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We have deployed a new feature that hopefully help with keeping you instantly updated as new questions and answers are posted. All sites except for Stack Overflow have a new activity indicator on the homepage which will show when new posts are asked or answered.

new activity

We have also enabled updates on the questions page for the newest and active tabs for all sites except Stack Overflow. If you open a browser to these tabs you will receive instant notifications when new questions are asked or answered.

Stack Overflow has a massive amount of activity so we have decided to limit this feature to tags only. Both the "newest" and "active" tab will have updates after first selecting a tag or tag combination.

questions update

We recently added support for new answers and comments:

3 new answers to this question

Now for the gotchas - in order to use this feature you must have a browser that supports web sockets. See: http://caniuse.com/#search=websockets for a list of browsers that currently support web sockets.

UPDATE As a few have mentioned below we are now experimenting with updating comment counts, votes on a post, and your reputation score.

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Yeah, I've noticed. Not sure that I like it either. I'll tell you more in a few days. –  dmckee Mar 15 '12 at 0:47
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Phase 1 complete. On to phase 2! –  Shog9 Mar 15 '12 at 0:52
    
I rarely ever use the active tab (by rarely I mean like 0.0001% of my time here), so yeah... –  animuson Mar 15 '12 at 1:02
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Nice feature, but would it be too much on Stack Overflow to have a "favorites" view to limit to just my favorite tags, and to have the live update on that tab? –  John Saunders Mar 15 '12 at 1:42
    
@JohnSaunders you can do this now - just try: stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/c%23%20or%20java - replace the tags in the address bar with the ones that are your favorite –  Geoff Dalgas Mar 15 '12 at 1:49
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Thanks, but I meant the tags in my favorite tags list. –  John Saunders Mar 15 '12 at 1:50
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Is it planned to have this feature also for tag filters on stackexchange.com? –  Mad Scientist Mar 15 '12 at 7:26
    
Can we have more detail what would be needed in order to allow this on Stack Overflow? Technical details, why you can't do it there? –  Martin. Mar 17 '12 at 16:25
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Technical details aside, it would be really annoying @Martin - there's rarely a time when there isn't new activity somewhere on SO. –  Shog9 Mar 17 '12 at 17:48
    
@Shog9: I know, but I really don't think that 60 queries per second (assuming there's one update per second) would hurt servers. –  Martin. Mar 17 '12 at 17:56
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@Martin: forget the servers - I'm sure there are ways of making that work. Stack Overflow averages something like 4 questions per minute - add in answers and edits, and you might as well just make the little "new activity" banner a permanent part of the page. Which would be sorta cool, IMHO - but is a little bit different from what's being done on other sites. Note that the questions displayed on the front page of Stack Overflow are chosen differently from other sites for similar reasons. –  Shog9 Mar 17 '12 at 18:04
    
@Martin, I think the web sockets are not used here for polling/querying, but just open a connection asking for changes and then don't get any reply until such changes are there. Another VERY nice implementation of that: Peerbind. –  Arjan Mar 17 '12 at 19:26
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Too late, my F5 key is already broken –  Ben Brocka Mar 19 '12 at 19:37
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Is this still working? Hasn't worked for me since yesterday. –  Luchian Grigore Mar 20 '12 at 9:53
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@Geoff can this post be edited to reflect the existing usage in web sockets? For example "we are now experimenting with updating comment counts, votes on a post, and your reputation score" is pretty obsolete as those things work flawlessly for some time now. :) –  Shadow Wizard Nov 14 '12 at 16:00

6 Answers 6

I have to admit, I will most likely be in the minority here, but great work on implementing this. I really do like it, since it does make it easier when your focus is not on the site, i.e. working or browsing other sites, and the tab updates show activity. In fact it's a feature I am trying to implement in a system I am building at the moment, among other 200 ideas I have stolen borrowed from SE.

I am slightly surprised at the amount of negativity this has raised, but well done, and long overdue in my humble opinion.

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Late edit As I recall, when I wrote this answer the bit I objected to was altering the tab title. Most of the associated features are very much to my liking.

After a few days of having this operational on meta and some other low activity sties I've concluded that I don't like it very much and I really don't want to see it active on Stack Overflow.

I don't like it because it engenders a sense of urgency for all "new activity", and even on low traffic sites most of that activity is not interesting to me.

On the high traffic sites, of course, it makes even less sense because there is no way one person could possible pay attention to all the activity: it'd be like drinking from a firehose.

May I recommend re-thinking this a little? Maybe connecting it to the user's interesting tags at a minimum?

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It's admittedly rather useless when you have the tab with the front page open. But I find it very useful on the tab with the tag-specific page open for the niche tags I'm active in. –  BalusC Mar 22 '12 at 23:02
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It's quite annoying when the content I am reading suddenly drops one line for this message showing up. I have a sense of when to press F5. Please leave that freedom to me. –  Codism Jun 14 '12 at 21:49

I went to sleep leaving the active tab of open. Came back some good hours later to find this:

screenshot

All good and no surprise there however when clicking the 517 questions with new activity it pushed all 517 into the page without any paging whatsoever.

I think it's better to either add it with paging, or limit the amount of questions with new activity to the "items per page" chosen by the user (15 by default) - if the amount exceeds this, show "more than [x] questions with new activity" and show only the most recent when clicked.

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how could one have good hours of sleep knowing that an active tab of C# is open? –  gnat Mar 28 '12 at 9:13
    
@gnat - simple: I know all those questions reach the best hands possible. :P –  Shadow Wizard Mar 28 '12 at 10:42
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@ShaDowWizArd: But what about when Jon Skeet is asleep? –  George Duckett Mar 28 '12 at 14:57
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@George he never really sleep. With such power, I'm sure he answers questions from within his dreams! :) –  Shadow Wizard Mar 28 '12 at 15:04
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@ShaDowWizArd - I agree that there should be a sane limit on the number of new questions. You picked the largest possible tag as far as activity to fall asleep on the job - where's your dignity man? –  Geoff Dalgas Mar 31 '12 at 3:51

I think changing the page title should only be done for new supercollider updates. When I first saw this that's what I thought it was. So I switched to the tab and didn't see a red 1 beside the supercollider. So I refreshed the page and still didn't see a red 1. I concluded that something must be broken. It took this happening a few times before I noticed the "x new questions" box.

Maybe I'm the odd one for having this reaction, but I doubt it. Gmail and Facebook have taught people that the (1) in the subject line means you have a new message, so I guess I was expecting to find a new message in my global inbox (supercollider).

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I agree, and there's a feature request for that: Does the X questions with new activity feature have to change the page title? –  Arjan Mar 19 '12 at 18:57
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Gmail is a mail box. The (1) denotes a new mail. Facebook is a social site. The (1) denotes a new message. Stack Overflow is a question&answer site. The (1) denotes a new question. Makes perfectly sense to me. –  BalusC Mar 22 '12 at 23:00
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@Chichiray In Facebook, you only get the (1) for a new message or notification, which would be like the red 1 by your global inbox in StackExchange. (I think Facebook even shows a red 1 for those messages.) By analogy, what StackExchange is doing now would be like if you got the (1) whenever any of your friends made a status update. –  Kip Mar 23 '12 at 16:36
    
I have made a feature request to also show inbox updates in the page title: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/127139/…. –  N.N. Mar 28 '12 at 8:15

There are parts of it that I like. Synching vote counts, comments, and such feels great.

I like the page activity thing less so. Like others have said, it feels like prompting. And on a site with a lot of traffic like SO, that's simply unnecessary.

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I think comments don't suffice to add other details that Geoff didn't tell us about, so let me abuse an answer to cherish:

  • It also works for votes. (At the time of writing: only on Meta and Gaming.) Test to see: open two windows for the same thing, and see that voting in one window almost immediately shows in the other window too. (It doesn't indicate then if such vote is your vote, but that's totally not important, I'd say.)

  • It also works for comments. For me, that's the best enhancement I've seen so far. While typing your comment, you can see new comments appear above the edit box. Or, when there are already many comments: you'll see the "show ... more comments" appear. (Edits and deletions of existing comments don't show.)

(So, no: you're not imagining things!)

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