A recent question on the site, which otherwise uncontroversial, on-topic and interesting (and which has already got two in-depth answers), starts off with an attempt at humour which has resulted in a rollback war:

The original text:

I work with a really old DBA who says a lot of weird stuff. Dude has an O'Reilly book that only has an amoeba on the cover.

...was replaced with:

I work with a really experienced DBA who says a lot of interesting stuff.

The post has been locked because rollback wars are pointless and unwinnable, but we still need to decide whether to edit; is this ageism or harmless? Where do we draw the line?

  • 1
    Can somebody please post title of or link to that book? I am curious to find out which book we are talking about and searching for "o'reilly amoeba" and "o'reilly amoeba database" didn't find anything. Commented May 14, 2018 at 13:01
  • 6
    I think the amoeba is a joke representing old age :p Commented May 14, 2018 at 13:16
  • ooooh, lol, got it. Thanks! I think I now truly understand the joke. Commented May 14, 2018 at 14:38

7 Answers 7


Personal opinion: I found it funny.

(Note: I'm old enough to be that DBA. I have several books with weird covers. I also read them. I'm sure a lot of what I say sounds weird to younger people ;)

  • 1
    ^ Has a drunken Christian rubik's cube as his avatar. Perverse sense of humor. Commented May 5, 2018 at 18:13
  • 1
    The colleagues age is irrelevant to the question, it’s just a pointless bit of abuse
    – Gaius
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 18:33
  • 6
    @Gaius abuse? Rather strong word In my opinion. Commented May 5, 2018 at 21:25
  • Imagine they had written “I work with this woman...” would it be acceptable then? Implying that the gender was relevant to the weirdness
    – Gaius
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 21:55
  • 4
    @Gaius but they didn't write that. I can imagine all kinds of things. The issue with what they wrote which I don't find offensive Commented May 5, 2018 at 21:58
  • 3
    This discussion proves that 'sense of humor' is not the same for everybody. Same goes for starting lines like 'Hello dudes'. Not appreciated by others. This site is used by lots of people with different standards of what is acceptable and what is not. So perhaps keep questions to the point.
    – Marco
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 11:20

In defense of my post:

  1. I'm not talking about all old people, just one guy who I work with. We have a close working relationship where we joke about his age. It's not malicious at all. Heck, if it weren't for him and his age, I wouldn't know half of what I do.

  2. I would be fine with an edit to remove the reference to age, but darn it, that book cover joke was funny. Why does it have to be all or nothing?

  3. Replacing what I said with wishy-washy, New Speak-y language like "experienced" is just a dog whistle calling attention to someone's age anyway.

As an amendment:

Comedian Extraordinaire Gaius commented on another post (I don't have 50 rep to reply) that age is irrelevant.

It's not: The fact from the DBA that I'm checking was received wisdom from a long time ago (he recalls 2000-2003 time frame).

That's the whole point:

  1. Was it ever true?
  2. If it were, is it still true?
  3. If not, what's the answer?

If this tiny bit of personality added to a question is considered "abuse", then all of the Stack family of sites should shut down so we can all read nice, safe vendor documentation written in only Approved Language®.


  • 2
    hypothetically: Do you find it a valid defense to say that you're not "talking about all black people, just the one guy who you work with" when you use a black slur? Could your relationship justify using that slur publicly and out of context? Commented May 5, 2018 at 17:39
  • 12
    The word old is not a slur!
    – MJH
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 17:45
  • 7
    @EvanCarroll can you give me an example of an equivalent slur for black people? Commented May 5, 2018 at 17:54
  • 6
    @evancarrol can we extend that analogy to your sql server 'slurs'
    – Tom V
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 18:05
  • @TomV "I use SQL Server, I'm a victim too!" .. Such a victim mentality, do yourself a favor postgresql.org/download Commented May 5, 2018 at 18:12
  • 16
    I believe we 'ole grumpy guys can deal with young chicken fodders jokes. There's no need for defense. If someone old can't get over such, they must have been stuck somewhere else in their lives. FYI I'm at the age of 53 ATM. Commented May 5, 2018 at 18:16
  • 1
    @evancarrol there you go judge people again
    – Tom V
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 18:50
  • 2
    @Evan Saying b***k people is not OK!! Commented May 5, 2018 at 18:59
  • @WorldStarSQL "but you know how age turns the mind to so much porridge" OK, that's ageism now, and you start getting offensive! Commented May 5, 2018 at 19:08
  • @πάνταῥεῖ I think it's time for someone's pills. Commented May 5, 2018 at 19:09
  • @WorldStarSQL "I think it's time for someone's pills." Are you serious young padawan? (<= ageism)! Commented May 5, 2018 at 19:38
  • @πάνταῥεῖ Serious as a... Wait, I shouldn't. Commented May 5, 2018 at 19:44
  • @WorldStarSQL "Wait, I shouldn't." Better yet! Read my answer. Commented May 5, 2018 at 19:49
  • @WorldStarSQL I both agree and disagree with your answer here ;-). Please see my answer for details :). In short, I would say that point #2 under "defense" is really the key issue here, and probably should be highlighted. Commented May 10, 2018 at 19:53
  • Note, of course, that O'Reilly books have both current living animals and long-extinct ones (dinosaurs and stuff) on them, so an amoeba would be perfectly reasonable, even for a brand new title....
    – RDFozz
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 23:02

I count many amoebas as personal friends of mine and as a result I found the question to be deeply offensive. I demand that the moderators immediately send "WorldStar SQL" a letter of censure.

  • 5
    I protest that I can see nothing inappropriate towards amœbæ in the reference. Unless you know the person of whom the OP is speaking and find the association offensive for single-cell life forms.
    – Andriy M
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 19:31

These are definitely some murky waters being navigated here. I am all for editing to correct typos, whether in content or code. And I even support correcting grammatical issues, even minor ones, if it improves clarity / readability. But, while I do agree that we should not have offensive content on the site, we should always be very cautious when editing someone else's words. And when editing is required, we should do the bare minimum required to remove only that which is offensive, and refrain from subjective edits on someone's style / voice, even if it is silly and/or extraneous.

With that in mind, the edit of:

I work with a really old DBA who says a lot of weird stuff. Dude has an O'Reilly book that only has an amoeba on the cover.

to be:

I work with a really experienced DBA who says a lot of interesting stuff.

was initiated with good intentions, but in the end was overreaching. Since the phrase "really old" has a non-obvious meaning that requires context that virtually nobody reading the question would know about, it is inappropriate for a generalized, public forum such as this one. However, "old" does not necessarily mean "experienced". That is a subjective edit that should not have been made. People can get re-trained and change professions at most any age, hence a 30 year old DBA could certainly have more experience than a 60 year old DBA. Assumptions should not be made here. The only appropriate edit is to simply remove the phrase "really old" since it isn't relevant anyway (more on that later).

Changing "weird" to "interesting" is highly subjective and should not have been done. If the community feels that it is best to not mention things like the coworker "says a lot of weird stuff", then that should be mentioned in a comment.

It is better, in the long-run, to suffer through some non-ideal (but not offensive) statements in a small number of questions / answers than to come off as an unwelcoming / unforgiving / elitist community. Yes, there will be some annoying / frustrating bits and pieces of posts, but we are better served by being, and presenting ourselves as, inclusive / accepting of differences.

So, any edit done by someone other than the O.P. should have simply been:

I work with a DBA who says a lot of weird stuff. Dude has an O'Reilly book that only has an amoeba on the cover.

In response to @WorldStarSQL's answer:

I agree with points 2 and 3. But for point #1:

  1. I'm not talking about all old people, just one guy who I work with. We have a close working relationship where we joke about his age. It's not malicious at all. Heck, if it weren't for him and his age, I wouldn't know half of what I do.
  1. This is a public forum so it is read by various people from various places / cultures / backgrounds / etc. Nobody but you knows that you are referring to "just one guy". And even if you included that background, it is possible that one or more folks would still feel that you are being ageist.
  2. This is really an inside-joke kinda thing and so should stay within that context. And even though the coworker is fine with you joking about his age when you are with him, I am not so sure that he would be as accepting of it when you are making that joke to people who do not know either of you.

Also, the point in the "Addendum" that age certainly is relevant for several reasons, is incorrect: Age is not relevant at all. I mean, those are certainly good questions to ask about the relevancy of the information, but they are not determined by the age of the person. There is a lot of misinformation available from many sources that can be taken in by people of any age. And experience in one area does not imply experience in another, so someone very knowledgeable about one technology can still make "newby" mistakes on another (happens all the time, actually, especially by those who mistakenly believe that their vast knowledge / experience in one or more areas does someone imply aptitude in other areas). Also, it is quite possible for someone to do something for many years and still never be that knowledgeable / skilled at it, even if they believe that they are (I've run into this several times, and not just professionally / related to computers). And conversely, I have worked with folks in their mid-30s who were generally quite good, but still did some things that were detrimental to the system that were never correct, and some things that were correct at one point in time but were obsoleted by upgrading to newer versions of SQL Server.


If an edit at all, should be used to solve the ageism problem, it should rather has been:

...was replaced with:

I work with a really long term employed DBA, who says a lot of considerable stuff.

There should be no implication that what this person told is really interesting, nor that they're actually experienced.
But if you meet a long term employed person at your workplace, you usually pick up what really helps you, and ignore the rest in a friendly manner.

That's at least no matter of age, but an essential skill you bring with you at your workplace or not.
The more skilled people usually survive better in long term at a job.

The joke might be funny or not (I personally found it so, and use the O RLY Cover Generator a lot for sarcasm, and pointing out things in turning back).

It's completely irrelevant for the technical background and getting relevant answers.

That's why we hate fun at stack exchange.

  • Except, of course, that we don't know how long the person has been employed as a DBA. Maybe they did some DBA work in the 1990s, worked on websites for 15 years, and just started back into DBA work three years ago. (from another 53-year-old, btw, who also sees the humor in the original post).
    – RDFozz
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 22:39

Something else to consider: it's directed at someone who isn't using the site.

The author wrote his post in a style that is more personable than a lot of people here. He wasn't insulting any other user.

And it is weird to have a Bill O'Reiley book on your desk at work. Not the weirdest thing I've seen on someone's desk, but it definitely flags them as an oddball.

  • 2
    Is that an attempt to humour? Or do you really find it odd to have books on your desk? Or just O Reilly books? Commented May 9, 2018 at 12:10
  • Oh my, you meant that O'Reilly (Bill)! Not obvious at first read (or second!) for non-US audience. Commented May 9, 2018 at 13:20
  • Political books? Yes, its weird to keep those on your desk.
    – James
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 13:22
  • Oh, O'reiley is also a SQL author... Also, there are SQL books? Isn't it all on here already?
    – James
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 19:47
  • 4
    Pretty sure the O’Reilly being referred to was the well known technical book publisher with animals on the covers. oreilly.com/animals.csp Commented May 11, 2018 at 13:55

I for one do not support using the term old because it's both not funny and ageist. I would like to see a neural network with deep learning employed that replaces slurs that are

  • Male gendered with neckbeard
  • Female gendered with neckbeardress or neckbeardrix

With the optional ability to configure in my Humor Preferences a mapping that makes both the

  • Gender-neutral neckbeardinx

For example, if we had an sexist ageist anti-jew slur that targeted those loving in Australia,

  • That bloody ancient dreidel-spinning tallywacker can't even write a SELECT.

Would become after the neural network was trained,

  • That neckbeard can't even write a SELECT.
  • But how will you reconcile nonbinary with neckbeard when you use abbreviations!
    – Jacob H
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 20:05

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