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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).

First release

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).

Later releases

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.

screenshot of a question that has been bookmarked - there is a yellow icon that resembles a bookmark - and followed - the text "following" appears in a menu area along with a popup that reads "You're following this question You'll receive notifications when there's activity on this post."


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.

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    Just to get this right: Favoriting will now be called bookmarking and will keep working as it did. What will be added is "following". You can both bookmark and follow a question. – rene Mar 16 at 10:05
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    @rene correct. And though following can also serve the purpose of bookmarking (since there will be a tab in profile for it), there is a use case of wanting to bookmark and not follow, so we are not going to be removing that function any time soon. – Yaakov Ellis Mar 16 at 10:07
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    I'll leave it to others to offer criticism, since this isn't my feature - but thanks for rolling out something people have been requesting for a long time. And thanks even more for doing so as part of a definite time line you've established. That's definitely great to see. – Matt Gutting Mar 16 at 10:10
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    Will the Following vote be added to the Votes table in SEDE as a votetypeid and if so, will the userid be populated? – rene Mar 16 at 10:10
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    @rene we haven't made a decision about what will be added to SEDE. Most likely is that it will be added but userId will be stripped, but this hasn't been finalized yet. – Yaakov Ellis Mar 16 at 10:19
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    Will that new follow tab in the user profile be public or is that not yet finalized/ decided on? – rene Mar 16 at 10:21
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    @rene Worry is that if we make follow data public that it will paint a target on the post for spammers, so we will most likely make it private. But honestly: we haven't discussed this specific question yet, and I appreciate your bringing it up. I'll update when we have decided. – Yaakov Ellis Mar 16 at 10:25
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    +1000 for "We're really excited to be able to finally implement a feature ... first asked for back in 2011 ... requested repeatedly over the years ... 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." – user56reinstatemonica8 Mar 16 at 10:59
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    Love to see this feature. I'll use it all the time. Would have used it a lot during the last 9 years, 11 months as well. – pkamb Mar 16 at 18:54
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    @pkamb Better Nate than Lever, right? Not much point now in complaining that it didn't get done before. – Rand al'Thor Mar 16 at 19:52
  • Can we hide this button? I keep clicking it by accident when I want the 'share' link. – Mast Mar 31 at 7:07
  • @Mast sorry, we are not going to hide the button. We are considering potentially changing the position of it in the menu (as requested below) – Yaakov Ellis Mar 31 at 7:37
  • @YaakovEllis I haven't thus far seen any objection to closing announcements of upcoming features as duplicates of later announcements of actual features.. In fact, I often see others doing so. Is that not supposed to be the case? – Sonic the Masked Werehog Apr 1 at 19:48
  • @sonic, actually, on second thought that is done with me – Yaakov Ellis Apr 1 at 20:17
  • Is there seriously nothing I can do to prevent this damned popup from hiding the first comment?! Will it go away when someone estimates that everyone has seen it? – Anton Sherwood Apr 2 at 3:34
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Few comments on Follow feature from curator perspective.

All data about followers should be kept private.

Following poor posts that need further attention will be common use case. Experience tells me that many such posts will eventually get closed and deleted and there is no need to additionally publicly expose curators to potential harassment.

Also, data that posts has followers should also be invisible. Many people currently interpret favoriting a question as some sort of "quality proof", while in many cases it is just used as poor man's follow feature. For instance, because you want to cast delete vote on unsalvageable question later on.

On many occasions I have seen complaints on SO Meta stating "But, why is my question closed when it already has two stars?"

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  • FWIW on SEDE info about deleted posts isn't in the public instance. – rene Mar 16 at 11:49
  • I probably didn't pay attention, I'm sorry for that, but can you share (maybe in private) with me an example where you as a curator got harassed over a question being favorited by you (or for any other user for that matter). – rene Mar 16 at 11:53
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    @rene Actually, not for favorite (or at least I haven't connected it with that), but over closed question, where high rep user serially down voted all people that close voted his question. Anyway, people get harassed over comments (I am sure you are aware of that) so public information about following question would inevitable open another potential channel of harassment and benefits of knowing that question is followed and by whom are basically non-existent. – Resistance Is Futile Mar 16 at 12:27
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    Yeah, I know how we are harrased. The favorite route was not something I had considered, that triggered my comment. Take care! – rene Mar 16 at 12:42
  • Or on top of that: have a private list and a public one. – GhostCat Mar 16 at 15:53
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    @GhostCatsalutesMonicaC. That seems like a lot of extra complication; what would be the benefits? – Rand al'Thor Mar 16 at 19:53
  • If you decide for either private or public lists, at some point people would like to have both. Valuable features will always lead to enhancement requests. I am just saying one shouldn't be surprised if that comes up later on. So thinking about it from the start is at least useful. – GhostCat Mar 17 at 4:20
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Will the new "Bookmarks" (now "Favorite") feature have a "set private" option so only I (and maybe moderators) can see my favorite list??

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    We hadn't planned on it, but it is an interesting idea. You see it as being all or none and being something on a user preference level? – Yaakov Ellis Mar 16 at 11:27
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    @YaakovEllis Better user preference. A simple checkbox reading "Keep my favorites / bookmarks private" would suffice. – iBug says Reinstate Monica Mar 16 at 12:52
  • What is your motivation here? Basically anything else, including all your comments and reviews and whatnot (stuff that tells much more about you than your followed questions) is all out in the open. Why should this be private, when so many other things are public? I dont have a strong opinion, but it feels like a strange UX inconsistency to me. – GhostCat Mar 16 at 15:35
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    @GhostCatsalutesMonicaC. But no one else knows (possibly except browser vendor / profile sync service provider) what pages I've bookmarked in my browser. This is IMO not straightforward some "public information" – iBug says Reinstate Monica Mar 16 at 15:39
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    I'd add that one of the current uses of the favorite feature (and future use of both bookmarking and following) is to monitor bad or controversial questions for future curation and moderation. There isn't much reason to share those with others. – Bryan Krause Mar 16 at 15:59
  • @BryanKrause That's also a valid point. Either way, I insist that it makes more sense and is more productive to allow users to decide the visibility for their own bookmarks, instead of forcing everyone's to be public. – iBug says Reinstate Monica Mar 16 at 16:39
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    @YaakovEllis An option is definitely the best setting. It could be defaulted to unchecked (kept public) for existing and new users, so nothing visibly changes without user intervention. – iBug says Reinstate Monica Mar 16 at 16:44
  • @GhostCatsalutesMonicaC., my upvotes/downvotes certainly aren't public, I assume the votes to delete or not, flags and so on on posts aren't public (not that I'd object too much). – vonbrand Mar 17 at 3:02
  • That's true.... – GhostCat Mar 17 at 4:18
  • @YaakovEllis Also, you need to make sure users know that "bookmark" favorite is public (or public by default) before using it! See my post at meta.stackexchange.com/a/312734 on how this should be done. Even if you don't add this option, (assuming "following" is private and "bookmark" is public) please let us see a list of the posts we're following in our own profile. So we can at least use "following" as a private bookmark. – geekley Mar 30 at 23:00
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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 comments on the question that are not @pinged to other users
  • Edits to the question

When I edit or comment on my own question, I don't get notified. However, if I follow a question because I might be able to help the author out once they've added additional information (in the form of a comment, or better: edit to the question), I'd like to be notified as well. Will this happen?

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    If you follow someone else's question, then you will be notified when they edit it (but not when you edit it). Notifications on self-edits are not sent to the post owner. So notifications to followers will be sent for all edits other than edits by the follower. – Yaakov Ellis Mar 16 at 11:29
  • @YaakovEllis thanks. The way you put it makes it sound obvious, but it isn't immediately apparent if you don't know the design behind it (similar example). – Glorfindel Mar 16 at 11:41
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    I updated the post to try to make this clearer – Yaakov Ellis Mar 16 at 18:20
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The ability to unfollow one's own question or answer would be useful, e.g. and the case of a comment war on a post, or if the poster doesn't want to think anymore about the post (e.g. because they aren't interested in the topic anymore). For example if someone asks a question about Ruby but one year after they don't use Ruby anymore, notifications regarding their old Ruby answer or question can be seen as noise and can make them is more important notifications.

I understand that one of the concern of allowing people to unfollow their own question or answer is that it may undermine the OP's role as post caretaker but other people may still edit the post anyway, and if the OP isn't interested then they are unlikely to make further edit. I believe that we should view Stack Exchange as a QA website useful for all and not just the OP and original writers of answers.

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