To the questions I put up on a particular topic/tag often I get fantastic answers from certain Stack Overflow users simply because they know the topic better than the others.

  1. Is it possible for me route a question to a member or set of members who could give me good, concise answers?
  2. Very often, the Stack Exchange use would overlook my question or probably even miss it in the mass of questions (like on Stack Overflow), this facility would still make it possible for the question to be delivered to the particular member.
  3. The name of the member/members to whom the question is routed is may/may not be made public. It's up to the member to answer the question and he/she is not bound.
  4. The question would still be viewable to others and they could also answer.
  • I guess SO members have made their choice! Let this request be laid to rest. :)
    – Kevin Boyd
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:26
  • 26
    Repeat after me: SO is not a social networking site.
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 20:31
  • possible duplicate of Intelligent Question Routing
    – jscs
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 18:17
  • This now exists in Teams.
    – Jeremy
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 4:51

10 Answers 10


I'm going to buck the trend. I actually don't think it's a particularly bad idea. Sometimes other people really do know that I'll be interested in a question (and may be able to answer it), but occasionally I'll miss it for some reason. In those situations, I'd welcome my attention being drawn to it.

Obviously it could become a bit of a burden, so I'd want:

  • A way to bulk-delete questions from the list, just based on title/tags
  • Automatic removal of a question from the list if I answer it
  • A link in the question page to remove the question and go back to the list
  • A way of blocking users who bother me too much

This feature could also be a way that users could remind themselves to come back to answer a question later. Marking it as a favourite is one way of doing that, but I use favourites as a more long-term list, rather than a to-do list.

There's one problem which is already inherent in the system, but which this would make worse: it would encourage users who are waiting for an answer from an individual to upvote or accept an answer as soon as it's been posted by that "blessed" answerer. That's dangerous - it goes against the principle of judging each answer on its own merits.

Right, now for the onslaught of downvotes...

  • @Jon, I'm back to my senses now! :), way to go Jon, that's what I have been talking about in my question. maybe you understood it better
    – Kevin Boyd
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:51
  • 3
    -1 because I hate the though of this being implemented, but +100 for being so freaking good for the community that you're willing to condone it.
    – squillman
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:54
  • @Jon, We could do it this way! if a question is routed to a particular user we could disable upvoting,check marking that particular answer by that particular user, other answers could still be upvoted.
    – Kevin Boyd
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:56
  • I do want it to be really easy to ignore private questions, and discourage them. Maybe a opt-in check box in the profile or something. Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 20:12
  • 4
    @David: They certainly shouldn't be private questions... only attention would be drawn privately. Making it opt-in would make sense too.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 20:19
  • I just requested (more-or-less) the same thing. I don't think it's a bad idea if it's subtle and isn't harassing for the receiving user. I know several users who excel in certain subjects who'd also probably appreciate my bringing questions to their attention.
    – Andy E
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 16:20
  • 1
    Just wondering, has your view on this changed in the past almost three years?
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 13:57
  • 4
    @balpha: Unsure. Currently people leave random comments on other posts, or email me directly - I'd prefer a dedicated communications channel over that, I think... and if I could look every morning/evening at a list of "questions on which my input has been requested" that would be quite neat, I think.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 14:02
  • Yeah, the "random comments on other posts" thing was what made me stumble over this post. (I was asking out of pure curiosity, not because we have any plans regarding this.)
    – balpha StaffMod
    Commented Jun 28, 2012 at 14:05
  • An implementation akin to Google +'s circles would be nice. Recipients could opt in/out and would deal with them only when they are in 'Stack Exchange mode'. The other streams are so overloaded.
    – eebbesen
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 3:23
  • 1
    If this was ever implemented, it would have to be opt-in, I think. I know of at least one high-rep SO answerer that flags all comments asking follow-up questions or asking for attention to another question as 'non-constructive' on sight, they are clearly not in favour of this idea. :-) Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 13:50
  • 2
    @JonSkeet for science, has your stance on the matter changed since nearly a decade ago? Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 22:58
  • 2
    @OlegValter: Not massively. I'd rather have a prompt within SO than via email or Twitter... but it really would need significant safeguards. Perhaps opt-in on a per-tag basis, for example?
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 8:30
  • 2
    @OlegValter: I get emails and tweets, yes - although not terribly often these days. It used to be rather more frequent.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 19:33
  • 1
    @wjandrea: I probably wouldn't write exactly this answer these days (I'd been on SO for less than a year at the time). In 2022 I said my stance hadn't changed massively, but I'm now not sure I agree with my 2022-self. I won't edit it now though, nearly 15 years after the original answer...
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jan 20 at 8:14

If you want a particular user to see it, try and find their contact details in their profile (if they make any available).

We should not be trying to leverage individual users but the entire community.

The best way to "contact" particular users is to make sure that you are writing your questions clearly and that you are using good titles and tagging. Many of the power users around the sites will be following their specialty tags, so if you reference those tags, it is likely to pick up their attention.

I do not care at all for ideas which lean towards private messaging, "shout outs", referrals, etc.

  • I guess from my question it should have been clear, I am not insisting to leverage a particular user, simply put, I insist on better answers at the right time and at the right place.
    – Kevin Boyd
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:05
  • 15
    You are in no position to insist on anything. You want good answers fast. You get those by asking good questions, with descriptive titles and appropriate tags. People will answer them, other people will vote answers up or down, and you'll find good answers floating to the top (most of the time, anyway). You may find that certain people normally make excellent answers to the sorts of questions you ask, but their answers will generally be high up anyway. Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:18
  • 9
    Seeing as how nobody is really getting paid around here to answer stuff, it may not be the most effective/nice/correct thing to insist on anything from the people who answer questions.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:20
  • 1
    @TXI point taken!
    – Kevin Boyd
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:30
  • I have a use-case: the author of X has recently appeared on SO. He can answer almost any question about X, but he answers only newly-added questions since only they appear in a feed. I have a "great" unanswered question on X (about 10 vote-ups), but don't know, how to attract his attention to this question "legally". There are thousands of ancient questions about X - I don't think, he will ever try to traverse them all...
    – abyss.7
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 12:23
  • 1
    @abyss.7 You could try editing the question. That'll bump it in the list of "active" questions, if that's the feed the author is watching. Otherwise, like TheTXI said, try contacting them off-site. [BTW, I'm replying to your comment 10 years and a few months later! And for a second, by "X", I thought you meant Twitter, lol.]
    – wjandrea
    Commented Jan 20 at 3:48

Gotta trust the system. I assume that most users mark their favorite tags and don't generally read ALL questions. Chances are that those pros are going to see your question if it's properly tagged in an area they favor. This feature could possibly discourage people from taking care with their tagging.

It seems like the functionality is basically already there, from the system's perspective. Anything more direct would likely be... pushy.


Although you're not talking about purely private messaging, the first part of this answer still seems relevant:

Looking at other help sites, the most common use for this system is new users bugging established experts to look at their questions. If you were Jon Skeet, would you really want to have to filter through 100 requests per day? ... delete delete delete

  • Jon Skeet would probably go through them all just out of boredom.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:13
  • I think he already goes through them all out of boredom. I mean all of them, as in every question on the site. Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:14
  • I won't mind limiting the questions routed to member to one per day or whatever, you see problems can be solved in a suitable manner? The question we have to answer is does the community think that the question I asked is valid and do they want to solve the problem.
    – Kevin Boyd
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:14
  • 3
    @AeonFlux: If you limited requests to one a day, you need to take into consideration the many hundreds (if not thousands, by now) people who would send their C# questions to Jon, because "he can answer it easily."
    – Sampson
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:17
  • @ Jonathan, If he wants to answer them he could or he would, no one's forcing him to do that? and the question is still open for others to answer.
    – Kevin Boyd
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:20
  • 1
    @Aeon: That's how the system already works. Tag your question with "C#" and you'll have the same chances of getting it answered. The only difference is that Jon will come to you with the intent of helping, rather than you coming to him demanding him specifically to help you.
    – Sampson
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:23
  • Just to throw a spanner in the works: I've been known to respond to people drawing my attention to a question on Twitter :)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:26
  • @Jon Skeet: You should be ashamed of yourself.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:28
  • @Jon Skeet: Do you need to be following them, or do you occasionally check your mentions to see? Next time I have a C# question, I'm totally spamming Twitter with it for you. :)
    – John Rudy
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 20:38

Keep in mind that if you get great answers from a particular user, that means many other people do too. If you open up a way for everybody to contact their favorite users, those users will likely draw away from providing answers in the future. Let users answer on their own time, and at their own convenience - don't make it into a task for them :)

Consider this...

You can pretty much already do this. We all know that Jon reads the c-sharp questions. So tag your question with c-sharp, and let him come across it. Suppose you could send it to his inbox instead, along with everybody else who is sending their question across to his inbox. Your changes aren't increased, and in fact they may be decreased as he may feel "inbox-questions" are supposed to be answered. If he feels pressured, he may just delete them all - killing your chances of having yours answered. For your own good, tag your questions well, make sure they're thought-through, and Jon will find you.

  • It's upto the SO members discretion to answer or not! Read point number 3 of the question.
    – Kevin Boyd
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:16
  • 3
    @Aeon: I understand, but you're still creating a task for that user. They may not want to answer your question, but they still have to erase your question for their request-list. Compound that by 100 or 200 more users who want their questions answered, and you've got regular clean-up on StackOverflow now for popular users.
    – Sampson
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:20
  • 2
    @Jonathan: Someone brought up the point a while back on one of the IM requests that they don't want to have to deal with yet another inbox. Your comment reminds me exactly of that.
    – TheTXI
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:22
  • 1
    @TheTXI I think, for this specific request, [C#] is Jons "inbox." Tagging your question appropriately is equivalent to putting it in his inbox. If he had a real inbox, it would be just as deep, and your chances would be just as good :)
    – Sampson
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:24

Beside the points already mentioned, this would discourage answers from low-rep members of the community. When you ask something on SO, you expect the community to answer you. If you don't like answers from the community and wish for a specific user's answer, you shouldn't post it on SO. You should use another means of communication to contact the user directly (which is a bad thing, but that's a separate story.)

A natural consequence of formally asking and waiting for a high rep user to answer your question is that you wouldn't care about the answer of a user with 40 rep anymore. This would be harmful to the community and discourage new talented users. You should care about the quality of the answer, regardless of its author.
In my opinion, the social problem with this approach is much worse than practical problem of handling lots of requests.


People are not all knowing, and even though they regularly give good answers. Might also mean that they are plain wrong on another answer.

Keeping an open playing field gives exposure to the question and you might get an answer you never would have expected.

  • I guess no one here is reading the question, or maybe its rather too long, maybe I need to be concise, read point 4.
    – Kevin Boyd
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:18
  • 1
    @Aeon: I think Olafur understands your request, he's simply suggesting it's best to leave the questions to those who go looking for them, and not to direct them to specific users - which is more like a job, and less like a passion for that user.
    – Sampson
    Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:21
  • I saw that point, the thing is that by doing that you are creating a setup so people can "rely" on whatever user they want to answer it. Which gives the impression that they should deserve an answer from that person (for some reason) Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:21
  • @AeonFlux: I think perhaps it is you who is not reading the answers. Your question was quite concise and explicit. We understand your request, and we think it is a bad idea, for the reasons we are giving. I understand that you don't agree, but rephrasing the suggestion is not going to change the responses you are getting. Commented Sep 3, 2009 at 19:22

On Physics.SE, we don't have much activity from some of our better users. I sometimes see a post and think "ohh, xyz would give a great answer to it", but the aforementioned xyz isn't online at the time.

So, I created this meta post

I think that creating such a meta post may solve your problem. Maybe. SO is quite large and that may create problems on its own.


That's quite the question - perhaps the people you notice giving good answers to your questions are the only ones patient enough to read through the whole thing? You might get better responses for more people by asking concise questions with an easily definable 'good answer'.


While I understand the concern something like this might have in a broader context, I can give a specific, concrete example of how this feature might have been valuable to me in particular.

In 2011, I asked a fairly obscure question (Is it possible to run Java3D applications on Nvidia 3D Vision hardware?).

I fiddled around with the problem over the next few weeks, eventually got it working and posted a solution. It's a pretty small edge case, but if my answers save someone else the hassle I went through, I'm more than happy to share it. Java3D isn't a particularly popular tag, so not a lot happens in there, and I honestly don't check it that regularly.

I did some more work in this area for a few more months, before shelving it and moving on to other things.

At some point in early 2012, a follow-up question was posted to my original question (Is it possible to run Java3D applications on Nvidia 3D Vision hardware in windowed mode?) This is a pretty specific example of a follow-up, linking back to my original question and mentioning me by name.

However, I never saw the question until this week (over a year after it was posted!) I probably could have helped out a year ago, and had the hardware and software available to be of assistance, but without some sort of notification, I probably never would have seen that question, except for dumb luck. Now, my answer is likely out of date, and the questioner is long gone.

If that connection could have been made a year ago, I think it would have provided some more useful information.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .