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I've just noticed that someone can Google my name and instantly know If I'm on Stack Overflow, because it shows the "seen 6 minutes ago." It's shown on the results screen, the searcher doesn't even have to click the search result.

Aside from having respect for Google search and feelings of joy for Stack Overflow getting good ratings there, I find it a bit "big-brother" creepy.

Why do we need "last seen," anyway?

At a minimum I'd expect it to keep track using dates, not exact times. But it should be removed altogether.

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16  
Some bosses might not like seeing you here ^^ –  Ivo Flipse Sep 23 '09 at 10:19
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Yet they have other means to see all your internet traffic and do not depend on "last seen" –  malach Sep 23 '09 at 11:46
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As a side note - Once SO even was predicting the future, as it showed "last seen in a minute" on my user page. Now that is scary... –  malach Sep 23 '09 at 11:47
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@Ralph Rickenbach: are you still alive? It sounded threatening. –  perbert Sep 23 '09 at 15:15
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@Liran, this is a bug on your end; please change your name to something more common, like "John Smith" or "Jane Williams." –  Pops Aug 30 '10 at 17:15
    
@Ralph, I'm positive this was the subject of its own question at some point, but I can't find it at the moment... I think it had to do with rounding off of times, though. –  Pops Aug 30 '10 at 17:16
    
@Ralph, see this question about the future; I don't think it's the one I was initially thinking of, though. –  Pops Aug 30 '10 at 17:25
    
This feature request seems like it has a lot in common with this one, Please make the “seen” entry optional, should the two of them be merged or something? –  Cupcake Jun 29 '11 at 23:33

5 Answers 5

Completely agree. I dislike this being watched 'feature' immensely, and don't find it helpful at all. What's the point of it? There's very little you can infer from it. Someone might be just refreshing their user page in between compiles, or they might be answering question after question. You can't tell from that number. If you want to know what people are actually doing, why not just look at their recent tab on their user page?

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Well, if the user does not click on the result, he gets a cached page from google to the best of my knowledge. Therefore he does not know whether the "6 minutes ago" actually was quite some time ago. Correct me if I am wrong. Clicking through to the site of course he can just hover over the string and get the exact zulu time of the last visit. My search result says "Seen, 11 mins ago" and my points are at 4742, so the page is 24h old at least.

I find it rather interesting to see when somebody was seen last, as I can then judge their involvement a little better. But I agree: It would suffice to use words like "today", "yesterday" and so on.

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Good point about the pages being cached. –  Liran Orevi Sep 23 '09 at 10:41
    
It shows me I've been a member on SU for 20 days. It's actually 30+. –  alex Sep 23 '09 at 11:04

Instead of removing the "last seen" information completely, what about the option of making it private, visible only to you (and maybe the moderators)? I myself would like a little more control over my privacy.

The "last seen" is kind of creepy, people can totally stalk you online with that kind of information. Not even Facebook provides that kind of information to users, only timestamps on whatever they post...Facebook does not make available the information that you logged in just to check your profile or whatever...

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If this suggestion gets a downvote, can we at least know why? –  Cupcake Jun 23 '11 at 6:44
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I didn't DV, but it would be pointless to make it visible only to you. The feature is used so others know whether you're still engaged in the site. Maybe to get feedback on a question or something like that. –  JohnP Jun 23 '11 at 6:54
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@JohnP I can see how that would be useful, but what if I don't want to be available like that? I'd like to be able to control whether or not I make myself available to other people like that. –  Cupcake Jun 23 '11 at 7:00
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yeah, an option to hide/enable it would be nice. I'd +1 that. –  JohnP Jun 23 '11 at 7:06
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So, I checked, and apparently this has come up before, Please make the “seen” entry optional. –  Cupcake Jun 28 '11 at 21:21
    
The information can still be pulled out of the profile page from the activity page. And read-only access can be performed while logged out. –  Jan Dvorak Sep 2 at 9:14

When I see a post with problems, and there are comments raising the issue that are more than a few hours (or few days, depending on the site) old, I tend to check the poster's "last seen" date to see if he's been back to the site since those comments were posted. If it's likely that comments have been seen but the post hasn't been fixed, I am more inclined to take a stronger action (downvote, flag, vote to delete) than I would if I thought the user hadn't yet seen the feedback.

A recent "last seen" doesn't guarantee that he's actually seen the comments, but it's evidence. I suppose I could look at his recent activity to see what he's actually been doing, but that's more work. (I'm aware that a stale "last seen" doesn't mean he hasn't seen the comments, but that's not the issue here.)

By the way, since all your activity is public, protecting "last seen" only protects your reading/voting activity (if it's the most recent thing you've done). If you're active on a site, you're already leaving a trail of timestamps.

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Google is only correct for a minute though. It still says "6 mins ago" but you profile now says "38 mins ago".

Don't see that it matters anyway, all it tells you is that you're probably at a computer somewhere in the world right now.

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