For me, the biggest issue is how unclear it is that clicking the star is an action that is published. Specially considering that in other sites this isn't the case (like starred items in Slack, I believe).
Firstly, you can see the number of people who marked a specific question as favorite, but you can't see who they are by clicking or hovering the number (like you can in github). That's already a huge reason for assuming that the star is private, without even questioning it.
To add to that, upvoting/downvoting is anonymous (thankfully) and the star is right next to the voting buttons. So, if you know that voting is anonymous, you might easily assume that the star is anonymous too.
The funny thing is that, since voting is something you intentionally do for the benefit of the community, I would expected that to be public, but surprisingly it's not! On the other hand, tracking your favorite questions is a thing you do primarily for yourself, so isn't it more logical for it to be private?
I see three possible solutions for this:
- Showing a message the first time a favorite is added, warning about the fact that favorites are publicly visible or at least change the tooltip of the star to
Click to mark as favorite question (your list of favorites can be seen by others).
- Less than ideal solution, but the minimum that should be done.
- Easy to implement (can be done in minutes). Simply changing the tooltip can be done without changing anything on the backend or database.
- Doesn't solve for the people who want to use the feature while keeping their privacy, but at least solves the privacy issue of not being clear that the star is public (the biggest issue).
- (This feature request): Adding a setting to show/hide all your favorites (maybe on a site-per-site basis). If showing is the default, adding the first favorite should still display the warning (1), with the link to the setting.
- Reasonable solution. Probably not too difficult to implement.
- Solves for most people, except the ones that want to show their favorites for some questions, but want to hide for other questions. Probably a negligible minority.
- Having a separate button for a private "bookmark" or "watch" feature to notify and keep track of favorite questions, while keeping the public "like" feature (can remain as a star).
- Most complete solution, but also most complex to implement.
- Solves for everyone.
- EDIT: Seems to be implemented in the new "follow" feature? Though I still couldn't find a way to see a list of my followed posts.
Even if the team decides not to implement the requested feature (2) or (3), at least (1) should be implemented. I don't think (3) is absolutely necessary, but I suggested it because it would be the ideal case, and they seem to not like adding preferences to the site.