I've noticed when a question is re-pushed to the top of the question stack (and thereby making it onto the home page of Stack Overflow) it can be tricky to figure out exactly what about that question (or one of its answers) has changed to warrant its re-push. It would be great if alongside "oldest", "newest", and "votes" answers could be sorted by "active", those that have had comments added, edits made, etc., going to the top of the pile. That way (for example) active threads of discussion about particular answers can receive fresh attention.
Well, on the homepage you can now click on through to the activity itself:
Add link to most recent activity of a question
Additionally there is the (experimental) timeline view:
Feedback Request: New Timeline Question View
I decided to drop the "oldest" answers sort in favor of "active" answers sort. Since it's kind of redundant with "newest" (same thing, just in opposite order) whereas "active" is different in a way that is actually useful.
2Is the experiment ever going to be rolled into as a link on the page?– randomMay 1, 2010 at 9:03
For an illustration of the first option see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4391/… May 1, 2010 at 13:05
4Hmmm, upvoted before I realised that my favorite web 1.0 sort order is now gone :-( (While answering, I never used the "votes" or "newest" sort order, and I feel that the new "active" looks more like "newest", than "oldest" did...) Dec 5, 2010 at 11:42
As an aside: I assume it's by design that the accepted answer is still listed above the most active answer? (It currently works like that; seems okay to me.) Dec 5, 2010 at 16:45
5Please change it back, oldest was the best of the 3 sort orders IMO.– Andy EDec 6, 2010 at 14:18
1@Andy, see Bring back the 'oldest' sort order for answers. Dec 6, 2010 at 17:04
@Jeff, oldest is still useful, though you could also have a 'time' tab that lets you sort either way. Dec 6, 2010 at 18:06
3If you're going to remove one of oldest and newest, remove newest. Oldest let me read answers in chronological order easily. It's very herky jerky reading answers chronologically in newest sort order as you read each answer from top to bottom but have to scroll up to get to the next answer. But either way, it's pretty user-unfriendly to obliterate a preference without telling users about it. At the very least a notification would have been nice. Dec 6, 2010 at 19:34
@Laurence I agree, even while I don't really use any of them. I don't see why there can't be 4 tabs there: Active, Oldest, Newest and Votes. But probably there's some obscure reason to it. - Actually it would be even better to keep those 3 and add reverse order to each one if you just click again on the current one.– cregoxDec 21, 2010 at 16:57
Make use of the not-so-easy-to-get-to-unless-you-hack-the-URL feature of the timeline view.
There you will see sorted top down the last activity made to the question as a whole. That includes comments and last edited answer revisions.
If Greasemonkey is your sort of thing, you can add that to your view set.
I was thinking that old comments could be shaded, so that the new ones would stand out.
Activity is an ambiguous thing. When one person talks about edits, another person talks about comments.
Sorting by last edit time would be something both easily implemented and would probably be a nice addition to the site (when time allows).
But comments are a whole nother beast and something that no feature like this should be created for.
When a user clicks on links in either the Recent Activity or any of the tabs of his user profile page, the link takes the user to the answer link within a question that is the area of the user's input (the question or answer that the user provided or commented on).
When you reach the link, the post that was the target is highlighted and the highlight slowly fades. This could be a good idiom for what you are looking for. One idea would be to redirect the link on the homepage to the area that was updated. Though a great idea for those who loiter on the homepage, it could end up being confusing to the casual visitor.
Perhaps a good idea would be to maintain the fading highlight on the updated answer within the post for an extended period when coming from the homepage. This would allow those interested in what has changed, ie those who browse the homepage knowing that old posts are sometimes updated, to scroll and find the modification (assuming it wasn't a delete).