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As I have been learning the ropes here on Meta, I have been reading and sometimes participating in discussions similar to this where other users have been mentioned by name and berated or mocked for some bad/gaming behaviour. Other times I've seen users simply just commented upon with "I've noticed that this user has a tendency to do link-only self-answers, what should I do?", and I have found myself thinking: "I wonder if they've ever said something similar about me?"

A couple of days ago, as part of this discussion, where a specific user is mentioned for supposedly poor reviewing another user made this comment to the OP:

-1. Exposing another user like this is not appropriate IMHO. You could just post the image without the link to his profile

The OP defended his position and I made a comment backing the OP, because the site favours substantiating claims with facts; especially on Meta those facts are frequently specific (sets of) questions and occasionally specific (sets of) users' behaviour. That is just how things are done, but I do think the objection is valid because when you are linking to a user profile you are targeting that specific user, and not some general behaviour.

So I suggest that one of the abilities that should come with perhaps 1000 or 1500 rep is that the "Responses" on your profile is expanded with "Links/Mentions" - and that this list is populated with mentions (in questions/answers/comments) where somebody have linked your profile.

The point being two-fold:

  • The community is no longer discussing/snickering behind said users backs, but are offering the criticism more directly.

  • The user in question have a chance to know that something is not done right, and can act to improve (or defend) it, even when the behaviour is not bad enough to warrant intervention by system or mods. Also, when/if the behaviour improves, the user can flag the links to be removed as obsolete - and hence won't continue to be the laughing stock of everybody who happens to read the post.

The reason I think some reputation is required is from the assumption that more seasoned users will have thicker skin and hence handle the criticism better. I realise that some users will be beyond reach, but I think others would gain from it - and even without the gain, I do feel we all have a right to know when we are being discussed in the open.

Note that this suggestion is NOT for @-mentions in comments, but for links to user profiles.

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    IF this were to be implemented, I think the rep requirement should be much higher than 1500, more in the 3k-5k range, at least initially. If it turns out to be positive for the community, then the rep requirement could be lowered. Moreover, the ability to call out specific users, should also be a privilege with a high rep requirement. – asheeshr Jul 7 '13 at 6:46
  • @AsheeshR Good point with reducing the ability to call out specific users. – user213634 Jul 9 '13 at 11:25
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I much prefer editing posts to be about a behaviour rather than effectively putting up a neon sign post inviting the user to come in and (likely) get defensive.

It is incredibly rare that a user needs to be singled out on any meta site. I won't go as far as to say "never", but in the vast majority of cases the right way to handle a problem with a user is to flag one of their posts, not come to meta with a link to their profile and a proverbial pitchfork. If you want to discuss a behaviour you're seeing and get community input on it/develop a policy, then do that instead. There is seldom if ever a need to single out users in this case.

I'd also wager that some (many?) mentions of users on meta sites are not in a context that requires their involvement at all. I might mention, say, Jon Skeet in a post and link to his profile for reference since I realize that not everybody might know who he is.

And with all that said, how would you envision this working with 100+ metas? Would SE2.0 metas only notify users from their main sites? What about Meta Stack Overflow - would it monitor posts for links to profiles form the entire network? If so, would one only get notifications for the site where they have 1000+ rep (or whatever the threshold is)?

All in all, between the noise from the unrelated mentions, the high drama potential, and the fact that this is likely not feasible to implement network-wide, I think we're better off making sure meta posts are constructive and not attacking specific users.

(Although as a side note, I would probably entertain this idea more if Meta Stack Overflow didn't act as a network-wide meta as well. We have plans to split them, but that's still a ways out. It's been a ways out for a long time, but the project hasn't been abandoned.)

  • I agree with the drama-potential which is the biggest drawback to my suggestion and perhaps that can't be alleviated by placing the rep at 1500-2000. But the Jon Skeet argument was exactly why I suggested it should be a passive page rather than a notification in the Inbox. I hadn't considered aggregate meta, but it could use summarized rep (without the association bonus), or it could be it could be the max rep gained on any site. And I agree that it is incredibly rare that a user needs to be singled out. But how rare is it that a user is actually singled out? – user213634 Jul 9 '13 at 11:15
  • And I just can't help but follow-up on the drama-bit: Check out one of the comments to this question from today meta.stackexchange.com/q/188022/213634 - specifically "Woo, first question directly about me!" ;-) And yes, I do realise that his profile isn't linked, so this one wouldn't even show up on his page in my proposal. – user213634 Jul 9 '13 at 14:06
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    @AndersUP Drama's not guaranteed, just likely. :) – Adam Lear Jul 9 '13 at 15:05
  • @AndersUP If people want drama they can come to meta on their own. They just won't be sucked into it without making the decision to go there. – Servy Jul 9 '13 at 15:11
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I just checked, and the search facility can actually find these, if you want to look for them. Searching for "806549/anders-up" should turn up this answer, once it gets indexed, anyway.

  • I get the result for the answer, not for the comment. I didn't downvote, but the point of my question is slightly different - I think the system should provide the information, rather than being dependent on my knowing how to search for my profile. – user213634 Jul 6 '13 at 22:22
  • Sure. But my point is that a string like "806549/anders-up" is valid search text. I found links to other folks profiles on other pages. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 6 '13 at 22:22
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    Yeah, I understood your question -- this is just useful info in case the feature doesn't get implemented. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 6 '13 at 22:23
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    But I would have to do it with all variants of my profiles. Ie. 806549 for SO, 213634 for Meta, etc. - and you don't have to postfix it with my name, stackoverflow.com/users/806549 would still link to me. So searching for users/806549 would probably be better. – user213634 Jul 6 '13 at 22:26

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