I know this is somewhat of a rare request/edge case, but this is becoming really annoying. In the faq, which I've linked to below, you state that for the comment reply system to work,

There must be a starts-with, case-insensitive match of at least three characters in the display name.

Could you please parse the word after that, or consider reducing the number of matching characters required down to two, because, I think as you could see now, the first word of my username1 consists of only two letters, and apparently nobody knows of the correct way of doing this, which in my opinion is quite obscure:

Spaces are removed from the display names for matching purposes

I mean, the only instance where I know somebody did this right is here: Is there such thing as a relative jQuery selector?.

I've basically been reduced to opening up questions with my six last comment and refreshing them one by one to watch for replies. Its painful and stupid. Sigh.

The problem isn't just with my name specifically, though. Although most (all?) English names have at least three characters, this is not true with the Chinese language. A lot of Chinese characters when are anglicized become two character words. Last names with two characters (anglicized into two words in English) are also allowed. Yes, its not really an i18n problem, but surly you could have foreseen this before setting the limit to three?

So, look, I would really like not to have to change this display name into camalCase just to get comment replies working.

1The entirety of which is my last name, by the way, so please stop calling me 'Yi' :)

How do comment @replies work?

  • I have a similar issue where people think my name is jinguy, when it really is jjnguy. It is really annoying to miss comments directed at you.
    – jjnguy
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 13:35
  • 2
    @jjnguy That issue is entirely why I switched to Grace Note. It was slightly entertaining to see the wrong name sometimes, but I eventually noticed just how many comments I had been missing because people wrote "rn" instead of "m".
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 13:43
  • 2
    @jinguy, @ccornet: I can imagine that must be very annoying :p
    – Andy E
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 13:47
  • Regarding your edit: your display name is 8 characters long, not 2. So it would be let through.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 14:25
  • 1
    @Rob I had the advantage that my original display name wasn't my real name, though. For people who do have short given names or surnames (depending on your name order), though, I think it's more power to them to be able to keep their names if they use them.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 14:27
  • @Grace But given what that "feature" was suppose to prevent, clearly my username had slipped through a crack
    – Yi Jiang
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 14:29
  • Actually, that feature was supposed to prevent people who are entirely impossible to contact. You can be contacted, it's just that many people unfamiliar with the system will probably fail. People who actually had display names of 1 or 2 characters could never be responded to, no matter how well you understood the system. For the reasons given in my last comment, I don't think it would be wise to restrain users from having the first part of a display name be 1-2 characters.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 14:34
  • 1
    Maybe if I give this question a sharp enough jab the power that be might at least respond. Feels like talking to a wall here...
    – Yi Jiang
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 15:22
  • Note that the suggestion of passing more than one white-space seperated word can't work: users don't always put : or similar delimiters after the user name (e.g. "@foo is right"). Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 15:28
  • Wasn't the solution to this to just leave the white space out? IIRC, @YiJiang should work. Admittedly far from optimal - this should really be fixed the right way.
    – Pekka
    Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 9:07
  • 3
    @Pekka Yes it does, but if you look at the question, I've noted that literally nobody does this. I mean, nobody. Not even Jeff Atwood. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/61780/…
    – Yi Jiang
    Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 10:19
  • “I've basically been reduced to opening up questions with my six last comment and refreshing them one by one to watch for replies.” I have to say I ‘need’ to do that, too. The majority of users on SO don't know about comment replies at all. I even see people with high rep who don't use them. But I have to admit that it's great I can edit my own comments, because I forget the @user-name part occasionally, too. And I agree about the space issue, I hardly see anyone write @MarcelKorpel, though of course the system works with solely my first name. Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 11:33
  • 2
    @Georg: Agreed. Another reason why auto-completion (à la chat) or a reply button would be useful. Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 11:42
  • Why is it three characters in the first place? Probably because of this gentleman. Commented Oct 3, 2010 at 9:58

3 Answers 3


This is now possible.

We (sort of) still require a @reply to have at least three characters, and still stop matching on whitespace, but we now accept "nothing" as the third character, meaning "word boundary". So the comment

Thanks @Jo, that helped!

will cause a notification to the user "Jo Miller", but not to the user "John".

The rules for longer @replies have not changed, so

Yeah, @Don is right, you should use jQuery!

will match both "Donald Duck" and "Don Corleone" (so the notification will go to the one who was last active).

As always, the safest thing is to use the whole username (spaces removed) when replying.

  • 1
    Donald Duck answers questions on StackOverflow? Point me in his direction so I can serial upvote! Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 13:25
  • Would your example also work for old user names which might have less than 3 characters in total?
    – Arjan
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 14:16
  • (If anyone can describe point 3 of How do comment @replies work? any better, please do! (I did not want to introduce yet another point, as sometimes answers refer to the numbers...)
    – Arjan
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 14:20
  • @balpha, as an aside: editors can be @replied to as well. Does the activity timestamp apply in that case as well?
    – Arjan
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 14:22
  • 1
    @Arjan: Yes, it works for people with old username which have two characters in their user name (but obviously not those that have only one). And yes, if Donald Duck edited after Don Corleone commented, then Donald Duck will receive the reply.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 14:31
  • Okay! I am starting to believe it's easier to just post the code at How do comment @replies work? ;-)
    – Arjan
    Commented Jan 21, 2011 at 14:36
  • @Arjan: Correction: Two-character names cannot be replied to anymore.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 5:29

The Great Jeff Atwood came to me in a dream, and gave me the solution!

Thou shall go and change his name to something that begins with more than two characters

Okay, so no he didn't. This is what he said:

well, the "bug" is that your name is too short.. clearly that needs some fixin'


But really? Asking your users to change their names just to use the system? I find that slightly insulting...

alt text

  • 12
    Ahahahahahahaha! That sounds like a Jeff Atwood response, all right. :)
    – Pekka
    Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 8:58
  • 1
    In fairness, you did tell him to shut up just beforehand...
    – Benjol
    Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 11:47
  • 6
    @Bejol, well, that was after he said "how can I even reply to you? your name is too short :)"
    – Yi Jiang
    Commented Aug 31, 2010 at 11:52
  • 6
    Jeff Atwood. Great blogger. Fine programmer. But customer service skills? With the greatest respect to him (and I am still a fan) they might not be his strongest area.
    – MarkJ
    Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 9:10
  • It's Procrustean: Something Procrustean, therefore, takes no account of individual differences but cruelly and mercilessly makes everything the same. Commented Jul 10, 2020 at 2:09

This would be mitigated if/when auto-complete is implemented in comments. Offhand I can't find a link to a meta question for that, but I imagine there must be one.

  • I don't think there is - and given that a Greasemonkey solution exists, it's even less motivation to implement this
    – Yi Jiang
    Commented Sep 2, 2010 at 11:59
  • maybe this? Commented Oct 4, 2010 at 14:30
  • @Tobias, nope, here
    – Benjol
    Commented Oct 27, 2010 at 9:26

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