I think I've found the best definition of what I want thanks to the discussion with @M. Tibbits:
When I open or refresh the SO, I get a notification of new activities that are of interest to me. Today these are (hard-coded): answers to my questions and comments addressed to me. I want a bit more control over it, that's all.
Yes, I've read this and this, but I think I add new (good :) ) reasons for re-asking it:
The first question was answered before this so handy "inbox" notification feature was implemented. So now using favorites for "watching" a question is wrong, IMHO, for 2 reasons:
- it splits essentially the same functionality (of
getting notified when there is an activity you are interested in) between 2 very different user interfaces
- it's cumbersome - I need to: 1) add question to favorites; 2) click on my profile dropdown; 3) click on the "favorites" line; 4) see all my favorites with recent activity; 5) select the one I watch; 6) repeat this process occasionally to get updates; and 7) possibly remove the question from favorites at the end. All this as opposed to this little red button when there are news.
Favorites are different in nature that watching. I add a question to Favorites when I find the answers useful to me in my work, so I may want to have it handy in the future. By watching an interesting question I will be able to decide whether I want it in faviorites, after I see the answers.
EDIT: I see that I was not clear enough.
I want to add a question to Favorites when:
- it has some good answers
- the question and answers are relevant in my work
- I want to keep them handy as my long-term (persistent) knowledge base
I want to watch a question for short while (matter of days/weeks) when:
- it is interesting / relevant
- I want to follow it to see what are the answers. Then I can decide whether I want it in my favorites
As you see, the main differentiators are good answers and long/short term. For short-term, automatic notification is better.
Bottom line, all I ask is "watch this question" checkbox (which may expire after say a week if there is a need to free resources)