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Comment-discussions are becoming very inconsistent if users change their names, so it might be a good idea if @username would be automatically replaced by @userno on submission and autoexpanded to the current username on loading the question. Since this lookup is also done when the replied-to user's comment is loaded it wouldn't require additional loading anyway.

edit (in reply to @Mark Hurd 's answer) ok, I thought the userid is stable. But as long as there is a way to internally connect comments to its poster, the same mechanism could be used for the @-expansion

update Since questions now have a permalink with userid-referal, I assume the userid is now stable, so this could now be implemented...

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this has also been recently requested at meta.math –  Tobias Kienzler Jan 3 '12 at 14:16
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2 Answers 2

The only problem with that exact implementation is that users do change their userid sometimes. Specifically my Meta userid changed when the cookies were stuffed and I attempted to login as a new user with a different expression of my OpenId.

By the time I was able to log in my Meta UserId had changed and both OpenIds were associated with the same account. (I received all my badges again at that moment too.)

But of course the whole site now associates my comments with the current userid i.e. My existing comments link to me and are not non-links like they are for deleted accounts. So this is probably not much of an extra consideration for them to cater for.

(BTW Further confirmation my Meta UserId was different as of 31 May.)

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I gotta think that this is somewhat of an edge case. –  squillman Jun 12 '10 at 14:39
    
sure, that might be a problem with the specific implementation. i'd say the suggestion in itself is still valid, tho, and it could use comment ID instead of user ID to solve that particular issue. –  David Hedlund Aug 11 '10 at 12:18
    
sorry for un-accepting your answer, but permalinks to questions including a referring userid now make your answer obsolete –  Tobias Kienzler Sep 7 '10 at 12:08

I have to disagree. Comments are not first-class citizens. They should not really matter over time. Of course, this is different on the Meta sites, but implementing this adds a lot of overhead to the requests:

  • Fetch item (question/answer)
  • Fetch comments
  • Parse comments for "@[0-9]+"
  • Fetch current username (for each Id found)
  • Replace Id with current username

This is much work for such cases. Most of the time you're still able to follow the conversation anyway.

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While the ideal course would indeed be that comments leading to a clear answer would be used to edit the posts and thus become redundant, it is very often the case that the only way to understand why an answer has been accepted is a comment-discussion that contains the actual answer. This may be a problem with the comment system itself of course, but if one encounters such a post and more than two persons were involved in the discussion it becomes quite a mess to follow that. But maybe you're right and not the comment-parsing should be modified but users encouraged to edit more... –  Tobias Kienzler Jan 3 '12 at 14:28
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@TobiasKienzler: I think we need to clarify one thing first before we discuss this further: How often do name changes happen? and is this often enough to warrant such a feature? I think if we leave Meta aside, we have a very low rate of name changes throughout the network. –  Time Traveling Bobby Jan 3 '12 at 14:50
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On the new SE sites this happens rather often when users decide to use their real name instead of their usual forum name. But I agree this is (or should not be) that often the case, so this is not exactly a high priority request. But as I said, maybe the actual problem lies in comment discussions themselves and not in users changing their names... –  Tobias Kienzler Jan 3 '12 at 14:53

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