When a user changes names, is there any way for "@" comments using their former name to be changed automatically to their new moniker? Otherwise, it looks like the commentators made a mistake. See comments under OP here as an example: Why do Americans say “tuna fish”? (mgb became Martin Beckett)

  • 1
    I was wondering where mgb went!
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Apr 29, 2011 at 1:55

1 Answer 1


There is an ooold request on the meta Meta, "change all @username references in comments when a user changes their name", that has been withdrawn by the OP after some discussion.

Basically it doesn't work because:

  1. all at-mentions are just plain text (so the system doesn't know that I'm responding to user ID 5822, all it could look for would be an "@Callithumpian" somewhere in the comment);
  2. user names are not unique (there can be any number of Callithumpians around);
  3. people don't have to at-mention your complete name, the first 3+ letters will suffice (so while there probably aren't that many different Callithumpians around after all, there could very well be a whole bunch of Cals, Callis, Callithumps and whatnot).

So this leads to a number of possible issues. The (accepted) answer by Brian R. Bondy lists a few of them:

  • Maybe someone refers to an unrelated @Brian on twitter, and then @Brian changes his name on stackoverflow.
  • Comments can be stolen by renaming your name to someone and then back to someone else.
  • Sometimes people will refer to me as @Brian [rather than using the full name, @Brian R. Bondy]; however, a real @Brian may change his name to @Bob and then no one would know people were referring to me.
  • This wasn't implemented since day #1, so there are probably a lot of @Name's out there that can be stolen to be renamed to an unrelated person.
  • How do you differentiate between @Brian the developer, and a user named "@Brian the developer". Spaces could cause bad renames.
  • Search / replace for name changes could be a costly operation on all text comments
  • You are changing the text strings of people's comments, so changing their original comments may make them mad.

In short:

Just a warning: if this feature is implemented, I will change my username over and over again, each time choosing another user's name, until either all comments begin with "@Pesto" or the system collapses under the strain. – Hilarious Comedy Pesto Dec 4 '09 at 17:17

  • Thanks for the background. Another thought, how easy is it to change names? Maybe just a prompt, warning a user that a name switch may cause confusion, would be sufficient. Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 21:02
  • @Callithumpian: it's as easy as clicking on the Edit link on your user profile, but you can only do it once per month. (Also, users that are new to the site have to wait for two weeks before being allowed to rename themselves for the first time.) I don't think there's a warning, but I'd have to look it up to be 100% sure.
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Apr 28, 2011 at 21:04

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