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Browsing through meta I see several questions and comments where people ask for their list of favorites to be private {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} {6} {7}. There is a discussion (where I posted an answer) but no explicit feature request, so I thought I would ask: What do you think of an option to keep your list of favorites private?

Arguments:

  1. People are requesting the feature {1} {2} {3} {4} {5} {6} {7}. It is my hope that by posting this question we can give people who are interested a central place to cast their votes.

  2. Automatically publishing a user's favorites is a privacy concern and may discourage some people from contributing to the site. Unlike posting a question or answer, where it is expected that the information will be published and an explicit action is taken to make it public, favorites are usually used to bookmark questions for later. Publishing that information is counter-intuitive and done without user consent. See my answer here for an explanation.

  3. If you want to use SE but don't want your favorites to be public, you currently have no recourse. Your options are: don't use the site, or don't use the feature. This is not ideal, as SE should encourage all willing contributors, and I do not see a good reason to make the site less functional for some than for others.

My point is: even if favorites being public is not an issue for you it is obviously an issue for some people. By addressing the issue we can make SE a more welcoming site for everyone and encourage its use, rather than discouraging people and losing valuable contributions.

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TLDR; perhaps you could summarize your points better. That massive block of text is like a monster staring at me on the page, eating a unicorn. AHHHH!!! –  animuson Jul 23 '12 at 5:17
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"leaving this problem unsolved hurts Stack Exchange because it discourages some users from contributing" And this is a significant group? i.e. not just you? Any evidence to back this up? –  Bart Jul 23 '12 at 5:19
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1. Consider browser bookmarks. 2. The Privacy Policy has a specific definition for "personal information" that does not cover a list of favorite questions. 3. To add on to Bart's comment, one can post questions and answers without using the favorites feature. Someone who is concerned about the public/private status of their favorites can elect not to use it with minimal impact on their usage of the rest of the site. –  waiwai933 Jul 23 '12 at 5:20
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This isn't a porn site. What do you have to be embarrassed about or hide? –  jmort253 Jul 23 '12 at 5:22
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I don't see the reason why this favourites list is public too. It doesn't bother me but I don't see the need for it. Do people actually bother reading others' favourites? –  Martin Smith Jul 23 '12 at 6:09
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I personally don't care but apparently some people do - so reverse the question: Why are favorites public? Who decided that they are and why? –  skinnyTOD Jul 23 '12 at 9:13
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@skinnyTOD to answer that question, the answer is that "as much as possible, everything done on the Stack Exchange network is as publicly accessible as is possible and where such information would not create a conflict of interest, and does not violate privacy policies." Which I doubt is written down as such, but that's pretty much it. Revealing voting history or flagging history would create conflicts of interest. But mods need to know how a person flagged, so moderators can see flag history. And we are given tools to see if you've voted one person entirely too often. –  jcolebrand Jul 23 '12 at 12:21
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Otherwise, there are very few things which are private, and those are not entirely private, because obviously the dev team can see the things that exist in the database. The Stack Exchange staff wants everything to be as public as possible, and favorites have shown no reason to be private, yet. The burden of proof, as they say, is still on the asker here. –  jcolebrand Jul 23 '12 at 12:22
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I still feel the burden is on the asker here, as I don't feel like sufficient cause has been shown to suggest that "a known public-facing feature of the site is not made private, but I want to use that feature in a private manner, and expect the site should be changed to reflect that". –  jcolebrand Jul 23 '12 at 12:23
    
@culix - Well? Do you have any evidence for the assertions buried within the wall of text that is your question? Are you going to even bother responding to any of the comments to your question? None of the Stack Exchange sites are blogs, you know... –  Jack Maney Jul 24 '12 at 7:10
    
@animuson Thanks for the sanity check. I have gutted my previous version and shortened the question. Better? –  culix Jul 25 '12 at 3:13
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@waiwai933 You could use bookmarks but what about them not existing on every computer you may use, getting lost, etc? Basically, why hobble the features of the SE site for some users? –  culix Jul 25 '12 at 3:15
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@jmort253 >What do you have to be embarrassed about or hide? Wanting privacy is not a matter of wanting to hide anything - please see counterargument 6 of my answer here. In this case I'm concerned that a decision is being made about what to do with user information without asking their consent nor giving them the opportunity to change it. –  culix Jul 25 '12 at 3:17
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@JackManey Hey, relax, it's only been a few hours. I have a life you know ;) Besides, isn't it supposed to be the Summer of Love for new users? –  culix Jul 25 '12 at 3:19
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@culix - It's great that you're focused on privacy; it's a wider issue in our world today, and one day our privacy may be completely gone :( But in all seriousness, the solution to this is easy, just use your browser bookmarks. If browsers didn't have bookmarking features, then I'd be one of the first people standing beside you in this fight. But as it is, the developers have more important things to focus on than a luxury such as this. (I call it luxury only because a solution already exists.) Hope this helps! :) –  jmort253 Jul 25 '12 at 3:22

2 Answers 2

I can see what you're saying, and I agree with the people that suggest browser bookmarks (I use them more than favorites). I just have one more thing to add: I have never found any need to look at someone's favorites. There's nothing to help me there. I can only assume others feel the same about them. Therefore, I wouldn't say that there's anything broken with them. Why fix something that isn't broken?

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Would you want a potential employer looking at your favorites and drawing conclusions about you? –  walrii Oct 24 '12 at 1:14

How can favourites added by you be private?

The group of people who feel adding a question into your favourite list should be private can use browser bookmarks instead.

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I'm confused how your first line is relevant. Tons of sites have content which is always public. That doesn't necessarily mean the site shows your list of favorite content, though. –  animuson Jul 23 '12 at 5:37
    
@animuson: I mean you are making favourites list of questions which are always going to be public. Then why to make favourite list private. –  Somnath Muluk Jul 23 '12 at 5:41
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+1 - Bookmarks are private. Why do we need to waste development time on this? –  jmort253 Jul 24 '12 at 2:34
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@jmort253 Favorites are at least as often used as a notification system as as a bookmarking system. My browser can't handle that. –  Jeremy Banks Jul 25 '12 at 3:24
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@jeremybanks - Good point. That dilutes my argument a bit. I still think it's a waste of time, partly because I don't really care who sees what I've bookmarked. "Favorites" is really the wrong term. I use it oftentimes to mark posts I need to follow up on with a close vote, comment, edit to my answer, removing a downvote, or for a multitude of different reasons. Plus, on Stack Exchange, I personally prefer the openness, as knowledge is power, and openness and knowledge has helped regular users police this site, catch sockpuppets and voting rings, and bring this to the moderators. –  jmort253 Jul 25 '12 at 3:30
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Bookmarks - Not much of a solution - more like a workaround hack. As to wasting dev time on it - I see many needless bells and whistles on SO where time would have been better spent on improving the overall GUI, search, etc. –  skinnyTOD Jul 25 '12 at 3:36
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@jmort253 -How much development time do you actually suppose it will take to only show this tab on your own profile? I would suspect minimal. Similar logic already exists for other tabs. –  Martin Smith Jul 25 '12 at 8:58
    
@MartinSmith - No feature is void of support needs, bugfixes, planning, design, user experience analysis, etc. For example, what happens when a user reports that his "hide my favs" option didn't hide his favs and he could see them from another account? Bugs will happen. This is just one of many costs associated with any feature, no matter how big or small. –  jmort253 Jul 25 '12 at 15:00

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