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What is the relevance of “ @ ” in comments?

Apologies if this has already been asked. I noticed that when user's refer to others there is an "@" in front of their display name. So if some one was referring to my display name, it would read "@AGoodDisplayName".

My questions are:

  1. Is this done by stackoverflow/markdown?

  2. If so, how to do it (or is this just a convention that people are using?

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marked as duplicate by random, alex, balpha, fretje, Sampson Feb 11 '10 at 22:28

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.

I think it is normally used in comments, mostly to indicate that the comment is targeting a particular person/comment/answer... – Madi D. Feb 10 '10 at 15:38

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It's just a convention people use. StackOverflow uses the @Username to notify users of comment responses.

See Jeff's post about the criteria for users being notified.

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Exactly what I needed to know, thanks. – AGoodDisplayName Feb 10 '10 at 15:47

Yes, that at sign (@) is a convention used on Stack Overflow to address other people. The developers have taken that "convention" and made it a functional direct-reply mechanism.

But the convention started in other social media.

The first place where it became the social norm, I believe, was in IRC [citation needed :) ]. Participants would use the @ symbol to refer to other folks in the discussion by their nickname.

I believe the convention was adapted from e-mail, where @ was used to mark a passage as "attention" to someone (other than the main recipient) in the cc: list. If I was sending a message to Jeff about Waffle Wednesday, I might also cc my assistant, Marc. The message would look something like this:

To: Jeff
cc: Marc

I ordered sixteen dozen waffles for the office. They should be here by 10am.

@Marc, please confirm.


The @ symbol had no functional purpose in email. It was simply convention.

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If you want to make it easier to do this, and you are using Firefox, you might want to look into these two Greasemonkey scripts:

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