My favorite tags are all SQL Server-related (, , , and so on). The "interesting" page, which is what shows up on SO when you click on the logo (which is also the only way to get your favorite tags to appear ABOVE the randomly-sized ads on the right margin), shows all kinds of junk and I'm just not sure where it's getting the list of "interesting" questions from.

The tooltip for the tab says "questions that may be of interest to you based on your history and tag preferences." While I don't recall ever visiting - never mind answering - a question about ruby on rails, right there at the top is a question tagged , and . What history or tag preferences, pray tell, drove this question to the list? The next one is tagged , , , . I can spell C++, and I have a vague concept of what sockets are, but I've never heard of the other two. Next down is and then and then . The only one I can even remotely start to explain is one tagged - but I have never used sqlite and, as far as I can tell, have never visited or answered a question about that technology either (and I have to believe this is just a coincidence).

The interesting page would be a lot more useful to me if it actually contained questions that revolve around my areas of expertise (as SHOULD be indicated by my history and tag preferences).

Is it essentially the case that I need to mark every other tag as ignored to whittle this list down so that I'm not offered "interesting" questions about iphone development, jquery and flex that I'm simply never going to visit or provide any useful input whatsoever? It's almost as if the "interesting" questions are filtering out my favorite tags on purpose.

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    Downvotes on meta indicate disagreement, so someone either disagrees with your premise or disagrees with what you're experiencing, etc. – Daniel DiPaolo Jul 29 '11 at 21:01
  • Hi Aaron, hope things are good. People tend to downvote liberally for all sorts of reasons on meta. I wonder if you are hitting some sort of caching issue since they are totally off... – Kyle Brandt Jul 29 '11 at 21:04
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    So why can't they also say that? Drive-by, anonymous down-voting is about the only feature on SO/SF etc. that I dislike. I know the high-rep folks feel they've earned the privilege to crap on someone's question or answer without telling them why, but I think it's rude, lazy and unnecessary. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 21:04
  • Do you have anything in your ignored tags? – Kyle Trauberman Jul 29 '11 at 21:08
  • @Kyle, yes I ignored a few tags a LONG time ago when I used the site a slightly different way. I've ignored android, cocoa, c, php, java, c# and python. Are you suggesting that if I remove all my ignored tags the interesting tags will work better? That seems counter-intuitive to me but I can certainly give it a whirl. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 21:10
  • no, I was suggesting that ignoring tags that aren't interesting to you might improve the "interestingness" of the homepage. – Kyle Trauberman Jul 29 '11 at 21:14
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    Here's a blog post with a list of the criteria that is considered when building the interesting questions list: blog.stackoverflow.com/2010/11/stack-overflow-homepage-changes – Kyle Trauberman Jul 29 '11 at 21:17
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    Sure, but that would mean ignoring 95% of the tags on SO. I can promise you I'm never going to find questions about mercurial, matlab or django interesting, and manually adding all those tags to my ignored list is not all that interesting either. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 21:18
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    I have 15 Favorite tags and about as many Ignored tags, and about 90% of the questions on my homepage are highlighted. Maybe you just need more Favorite/Ignored tags? I certainly wouldn't recommend ignoring programming languages that are likely to be paired with SQL Server or the like (like c#, etc), but things like mobile development seem like great candidates for ignoring. – adamjford Jul 29 '11 at 21:20
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    Aaron, why do you consider downvotes the same as "crapping one someone's question"? Pretty sure that's not what the tooltip says. On Meta, downvotes mean (among other things, admittedly) "I disagree with your proposal or statement of problem". It's not a personal attack. – Michael Petrotta Jul 29 '11 at 22:02
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    @Michael But doesn't disagree imply some qualitative context? How can you disagree with someone's question about how something works? And how hard is it to explain why? Anyway the tooltip here doesn't suggest anything about disagreeing with my proposal - it says I haven't done any research or that my question is unclear or not useful. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 22:03
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    The tooltip on Meta should probably be changed. – Michael Petrotta Jul 29 '11 at 22:24
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    Also, I disagree with the implicit assumption that it's "courteous" to explain why you've downvoted a question. I used to do this, but most of the replies that I got were less than courteous, so I stopped. I also get pingbacks on everyone's whines about downvotes because I was the last commenter and the system assumes that their whines have to be directed at me. I'm so tired of everyone getting so excited about downvotes. They're how we rate content and prioritize requests. Yes, they're subjective; that's by design. If you don't like it, you don't have to post questions. – Cody Gray Jul 29 '11 at 22:26
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    Go for it, Aaron. I suggest that you not get worked up that not everyone does the same, or indeed even agrees that it's the right thing to do. – Michael Petrotta Jul 29 '11 at 22:36
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    dba.se. You know it makes sense. Also our chat: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/179/the-heap – gbn Feb 9 '12 at 14:09

If all you care about is questions tagged any form of then simply browse these questions directly:


Remember that asterisk is the wildcard character when browsing by tag.

(It used to be the tilde ~ but that was a limitation of asp.net prior to v4, not something we actually wanted; now it is correctly *)

  • Thanks Jeff, this works great. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 31 '11 at 15:23

Given your set of interests you might be interested in the Tag Set feature that is on stackexchange.com. You could set up a tag set for SQL related tags that would span dba, so, and SF (or even all sites).

This would give you a view of only those tags across the sites you specify. Here is an example (has other sites, but the ones in the screen shot are all SO)

enter image description here

More on how to set these up at http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/04/improved-tag-sets/ .

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    Thanks Kyle, I did not know about this feature. I wonder if it could be more naturally discoverable. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 21:31
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    This is a great feature that really needs to be publicized better (and even on Stack Exchange isn't displayed until you click tagged questions). – Chris Frederick Jul 29 '11 at 21:39
  • Yes! I've been using this for a while now. I don't follow many really active tags, so I also have mine set to email me about new questions pretty frequently. It's very convenient. I agree it should be made easier to find. It's really, really useful. – McCannot Jul 29 '11 at 21:42
  • I suppose there isn't a way for this filter to be accessible directly from one of the individual sites, right? :-) – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 22:15
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    @Aaron - I generally use this link rather than the home page stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/… – Martin Smith Jul 30 '11 at 1:02
  • Thanks Martin, I have created a bookmark with the +or+ structure. Seems like this is a good compromise for now. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 30 '11 at 2:04
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    @martin you really should look at using * for tag wildcards. See my answer. – Jeff Atwood Jul 30 '11 at 9:09
  • @Jeff - Wasn't aware of those. Thanks! – Martin Smith Jul 30 '11 at 22:14

At time of writing, 29 of the 90 questions on your homepage are explicitly tagged with one or more of your self-entered interesting tags.

Given that we can't control what questions are asked when, I'd say we're doing a pretty good job of surfacing potentially interesting questions. It's clearly impossible for us to guarantee that 90 unanswered questions are always available for any given set of developer expertise.

One wrinkle, is that most of these questions already have answers (and a great number already have accepted ones); so they're sorted down a bit on your home page. This is completely by-design, as the question has already been "dealt with".

The homepage does intentionally include a small random sampling of questions from various tags. This is to prevent the "filter bubble" phenonmenon, and is also very much by-design. I feel that most developers should be interested in multiple technologies, even if they don't have a work history in them all just yet (expanding horizons and all that).

Of course, if there are any technologies you find particularly offensive adding them to your ignored tags will prevent them from showing up on your homepage.

  • Thanks Kevin. Here is what my home page looks like right now. bertrandaaron.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/so_interesting.png You're right of course that if I scroll all the way down I see some SQL-related questions clustered near the bottom. This isn't a very positive user experience to me; while I do appreciate some of the concepts you're trying to hit, I think you're really de-emphasizing the "top fold" to the point of uselessness. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 21:16
  • I guess the answer is to either (a) learn to scroll, (b) become adept at a bunch of technologies that don't interest me, (c) add a whole lot of ignored tags, or (d) try to get more folks over to dba.stackexchange. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 21:16
  • @Aaron - if you're going to constrain yourself to a very narrow subset of technologies, you'll probably want to use a tag page (or setup a tag filter on stackexchange.com); it's a very unusual usage pattern, one that shouldn't take over the homepage I feel. – Kevin Montrose Jul 29 '11 at 21:24
  • My problem with the tag page is that I don't see a way to show questions from a variety of tags. What I end up doing is going to the sql-server tag page, then the sql-server-2005 tag page... and this requires two trips because if you go to the sql-server page and click on the sql-server-2005 related tag, you get questions tagged sql-server AND sql-server-2005. I want that to be OR – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 21:27
  • I'm a database guy, not a programmer who wants to be immersed in everything under the sun. Personally, I don't think the way StackOverflow works should be dictated only by the "I want to learn and embrace every technology imaginable" type of person. Why can't this be more flexible? You don't think there are ruby developers who don't give a crap about Java, SQL Server or Flash, and never will? – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 21:28
  • I'm not trying to start a big argument here or crap on the way SO is run. Quite frankly this is the best Q&A-type site I've ever used. I just have a suggestion for a way the home page could be more useful for some people, instead of making it work the exact same way for everyone. At the very least, change the tooltip to reflect how the interesting page ACTUALLY works. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 29 '11 at 21:29
  • @Aaron - the tag page I linked will show all questions with any tag of the form [sql-server-]; which is basically your entire favorite tag list (you don't use the wildcard form, but if you did it would be clickable to accomplish the same thing). My and Kyle's suggestion of using tag filters can work just as well, with the benefit of reaching across sites (which is why it's on stackexchange.com and not SO). We're not going to silo people by default (ie. on the homepage), as that's almost always *not what's wanted (and not what's healthy for the site); the functionality is available though. – Kevin Montrose Jul 29 '11 at 23:28
  • @kevin you can use the star now in URL wildcards, the ~ was a limitation of ASP.NET prior to v4 – Jeff Atwood Jul 30 '11 at 8:54
  • @aaron "I'm a database guy" -- perhaps dba.stackexchange.com would be a better fit, then? You could also set up Stack Exchange tag filters that include all of dba as well as sql-server* – Jeff Atwood Jul 30 '11 at 9:08
  • Thanks Jeff, I use dba.stackexchange as well but there isn't quite the volume I find here. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 30 '11 at 13:50

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