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Add tooltips (HTML attribute "title") in all places where the meaning of an item is not completely obvious. Explain in clear English and in full sentences what items mean.

The following is only an example. In the Recent Activity section on the User page, there are quite a few elements whose meaning is mysterious:

1d 1 -1, 1d 1 10, etc.

In this example, there should be tooltips that explain:

  • What each of the numbers means
  • What the colours mean
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It's not obvious that red is negative and green is positive? – Bill the Lizard May 8 '10 at 2:06
No. It might be intuitively likely, but it is not obvious — with only four numbers shown, it could be a coincidence. Besides, there are many places in StackOverflow where multiple mysterious colours are used, e.g. tags on questions. Also, even if it were obvious, it still doesn't hint at what the numbers might mean. – Timwi May 8 '10 at 2:11
Why can't we just have more of a SO reference guide to complement the FAQ for these kinda things? We rely too much on tooltips already in my opinion – Earlz May 8 '10 at 2:43
@Bill - Don't many colorblind people have trouble differentiating between red and green? But I guess they should be able to still identify the presence or lack of a negative sign. – Mark Rushakoff May 8 '10 at 3:21
@Mark: Yes they do, but the two colors used have different saturation levels, so even the color blind should be able to tell that they're different. – Bill the Lizard May 8 '10 at 3:46
@Earlz — because reference guides are hard to find, hard to read, and unnecessary trouble compared to simply moving the mouse over the thing you’re currently wondering about. – Timwi May 8 '10 at 11:57
@Bill It is only intuitive in certain places. For example, in Taiwan, the stock market uses red arrows to indicate up and green arrows to indicate down. – Grace Note May 8 '10 at 18:06
@ccornet: That is actually a pretty good point. – Bill the Lizard May 8 '10 at 21:58
@ccomet: They're on the other side of the world, their down is our up. – Gnome Jun 3 '10 at 6:08

Even though it might be slight, this can increase page size. Even if you totally drop that and use jQuery instead, this affects loading time. Most of the time you can't have you cake and eat it too.

Tooltips should be used whenever they are useful and the benefits outweigh the cost. This particular instance seems better served by a new user guide that can give much more in-depth information, mostly because users shouldn't need to refer to it often, yet would benefit from more in-depth description the first time 'round.

I found that page pretty obvious, though, but sometimes tooltips really help me too; probably varies more per person than anything.

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