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A Reddit Mix-up Over the Word Binary Gave Us the Week’s Most Heartwarming Internet Moment

The Reddit office. Awwww.
A friendlier corner of Reddit.
Robert Galbraith/Reuters

So much internet, so little time. Good on the Internet is our running attempt to highlight things that, in contrast to most of the toxic sludge found online, might actually make you smile.

All MajorDerp4 wanted was some help with a binary translation problem. So the Reddit user looked for an appropriate place on the gargantuan internet message board in which to pose it. MD4 found a subreddit whose title or description, the user later wrote, “was along the lines of non-binary so I figured it was some computer science joke.” So MD4 went ahead and posted: “I do not know if this is allowed on here. I am currently trying to convert -3/7 into single point precision binary and am having some issues. Can anyone help me with this?” There was just one problem, though: MajorDerp4 had inadvertently wandered into r/genderqueer—the subreddit for people who are gender nonbinary.

After recognizing this mistake, MD4 apologized: “I have just realized that this is not a binary subreddit. It is exactly the opposite.” The post was removed at some point. But before it was, no Reddit users came after the poster with virtual pitchforks. In fact, the post caught the attention of someone who just so happened to be a nonbinary computer scientist. “Queer computery scientist here,” Reddit user Potater wrote. “You might say I put the binary in non-binary.” Potater preceded to answer MajorDerp4’s question quickly and thoroughly—the explanation is here, for anyone cares to read it and actually understands such things—and in so doing, earned a place in the Good Internet Samaritan hall of fame.

Who would have expected that there would be a friendly computer scientist lurking in a community for nonbinary people? OK, the odds aren’t zero, but on the internet, where the experience of being shouted down by faceless hordes for stepping onto the wrong turf is all too common, it’s not nothing to cross paths with a helpful, competent stranger who gives you exactly what you need even when you go looking in the wrong place. That it was a nonbinary subreddit rolling out the welcome wagon feels all the more warm and fuzzy, since its denizens wouldn’t have necessarily received such a welcome had they been the ones who wandered into some random subreddit.

The Reddit community itself concurred that what happened was worthy of celebration: The thread below Potater’s answer began to overflow with praise for the feat: “You beautiful bastard. They posted in the wrong sub and you promptly help anyway instead of ignoring them. Take this upvote,” one user wrote. “This is honestly the most wholesome shit,” said another. And that is why this week we’re paying tribute to Potater, who gives a good name to nonbinary computer scientists everywhere, and perhaps the internet itself.