, we cannot see this information. Also note that questions with very low score (score −4 or below IIRC) will not appear on the top page. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2010 at 2:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Answers are shown in the order of votes and poor answers are downvoted. This is how Stack Exchange works. I do not think that your proposal is the right approach to existing problems. Also, it seems to me that V Vinay is referring mainly to questions posted by johne which are heavily downvoted, and I cannot see how deleting heavily downvoted questions helps him/her reply to johne’s questions. So your “rationale” does not seem relevant. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2010 at 13:04

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