# What is the etiquette for forming the identifying string when using comment notifications?

I am a somewhat infrequent user of this site. I just came across some comment by a high-rep user whose displayname is of the form GivenName FamilyName, let us say John Doe. In this comment said user complained about being notified as "@JohnDoe" claiming (or at least implying) this was impolite and they should be notified as "@John Doe".

Given my understanding of the system (everything after a space is ignored) this strikes me as somewhat unusual and I never came across anything like this so far.

While something like the above was pointed out to the user they did not acknowledge it in any way and moreover the comment complaining about the usage received some upvotes. Thus I am wondering:

Is it considered as inapproriate on this site to comment notify using the string suggested by the system?

If this should be the case, what are guidelines that should be followed when forming the string for notifying a user.

• I think the vast majority of users won't be offended by the lack of a space in the ping, especially considering that the comment box autocompletes to the space-less version. – user61527 Apr 19 '14 at 22:34
• Not only should users take no offense to these characteristics of the @pinging system, following these prescribed rules can make it impossible to ping a specific user. According to the MSE faq, were I to reply to John Doe using his preferred @John Doe, but user Johnathan Sow had also commented on the same post after the latest comment by Mr. Doe, it is Mr. Sow who will receive the notification, and not the intended recipient. – user642796 Apr 19 '14 at 22:52
• Users should read more carefully the manual for how pinging works. For example, I don't have to add @quid in order for you to receive the ping; and if I were the only one commenting on this post, then you wouldn't have had to add @Asaf for me to be pinged either. I find the autocomplete's removal of spaces very annoying and usually deletes the family name, or adds a space where needed. I find the result much more personal and pleasing. I'm not offended when people don't put the same effort for me, but I am slightly ticked by the phenomenon. – Asaf Karagila Apr 19 '14 at 23:51
• (The above comment should be read as a mandatory rant about how little people know of the system they work with, and then a semi-relevant comment. This comment should only be read in case of an emergency, after not understanding what the above comment has to do with the post. If you understand why I posted it, please explain that to me and do not read this comment. Although now it's pretty late for that sort of request.) – Asaf Karagila Apr 19 '14 at 23:53
• Gosh, personally I couldn't care less how people ping me. It surprises me that people have opinions about this. – Alexander Gruber Apr 20 '14 at 0:22
• I can connect with the general sentiment @Asaf though I do not share your preference; I typically go with autocomplete and consider this by and large as best practice. (But this is tangential as I asked a support question on the practice of this site) Here I made an exception just for you :-) It might be that your preference and practice in fact contributes a bit to people not understanding the system, thinking that usage of whitespace is sort of inconsequential (while it is not at all) Just within the last day or so I saw usage like @ quid or @quid-- both not working. – quid Apr 20 '14 at 0:52
• quid: While there are things which are subject to the decisions of "meta dwellers" (e.g. how aggressively should certain types of questions should be closed; or what tolerance should we have for "thank you" comments), I highly doubt that something as rudimentary as ping-strings can be truly discussed on meta in any type of effectiveness (this is equivalent to the norm of driving 110 at a 100 zone is illegal, but nobody cares about that). I don't know how much effect I have on the issue, despite being a blabbermouth and commenting a lot. – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 '14 at 0:59
• @Asaf I did not want to discuss anything I merely wanted a clarfication on the etiquette of this site, since the insistence of some high-rep user related to the issue on main lead me to wonder if there might be some particular guideline on this site. Some high-rep user saw the need to disuss about it on main, so I thought I can ask about it on meta. – quid Apr 20 '14 at 1:14
• Nobody is stopping you from asking about it on meta. I just don't think there is a reasonable solution here. It's a personal preference, and I suppose that once being asked, the nice thing is to respect someone's wishes. Especially if their name is just four letters long, without any umlauts, accents, or other less-standard letters. But that's just me, I suppose, and I can't say that I have much hope for this to be enforced by anyone or even respected by anyone. – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 '14 at 1:18
• @Alexa: I might take advantage of your lack of opinion. ;-) – user642796 Apr 20 '14 at 5:36
• @Asaf while that high-rep user's given name is indeed four characters long and fulfills the other characteristics you metion too, it does not start with an A. Moreover, personally, I did not know about your preference, though I comment replied to you elsewhere many times and I am pretty sure almost always with full display-name without space. But, indeed, the adressed user respected the wish once expressed at least in that one thread. Yet, very personally, I consider expressing the wish as a bit unreasonable, not only but also as the aked for behavior is a mal-practice, IMO. – quid Apr 20 '14 at 9:45
• @quid: I am not going to tell anyone on how to address me (unless they address me as "Sir" or "Ser" or by my family name, in which case I will often correct them). So, since I don't express my wish on the matter, I'm not offended when people don't follow it. – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 '14 at 9:47
• Good we got this settled @Asaf. I'll try to remember your specific personal preference. I will however, in view of two moderators comments, take the answer to my question being that the string suggested by the system is an appropriate way to comment notify on this site, and that there are no particular additional guidelines. This is somehow what I assume in the first place, but then some high-rep users insistence on this matter really created some doubts. I am glad this is now documented. (If nobody else does it I will record this as "the answer" later.) // Thanks to everybody for the input. – quid Apr 20 '14 at 10:25

The @user has a specific purpose, to tell the SE software which user should be notified about the comment. It is not like a salutation in a letter, but more like an email address.

The rules for this are somewhat complicated by necessity. Removing spaces is probably the least problematic way of solving the issue of determining where the @notification ends. Writing the @notification manually can easily fail in any comment thread with multiple users that share the first part of their user names. Writing the notification properly with spaces would require the user to verify that no other user that fits the now less specific @notification has posted in the comment thread (or edited or voted to close the parent question) to avoid the notification to fail. This would be rather difficult even for experienced SE users, and this goes into details of the notification system no regular user should have any need to know.

The version without spaces the autocomple uses is the most specific variant and the least likely to fail. I think it is unreasonable to complain about the use of this form given that it is suggested by the SE system and the complexity of ensuring that a hand-written notification with spaces does not fail to notify.

• It suggests to me that the cleanest fix would be to disallow spaces in display names. I bet that wouldn't be popular, though. – Peter Taylor Apr 20 '14 at 17:57
• @Peter_Taylor Better idea: replace spaces with underscores (when forming a notification) instead of omitting them. And match to user names accordingly. – user127096 Apr 20 '14 at 18:08
• @Peter: Instead of user names we'll just have SHA512 strings hashing up some personal information which is fixed upon registration and contains some unique identifiers. – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 '14 at 18:36
• The analogy with email is really to the point in my opinion, especially since one cannot have a space there either, so most everybody should be somehow used to such things. Except thinking about it, when one has address last@example.com, one possibly could tell people ones email adress is "first last@example.com" :-) Also pointing out the nonobvious 'competition' (like editors) for the ping is an interesting additional aspect. – quid Apr 21 '14 at 0:06
• @HowAboutaNiceBigCupof +1 for the irony of using an invalid string to ping :-) I agree that underscores could be used, but I'd suggest users that want it, use them as their displayname. Initials are quite common in display names and J.Doe looks a lot better than J._Doe, IMO. Right one could special case . but perhaps it is not as important as that. – quid Apr 21 '14 at 0:15
• @Asaf you mean something impersonal and autocreated just like the picture on your user page? ;-) – quid Apr 21 '14 at 0:18
• @quid: I always preferred my presence to be textual on the internet. When it comes to graphical representation I'd prefer the impersonal touch of a Gravatar icon. – Asaf Karagila Apr 21 '14 at 2:30

a high-rep user ... complained about being notified as "@JohnDoe" claiming (or at least implying) this was impolite and they should be notified as "@John Doe".

That remark was part of an inter-user war and as such had only a tangential connection to spaces in @ notices. As a comment on spacing it is almost meaningless (even if correct from some points of view), but as an indicator of the state of meta.MSE and the direction the whole site has been moving, it is worth a closer examination.

The remark about names and spaces was there as part of a longer stream of comments, chained through many questions on the main and meta sites, that aggressively deconstruct and criticize every single recent action of another user (the OP of the question where the remark appeared). Criticism was based on new invented standards fabricated for the concerted targeting of that OP by several dedicated "followers" from the meta. Examples of the new standards: this previously undisclosed rudeness of @FirstLast pings without spaces; a quota (applicable only to the targeted OP) of one answer per question, including answers in comments; new types of "context and effort" requirements not applied to others; and a novel requirement (naturally, used only on that OP) to specifically anticipate, list, and exclude every form of answer that OP might know about, or that others think he should have known about.

Given my understanding of the system (everything after a space is ignored) this strikes me as somewhat unusual and I never came across anything like this so far.

There is a reason you didn't see it before: it is a triviality that becomes a subject of criticism only when it can be connected to the one targeted user. The author of the complaint never made a point of it before although he must have received a large number of @ notices with the auto-inserted username.

While something like the above was pointed out to the user they did not acknowledge it in any way and moreover the comment complaining about the usage received some upvotes.

The upvotes are from two sources, one general and one particular.

1. In general, there is the meta.MSE-driven "Vote Trolling" phenomenon where any negative comment directed at a user who has made himself unpopular often enough on the meta, is very likely to get several free +1's, independent of accuracy or honesty of the remarks. In fact, the less honest and more aggressive, the more the votes tend to accumulate.

2. In addition, the targeted OP has a pack of 3-4 aggressive "followers" who have been on an individual and collective mission to close his posts on the main site, close and delete posts on the meta site, and contest everything in very long chains of comments. The followers have the warm and reliable vote support of several others, so that there is almost a guaranteed 5 or more upvotes on any negative comment toward that OP, and a similar (though slightly smaller in total vote count) trolling against the other unpopular folks.

Of course the problem with the political users running amok is that they tend to drive out the more apolitical types, and over time there is a phase transition to a kindergarten of vote wars and comment trolling. The meta has more or less reached that point and it will be interesting to see whether it can make its way back to normalcy.

• As to the trivia question, my practice is not necessarily consistent, but is to have the first comment using @ FirstLast by clicking on the option given by Stackexchange, and @ First for the later ones, if it is a user I "know" from earlier conversations. – zyx Apr 20 '14 at 3:11
• "Pfft, I bet Asaf downvoted this because he's one of dem political users running amok! Bah to him!". I actually downvoted this answer because it has little to do with the topic of the post. It targeted one fact, presented it in a one-sided manner, and ignored the large and general topic of conversation. Speaking of political users, if you drive me away, does that mean that you're a political user, running amok and driving other people away? (No need to reply, I'm not going to answer.) – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 '14 at 3:46
• What was posted includes no less than 3 on-topic answers to the question. One, that there was no significant issue (as judged by actions of the complaint author, among other criteria). Two, taking the complaint at face value as correct, it is not that important anyway. Three, one possible algorithm is described for handling the spacing "problem", adding to the existing set of comments on that. The only ignoring of the "large and general topic" would be an insistence to not talk about the matter of the targeted OP and his pack of groupies. – zyx Apr 20 '14 at 4:09
• Now who's being dishonest? I can't open a thread about question standards without being called for it, but you can bring up "a gang of evil doers" every time. If you're so distraught with some users' actions, go ahead and start a meta thread about it. But if you do, try to be more objective than what you've shown so far. – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 '14 at 4:18
• You have not named anything dishonest in the answer or comments. Do you happen to know of such, or just don't like something that you read? If you want a real example of dishonest tactics, one of them is to declare or suggest that others' writings are the result of specific negative emotions that you decided for them (in this case, "distraught"). Another of course is to make accusations of dishonesty that you cannot substantiate, and a third (which prompted the comments you allude to), is to tell others what they are saying (ie, some ridiculous rewrite) instead of quoting what they did say. – zyx Apr 20 '14 at 4:25
• Over the past year or so, it seems that you have worked very hard in order to make me not believe a single word in your previous comment. This in addition to all the times I did admit that you have a way to get under my skin and onto my nerves. Not. A. Single. Word. Goodnight. (I can substantiate my claims, but I'm not gonna give you the pleasure of pulling me by my tongue.) – Asaf Karagila Apr 20 '14 at 4:47
• @zyx To correct a factual matter: This high-rep user told some user other than the one you referred to going back to July 25th 2011: "As a side note, I would deeply appreciate it if you typed the space in my name." So this is not a recently invented standard. On the topic of this question, the high-rep user also wrote " Thanks for fixing the user script, I realize I am unusually sensitive about that issue." – Michael Greinecker Apr 20 '14 at 12:29
• @MichaelGreinecker the formulations of that highrep in combination with their own usage of notifications suggest to me they do not fully understand what is going on. (If they do and still bring it up frequently I am a bit speechless. Frankly, it would seem rather unreasonable to me. Basically I would find it egocentric to the extent of being somewhat rude. Especially as they could essentially fix the problem on their end choosing another [formatting of] the [display]name.) Perhaps some more guidelines and clarifications are actually needed. – quid Apr 20 '14 at 13:15
• @quid: I actually informed this high rep user not more than two weeks ago about some of the issues related to insisting on @First Last pings, and also quote part of the standard SE "be nice" blurb ("bring your sense of humor"). I also informed this user that their past resistance to using the autocompletion resulted in the actual misspelling of my name (the Germanic sch combination was a source of difficulty up until I moved to Austria). This user replied, in part, to indicate "diappointment" in my "intentional misspelling", for I had used @FirstLast. – user642796 Apr 20 '14 at 15:22
• @zyx I would consider "The author of the complaint never made a point of it before although he must have received a large number of @ notices with the auto-inserted username." a factual statement that was contradicted by the information I provided. – Michael Greinecker Apr 21 '14 at 8:46
• It was written that way (see Revisions) exactly to avoid the interpretation that the author never mentioned it, but that doesn't matter so much, because you go far beyond one interpretation or the other in presenting it as the false fact that the recent complaint "is not a recently invented standard" (i.e., was just a randomly occuring manifestation of the author's preferences, not a targeting of the other user) and that it is a pattern of conduct "going back to July 2011". In fact it was practically invisible until the recent targeting. Which, again, was my point. @MichaelGreinecker – zyx Apr 21 '14 at 8:52
• @zyx I'm not a native speaker, but I'm pretty sure "never made a point" means that that user never made a point about it. And that is plainly not true. How you interpret that is up to you, I did not supply an interpretation. Please don't read things into my comment that are simply not there. – Michael Greinecker Apr 21 '14 at 9:02
• Of course you supplied an interpretation, i.e., one where there is a contradiction ("plainly not true") between the currently known facts and the answer. I have to go, so will leave it at that for the moment. – zyx Apr 21 '14 at 9:55
• @MichaelGreinecker I think there actually might be a language issue. I was not sure about this either and did originally not understand it that way but the idiom "to make a point of something" means (according to thefreedictionary.com, the first source I found) "to turn something into an important matter" so just that it come up does not contradict zyx. And as they say, they changed right away and long before your comment (the incorrect) "mentioned" to "to make a point of" precisely to adress this. – quid Apr 21 '14 at 19:59
• @quid Thanks for clarifying that. – Michael Greinecker Apr 21 '14 at 22:55