In the chat rooms, you can reply to messages by clicking the newreply link ("link my next chat message as a reply to this"). Likewise, you can see follow linked messages by clicking the reply-info link ("This is a reply to an earlier message").

However, it is difficult to follow @ replies if the messages are not linked. Is there way to do this using the search or does such a feature not exist?

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The feature doesn't exist, but it also doesn't make sense. If you're replying to someone, you use a direct reply (:message-id You're totally right!), and your reply will be linked to their message. If you're just trying to send them a message, you use a ping (@SomeUser You're my best friend (hug)). Chat alerts them, but doesn't link your message to a previous message, because you weren't trying to reply to a message

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Technically speaking, I've noticed that chat always highlights that person's last message. The messages may not be linked per se, but the highlighting behavior is the same. –  Chris Frederick Feb 23 '12 at 20:26
    
@Chris that's correct, if you use @<username> it will just highlight the user's last message. –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 23 '12 at 20:44
    
@TheUnhandledException Well, it kind of goes against my argument that you use @username if you don't want to connect your message to their last message. I don't know why it does that –  Michael Mrozek Feb 23 '12 at 20:46
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No, I was just trying to clarify Michael. Maybe I was unclear. You are correct: If you use the @<username syntax then your message will not be linked to any other chat message. Chat will highlight that person's last message as a convience. But your message will not be actually linked to it. –  The Unhandled Exception Feb 23 '12 at 20:49
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