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Is there any way to view the number of users online at any given time (or even an approximation)? This could be really useful to provide an indication of whether your question is likely to get answered any time soon.

It could also provide a bit of an indication for why your question is getting very low views - if there are only a few users online, then that could be the reason for little interest in a question, whereas if there are lots of users online and the question still doesn't garner many views, then maybe it needs to be rephrased or something.

I know that this can't be used definitively, but it could be used as a rough guide, and could also just be an item of interest. Perhaps it could show the number of users that have been seen in the past 5 / 10 minutes? (Shouldn't be too hard, since each user page already shows the last time that they were seen).

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I read the questions that I get through RSS feeds, so I'll get to them regardless of when they were posted. –  Brad Gilbert Jul 6 '09 at 14:55
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My favorite part is feeling of being part of something bigger, knowing that other people are here with you, even if they're miles away. Brings us closer as a community ;D –  Gordon Gustafson Aug 30 '09 at 23:45
    
(-1) for the reasons in my answer. –  devinb Aug 31 '09 at 13:54

3 Answers 3

We do that for Chat, but it makes sense for chat: how many people are talking in real-time?

It makes less sense for a Q&A site; while it may appear to operate in real-time, it doesn't, really. Each post stands on its own, and participants for each post come and go as they please. The number of participants to the site overall is not really a relevant detail, from this perspective.

The focus for a Q&A site is, and always should be, on the post, not on the participants.

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It has been mentioned again and again that StackOverflow is not a place for deadlines. Any questions that you need answered with any degree of immediacy do not belong here. We do not want 'strategic' asking of questions.

One of the instantaneous results will be that the low times will get fewer and fewer questions, and the high times will get more and more. Instead of having a gradual wave of questions appear, there will be a sharp influx of questions that appear around the time that the number of users increases. This will serve to reinforce itself and eventually create an insanely high load on the servers at the 'busy time' and then there will be no users on the rest of the time.

The end result of that, of course, is that during the high times the volume of questions generated will be so enormous that it cannot be coherently followed (thereby making your question more likely to be buried), and it will cause a decrease in the quality of the answers on the site.

Obviously that is simply a negative look on the resulting scenario, but on the other hand, there aren't really any positive aspects except the curiosity part.

On the other hand, since humans instinctively react to information they receive, there is no way to stop people from changing their behaviour based on this. So, I'm against it.

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+1 for reasons I do not unveil –  Ladybug Killer Aug 31 '09 at 13:57
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I'll mysteriously upvote your comment. –  devinb Aug 31 '09 at 14:06

But there are so many more details available why limit yourself to just the number of people on? :)

How about the number of on-line users who have been active in the area your questions is in? Or take this further to show how many of these users have high rep through actually answering a lot of questions?

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