Comments containing more than one @lert are blocked now unless they contain a backtick. In principle this is a good idea: it educates unexperienced users, while experienced users still have a workaround.

However, the comment is also blocked if it contains both "@postowner" and "@othercommenter". Funnily, this clashes with the recent change that "@postowner, @othercommenter" will in fact notify both users (see #8 of How do comment @replies work?). I simply see no reason why such comments are blocked – can they please be accepted again, even if they don't contain backticks?

The blocking algorithm should also ignore invalid @lerts like "@all" or "@lert", which are obviously not meant to notify anyone (unless the users all and lert are commenting). Same for @lerts in links: "see How do comment @replies work?" shouldn't trigger the block.

Let me also note: even for experienced users, the ` workaround is rather obscure. I'd like it better if the popup saying "Only one additional @user can be notified; the post owner will always be notified" would contain some "I know what I'm doing, submit the comment nonetheless".

Alternative idea: Make it so that two trailing spaces override the comment blocking (instead of the backtick). Then in the popup say something like "use two trailing spaces to override". This would have the advantage that people will have to read the popup (yuck!).

Jeff requested to see some real world examples, so here are a few examples of comments that shouldn't be blocked:

  • The OP asks about accepting an answer. Another user claims in a comment that questions without accepted answers are bumped by the community user and advises the OP to wait with accepting:

    @user: No, a question will get bumped only if it has no upvoted answers. (So that shouldn't keep you from accepting an answer, @OP.)

    (I know, I could omit the @ before OP, but the @ is a good eye-catcher.)

  • Replying to a user who asks about comment @replies:

    @user: See How do comment @replies work? for details.

  • Referring to another comment in the same thread:

    @user: Blah blah blah ..., see also my comment @otheruser above.

All these don't occur often, but sometimes it's very useful to post such comments.

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    Seems to me like all these changes are making replying more complicated than it ever was before. Making notifications obscure and magical isn't the way to go.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 18:01
  • Sounds like we need to reverse the order of the two responsible code paths. Strip the superfluous @replies to the post owner first, and then determine whether the comment should be blocked because it contains two @ signs. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 0:21
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    @Cody Why do you think @ replies [I had to insert a space here since SO won't let me post this otherwise] to post owner are superfluous? They make it clear what earlier issue this comment will address. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 9:29
  • @CodeInChaos: It's not really about me thinking that they are. I was referring to the change that's already happened and not about to be changed back where replies to the post owner are automatically removed from comments because they're unnecessary: the post owner is always notified of a comment to his/her own post. Since we're going to be doing that anyway, it seems like we might as well strip those first, then apply the rule that limits you to one @ reply per comment. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 9:39
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    @Cody: The problem with your suggestion is that @‍postowner is only removed if it's at the beginning of the comment and if there are no other commenters. So also in cases where @‍postowner is not stripped, it should just be ignored by the blocking algorithm. Moreover, as this comment thread here proves, it would be nice if invalid @‍lerts would be ignored. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 9:47

2 Answers 2


I dislike this block. In general I feel annoyed by SOs recent tendency to cripple comments. The "Move to chat" reminder[No I don't want to, STFU], block @poster [But I want to address him], silently remove @somebody addresses, ...

The current solution invites comment spam. For me the @poster isn't just about notifications, it's about what I want to address.

Earlier if you want to address two different concerns, one by an earlier commented, one by the person who wrote the post I'd use @commenter blablabla @poster blubblubblub.

With the block in place I can't do that. So I have the choice of putting an ugly space in there @ poster or add an additional comment so each concern has its own comment.

On the backtick workaround: The backtick workaround is strange IMO. I see no logical link between a backtick and notifications. Especially since it has already a different meaning (inline code quoting). Perhaps we could use @@name for non notifying addresses where the rendering code then removes the second @. And most importantly: State the workaround in the blocking message.

  • Thanks for your feedback! (You can put a backtick ` somewhere in the comment, but as I wrote, this workaround is rather obscure.) Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 9:36
  • Didn't know about that workaround. Should definitely be part of the message you get when your comment gets blocked. Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 9:43
  • ‍@CodeInChaos: Did you read my question? :-) Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 9:44
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    Oh yeah, by the way, I hate that nonsense where they're trying to push everyone into chat. If I wanted to participate in a chat room, there are lots of other, better places to do that. I'm still not sure what happened to SO being a Q&A site. Seems like they're placing an awful lot of emphasis recently on worthless features like chat. I used to just ignore that it even existed, but that's becoming increasingly difficult... Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 9:52
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    I didn't read it very thoroughly. I had just hit that message box when I came to post here, and thus I was pretty pissed about yet another new annoying "feature" Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 14:14

The first author of the question or answer will always be notified of any new comment.

So you don't have to @lert him.

See also @RebeccaChernoff message here : Eeeeek - what happened to my @ salutation?

I agree in some way, the notification to the postowner should be removed, as stated in the previous answer. (I'm not sure it happen only when @postowner appears as first word or not.) Thus alerting the second @alert.

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    Well, I know that I don't have to @lert him, but still - sometimes I want to include "@postowner". This is particularly useful in long comment threads where the post owner gets 15 notifications in a few hours, and maybe none of them are really direct at him. Will he look at the 16th notification? An "@postowner" might help! Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 15:39
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    Well if the content does not concerned the post owner, the message is off-topic isn't it? Or it belongs to a chat discussion.
    – M'vy
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 15:47
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    @M'vy: Here on Meta it's not unusual to have some related discussion in the comments, is it? Those discussions should still be related to what the post owner wrote, but they need not concern the post owner. To a lesser extent, the same applies to the other sites of the network. Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 15:53
  • Well you have a point. But this would still be strange to allow one @lert + one @lert to the post owner but not to anyone else. You can notify one person and the postowner once?. I must admit I'm not found of the blocking thing. Maybe 2nd+ @alert could be auto back-ticked.
    – M'vy
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 16:03
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    @M'vy: Please don't forget the @Hendrik (grumble, already need a `). Why is this strange? As I wrote, they just made it so that "@postowner, @othercommenter" will notify the other commenter, so this is a perfectly legitimate use case. Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 16:12

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