I have come up against this "feature" several times now, and almost everybody appears to be unaware of it. Only the first ping functions in a comment. I understand that this is by design, but really, would it be so bad if the first three pings in each comment were functional?

What do others think? Would this be better off on meta.SO?

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I believe that the issue was addressed here before, I cannot be bothered to find the relevant reference though. –  Asaf Karagila Apr 24 '11 at 20:09
    
Awww, my facetious tag was edited away sofort. :) –  Glen Wheeler Apr 24 '11 at 20:14
    
I see now why I was not always aware of comments. –  Raskolnikov Apr 24 '11 at 20:37
    
@Raskolnikov Yes, actually, if you look through older posts here on math.SE there are many examples of people using multiple pings in one comment and expecting it to function. –  Glen Wheeler Apr 24 '11 at 20:47
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Not just better off. There's nothing we can do here about the behaviour. Such a question should thus be posed on meta.SO, as it is something about the underlying engine of StackExchange. I would normally migrate it for you, but it has already been discussed many times there, so any migrated question will likely be closed as duplicate very soon. Also see Jeff's answer. –  Willie Wong Apr 25 '11 at 1:12
    
@Willie I was somewhat aware of this before I posted the question, and I must say that I wanted to post it anyway for two reasons: the first is to possibly inform people that @replies do not work the way they might have thought, and the second is that the discussion linked to by Jeff is already expressing most of the ideas I wanted to express here. I don't think I could do anything to reignite the discussion there. Jeff is active here so I had hoped to reach him this way... but ahh, to no avail :D. –  Glen Wheeler Apr 25 '11 at 13:58

2 Answers 2

Not really an answer, but since I think it's good that people have easy access to all the information available, on meta.SO you can find more than you ever wanted to know about how comment replies work:

How do comment @replies work?

Update: As of 1 July 2011 there's a major change in @replies: If there are comments on a post already, and I start my comment with "@postowner, @othercommenter", then the "@postowner" will no longer block othercommenter to be notified of my comment. See #8 of How do comment @replies work?

On a related note, if there are no other commenters, then "@postower" will be stripped from my comment.


Here I leave what I previously wrote; it's totally obsolete now, but helps understanding the extensive discussion on the subject in April 2011.

Here's what I do if I want to notify both someone who commented on a post and the author of that post: Say Bob wrote an answer, and Alice commented on that answer. Then my comment would start, e.g., with

@Alice, @Bob: Just to let you know ...

(Note that the order is important here; "@Bob, @Alice" wouldn't work!) Why do I write it like that? The "@Alice" is to notify Alice, and Bob is notified anyway since he's the author of the post (i.e., the answer). The only reason for writing "@Bob" is to make it clear to Bob (and others) that this comment is also addressed at him, not only at Alice. (This is useful if there's a long comment thread already and Bob is drowning in all the notifications, and it's also a pointer for other people reading the comments.)

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I suppose you could always use a slightly different syntax; something like, "@Alice and Bob: Just to let you know". –  Loop Space Apr 26 '11 at 20:43
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@Hen Thanks for the update. It's becoming difficult to keep track of all the kludges in the SE software platform, sigh. –  Bill Dubuque Jul 13 '11 at 17:36

Allow more than one @name notification per comment

One of the problems I see with this is that of escalating communication paths. That is to say, Joe replies to @Jim and @Bob, and Pete replies to @Jim and @Bob and @Joe, and Mort comes in late and writes to @Pete and @Jim and @Bob and @Joe and also decides that this is relevant to @Frank, and eventually the comments become an unreadable mess and your head explodes because you can never figure out who's really talking to whom.

I realize that this could be mitigated somewhat with limits of 3 or 5 names, but that only softens the blow, it doesn't solve the problem.

It's a bit like the "reply all" infinite loops that happen at businesses. Somebody decides to write a message to way more people than those who actually need/want to read it, some random people "reply all" because they don't know who is really important on the list, and anyone replying after that has no choice but to reply-all because otherwise the four parallel "threads" won't make any sense.

Part of what we do is to explicitly suppress too much point-to-point discussion, much like Twitter -- the focus is on generating messages that are of general interest to more than just one (or two) people.

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Jeff: When I was in the army as a sysadmin we often encountered global (as in army-level) emails that were sent to people at jobs usually not occupied by the smartest and most technological people there are. Everyone would hit "Reply All" and request not to be on the mailing list, or some other senseless comment. Whilst I was in my position I recall three times most of the email systems of the army crashed for an hour due to such feedback in the mail system. It was not because they weren't sure who's important, but rather because they did not know better. :-) –  Asaf Karagila Apr 24 '11 at 21:21
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I understand, Jeff. However my point is that this is frequently misused, people often do not notice, and valuable input along with potential content is wasted. I do not see allowing two or three pings per comment creating a huge problem. –  Glen Wheeler Apr 25 '11 at 0:09
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A simple warning would be enough: "Please be advised that only <the first user> will be notified of your comment." –  TonyK Apr 25 '11 at 11:47
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@tony we're looking at that –  Jeff Atwood Apr 26 '11 at 9:31
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That's great! When you look at it, can you please take into account what I wrote in the Update in my answer? (Such a "Please be advised ..." warning shouldn't be issued for "@Alice, @Bob", but it should be issued for "@Bob, @Alice".) –  Hendrik Vogt Apr 26 '11 at 17:38
    
@TonyK: As of July 1, the second @lert will still notify a commenter if the first @lert was invalid or directed at the post owner. –  Hendrik Vogt Jul 14 '11 at 11:39

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