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I pose this question only as an alternative to Pekka's suggestion for user following. I like the idea of providing more value for users with expertise.

As mentioned in my answer to his question, I was concerned that following other users required extra effort to decide who was worth following, and that "recommending" questions would create a parallel system to upvoting, for not much payoff. Completely spontaneously, I thought of an alternative that would leverage the existing SO/SE infrastructure.

The principle of my suggestion is: Rather than following individual users, "follow" the group of users with expertise in the tags you are interested in, as determined by their possession of a tag-badge for that tag.

As mentioned in my answer to the other post, the idea would be that when you choose to follow a tag, you would be presented with an interface at bit like this:

[checkbox] Highlight questions upvoted by users with this tag badge
[checkbox] Highlight questions favorited by users with this tag badge
[checkbox] Highlight questions commented on by users with this tag badge (added)
[checkbox] Highlight questions answered by users with this tag badge (added)

  • [radio button] Include only questions tagged [text box - the followed tag would be included by default]
  • [radio button - default] Exclude questions tagged [text box]

A similar interface could be shown in the margins of the question list when you filter it for a particular tag, as an additional filter.

The advantages of this proposal are:

  • Users don't need to do anything more than what they are currently doing
  • Users don't need to work out for themselves who the real experts are, or "maintain" their own expert list
  • It distinguishes between expert answerers and frequent askers
  • It provides regular and expert users with a way to "up-weight" the opinions of other expert users, without being drowned in the upvotes on questions subject to the "bike shed effect"
  • It does not require any new attributes in the database, such as recommendations on posts, or number of followers on users
  • It allows for some serendipity, e.g. seeing what questions the experts think are interesting.
  • It provides for some of the information-sharing aspects of clan/team affiliation based on tag badges, without creating much of the incentive to game the rep system the way a clan/team system would.

I hope this proposal satisfies some of the appetite for "social-ness" without losing sight of what SE sites are meant to be about.

share|improve this question
"appetite for social-ness"? I thought this was a site for programmers. – NullUserException อ_อ Sep 20 '11 at 21:09
:-D Mathematica programmers are reasonably social – Verbeia Sep 20 '11 at 23:11

This is an interesting idea, but as pointed out in the comments to Jeff's answer, I have serious doubts about whether those factors can reliably point to a high-quality, interesting question. Still, it might work.

[checkbox] Highlight questions upvoted by users with this tag badge

This is the most likely candidate for finding good content; however, I tend to upvote well-put, well-researched questions even if they are on extremely basic topics. If that is common, voting behaviour would not be a good indicator for expert, interesting content.

[checkbox] Highlight questions favorited by users with this tag badge

My initial idea was using this. However, favouriting questions has many uses in the system - as a bookmarking tool for any reason, whether the question is interesting or not. Still, this could work.

[checkbox] Highlight questions commented on by users with this tag badge (added)

Absolutely not. A huge portion of comments is made because a question is bad, or something is blatantly wrong. Commenting activity is not a good indicator of good content.

[checkbox] Highlight questions answered by users with this tag badge (added)

My argument against this one is that if a user I trust has already answered this, chances are there's nothing left for me to do. Also, answering is not necessarily a good indicator of an interesting question. Example from a moment ago:

Overall - I'm mixed about this. I would favour an explicit system with recommendations, but an automated mixture of some factors (except comments. Please, except comments) could help find good content as well.

A combination of upvoting and favouriting from an at least bronze-badge user could deliver good results. It might be worth a try.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, the comment and answer elements were additions in response to Jeff's answer on yours. I'd gladly roll back that edit. – Verbeia Sep 20 '11 at 10:23

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