Recently I posted a comment on Stack Overflow on an answer by (say) Felix. He replied to the comment, and when replying to him I started my comment with "@Felix". Stack Overflow stripped that part of my comment out.
The engine should leave that in place, even if I'm redundantly specifying the person attached to the answer. Sometimes, regrettably and hopefully temporarily, discussion ensues and so it's useful to see to whom a comment is directed. It's inappropriate for the engine to remove an explicitly-typed direction in this way. Without wanting to blow one's own horn, the engine isn't smarter (in most cases) than the person typing the comment, and should leave it alone, complete with the "@xyz" part at the outset if explicitly typed.
Note that this is not a duplicate of "Eeeeek - what happened to my @ salutation?". That is asking why. I'm not asking why. I'm saying it's wrong and should be fixed.
Update 2011/07/21: Having made my request and reasons clear, I had stepped back from this and just lurked, since I didn't really have anything more to add. But others did, and I got re-engaged, etc., etc. Since my original edit and update were a bit rambling, I'm replacing it with what I believe to be the main points in favor of and against keeping the change.
Separately, I realized that I'd failed to do the obvious thing and suggest an alternative, and so I've done that now: Tell the user who will be notified of a comment.
Apologies in advance if anything has been lost in translation/condensation (feel free to fix it, just try not to be even more verbose than I am):
Arguments in favor of keeping the change:
@postowneris noisy. Protecting the signal-to-noise ratio is vital to keeping the standard high on the Stack Exchange network. (more) If you want to specifically address the postowner, just use
@postownerteaches new users that they have to do that to notify the postowner, and of course, they don't. Just commenting on a post always notifies the postowner.
Arguments against keeping the change itself:
@postowneris not noisy.
postowneris no less noisy than
@postowner. This does nothing to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.
@postowneris not just to notify the postowner, we use
@xyza lot like names on Stack Exchange sites and about 18 million other places online. The
@convention didn't originate at Stack Overflow and isn't unique to the Stack Exchange network. To ignore this is to ignore the human factor.
Forcing their removal reduces clarity. Sometimes when you comment on a post, you're commenting to all readers; other times, you're commenting specifically to the post owner and so the natural thing is
@postowneras with everywhere else we direct comments (on Stack Exchange and elsewhere). Their removal breaks the distinction, forcing workarounds.
Workarounds for the change cause more harm than making the change prevents. If users see a lot of
@ postowner(note the space) or
postowner,they mistakenly learn the
@is generally unnecessary and leave it out when they do need it, preventing the person they're trying to direct the comment to from being notified. This is active harm.
It's inappropriate for automated systems to silently edit content from actual intelligent beings, especially without a means of overriding that edit, without an overwhemlingly good reason, which this is far from being.
It's too intrusive, feels like censorship and editing for style, turning off new users who might otherwise contribute. One person's "noise" is another person's essential social lubricant.
It makes it harder to teach by example / is confusing for new users / is over-complicated (even for established users). (more) Sometimes you need the
@, sometimes you're actively prevented from using it. Quoting Jeff:
When the answer to a problem is "let's make things arbitrarily more complicated", it is rarely the correct answer
It forces asymmetry if there is a degree of back-and-forth. (more & example)
Finally: In the face of overwhelming, unambiguous negative feedback, it would be simply inappropriate to keep the change even if the 90% expressing their disagreement with the change were wrong. (more) Its benefits are nowhere near sufficient to justify overruling that kind of majority, especially not given that "We don’t run Stack Overflow. The community does." Overriding the community on this is active harm.