I recently left a Comment below an Answer to a post (here - altho' the actual comment & post are irrelevant to the issue raised here).

The comment was intended for the author of the original Question. I did not include the name of the original questioner in my comment because I thought that the original questioner would automatically be notified of the comment. I have subsequently learnt that that is not the case, and that only the author of the Answer immediately above the comment would be auto-notified of the comment.

I am not questioning that practice, but it seems to me that the 'Help' information for a Comment is ambiguous.

The 'Help' drop-down for a Comment reads as follows:

enter image description here

And I did actually read that advice when choosing whether expressly to notify the original Questioner in my comment - but, clearly, I misunderstood it!

I found the statement that

"The post author will always be notified of your comment."

to be slightly ambiguous: did that refer to the author of the original Question and/or to the author of the respective Answer, under which the comment was being made?

But I felt that the next sentence:

"To also notify a previous commenter, mention their user name"

clarified that ambiguity and clearly indicated that I needed to mention a name only if my comment was intended for a previous commenter: not if it was intended for the author of the original question or the author of the respective Answer.

I now, of course, know that I was wrong! But may I suggest that the wording of the 'Help' drop-down for a Comment should be clarified.

  • "post author" in obviously unclear: I assumed that "post" referred to the entire Question
  • the need to "mention [a] user name" only for "a previous commenter" adds to that ambiguity.

Possible re-wording suggestions:

  • "The author of the Question or Answer immediately above will always be notified of your comment."

  • "To also notify a previous commenter or the original Questioner (when your comment is below an answer), mention their user name: ..."

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    "Post author" is the author of the post on which you are commenting. If you comment on an answer post, it's the author of that post. The only generic word is post; I think your first suggestion is even more ambiguous, because there is only ever one Question above your comment. – Andrew Leach Apr 14 '19 at 10:18
  • @AndrewLeach I realised that - in retrospect! But it wasn't obvious to me - and may not be necessarily obvious to others who are not familiar with Stack Exchange - that the Qs & Answers were regarded as SEPARATE posts. I thought that "post" referred to the WHOLE item/page, inclusive of Q's & A's. Please try to put yourself in the position of a 'newbie' to the system who is not necessarily familiar with the terminology. You say that the "only generic word is post" - but that's the problem: the meaning of 'post' is not clear to those not familiar with the system. ... – TrevorD Apr 14 '19 at 18:30
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    As regards my suggestions, they were only suggestions - but I was trying to convey that Questions and Answers are regarded as separate posts, which - as I've tried to explain - was not obvious to me! Why should Q's & A's be referred to as separate posts, whereas Comments are not referred to as 'posts'? – TrevorD Apr 14 '19 at 18:34
  • P.S. to my first comment above: The sentence "I thought that "post" referred to the WHOLE item/page, ..." should read as "I had previously thought that "post" referred to the WHOLE item/page, ...". – TrevorD Apr 14 '19 at 18:37
  • Your second suggestion isn't even correct. You can't notify the question asker when commenting on an answer unless they've also commented on the answer. Saying that in the help information would be just wrong. As written it is correct. – Catija Apr 16 '19 at 4:15
  • @Catija Thank you for pointing that out. I was not aware of that, and that would explain why the 'Help' drop-down that I quoted above refers only to "a previous commenter" (which I had thought to be wrong). This whole issue arose because someone had suggested to me (in the post I linked to at the top of my Q.) that one of my comments below the answer ought to have had the original questioner copied in - but now you're telling me that I couldn't have done that anyway! Thanks. – TrevorD Apr 16 '19 at 18:09
  • The OP had indeed commented underneath the answer of a different user. If you had pinged him in your comment, he would have received the notification. Unfortunately, I deleted my comments when they were no longer needed, or so I thought, but my advice was correct. – Mari-Lou A Apr 16 '19 at 19:17
  • @Mari-LouA Apologies - I hadn't remembered that. – TrevorD Apr 16 '19 at 22:08

Thank you for sharing your experience.

As Andrew Leach notes, the site uses the word "post" as the hypernym of question and answer. However, as you observe, this isn't necessarily obvious to new users.

However, I think what's needed isn't to change the term "post author" unless it's to something like "author of the post" to avoid implying some kind of pre/post semantics.

What's needed is a help page about "What is a Post?".

When I searched the help pages for "What is a Post?", I didn't see any relevant explanation. The closest was the top link returned: "What is a locked post?".

My suggestion is (for whoever can do this) to create a help page called "What is a Post?", define it appropriately with examples of question posts and answer posts, then link all instances of the word "post" to this newly-created help page.

Notes about how comments are treated, and why comments aren't posts, can be linked or textually included in that help page.

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