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Make recent activity and responses show new comments on questions/answers I have commented on (even if I don’t own them)

Quite often on SO, there are extended discussions in comments between a few users. There is an accepted convention that you proceed these comments with @whoever_you_are_talking_to. It would be nice if, when somebody typed @ and then a user name, it would notify that user as if somebody had commented on of their answers.

This would eliminate the need to go back and check your comments to see if somebody has replied to them. Also, if somebody down votes your answer and leaves a comment, it gives you the opportunity to fix it and notify them, so they can choose to remove the vote if they want to.

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marked as duplicate by random, Jeff Atwood Jan 16 '10 at 14:15

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I don't see why this feature requires unique names. As long as we have some unique way of identifying users (i.e., their ID), we're all set. And users don't even need to be aware of the ID's.

Here's how it would work:

When I post a comment, I am given three options to choose from (in the form of radio buttons):

  1. Don't notify me of any new comments
  2. Notify me only if a commenter tags me
  3. Notify me of all new comments.

(Note: You can change your selection at any time.)

Then users who post subsequent comments could tag any user of an existing comment using a drop-down checkbox list, like this Notify [checkbox list \/] of my comment. This list would contain only the names of users who had agreed to allow someone to tag them, and perhaps it could include the first few words of the first comment that user left in case there happens to be two users with the same name/alias (and also just for general user friendliness, in that it makes it easier to match a name to a particular comment).

Pros:

  • No one receives notifications (gets "tagged") who doesn't want them, and they can decide on a comment-by-comment basis. They should be able to change their selection at any time in case they change their mind.

  • Those who are willing to receive notifications are notified because someone was trying to get their attention, not just because someone said something random that didn't relate to their comment (unless of course they opted for full notification).

Cons:

  • Adds some complexity.

  • Tagging? That reminds me of Facebook :(

  • Someone has to program this.

Note:

This is sort of a fleshed out version of Ian Elliot's comment & waveyλger's answer.

Edit:

Just to clarify, when I say "notifications", I mean your little SO envelope icon turns red and you can click it to see your new comment responses. I don't mean it to imply email.

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I think this solution is the best. It is a bit more complex, but would work the best. Now if only the team would implement it :( –  Zifre Dec 2 '09 at 1:40
    
Thanks, Zifre. I would definitely like to see them implement this or something like it. In the mean time, it would be nice if a site developer would at least provide some feedback so we know where they stand. Some questions have a status like "status-planned" or "status-deferred", but it doesn't seem like anyone from SO has spoken out on this one. –  devuxer Dec 2 '09 at 22:46

Another neat feature would be js autocompletion - type @, and get a list of users involved in the thread, filtered as you type more characters.

So to reply to me, you could type @bl(down)(enter)

Perhaps the (probably extremely uncommon) event of multiple users with the same name could be resolved by adding (userid) on the end.. Not sure exactly how this would work though - people don't know each others' ids unless they go and check. Maybe the autocomplete box could also show you the first bit of the last thing that user posted in the comment thread.

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12  
Could make it even simpler, at the end of a comment when it says the user name and post time add a '| reply' link that holds the users ID, stores it out of sight, and then brings up the comment field with '@Username' already input. –  Ian Elliott Jul 3 '09 at 2:19
    
Nice - then there's no confusion about who you are replying to. –  Blorgbeard Jul 3 '09 at 2:42
    
FYI- I've written a Greasemonkey script to help with this. It lets you hit Ctrl+Space to auto-complete a username. It still doesn't notify the user, of course. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/30085 –  Kip Nov 30 '09 at 13:43

Normally, you only get notified of comments when you own the post.

You will now get notified of any comments that refer to you by @username in a comment, even if you do not own the post.

Rules:

  1. Only applies to other people in the comments that you are commenting on, or editors to the post.

  2. Response must include @username that you are referring to, where "username" is a reasonable match to the user's current display name (as seen in the comments above yours).

  3. There must be a starts-with, case insensitive match of at least THREE characters to the displayname. So @a and @ab will never match anyone or anything.

  4. Spaces cannot be used to match, so if the person's display name is "Peter Smith" then just use @peter to match.

  5. Matching is performed in reverse chronological order, so if there are five people named "John" in the comments, writing "hey @john, have you considered apples?" will match the most recent John to comment.

  6. Only one person can be replied to at a time in a comment. The first one "in" wins.

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While "first one in wins" has been implemented at this point. I find it rather odd that it precludes me from using @Person2 (although i don't mind the warning that is shown). Sometimes you just want to point out who you're referring to and notification is a secondary issue. –  EBarr Jan 25 '12 at 19:39

I'll quote from Jeff here:

the "notify when people say my name" is really interesting, but requires unique names which we don't enforce.

If someone can come up with a good solution to this problem (2 users with the same name in the same thread), I'm sure he's all ears.

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Using user numbers could be the solution, and they are easily found by hovering over someone's name. –  toast Jul 3 '09 at 23:50
10  
Is unique identification in this case really a requirement? What would be the harm if two people with the same name and active within the same question both get a notification? (And I don't expect that to happen to often.) –  laalto Jul 4 '09 at 7:13
3  
and why aren't unique names required? isn't that unusual? –  Steven A. Lowe Jul 17 '09 at 19:09
2  
@Steven A. Lowe: Because if a Colombian or Icelandic Steven A. Lowe tried to use his real name, he should be able to :) –  perbert Oct 2 '09 at 22:13

I would absolutely love this. It has been one of the biggest things I have looked for in a while. You can get into so many discussions in the comments on questions and answers that aren't yours that it is nearly impossible to keep track. Being able to track actual replies would be very easy to manage these conversations and debates.

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I assumed Jeff's answer would be the case.

A suggestion would be to only activate the @reply function if a user commenting on the same post has that name. 99.9% of the cases this will hold true, I don't think I've ever seen two people with the same name comment on the same post -- although I'll assume it has happened on some of the more massive comment threads.

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1  
if two users with the same name did happen to post on the same thread you could also just not activate the notification (in favour of notifying both of them) –  bananakata Jul 17 '09 at 19:18
2  
Or actually it's better to notify them both, since whoever wrote the comment didn't specify who it's for ... and they both commented on same comment thread anyway, so they're probably both interested. –  Nathan Fellman Aug 25 '09 at 7:26

Expanding on Blogbears's suggestion, the name could be replaced with the userid internally, so that when the user changes his name, in the comment it could be always up to date, and in the case of more than one user on the same thread with the same name, you would have to manually select which one you are referring to.

But if it were implemented that way letting every user involved in the same thread to get a notification wouldn't be a problem, they'd just stop getting notifications if they change their name.

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