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We're considering adding favorite notifications to the global inbox, and are looking for feedback on the idea (as we're not completely sold on it).

But first, some history.

Favorites are kind of like bookmarks, in that they're kept in a handy centralized place. They also follow you across browsers.

Ok, ok... "bookmarks, on the internet" is not the most compelling feature, but Favorites also opted you into notices for those questions as if you were the owner (edits and new answers, at least). This was probably the most confusing part (though a requested feature) of the old envelope behavior judging by erroneous bug reports, so a way to opt out of this behavior was added.

Now, favorite updates go nowhere.

But we could* put them into the inbox.

Here's how we envision this feature working:

  1. Every current user has their "notify me on favorite changes" preference cleared (new users start with it cleared).
  2. The first time someone favorites a question, they're prompted to opt-in to favorite notices.
  3. Whenever a question is commented on or answered (or, possibly, edited) a new notice is pushed into the inbox of users who have favorited it, and have opted in.

Opt-in would be per-site, and it would remain possible to opt-out from your profile page.

a silly mock up of a favorite notice
This is not a final design, but the basic idea is correct

As I mentioned above, we're not 100% sold on this idea. We've had a policy to date that nothing goes into the inbox that isn't specifically targeted at a user; this would be tweaking that policy.

*We could also put changes into their tab on the user page, but that reduces their visibility.

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Please don't use the inbox, a separate place would be great! – Hendrik Vogt Mar 16 '11 at 9:08
@Kevin, check out answers on this question, you may find some inspiration. – Benjol Mar 16 '11 at 14:52
"2.The first time someone favorites a question, they're prompted to opt-in to favorite notices." ← Just to check, this is on a per-question basis or a per-site basis? – Grace Note Mar 16 '11 at 15:05
@Grace Note - per-site. – Kevin Montrose Mar 16 '11 at 15:47
I always hated favorite updates on my envelope. Thank god you got rid of those me2-answers bumping every favorite question... – Ivo Flipse Apr 4 '11 at 19:22
So, what is the status on this. Is there any place where we can track this. – Shamim Hafiz Apr 7 '11 at 9:03
Please make sure and fix the favorite tab first: – Lance Roberts Jul 15 '11 at 16:11
any news on this feature? I would love to get notifications for my favorites – MotoTribe Nov 2 '11 at 15:45
Now that since August 2011 email notifications are based on the Inbox, people might feel different? – Arjan Jul 28 '12 at 12:37
My vision for this would be to not have the "ME 2!" and "Try this" answers and comments coming through on the inbox. Simply a notification WHEN the original poster selects a post as THE answer. Therefore, for each question subscribed to you will only get ONE message telling you when it's status has been changed to answer-accepted. See my proposal here – SnareChops Jan 15 '13 at 2:36
@KevinMontrose any chance to revive this idea? As a dev can't you push it forward? – Shadow Wizard Jul 24 '14 at 9:19
@KevinMontrose Anyway for this to be reconsidered? We had another question ask about it:… – Tim Apr 19 '15 at 17:22
That was me that just asked that question (and then deleted it once I found this one). – Blacklight Shining Apr 19 '15 at 17:24
Is anything planned regarding this feature? @KevinMontrose – ᔕᖺᘎᕊ Oct 25 '15 at 13:38

10 Answers 10

I've seen this proposed before but I can't find the link. Anyway, how about a fourth dedicated tab?

hot, all sites, inbox then favourites.

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The problem is the "number unread" would be serving double duty (switching between 2 tabs depending on context). There's some "implementation unpleasantness" as well, but its mostly that. – Kevin Montrose Mar 16 '11 at 15:47
@Kevin I would rather have the always visible unread counter continue to only count unread inbox notifications, personally. – badp Mar 16 '11 at 15:53
then there's no gain to moving them to that drop down at all, in my opinion, since users wouldn't be notified of anything. – Kevin Montrose Mar 16 '11 at 16:00
@Kevin You could consider showing a favorite notification counter -- only if there are no unread inbox notifications, and in a different color, perhaps. – badp Mar 17 '11 at 15:36
@KevinMontrose that does not seem to be a problem with notifications tab. Why would that be a problem with favourites specifically? – zespri Feb 22 '13 at 7:20
@KevinMontrose: With the inclusion of the "Notification" tab, I'd say you solved that problem pretty nicely (with the inbox showing first, and the notifications only after), I think the same system could be implemented. – Madara Uchiha Apr 12 '13 at 14:34
If you want to be really cool, make the notification icon for favorites a yellow star icon. I can live with a yellow circle too, however :-) – Jan Dvorak May 15 '13 at 16:42

Favorites are clearly used for 2 different main purposes among users. Some use them as a site bookmark. Others use them to get notices as well - I'm on that last (and probably the minority) group.

To me it's a no brainer that who chooses to have favorites as a notification would love to have them in the global inbox - and who uses it as bookmarks would hate it.

If this is opt-in as you said, I don't see how it's not "targetted at the user" as you say. This question is a perfect example of why this idea should be implemented. I would ask this exact request-feature question right now (entitled "Can we have favorites on the global inbox") if I haven't found this. So, instead of asking it, I just favorite it and take it as a question I would have asked.

There is the possibility of a third group of people who would be highly unhappy about this: The ones who enjoy how the favorite notices work right now but prefer to keep the global inbox clean. A simple opt-in to that as well would solve this issue. Leave it there, see how people react, if it's useless then take it off.

Lastly... Allow me promoting a related idea: customizable notification preference panel

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You know this is the start of the Quora, err, monster? ;-) – Arjan Apr 20 '11 at 11:09
@Arjan interesting... The problem with preferences panels isn't so much their existence or their tweakence but how hard it is to find what you need on them. With that in mind, there are many ways to fix it. A good way to search and replicating preferences in related places help a lot. To stand by my point, here's a good analogy: Secrets. Mac does reduce preferences a lot, but it mostly hides another lot of them. And that's a good way to go through them. Now, I certainly should move this to another place... – cregox Apr 20 '11 at 13:39

The recently revamped notifications area is the perfect place for these. But I hate the idea of separate opt-in / opt-out.

Folks have various uses for favorites, but they mostly fall into two categories:

  1. Stuff they want to keep an eye on for some reason
  2. Stuff they want to be able to find again quickly

Of those, #2 has never been particularly well-served. There's no search, no sharing - the only real benefit is that the list is attached to your account, so you can retrieve them from any device. Of course, this functionality is offered by a dizzying array of dedicated services, and increasingly build directly into web browsers... Along with search, sharing, etc. Trying to duplicate that on the site makes about as much sense as building a spell-checker into the editor.

But #1 actually was effective at one time. Yeah, some folks complained about it. But a lot of that was due to lumping those notifications in with more direct responses, those "specifically targeted" events that you mention. Avoid teasing us with "you've got mail!" every time something happens to a post we're passively interested in, and I expect a lot of those complaints will disappear. For those that don't, well... Opting out is as easy as clicking that little star again.

Also... This is the last little feature I liked in Quora that hasn't yet been implemented.

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On the other hand, using the existing Inbox email notifications makes Kevin's suggestion also implement (optional) email notifications for favorites. Also, it would match Jeff's 2009 statement "if you favorite a question, you opt in to updates on that question [...] just as if you own the question". – Arjan Jul 28 '12 at 13:38


I don't know if this will work, but this idea came to me for notifying users of changes to favourites. I think something like this innocuous little icon to the left of the user name (and also the tiny v-like dropdown left of it).

It seems to tell me something has happened, like, "you've got mail" style...

Look forward to your thoughts!

My idea


I think it would be nice to have the option, when marking a favourite, to opt for that question only whether or not notifications are desired. This is due to different use cases when adding a question to favourites.

  • If this is too hard to implement, forget it - the old functionality of always notifying would be acceptable if it does not use the global inbox, otherwise I don't think I'll opt in (it'll flood quickly for heavy-use Stackers).
  • If it may confuse new users, let the user preference be one of three?
    • don't notify; or
    • notify always; or
    • ask per favourite

Related: What are favourites for?

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+1, very good points: "user preference be one of three" would be great, and I'd also prefer some innocuous little icon and not flooding the inbox. – Hendrik Vogt Mar 16 '11 at 9:12

I don't like it. I like my inbox to be reserved for "important" notifications, ones that actually involve me. Who actually checks their favorites anyway? I say they're find in the dashboard where they are.

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so why do you "favorite" stuff if you don't really care about it? – waffles Mar 16 '11 at 1:41
@waffles I think I'm like most people in that regard. I favorite something because I get the feeling that one day it will be useful, and then never check it again. Also, most stuff I favorite I do really care about, just not enough to stick them in the inbox. I frequently go back to old (my last 5) notifications. I don't want to have to scroll past meaningless updates (to an important thread). I think it's perfectly fine to be able to see at a glance all my favorites and the last time they have changed. – John Mar 16 '11 at 1:48
In short, I favorite something so I can find it again. However, most updates to these aren't important. – John Mar 16 '11 at 1:48
I understand, I find favs a totally odd beast with no clear, single use case. So many people use it in so many ways. – waffles Mar 16 '11 at 1:51
@waffles, I agree: – Benjol Mar 16 '11 at 7:57
Okay, but: Kevin was suggesting an opt-in. – Arjan Jul 28 '12 at 13:29

I would like to see a return of the activity log for favoured posts, but probably not merged with the in-box.

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One thought which came up from this disucsion (What does a small asterisk in the favorites tab in my user profile mean?), is that under the favorites tab, favorites which have any update be highlighted with some color.

So, if my favorites tab has a asterisk next to it, I would know that there have been updates to some of the favorites. When I click on the Favorite tab, the questions that have any updates will be highlighted with some color.

PS: For me, favorite updates are definitely not a candidate for Inbox.

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Aha, I thought it always was like this, but apparently not? It surely is since November 2011. (You might need to sort on Activity to see it. Also, when viewing the tab once, the highlight is cleared. Just like the Inbox messages are all set to "read" when opening that Inbox.) – Arjan Jul 28 '12 at 13:28

I voted for adding notification on favorites.

If you want to bookmark functionality, you can always use Vote Up. If a question or answer worth your bookmarking, it deserves a vote up.

Currently I don't see any difference between vote up and favorites in user panel. All works the same.

I advocates to use Favorite as kind of subscription tool, to get updates of the questions I favorited.

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I'm very much in favor of notifications about certain questions arriving in my inbox. A separate notification tab would be acceptable as well, as long as I'd still be shown a circled and colorful number next to my Super Drop-down Collider Menu button indicating the fact that there is something I'm probably interested in and haven't seen yet. Because in fact it's that circle I keep looking for whenever I open a SE page.

I'm only using favorite marks for few questions, most of the pretty low traffic, and therefore won't mind being notified about all of them. But I guess others might be favoriting a lot more questions, some of them high-traffic meta discussions. For these cases it might be good to also have a way to override the global notification opt-in/opt-out on a per-question basis. After all, people would be using the „favorite“ mark for two different purposes, so a single UI for all of them is probably too much to ask for. Instead of a per-thread opt-in/opt-out, some separate notification mechanism would be nice as well, e.g. along the lines of Subscribing to questions and comments that don't belong to you.

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There are many times I come across a post on Stack Overflow that I really find interesting and would really like to know the outcome of, though it's not my post. Could there be a button to mark the post such that a message is sent to my inbox only when the OP has selected a final answer, or when a bounty has been awarded.

I think that everyone here is agreed that having your inbox flooded with pointless "Me too", "Thanks so much", "You're right", and "I am having the same problem" is undesired. But I do think that many users of all reputation levels stumble across questions that they would like to know the answer to when it does get answered.

So basically: One notification per question. And it is optional of course.

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