As discussed repeatedly already, the following scenario happens a thousand times every day on Stack Overflow:

  1. Newbie OP asks question
  2. User posts comment asking for clarification
  3. Newbie OP posts clarifying reply but doesn't add @username
  4. User never finds out that a reply has been made.

Can't "Facebook style" notification (that is, notification on all replies in comment threads I've contributed to, without the need for @username) be introduced at least for comments to the actual question? That would probably solve 99% of the problem.

Alternatively, as @Arjan suggests, limit this to comments from the OP.

Using the favourites function for keeping track of crappy questions sucks. So does manually crawling through the own "activity" page. Why does the potential answerer have to go through this?

  • 1
    +10 if I could - couldn't agree more with this idea.
    – Kev
    Jan 12, 2011 at 11:28
  • Maybe limit to comments posted by the author of the post (in this case: the question asker?)
    – Arjan
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:21
  • @Arjan good idea, added to the question
    – Pekka
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:21
  • Very similar to this: Too many people (even long time members) not using the "@"
    – Kobi
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:32
  • @Kobi oops, good catch! And only 2 days old. I'd tend to keep this open anyway because Jeff declined the only solution there (A reply button)
    – Pekka
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:33
  • I did not know that @user will send message to user. I thought its just a way to clarify to anyone reading that this comment is meant for user.
    – JP19
    Jan 12, 2011 at 13:15
  • @pekka - or a wikipedia style watch list - see my updated answer. Now if we had that I wouldn't need to @ you.
    – Kev
    Jan 12, 2011 at 13:17
  • @Kev - wrong, it's his post. It's supposed to be the other way.
    – Kobi
    Jan 12, 2011 at 13:22
  • @kobi - but would still be of use. He'd be updated if it was a new answer, not an edit to an existing answer. According to this post: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/09/new-global-inbox) you only get notifications for 1.**New** answers to your questions, 2.New comments on your posts, 3. @replies to you in comments. My update would have been missed unless you're sitting doing F5.
    – Kev
    Jan 12, 2011 at 13:28
  • FI: A newer (2020) development is the "Follow Questions and Answers" feature. Jun 5, 2022 at 14:31

5 Answers 5


can't "Facebook style" notification (i.e. notification on all replies in comment threads I've contributed to, without the need for @username) be introduced at least for comments to the actual question? That would probably solve 99% of the problem.

Perhaps, but it would also add a whole new class of problems based on unwanted over-notification. Would also encourage comment wars and devolving into discussions.

I would support the commenting help div (which is now implemeneted) but not this, not at all.

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.

  • 3
    to be perfectly clear. I mean notifying about the OP's responses in comments underneath the question only. Comments from other people, and comments in answers would continue not to cause a notification. This would cause a growth in notifications so tiny that it is extremely unlikely to create over-notification on any serious level. At the moment, the potential answerer has to jump through hoops to get notified when the question gets improved and that sucks. I miss dozens of questions daily I might know an answer to this way.
    – Pekka
    Jan 12, 2011 at 16:14
  • @pekka shrug, I file this under "the person asking is responsible for not sucking if they want an answer to their question." Eg, solutions that absolve the poor, suffering asker from doing the right thing.. when they are the ones benefiting most from the answers and generally doing the least work to get there, too.. well, I just can't get behind that. Jan 13, 2011 at 8:53
  • Fair enough, but then some sort of help div would really be in order.
    – Pekka
    Jan 13, 2011 at 10:49
  • Would you get behind "educating the (new) user"? As @Pekka suggests, a popup displayed when one comments his/her own question would help reminding said new user his comment won't notify anybody unless '@' is used.
    – VonC
    Jan 13, 2011 at 12:55

I think this is an excellent idea.

In fact I'd extend this to being notified about changes to questions or answers you've commented on. Quite often a user will change the post based on a suggestion/question in comment and not @reply so you miss the update.

Or, how about a WikiPedia style watch list so you can subscribe for change notifications that way perhaps in conjunction with mark something as a favourite or have a separate "watch this question", "watch answers", "watch comments" and pick the level of granularity you so desire.

Notifications could be visible in the Global Inbox or on a special "Watch Items" page.


The newbie and the user should be linked and user informed automatically only when user answers a question. If the user only comments they should have the freedom to not be annoyed about changes. BUT there should be an option for the user to recieve information if the user wants to. Eg. if newbie comments to their own question, edits it or answers it.


The solution for this use case is different, I think:

The newbie should somehow be encouraged to edit the post, not to add details using a comment. (And optionally getting notifications for edited posts one commented on.)

  • 2
    In my experience, the intuitive behaviour of most new users is to edit the post, and then post a comment saying "edited.". What they don't catch is that they need to use @username
    – Pekka
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:18

I don't think that's a problem at all. If people want to be notified they can opt-in by marking the question as a favorite.
If I ask a leading question I expect the OP to edit the post (and bump it), so other people can see it. I'm not asking a personal question, and the answer isn't addressed to me. In fact, when the OP does address the answer to me in a comment, I encourage her/him to edit the post.
Not all comments ask for clarifications - I think introducing a new kind of alerts will generate more noise, not less.

  • 4
    I often want to be notified (because I might know the solution), but I don't want to litter my favourites with 3,000 bad questions. To me, that defies the point of having favourites at all
    – Pekka
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:44
  • @Pekka - Maybe I don't understand - won't you be automatically notified to changes in these 3000 bad questions? How is this better?
    – Kobi
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:46
  • @Kobi to me, keeping track of questions I might be able to answer (pending a clarification) is not what I want to use the favourites function for. Consider a trivial question that you could answer, but you need one more detail from the OP, so you post a comment. Why do I have to add that to my favourites just to be sure the OP's answer reaches me? Seeing as this is not a question I really want to have in my favourites, and I will almost certainly forget removing it. This is only about the very narrow case I described above - newbie OPs not getting the @username system
    – Pekka
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:50
  • @Pekka - because "favorites" are wrongly named, and really mean "alert me of changes". I don't want to be notified on new comments or edits in every question I commented on. Maybe the underlying problem is the suckiness of the envelope compared to the Stack Exchange inbox.
    – Kobi
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:56
  • @Pekka - I'll ask again: how will you identify the comments or edits that fit this narrow case?
    – Kobi
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:57
  • @Kobi by setting the rule I suggest above: If I have commented on a question, notify me of follow-up comments (optionally, only follow-up comments by the OP) as if it were a comment addressed to me. It was once decided not to do this in general because of the risk of flooding (which is fine with me), but for this narrow case I'd very much like to have it
    – Pekka
    Jan 12, 2011 at 12:59
  • (if I totally misunderstood what you mean, let me know)
    – Pekka
    Jan 12, 2011 at 13:14

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