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On SE and on the old MO have seen @someone in a question.

Probably this notifies someone in his inbox and draws his attention (which is the goal).

  1. Does it really notifies in a question?

  2. Is this good practice?

My concern is it might be considered spam by some, yet others might like it in case the question is interesting.

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@notifications only work in comments, and then only if the target user is either the owner of the post you're commenting on, has edited or closed that post or has commented on that post.

You can only use @notifications to respond to a user directly, not to notify them in a different question they have never interacted with.

I personally would avoid using such inactive notifications in posts as they tend to confuse new users who might get the impression that those actually work and notify users.

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  • $\begingroup$ The owner gets notified even if you don't @ them, right? $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Aug 1 '13 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the owner of the post you are commenting on is always notified automatically $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Aug 1 '13 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Noah See the links given in the comment-notification tag-wiki for more details about pings. And there was also a recent question How do I use the comment notification system? at this meta. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 2 '13 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps someone should make a feature request by which the @ symbol before a user gets automatically removed in any situation where it doesn't result in an actual notification. $\endgroup$ – Joel David Hamkins Jan 2 '16 at 3:44
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@-notifications don't work in questions, as @MadScientist wrote.

Nevertheless, I still prefer to write @ in front of an username in a question, as a graphical cue that it is a username. It is a bit like a variable sigil in my view.

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As explained in other answers, writing at_username in a question/answer does not notify a user. This would not matter that much - experienced users know that you are simply using it to show that you are responding to somebody. But inexperienced users might get confused by this into thinking that it actually works as a notification if they see this in posts by other users.

Personally, I'd prefer to mention what you are responding to; ideally with a link - recall that you can link to a question, an answer, a comment, a chat message - pretty much everything. (If needed, in addition to a link you can include even a quote.) Maybe this is a bit cumbersome, but this makes it clearer what exactly are you responding to.

I'll include these as examples:

  • Now to the second point of your question: "Is this good practice?". Clearly, the opinions on this vary.
  • To address Noah Snyder's comment, the post owner gets notification for any comment under the post.
  • I will add to Mad Scientist's answer that links to further details about comment notifications can be found in the tag-info. As you can see in this post, if you want to know all details it gets quite complicated: How do comment @replies work? But Mad Scientist's answer gives a good summary. (Notification for users offering a bounty or gold badge owners/moderators who cast close/reopen vote are not listed in that answer, but I suppose these are used quite rarely.)

See also:

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