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The new feature to automatically scan for new question activity using web sockets is a potentially handy feature, as it reduces the need for refreshes, and makes information available faster. There are some cases where it would be beneficial for users to be able to turn it off though:

  • Keeping an SO tab open at work: at some workplaces where the internet may be monitored or filtered, having a constant connection open to an SE site might raise flags.

  • Mobile devices: for people using a mobile data connection (tablets, smartphones, etc.) with a metered connection, having a constant data connection running may use up data without users intending to do so.

  • It's really annoying: some people just don't like having a tab yelling at them (15) new questions!! when they aren't asking for it. It's distracting, and I'm sure there are others who would like to be able to turn it off.

For most users it's a nice addition, but there are definitely situations where it would be nice to turn off the auto-updating.

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Wait, even if your internet history is monitored at work, the SO homepage would only have one entry since you update it manually without refreshing...so it works out better for #1. –  Purag Mar 3 '12 at 1:04
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@Purmou it's more an issue of having a constant connection back and forth between you and SE. From the monitoring software's perspective, you're sending/receiving data from SE very frequently, instead of only once every 20 minutes or what have you. From a network perspective, it looks like you're spending a lot more time on the site than you really are, which in some workplaces could potentially bring unnecessary scrutiny. –  nhinkle Mar 3 '12 at 1:20
    
Ah, makes sense. –  Purag Mar 3 '12 at 1:26
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Yes, the "off" button is a necessary component of any whiz-bang new feature as far as I'm concerned. They all come at a cost. I very strongly support this feature request. –  Cody Gray Mar 3 '12 at 4:07
    
In general I like SE's approach to minimizing configuration options. Makes it less complex for everyone. But some things just need to be turned off. –  nhinkle Mar 3 '12 at 7:14
    
I must be the only one not seeing them, as I don't see them on Google Chrome, and Safari 5.1.3. :| –  kiamlaluno Mar 3 '12 at 16:32

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