Slightly realated, but different: Highlight already visited questions and Highlight new entries on inbox.

There are many areas on the SE network where new activity is brought to your attention: replies go to your inbox, the default answer sort order is by activity, etc.

One area where new activity is not clearly identified is when you revisit a question. New answers/comments are, for all intents and purposes visually identical to old posts.

Currently we, as users, have two options:

  • Try to remember which posts we've already read
  • Try to remember the last time we visited the question, and mentally filter the old posts from the new

I'm not convinced either of these is practical, especially when you read potentially hundreds of posts a day on multiple sites in the network.

I'd like to propose a new feature to help identify what the new activity is within a question; this might be new highlighting, some kind of badge on the item, or whatever.

This is closely related to Make recent activity and responses show new comments on questions/answers I have commented on (even if I don't own them), but I'd like to have a way if identifying the specific new activity on previously visited posts that I may not have commented on or answered. Now, if this means I have to favourite the question, or flag it in some other way to be notified, I can live with that.

EDIT: Obviously, if this happened by default for every user and every post, it would represent a significant load on the SE infrastructure, which is why I'd be happy if it was something I had to specifically request on specific questions that I'm interested in.

I'd even be happy for it to expire after, say, a month of no activity on a question to minimise the load on the infrastructure.

  • How would the system know what you've read when you once loaded the page? (For me, sorting on Oldest or Active really is good enough.)
    – Arjan
    Aug 19, 2011 at 10:56
  • Let's say, hypothetically, you flag a question for these updates, the software knows when the last activity was on the page you're looking at, so the next time you load it, it would be simple to tag in some way those items that are newer than the last one that was displayed. It's less about whether I've read everything, but more about what is new (or different) since the last time I loaded the page.
    – RivieraKid
    Aug 19, 2011 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


This would most easily implemented as an extension to the existing "favorites" feature. You're already notified (by a * on the tab on your user page) if one of your favorites has been active, so no additional work is needed to track which users to notify. I don't know if the time of last visit is currently stored once the notification has happened or not, but that seems like a simple change.

The only thing that would need to be added is some sort of notification on the answers that have been added since your last visit.

I recommend something unobtrusive but obvious if you're looking for it, like active between the edited area and the link | edit | delete | flag area, rather than highlighting the whole post or some sort of icon.

  • Totally agree - I'm happy for it to be a subtle notification - the only problem I see is Jeff might consider it to blur the line too much between Q&A and forum formats.
    – RivieraKid
    Aug 19, 2011 at 9:31
  • It seems like a minimal extension to the "Favorites" feature to me, and a very useful one. I think so long as comments don't count as activity, only new posts and post edits, it's not too discussion-like.
    – agf
    Aug 19, 2011 at 9:34
  • @agf: Just to point this out, you're not notified of all activity on your favorites. You're only notified of new answers (not of edits) and of comments to the question. Aug 19, 2011 at 9:45
  • You're notified of comments to the question? I didn't know that. Even so, just being able to see new answers would be a big improvement.
    – agf
    Aug 19, 2011 at 9:49
  • 1
    For those who want to create some user script, it might be nice if the date/time that is used to populate the Favorites list, is also somehow made available in the HTML source of favorited questions. (Even more: if SE knows when a user last visited any question, then this would apply to all questions, not just the favorited ones.)
    – Arjan
    Aug 19, 2011 at 12:00

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