We are planning to release a new feature on the network in the next few weeks that will give users the ability to follow and unfollow questions. This was mentioned by Teresa in the Q1 Roadmap. The plan is to roll out these changes in multiple releases. (Work is well underway, and we are aiming for a release by the end of March. However, current events make it likely that delays may be introduced into the process, so it is hard to give an exact commitment right now).
The initial release of this feature will allow any logged in user (other than the question owner) to follow a question. If a user follows a question, they will receive inbox messages related to any event for which the post owner would have received notifications:
- New answers (other than answers by the follower)
- New comments (other than comments by the follower)
- Edits to the question (other than self-edits by the follower)
- Some post notifications
The inbox messages sent to post followers will indicate that they are the result of the question being followed, to distinguish them from notifications related to someone's own posts. And if you allow it in your email preferences, the inbox messages (if unread) will also eventually be emailed to you as well.
Users will be able to stop following a post that they have followed at any time.
Post follow will not affect post owner follows and @pings (which will not be muteable at this point — more on this below).
We are planning to follow up our initial release with:
- Answer following (works the same way as question follow, allowing users to be informed of new edits and comments on an answer)
- Renaming "favorite" to "bookmark".
- The feature will be the same as Favorites, with the name and icon updated to more accurately represent user expectations and usage
- You will be able to both "bookmark" and "follow" a question
- We are including this update in the current body of work as there has historically been general confusion surrounding the Favorite function and its connection to notifications
- New profile tab to view questions and answers that you are following
Once all of these changes have been made, this is what a question will look like — you can see [following] in the question menu along a popover that appears immediately after clicking the [follow] link, and the star icon for [favorite] has been replaced with a bookmark to match the new term.
No change to existing post owner & comment notification logic
I mentioned earlier that question owners will not be able to follow their own questions, nor will they be able to mute them. They will continue to receive the same inbox notifications that they receive today. Likewise, users who are @pinged on a comment will not be able to mute these pings.
Though we know that this has been requested in the past, there are some big technical hurdles to implementing this properly (even for a small-scale test) that preclude its inclusion in our current schedule. Additionally, allowing a post owner to mute new answers and comments (or any user to mute @pings) has additional potential side effects to the long-established norms of the site that require further research before we can proceed.
Is this a feature that you're interested in us looking into more and working on? If yes, tell us why in an answer.
We're really excited to be able to finally implement a feature that our own Kevin Montrose first asked for back in 2011 - and that has been requested repeatedly over the years on many of our meta sites including MSO. We got to the solution we have now by reviewing these many years' worth of questions and talking one-on-one with users about this feature.
Given past requests and common follow/unfollow patterns, we feel good about releasing this first iteration of question following later this month. Once the first release launches, we'll ask for your help in telling us where you think we should iterate on the functionality and experience.
For now, if you see something that is confusing, that could cause issues, or could impact user experience, let us know in an answer.