I'm thinking of tackling a question that's a few months old, but have no way to tell without looking at their profile whether the OP still uses SO regularly, and therefore whether they're likely to even notice my answer in a timely way, or not.

Would it be a good idea for there to be some sort of way of telling whether the OP is still active, and how active they are, without having to go to their page for questions that are fairly old? The accept rate is handy, but after a certain amount of time, say one month, the question of whether the OP is still invested in the site seems to me to be more relevant, especially for users with low rep.

I know I can see their 'Seen' attribute on their profile page, but that's an extra page load for that small piece of information. How about a colour-coded image, or something, to crudely indicate, for old questions, roughly how active a user is?

EDIT: Gave this to Manni for following through the possible consequences of this request/point, but still find it relevant to know whether the OP is likely to see an answer, since it's often easier to answer the question if the OP can help you refine your answer. 'Answering for the world' is too abstract for me - I'm actually answering a question written by an individual. Whether that individual is still around makes a difference, to me at least.


What would be the effect if there was a flag that told us: "This user is not likely to see your response!"? You might as well rephrase that and say "Don't bother answering this question". The next feature request here on meta would ask for auto-deletion of such questions.

So to answer your question: a colour-coded image indicating how active the OP still is would be harmful for the site.

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If you think you can provide something of value, just go ahead and post it.

You might even receive a silver necromancer badge, if enough people find it useful.

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Once you answer the OP's question if he is still active he will be alerted (the envelope will turn orange).

On your feature request, I would say it isn't needed. If you know the answer to a question you should answer it no matter what. When you answer that question, your not just answering it for the OP only, your answering it for all of The World!

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  • He will be alerted if he still goes to SO. If he doesn't, he won't. If I have limited time, and can try and answer a question for SO and the world for an OP that is still engaged, or one that's not, then that makes a difference. It'd be good to have some indication of that difference, insofar as it can be done, up front on the question page, I think. – Ralph Lavelle Nov 13 '09 at 5:14
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    If the OP set up the e-mail alert for that question then, assuming the e-mail address is still valid, they'll get notified. – ChrisF Nov 13 '09 at 9:22
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    Who cares whether he is alerted or sees the alert? The maximum the OP can give you is a rep increase of 25 points. If you can answer the question, answer it. – innaM Nov 13 '09 at 11:03
  • @Manni: I wish I could upvote that comment 100 times! – Kredns Nov 14 '09 at 2:29
  • I didn't even notice there was an email alert, even though I've posted several questions! Thanks for that, ChrisF – Ralph Lavelle Nov 14 '09 at 5:14

Not worth the extra visual cruft IMHO. Is it such a hardship to click through to the OP's profile? And anyway, you're answering for everyone, not just the OP.

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