I keep seeing the following scenario:

  1. John Doe posts a question.
  2. The question is either not clear enough or missing some code.
  3. People post comments asking to clarify and/or post his code.
  4. The OP post comment back or edit his code and comment about it, but put no @namehere in the comment so those who commented never see it and the poor OP get no help.

Personally if I post comment and not answer I usually add the question to my favorites thus "follow" it to see such comments, but looks like I'm the only one who is doing this.

What can we do to encourage people to use the "@" more? It's for the good of the whole community, as people respond to comment, expecting reply but get none because nobody was notified.

  • 4
    Does it mean that if I write '@FullUserName: comment' he will be notificated through the inbox? Jan 10, 2011 at 8:54
  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/71903/…
    – Oak
    Jan 10, 2011 at 8:54
  • 3
    Yep that's the goal of the @.. :) Jan 10, 2011 at 8:55
  • 7
    @Ladislav sorry I repeated the same mistake I'm talking about, leaving comment on your comment without notifying you.. :-/ Jan 10, 2011 at 9:04
  • @Oak related yes but not duplicate, as my intention here is pure discussion to discuss ways to improve the current situation.. that discussion might result in feature requests. :-) Jan 10, 2011 at 9:05
  • Omg another feature I didn't know about ... Jan 10, 2011 at 9:06
  • @Ladislav yep, that's exactly my point in "even long time members". By the way, you don't have to write the full name, partial name is enough (until the first non-letter character e.g. Shadow or Ladislav) Jan 10, 2011 at 9:08
  • What happens if two users "Ladislav A" and "Ladislav B" participate in conversation and I type only @Ladislav? Jan 10, 2011 at 9:14
  • Related: Using the comment "pro tip" increases the risk of not getting notified about responses by new users - my response to this would be the same. We can't teach this by demonstration as there are a lot of rules to it. New users need to be explicitly taught this. I can't think of much that will work besides just spreading a link to the rules as often as possible.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jan 10, 2011 at 12:17
  • (Shadow, as you're the author of this post I cannot prove it to you, but 3 characters is enough. All nifty details at How do comment @replies work?, @Lad.)
    – Arjan
    Jan 10, 2011 at 12:45
  • @Arj thanks that's new "even" for me. But how can you send notification to more than one person? I saw once something like @name1 AND name2 is this the way? Jan 10, 2011 at 12:56
  • 1
    @Arjan A new system was added that restricts users from having display names shorter than 3 characters. The only people who have it are those who haven't changed their names since then. So going forward, that's not going to be a problem that much. The advancing issue is that people like Yi Jiang will still get addressed as @Yi Jiang, which will miss.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jan 12, 2011 at 16:26
  • 1
    Ah, @Grace, you're right! I'll flag Disallow usernames that cannot be @replied to to get status-completed then.
    – Arjan
    Jan 12, 2011 at 16:29
  • 1
    @puk Well, the "help" link to the right show text saying "The post author will always be notified of your comment. To also notify a previous commenter, mention their user name" - the part in bold hints about what happens but you're right, it never says something will be automatically removed. Nov 9, 2011 at 12:02
  • 1
    @puk they meant you should use it when addressing people other than the post author - guess you realize it by now though? :) Nov 10, 2011 at 7:57

3 Answers 3


If there existed a add reply button with every comment, similar to the upvote comment and flag comment buttons, this could be more or less avoided.

If the add reply button is clicked the add comment field should be opened but would already contain: "@FullUserName: ". This would also remove the risk of spelling errors of the user name.

  • I think there is a greasemonkey script for this Jan 10, 2011 at 14:07
  • 2
    @Kop There is, it's listed in another answer to this question.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jan 10, 2011 at 14:08
  • 3
    @Kop still, would be nice to have it as integral part of the site. :) Jan 10, 2011 at 14:27
  • 1
    I don't use greasemonkey. So a 'Reply' button would be very useful.
    – IAbstract
    Jan 10, 2011 at 19:19
  • 1
    reply button will always be denied with extreme prejudice. But there are greasemonkey scripts. Jan 11, 2011 at 0:46
  • 5
    @Jeff Atwood: Why will it be denied with extreme prejudice?
    – dalle
    Jan 11, 2011 at 7:39
  • 1
    I for one won't deny reply button.. IMO that's the best suggestion that will have the best effect in the end of the day. Jan 12, 2011 at 10:38

Note that you only need to use @ when you are addressing someone other than the person who wrote the post.

Post owners are always notified of comments on their questions and answers. Therefore, the following extremely common scenarios work just fine, no @name required:

  • posting a comment on a question: question owner always notified

  • posting a comment on an answer: answer owner is always notified

So I think you misunderstand a bit how @ notifications work; they are largely for communication between two random commenters, not at all for communication between question owner and answerers.

edit: click the help link under [add comment] to see a summary of the available formatting options, including a brief @reply explanation.

commenting help

Additionally, per:

Micro-refinement to notifications for comments of others posts

If a user comments on their own post and there is only one person who has previously commented, then that person should be notified when the author comments even if '@user' is not specified.

  • 12
    Nope, this time I didn't misunderstand.. see this question for example: stackoverflow.com/questions/4642344/… - the OP wasn't clear in his question, I asked for clarification and he posted comment on my comment.... if I wasn't following the question I would never know he posted that comment. Jan 10, 2011 at 8:54
  • 4
    @Shadow Wizard: That is indeed the most common scenario where it breaks down. A new user asks a question, someone asks for a clarification in a comment, the new user types a new comment... and nobody gets notified. Because the first comment doesn't need an @ to reach the new user, many times it is left off and the new user doesn't see a good example of how they should reply. A reply button or a warning "nobody will get a notification unless you write @name" could work here.
    – Jan Fabry
    Jan 10, 2011 at 14:34

For those interested, there is a greasemonkey user script that adds a “Reply” link (as an arrow: ↵) after every comment. It is available here.

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