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I had always assumed that posts weren't supposed to reference other users by name (mainly because a high rep user removed the references I had in my first Q posted on SO here). But when I edited the following reference out of another user's post, they asked why:

Thanks to Brian [...] I am able to use a custom ContractResolver in Json.Net [...]

I decided to see if there was anything about it on Meta, but I couldn't find anything about this. (Except this, but this is about referencing other answers, not users.)

So is there a rule about referencing other users by name in posts, or is it just a personal opinion, or could it be thought of as noise? I had thought it was fine because it was showing gratefulness (until the names were edited out of my first post). Thanks.

Note: What I mean by referencing a user by name is saying the user's name almost only to thank them; what I don't mean is reference them to give them credit for a comment you turned into an answer, etc.

  • It's a salutation meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2950/… – random Feb 21 '14 at 17:23
  • @random what I mean is referencing users in a post to thank them, like "Thanks to UserX I was able to do this, so now..." – davidsbro Feb 21 '14 at 17:25
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    I don't think the "Thanks to Brian Rogers I am able to use a..." is a salutation, @random? Still then, it just is noise, I feel. – Arjan Feb 21 '14 at 17:26
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    It all comes down to being noise. Like a speaker thanking the host for the introduction. – random Feb 21 '14 at 17:28
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Personally, I believe it depends on context.

If the reference is "Thanks to userxxxxx, I was able to...." (and then continues onto an answer), then that is just noise and doesn't need to be there.

But if the reference is "According to userxxxxx in his answer to How to Foo the Bar .....", then that is properly attributing the work of other and it needs to remain (and actually should link to the answer in question whether it is an answer to the same question or not).

Answers that expand on posts are a little bit of a gray area as they are a little attribution but also a little noisy. Answers should stand on their own so it would be better to quote and attribute the work properly if you need to the reference the other post to make your answer understandable. But if your answer just stands on its own and completely answers the question without the reference, then the reference can be removed.1

So in your examples, I believe the edits were proper.

1 - I think Meta sites are an exception to this last guideline as expanding on answers is far more common than they are on regular sites

In general, there is a fine line between thanking someone and attributing someone, so here are a couple of tests to help you decide

  • If the "thanks" is just that, saying "thank you" and the answer completely stands on its own and appears to be a unique work, then it is just noise. The appropriate way to thank someone for their efforts is to upvote them.
  • If the "thanks" is a way to reference someone's work because the answer is using their answer as a base and expanding upon it, then I'd say that is actually attributing the work and should be edited to a more proper attribution.
  • If the "thank you" is referencing an answer on another question that is not a duplicate, then that is also attribution and should be handed as such.
  • If anything of the post is more conversational, then the user reference is likely to be noise.
  • So if one were to post an answer that referenced another, they should say so, correct? But if someone posts a question and thanks a user, that should be removed? – davidsbro Feb 21 '14 at 17:34
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    @davidsbro if I get a chance, I'll try to find some good examples, but in general, yes, that's how I see it. – psubsee2003 Feb 21 '14 at 17:39
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There is not one single rule about this. Instead there are many:

  • on Meta, if you are sure someone has done something Very Bad and needs to be Spoken To hold off on naming names until you know whether the behavior really is a problem.
  • in comments, you can @reply people to thank them or argue with them or tell them you've made the change they suggested, which notifies them in their inbox. (Only one person per comment and only in comments on posts they interacted with, never in answers or questions.)
  • in questions or answers, you may mention someone's name as a courtesy if you like, but...
    • your answer should stand on its own. If your answer is a point by point rebuttal of why someone else's answer is wrong, you're having a conversation. Stop that.
    • your answer should work no matter where it appears in the list so don't say "the above answer is wrong because" or "further to the above answer"
    • your question should stand on its own and not be a continuation of another question or part of an ongoing conversation, so telling us whose advice led you to structure your code this way is rarely going to be useful information
  • in questions, some people explain their edits by saying things like "Steve suggested I add my code so here it is" - this sort of framing is generally not needed and should be removed
  • in general, editing your question to "tell the story" of how it all worked out in the end and thank the answerers is not our usual style. The question is a question; the answers are answers. You show which ones you like by upvoting and which was most helpful by accepting.

You can also comment on the answers which is more direct and readable for everyone if what you have to say after the person's name is some sort of comment about their answer. There is nothing wrong with asking a question and commenting on some of the answers, or with answering a question and commenting on some of the other answers. I do that all the time. Including a random "Jill did not take Daylight Savings into account" in your answer is way more confusing than commenting on Jill's answer "this does not take Daylight Savings into account."

  • Thanks for compiling all those guidelines into one post...that's one thing I wasn't able to ever find. – davidsbro Feb 21 '14 at 17:44

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