I'd like to see SO implement user based tags like delicious.

For example, if no one is answering my question, but I know Scott Hanselman would know the answer I could tag my question "for:shanselman".

Then when Scott logs in he would have a list of questions directed at him to answer.

I acctually think that if a user is sent a direct question and answers it, this should be worth slightly more reputation points, because you are proving your "real life reputation" in the system.

This could also create bon-a-fide experts so that a question that hasn't been answered in a while could prompt the asker: "You should send this to XYZ" where XYZ is a leader in the tag category for the question.

I think this system also adds more merit to blog flair, because your blog flair could have a link to "ask me a question" which would all get funneled through the SO system.


  • Or, you could ask me. ;) Truly, just ask The Collective, and they will answer. – Scott Hanselman Oct 21 '09 at 8:37

I don't see the point of this (and it could be incredibly spamtastic if put in the wrong hands).

I don't see why someone like Hannselmann couldn't subscribe to the C# tag and then respond to questions that come in that way.

I think the idea is to consult the community, not just a particular member. Otherwise we would have all already filled up Jon Skeet's inbox and asked him to answer all our questions personally.

  • 1
    I was worried that this could get spammy too. However I realized that after people don't get their answer on SO, they are emailing the product team or manager anyways to get support. At least SO would no provide a mechanism to facilitate these conversations, already in progress. – nikmd23 Jul 7 '09 at 0:53
  • You would be better off emailing the link to the question to Hannselmann (or however your subject is) directly instead of looking for a new mechanism built into SO. – TheTXI Jul 7 '09 at 1:09
  • Hannselmann (or whoever) might have an email address posted on their page, but majority of users don't (and despite that I'd claim many of them would be interested in getting such a notification occasionally about a specific question) – Jonik Oct 15 '09 at 8:33
  • @Jonik: Based upon the vote totals I am getting on this answer, I wouldn't put much weight on your claim. – TheTXI Oct 15 '09 at 12:22

Lets play out this scenario. I'm a first page user specialized in C#. On the first day the system is implemented I get 10 notifications. Since I'm a nice guy I'll go over all of them.

  • The first 3 questions have already been answered since the notifications were sent out. Ok, that's fine, I'll go over the other 7 notifications.
  • Wait, these 3 are about Objective C or jQuery... I don't know Objective C or jQuery. Let's just skip over these.
  • The next one is not programming related, let's vote to close this one.
  • This one sounds interesting; it's already on the first page, but has no good answers. I'll just answer this one.
  • Just 2 more to go... One's a duplicate, the other I don't really understand, let's just leave a comment to clarify.

But what about the Objective C questions? They sent me a notification! I must be a jerk for not answering.

The thing is, this notification system has a very good change of just annoying people. People will abuse the system, no doubt about it. They'll send everything to Jon Skeet, because they don't know anybody else and besides, he's number 1, so he's got to be gest at anything. The same thing will happen on SU and SF, drowning the first page users.

It will also cause resentment. Why haven't they answered my question? I sent them a notification? I don't care about all the other answers, I want his answer. I'm not marking an answer as accepted until I get a response from him.

And let's not forget that hi and thanks are sometimes considered distracting; even Jon Skeet said he just prefers the question. Imagine having notifications constantly popping up. Even if it's just an envelope, like for the Recent page, it's still distracting.


Why not just send him an email with the link?

  • 1
    In the general case, not all users have an email address publicly listed on their user page. – Jonik Oct 15 '09 at 7:50
  • 2
    @Jonik For a reason - They may not want to be contacted – BinaryMisfit Oct 15 '09 at 8:20

I can definitely see the need for this (so +1).

Currently the software doesn't provide any proper way to do this. Long time ago I personally resorted to leaving a comment on an unrelated answer to notify a certain user who seemed knowledgeable (as there seemed to be very few people on SO with the SCWCD certification). Yeah, that was an ugly "hack" (but it worked!).

Other workarounds that might be available are 1) sending an email if the user has one listed publicly or 2) sending a tweet towards them if they have posted their Twitter username. (As suggested by Rich B and random, respectively.)

However, I can also see why this wouldn't be implemented; e.g. what The TXI said about "consulting the community". And this would surely become "spammy" for some popular users, so people should definitely be able to opt-out from it.

Another neat solution, of course, would be to implement the opt-in, minimalist, Wikipedia-like email system on SO that I have been plugging. That would be very cheap to do, and it would also solve other problems than this.


I see a couple of problems with this.

  • Some known leaders just would not have the time to be sollicited by many users.
  • This plays against new users who could answer as well but have not proven their leadership yet.
  • Yeah, if this would be implemented it should be made easy to opt-out or ignore these "requests" completely. As for the second point, I really don't think that would be a problem: there a lots of questions out there for anyone to freely answer; this would not change that. But there are also some questions for which there really are few potential answerers, and for those cases this would be useful. – Jonik Oct 15 '09 at 10:02

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