There are answers or comments which refer to answers by another user's username without providing a link to them, if the user's name has changed there is no way to know which answer is being referred.

Possible improvements:

  • Ease other answers linking via Markdown (say, ^answerid:123^, or whatever syntax makes sense)
  • Keeping a name trail
  • Others?

I don't know how pervasive this problem is, it is probably very small and doesn't even deserve any action.


2 Answers 2


It not a real problem when you use a link (as you should),

Find common prefix of strings


Find common prefix of strings

both point to the same question (same for user).

People should just use the little globe button.

  • Of course if you use a link there is no problem. But what when somebody doesn't?
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:04
  • 1
    Henk: How do I use a link in this comment for your name?
    – Gnome
    Jan 15, 2010 at 15:39

Attempting to auto link on names can not be made to work correctly.


  1. Names are not unique
  2. Names can change
  3. People often use shortened forms when linking by name for convenience

Under only constraints 1 and 2 it would be possible to globally parse the data and fix most cases every time a user changes his/her/its name.

Once you throw in the last fact, the problem becomes AI complete.

I started out ignoring the suggestion for a new markdown syntax. But that has become the focus of the comments on this answer so perhaps I should say something about it.

That is something that could be made to work (and in the comments, too!), but it would require another database query for every name so linked. I'm not sure that it is worth it.

For myself, I do a very modest amount of inter-answer linking, and always copy and paste the link as well as making the text reference the other posters current name. The problem is that I often write comments to another user. I suspect that busy threads see dozens (or more) of such instances including the question and all the answers. Ouch.

  • What cannot be made to work correctly? modifying markdown to ease linking to another answer or keeping a name trail?
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Jan 15, 2010 at 14:30
  • Linking to another answer is already easy, as Henk mentioned -- the globe icon and paste in the link you get from right-clicking "link" and choosing "copy shortcut" or "copy target URL." You can't link directly to a comment, but as long as comments weren't deleted, you can usually figure out who's who. And how often do people change their names outside of Meta that this is really a big problem?
    – John Rudy
    Jan 15, 2010 at 16:48
  • No, this isn't really a big problem (as mentioned in the title and the body of the question.) Just wondering if usability could be improved in that regard. Using the globe approach is around 5 steps, whereas with a markdown shortcut is 2 steps.
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Jan 15, 2010 at 17:46
  • I don't want to argue too much, but I only count three steps in using the globe: Click globe, paste (CTRL+V), click OK. Maybe it's four if you count right-clicking the user's name and choosing copy as a step first, but even with a Markdown shortcut you'd have to do something similar (or remember the user's ID number).
    – John Rudy
    Jan 15, 2010 at 17:51
  • I counted five summing the right click and the copy click. A Markdown shortcut can reduce mouse usage, you just hover over the user name (checking the username out) and then write ^ans:1:14048^. Although I don't think that would be an awesome improvement :-)
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Jan 15, 2010 at 20:28
  • With all due respect, I don't think ^ans:1:14048^ or something similar is particularly intuitive. I think the cognitive friction involved with trying to remember that kind of syntax (whose only domain is the Trilogy sites) will far outweigh the benefit of five fewer mouse clicks. Plus, they'd still need a button for it, and you can still do fundamentally the same thing with hyperlinks (which can be entered fairly easily in MD).
    – John Rudy
    Jan 15, 2010 at 21:34
  • Yes, that syntax isn't particularly attractive. So I leave with the hope that meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9652/… gets implemented someday.
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Jan 16, 2010 at 0:21
  • @dmckee: I never suggested autolinking on names. I just mentioned the problem and was looking for potential improvements.
    – Vinko Vrsalovic StaffMod
    Jan 16, 2010 at 0:23

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