Maybe I'm creating a dupe here, but here goes...

Similar questions:
Make recent activity and responses show new comments on questions/answers I have commented on (even if I don’t own them)
Let’s make it easier to reply within comments!

I (also) would really like to see replies to my comments included in the Recent Activity page. I miss a lot of replies to my comments where I'm not the question owner or the answer owner. I don't want to be know as someone who doesn't bother to reply to things... I do see the danger, though, of comment discussions which I am in agreement with others on as far as not wanting that to happen.

My idea would be to add a Reply button/link/whatever to the end of comments (next to the Delete button maybe) that would then open the new comment editor textbox and allow you to post your comment (as previously suggested). However, the new comment would be marked (in the db, not necessarily in the UI) "in reply to CommentId XXX", in a InReplyToCommentId field or something like that.

So, Recent Activity would do this (pseudo-code) lookup and display items:

select *
from Comments as replies
join Comments on replies.InReplyToCommentId=Comments.CommentId
join Users on Comments.UserId=User.UserId and User.UserId=1234
where Comments.TimeStamp >= WhateverTimeframe

This would be cleaner than getting a notification of all questions/answers to which I've commented as it would weed out the ones not necessarily related to something that I post.


3 Answers 3


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.


  1. Only applies to other people in the comments that you are commenting on.

  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.

  • 2
    Now, if only I could stop people from spelling my name as @Mark ;-p Commented Jan 16, 2010 at 9:46
  • @Jeff - can we get a link now? Commented Jan 19, 2010 at 13:30

I dislike this approach because it adds unnecessary database complexity. I would rather lean towards the other ideas of the system automatically being able to understand the "@[Username]" syntax that has already become a norm here.

The idea would be to just search all your questions, answers, and other areas where you have commented and then search those comment strings for comments that start with "@[UserName]" which would signify a reply.

The only downside is that you would have to force users to use that syntax if they wanted replies to work, but I think it is worthwhile (and it is so widespread to begin with (and familiar for users of systems like Twitter) that any potential learning curve would be negligible.

  • 2
    @TaXI: The only drawback is that a lot of people abbreviate other users' names, or simply misspell them. How do you propose to fix that? Commented Jul 30, 2009 at 15:57
  • I don't really propose any type of solution for it. I admit that the system I have laid out above has a lot of flaws, but I believe that it is simple enough to implement so that it won't get immediately shot down by people like Jeff who have argued in the past that comments aren't meant to go off into long drawn out discussions with a lot of back and forth.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Jul 30, 2009 at 16:02
  • @TheTXI: I could dig your solution, so long as comments are searchable. No skin of my @$$ if someone doesn't want to address my name in a comment... Except for the new users who might not know that as the accepted norm of the community. Would be a downer for them. A Reply button that automatically included the original commentors name in the new comment would indeed fix that and be a trivial UI tweak.
    – squillman
    Commented Jul 30, 2009 at 16:11
  • What if there were a user named "mmeyers"? Half the people replying to me would reply to him by accident.
    – mmyers
    Commented Jul 30, 2009 at 17:27
  • 1
    @mmeyers: who does reply to you? Commented Aug 14, 2009 at 9:06
  • @ladybug it took me 5 secs to remember… and laugh out loud. Commented Sep 9, 2010 at 16:17

I don't agree on the database complexity argument. Showing comments in the recent activity based on whether or not a comment starts with @Yourname is just asking for performance problems.

Recognizing the @SomeUser syntax upon replying would be nice though. Just search through the list of the OP, owner of the answer and any people that have already commented.

Some kind of warning if the name isn't found in there could help against misspellings, but that adds interface complexity.

Another problem is changing user names. If the text were recognized by Stack Overflow and transformed to some user ID in the database, textual representation of the comments could be updated if so desired.

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