(FYI, here are the guidelines on dups: How should duplicate questions be handled? )

I know that this question has many duplicate versions. That in and of itself should be a reason to pay attention to it. My question is:

Why is it NOT possible to follow somone on SE network sites when it is a win for the user, a win for the network, and a win for the advertisers?

Pseudo-dup Questions:

Q: Why is there no easy way to follow someone on Stack?

A: "Stack is not a social networking site!"

Yes. It is. We are here asking our peers for advice. GitHub isn't a social networking site either. I can follow people on there. I can look for a job on here. How much more of a 'Social Network' do you need when you can potentially gain a livelihood through peer contact?

A: "There is an obscure RSS link!"

Yes. There is. But I'm only on this site during Pomodoro breaks and on my iPhone app in the Uber on my way home. I just want a quick way to see what random bits of knowledge I can pick up from other users who I've seen give, or have had give, quality answers that have helped me.

With the new ad revenue they plan to draw in, keeping people on the site longer by letting them be lured in to browsing other's posts seems a sure-fire way to increase revenue. Plus, as it's been mentioned dozens of times with THOUSANDS of combined views across those mentions, it's obviously something users are interested in.

Heck, I've been learning a lot lately and I'm sure I could ask Stack for advice along the way: if you guys want, I could probably implement this for you. You can find my developer profile by following me on StackOverflow.....

  • 3
    Can you support the statement that it's a win with some evidence? You can't just assert things without explanation. – Catija Feb 13 '18 at 18:40

It is not possible because nobody has implemented it. Nobody has implemented it because the benefit is not seen as outweighing the cost. You are unaware of the cost, as am I. You haven't done a great job of laying out the benefit beyond "I personally want it" though you hint at "the site could make more money if it could get people to come look at stuff more often."

A fundamental tenet of the StackExchange design is to de-emphasize personal identity. You follow tags that interest you on sites that match your interests. Say you're a C++ person -- go look at new C++ questions whenever you like. Even if you convince me that you care if I answer a C++ question, and need to be notified, why should you be notified if I answer a Visual Studio question, or for that matter something on Travel or The Workplace?

Finally, if you want to give someone a handy link to "everything I have posted on StackOverflow" you can -- it's in your profile. (Here are my SO answers.) No, it doesn't notify them when you post something new. But it serves most of the purpose I think I see in your question.

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    Part of the cost is that we're supposed to vote based on content, not users... friending someone and being notified when they post is inevitably going to exacerbate voting for people, not content. – Catija Feb 13 '18 at 18:46
  • Thank you. That makes a lot of sense. I still think it's sad that they can't find a way to make this site more mainstream, but, I understand what you mean about keeping it more about the questions and answers than about the users. Very insightful. I see what you are saying, also, @Catija. – Josh Feb 13 '18 at 19:12
  • More Mainstream is not the same thing as better. In fact, ok would argue that the opposite is true. Stack exchnae currently attracts dedicated resourceful users. Increasing mainstream appeal might serve to weaken that strength. – user343082 Mar 20 '18 at 20:27

It's not a win for much of anyone, as far as I can tell. You don't explain how it's a win, so I'm not sure how to argue with your points other than to explain why SE really isn't a social networking site.

One of the primary assertions of Stack Exchange is that we minimize who posts stuff here. If you go on Twitter, Facebook... most social media sites and even forums... they tag the poster's name either before or directly alongside the actual post. This shows an emphasis on who posts the content over what the content is.

We want to emphasize the content here, not who posted it. As such, we de-emphasize that information by making it the very last thing you see. In some cases, this means you're going to do a lot of scrolling before you see who posted the content. And this is good. It encourages users to vote on the actual content rather than on who posted it.

It doesn't completely exacerbate the issues of people voting based on who wrote the content but it does help.

Stack Exchange isn't for networking, either. If you want to connect with someone, find them on Linked in or follow them on Twitter but you don't need to know when they've posted new questions or answers here on SE because, again, that causes you to seek out their new posts and vote on them... which makes you see more of their content and less of everyone else's, so everyone who's not Jon Skeet, loses out.

So, this tells me very clearly that

  • it's possibly a win for (a very few) popular users but a loss for (the majority) unpopular ones.
  • it's definitely not a win for the network because it's subverting the culture.
  • there's no data on whether it's a "win" for advertisers.
  • I see what you are saying, to an extent, but, keeping people on the site longer would obviously be a win for SE. They get paid per click. The longer you are on the site, the more you click. We live in a capitalist society. More money does not always == worse quality. I would like to think, probably wishfully, that the average SE user is not the average FB user. The points you made may hold true for some parts of SE, but I think that most SO (and other tech oriented, which is where this site started) users aren't so inclined to simply "Like based on poster". But who knows. – Josh Feb 13 '18 at 19:21
  • Where are you getting information that someone would stay on the site longer if they had the ability to friend someone? – Catija Feb 13 '18 at 19:23
  • Common sense. The top grossing websites are either sales or social media. You can Google that. Google is on that list (and, btw, I can friend and follow people on Google). Because they sell pay-per-click advertisement and affiliated services. The same methods this site uses for revenue. It's common knowledge that being on a site longer exposes the use to more advertisements. I'm already aware of the reasons why they "should" implement a social aspect. I was asking why they "don't". Arguing with people in the comments about the validity of my question wasn't my purpose for asking. – Josh Feb 13 '18 at 19:42
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    @Josh - There is more to SE then creating a profit for SE. SE could have done several things that would generate profit (pay to promote questions for instance) which would be horrible for the community. Just like your suggestion would be horrible for the community. – Ramhound Feb 13 '18 at 19:51
  • I completely agree. I also think that if I notice that someone gives top quality answers to questions in a field that I am interested in and I go to their profile and read several of their other responses and think that, "You know, I have this app. I have free time. I (and apparently thousands of others) would love to just browse and learn; it sure would be nice to see new answers by people we know are experts in our field without having to search for them. Maybe, if they were all on one page of favorites..." My question was to discover the motives for not having that. – Josh Feb 13 '18 at 19:57
  • And I can flip that whole 'Give citations' thing around. Can you show empirical evidence that it would be harmful to the community? There aren't a lot of Q&A sites like Stack. We can only go off of "Kinda-similar" examples. Look at YouTube. They do a fine job of promoting top quality content to the top. Sometimes they get it wrong, but, just because ChrisFix has 3M+ subscribers doesn't dilute the quality of his car repair videos. – Josh Feb 13 '18 at 20:07
  • And don't take that response to mean that I think they should "feature" or "reward" people for answers. All I am saying is that in my downtime, when I'm reading the news, or watching YouTube, or browsing questions on Stack, it would be nice to have a saved list of "quality answer people" to go browse through their responses. I concede that I can see how that would lead to people up-voting without knowing it's the right answer sometimes, but, I don't think it would necessarily ruin the site. I would see it more as confining that the person giving the answer knows what they are talking about. – Josh Feb 13 '18 at 20:17
  • But that exists already, @Josh ... They put out a newsletter with top questions every week, if you choose to subscribe to it. And it's agnostic of who posted them, which meets the site's culture. – Catija Feb 13 '18 at 20:19
  • Not everyone wants to be followed. There is a reason I no longer participate in forums. – Ramhound Feb 14 '18 at 0:10

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