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The problem/scenario

Imagine being on-the-go or in bed browsing around with a tablet close to falling asleep and stumbling across a (possibly unanswered) question that you know you can contribute to, but not at that very moment because

  • it would require typing a lot of text which you rather do on a proper keyboard
  • you really need to hit the sack
  • you want to test your code before submission
  • your better half has been telling you to come to the kitchen table
  • ...

You name it. You need to mark a question as TODO for later review, and people (example 1, example 2) seem to (ab)abuse the favorites for that - I do too.

A short except of what the favorites seem to be used for (loosely quoted) from these links:

this post by RichardTheKiwi:

  • useful information I might need in the future
  • rare/unique/fabulous code snippets
  • to mark ambiguous questions that I may be interested in, so that I can come back if clarified
  • to mark questions that I commented on that involves a new user; they won't know to use @reply

this post by gnostradamus:

[...] as a sort of TODO list of answers I have given that I may want to refine into a more general purpose piece of software [...]

this post by Brian Reichle:

[...] sometimes because the question is what I would consider to be an "edge case" and I want to know how it's received by the community. I then remove the favourite once I loose interest in the post.

I can relate to all of those use cases, and (for me anyway) this is highly unsatisfactory since you end up using the favorites list to save questions for several different kinds of reasons. The main problem I have with this approach is the mixing of "permanent" keepers with very short-lived temporary saves, which you end up having to go through and deleting them manually on a regular basis. This is a lot of unnecessary overhead and a waste of time that could be spend on actually answering questions, and depending on the amount of temporarily saved questions one or another might slip through this manual process and remain unattended this way becoming an unwanted "permanent" favorite of yours.

The proposal

There are two obvious main solutions which came to my mind that would help overcome this problem:

  1. The ability to create multiple favorite lists which has been requested before

  2. A special "TODO" button next to the "add to favourites" star that would store a question in a second list similar to favourites

Ad 1:

Cons:

  • setup required
    • more keystrokes: (a) list(s) need to be created first
    • more clicks: to add a question to a list, we would need some kind of fancy dropdown box which means it requires two mouse clicks to add a certain question to your TODO list
  • possibly cumbersome UI to access an individual list from your profile for view

Pros:

  • very general
  • people can create their own lists for all different kinds of reasons for the sake of tidiness (OCD, anyone?)

Ad 2:

Cons:

  • very specific (this might as well be considered a pro); solves only one particular problem

Pros:

  • no setup required
    • no keystrokes; works like favorites do - click'n'add
    • fewer clicks: It's one button/link, thus only one click
    • instantly available to all users

Where this solution shines is that it can do more than just save the question in yet another list for later view. For example, in my scenario where I would use this feature to tag questions as "needs attention, but only if the question is unanswered by the time I come back", I would wish for an auto-purge feature:

  • mark as possible TODO
  • leave the computer
  • come back, open TODO list
  • questions that have received accepted answers in the meanwhile would be automatically deleted from the list and not be shown to me any longer, those who remain unanswered would of course be shown

This has a huge advantage over what is possible now (save in favorites) or solution 1 as the manual process of deleting questions could be completely automated. As soon as a question receives an accepted answer, it would be removed from the list (it might receive less traffic because of this, but I don't really think so. Please discuss!).

This also means that this feature could not be used for anything else, which might or might not be a good thing.

I am also pretty sure that not everyone would like the automation to be implemented this way, as our workflows differ. Other people might not want an auto-purge, or one that does not kick in when the list is read but rather after X hours/days, maybe. Please discuss!

Am I totally alone in this?

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1  
Well, if it doesn't get implemented, a Trello board may be worthwhile to pile up your TODO items –  George W Bush Apr 18 '13 at 18:56
    
Great idea. I suggested something similar, but it didn't get many bites at the time: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/130202/… –  halfer Apr 19 '13 at 1:29

2 Answers 2

Why not do what Quora does?

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and

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and

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They have a full-fledged draft system: You can save an unlimited number of drafts. Saving an empty draft marks the post as "answer later".

Currently, the SE system allows one question draft per site and (I think) one answer draft per question. All expire in 7 days. Upgrading it to a system with proper draft management would be extremely helpful.

share|improve this answer

I understand and commiserate with some of your issues - there have been numerous times I have been called to the dinner table but I'm in the middle of typing an answer. Or the wife wants to start watching a TV program and I have to say "Give me two minutes..." (which has the subtext: "StackOverflow is more important than you my darling"...).

However, I already have a workflow which does exactly what you want, and the best thing is it is already available to you at no extra cost as long as you call in the next 10 minutes.

The feature I speak of is tab groups, and it's built into Firefox. At work I have several tab groups set up - one for regular sites I browse and one for Stack Overflow et al, then a tab group for any particular subject I'm researching at the time.

Here are my home tab groups, as you can see there are two with Stack Overflow related labels on them. The only thing this doesn't give me is access from any browser anywhere, although there may well be a FFox plugin to help share tab groups across the interwebs.

enter image description here

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2  
What if your browser crashes? –  Emrakul Apr 13 '13 at 1:10
    
Opera has a similar feature, but I agree, if your browser crashes the whole thing goes up in the air. –  ɥʇǝS Apr 13 '13 at 1:18
    
@Telthien That used to be an issue with earlier versions of FFox, but they seem to have fixed that, since about v15 I haven't had any issues with the reliability of the tab groups (my groups at work have literally 100's of tabs in them, it's never crashed). –  slugster Apr 13 '13 at 1:28
2  
+1 for "'Give me two minutes' (which has the subtext: 'StackOverflow is more important than you my darling').". This is a problem :-) However, your workflow does not work for me as I need this to be cross-browser, cross-device (without having to rely on dubious cloud syncing). I need to be able to "later" from one device - a tablet/mobile/... - then catch up from another. Also, I am notoriously known for having too many tabs open so from a psychological PoV this is really bad. And as @Telthien said, browsers crash. –  Adrian Frühwirth Apr 13 '13 at 6:41
1  
@AdrianFrühwirth you points are quite valid, despite me using browser tabs I've added my +1 for the suggestion as I would use it too and the browser solution only goes part of the way. Theoretically it shouldn't be too hard to implement - just allow the user to assign a tag/metadata to each favorite, and then let them filter/sort by it. –  slugster Apr 13 '13 at 8:30
    
@slugster Good idea, I will add that as possible solution #3 to my question, if you don't mind (local tags). I am biased towards a one-click-solution though, as this would really be just a means to pre-filter lots of questions when I have some time to quickly scan over questions, but don't have the time or means to actually type an answer. Hence, I would not want to have to type a tag for each question, but if the UI were clever enough it would be equal to the "multiple lists" solution, and possibly better thanks to advanced searching. –  Adrian Frühwirth Apr 13 '13 at 8:39

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