Note 2011/09/20: Jeff's marked this
status-completed. I (the person making the request) disagree that what's been done, which is actually an implementation of this other request, meets this request and believe
status-declinedwould be more correct. The new auto-completer is nice, but not the same. But it's Jeff's site, I won't press the point.
The issue raised in Don't remove the @ part of my comment has had a lot of attention, but the crowd of us opposed to the change it relates to haven't done the constructive thing of offering a viable alternative. This post addresses that omission.
Very briefly recapping: The recent change is that the system now removes
@postowner from comments where it's technically unnecessary to trigger a notification and where no one else has commented. Jeff believes them to be noise. Overwhemlingly the feedback in the linked question is that the change should be reversed for various reasons; follow the link if you want the details.
Jeff has a specific goal with this change, which is for people not to put
@postowner at the beginnings of their comments for no good reason. He's trying to protect and improve the signal-to-noise ratio on the SE network. So here's a suggestion for an alternate way of doing that which won't, I think, raise the kind of massive negative response that the current change has raised:
Make it clear in advance who will be notified, by putting an indicator under the comment field when the user opens it (see the end of the question for a bookmarklet that lets you try this out live):
This also opens the door to making it clear when you've addressed others as well. For instance, if I were to comment on Jeff's answer to Siva's question:
And of course, we'd cover the other times users get notified, such as if Jeff replied to Siva's comment. The system automatically detects when two people are talking, Jeff doesn't have to put
@Siva there for Siva to be notified. (Did you know that? I didn't until Jeff mentioned it in the linked question.) So the instant Jeff opened the comment box, it would say "Siva will be notified of this comment", and Jeff would know he can just type away.
This informs the user without being obtrusive. The user gets a very clear steer that they don't have to put
@postowner on it for the postowner to get a notification, and so anyone doing that purely to trigger notification will learn not to. If the user still feels they want to for some reason, it's clear that they've made an intentional decision to do so for non-technical reasons.
Obviously the wording can be smithed a bit, but the idea is that Jeff's goal of reducing noise can be achieved in a helpful, engaging way, without triggering the objections raised around the current change. And it goes further than
@postowner, steering people any time they don't need to direct the comment, thus reducing noise even further if you consider those directions noise.
Potential additional tweaks:
- Part of the text could be linked to the existing help box for comments (not a separate link, but for instance "will receive a notification" or such. Wouldn't want it to jump out like the help link does, but it could still link there.
- If there's concern that people don't read, this could be combined with an intermittent reminder pop-up that only shows a maximum of 3-5 times at spaced intervals (intermittent variable reinforcement), if the user does specify a redundant direction: "You don't need @Jeff on this comment, that user will be notified regardless. Remove it?" Once the user has seen and dismissed this a few times, we know they're aware and making an informed, specific decision and can stop nagging.
That's a bookmarklet that bootstraps this script, loading it into the page. Once you have your bookmark:
- Go to a question on any of the SE sites using the current engine.
- Click your bookmark.
- Click a link to add a comment. (You must do this after loading the script via your bookmark.)
Underneath the usual character counter, you'll see the notification preview. To unload the script, just refresh the page or go to another page; the effect of the bookmarklet is transient, affecting only the page you actively loaded it on and only until you refresh it.
This is just proof of concept, it's not production code nor is it a code submission to SE (though SE is welcome to use any of it they find useful when doing a real version). It doesn't actually tell the server who to notify (of course), it uses a much simpler rule for figuring out who you're flagging with an
@user (I didn't think the proof-of-concept needed to perfectly replicate the complex rules used), it's longer than a real solution would be because I'm coming at it from the outside, it polls the comment textarea where we'd probably just want to use the same events as the character counter (although the character counter doesn't understand pasting via the mouse), etc., etc., etc. Please don't think this is more than it is. It's purely a rough user experience proof of concept demonstrator. That said, it does demonstrate auto-notification of the postowner, and auto-notification of a single commenter if the postowner replies.