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I noticed that some of us prepend every user name, in questions, answers or comments, with an @. In comments, this notifies the first user mentioned, so one @ is useful. I'm not so sure about the other places. Should we do this?

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I would not do this. There are some reasons why this does not work as well as it does on Twitter or other places:

  • Usernames can change. If you add an answer that begins with "As @Jan said", but later on I change my username to Maria, this will not make sense. It is better to always create a link to the answer you want to refer to. (This is not such a problem for comments, since they stay in chronological order)
  • Usernames are not unique, so it is possible that two different users with the same name answer a question. Which answer are you referring to?
  • Users can write multiple answers to the same question. Which answer are you referring to?
  • It just looks weird. I understand why this originated this way on Twitter, but we have more advanced tools here (certainly in the question and answer edit boxes), so please just write normal sentences and use links or other markup to add meaning. I have no problem reading "I got good information by reading the blogs of Jan, Peter and Anna", and understanding that this sentence refers to three people, without the extra @. Again, I understand how this is useful on Twitter, where people constantly poke each other with messages, but this is not the case here.
  • @Jan Fabry: I'm commenting instead of answering because I've decided I don't like how the system encourages people to down-vote opinions they don't agree with on discussions vs. answers. That said, I'm one who uses @ a lot and I greatly prefer it. It helps me see references to people in which is often otherwise non-descript blobs of text. Moreso I've been wanting to ask StackExchange to emulate Twitter and move to @replyable screen names but I haven't because I figured that since they haven't already done it they must have a reason against so why fight an uphill battle? – MikeSchinkel Sep 10 '10 at 0:38
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I'm sorry for abusing this system for doing "announcements", but I think it is important to know that (currently) @replies in *italics* don't trigger a notification. It seems the system only matches from an @ that follows a space. So Hey @jan, did you consider A and B? will work, but Hey *@jan*, did you consider C and D? will not. This explains why I missed a lot of notifications here on meta.

Mike had a small discussion with Jeff about this in the comments to an answer on Meta Stack Overflow. The original question there, and a followup question, are also interesting if you want to know what Mike is thinking of to grow our community.

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