First: This is not about whether rate-limiting is good or bad. This is not a misunderstanding of what the "Only 1 comment allowed per 5 seconds; timer reset." message means. This is not about whether @lerting multiple people is good, bad, or other. This has been misunderstood at least three times before; kindly read it and don't close it as a dupe unless there's a real dupe (besides the ones I just linked) that I missed in my search! Thanks.


I tried to leave a comment similar to the following:

@User: Stuff. @All: Things.

Naturally I got an error popup telling me I can't @notify multiple people. As noted above, this is expected. I quickly removed the second @ and tried to submit the comment again, resulting in:

Only 1 comment allowed per 5 seconds; timer reset.

This error is shown erroneously. The first version of the comment wasn't actually posted due to the error, so I am only posting one comment!

This also occurs when leaving a too-short comment (here's a second example). You are prevented from posting the appropriately lengthened version if you attempt to do so within 5 seconds of the original attempt. For further confirmation of this erroneous behavior see Ether's answer to another question. You can see from Jeff's comment on it that he misunderstood what Ether was saying. This is not the simplest bug so I don't blame him, but hopefully I am making it clear :).

As well, it occurs when you try to upvote a comment that was deleted in the time since you loaded the page and then go to upvote a different comment instead.

Rationale for Fixing

  • You're confusing us by showing us nonsense error messages. "You're not allowed to post multiple comments in rapid succession" doesn't make sense when we're not posting multiple comments. As Lance notes in his answer, clarity is important.

  • You're discouraging the quick correction of errors. As Lance notes in the comments this is a problem for touch-typists and other quick editors.

  • This was obviously unintended; it's a bug and may have other undesired side-effects. The rate limiting code is being applied to a single solitary comment, which doesn't make sense; there's no second comment, thus no time difference between comments, thus no rate to be limited.



  • 16
    Calm down... count to ten... and try again... (laugh, it's a joke)
    – Pollyanna
    Aug 18, 2011 at 21:23
  • 7
    @Adam I totally appreciate the irony of getting worked up over a 5 second wait :P but it's WRONG. My CDO nerd-brain can't handle it! Haha
    – user154510
    Aug 18, 2011 at 21:24
  • 2
    As alternative, calm down, take a gun, and shoot the monitor. The alert vanishes alone. ;-)
    – apaderno
    Aug 19, 2011 at 0:08
  • 1
    I compulsively edit everything, and bitch incessantly about everything else, and I honestly haven't run into this very much. Just follow the rules on @alerts and you should be fine. Aug 19, 2011 at 4:33
  • 1
    @Cody That one example is the only time I've screwed up atlerts. I encounter other versions of the problem a couple times a day. I tend to do things rapid-fire and I'd prefer to be limited only when I'm supposed to be limited.
    – user154510
    Aug 19, 2011 at 4:43
  • 8
    @Cody, as a touch-typist, I run into this all the time with normal comments. Aug 21, 2011 at 18:45
  • 3
    @Cody: That's easier said than done when the rules on @alerts are so hopelessly unintuitive. (I'm sure there's irony in that I ran into this problem by writing both your alert and the text @alert in this comment.) Sep 6, 2011 at 6:30
  • 3
    "You're punishing us for quickly fixing errors. Bad idea." No, we're punishing you for creating the error in the first place! Sep 6, 2011 at 6:50
  • 9
    @Jeff: But why should you punish this? The comment in its "offending" form can't be submitted anyway, so I can't see a reason. Sep 6, 2011 at 12:53
  • 5
    @Jeff If punishment were your goal you would take rep away for making a malformed comment. Either way the indirect effect is discouraging comments and corrections. Surely that's not intentional.
    – user154510
    Sep 6, 2011 at 15:28
  • @Matthew: Do you really get "Only 1 comment allowed per 5 seconds"? I get 15 seconds! Sep 25, 2011 at 8:24
  • 4
    @Matthew: I got it now - it's Meta.SO specific. It appears that only here the limit is 15, and for the case you're describing, 15 seconds is very annoying. Sep 25, 2011 at 15:52
  • @Matthew: This is just crazy - today I'm getting 5 seconds also here on Meta.SO. Sep 26, 2011 at 14:23
  • @HendrikVogt Haha, so am I. Bizarre.
    – user154510
    Sep 26, 2011 at 14:24
  • 1
    I had this problem my first time using multiple @s too. I really don't care if they're both notified, I care that my comment got eaten and the interface is a pain.
    – Ben Brocka
    Nov 16, 2011 at 17:08

2 Answers 2


Fine, done. If you are not anonymous then we will undo the throttle if the comment does not get through for whatever reason.


Error Messages should be there to inform the user of his accidental transgression of the rules, so that he can do things more correctly, now and in the future. They are for the immediate effect of getting the problem fixed, and the long term goal of training the user.

The second error message in that situation does neither, since it's wrong about why it's there.

Editing should be incentivized so that people want to edit; frustrating them will only have long-term negative consequences. Stack Exchange already recognizes this through badges, and some rep (suggested edits), so it only makes sense that they'd take this bit of confusion out of the editor's way.

Confusion is the worst thing to inflict on a customer, it pushes them a little more to the negative side. It'd be like going to the grocery store, and the eggs are moved every week. I'd go across town to be able to go right to the eggs when I shop.

All user interface design should be oriented to avoid confusion, and should be crystal clear in its intent.

  • I also feel strongly that clarity is one of the most important goals of UI design. +1.
    – user154510
    Sep 23, 2011 at 16:26
  • 3
    Agreed. I understand that sometimes you don't want to provide too many details / err on the side of caution when the system can be gamed, but I don't see how that could possibly applies here, so the warnings should be accurate and only when necessary.
    – agf
    Sep 30, 2011 at 14:21

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