In my opinion, one shortcoming of Stack Exchange is the discoverability of new answers on questions.
This simple feature proposal would make it more enticing for users to discover new answers, while not being intrusive or changing the default answer order.
The only change is the
(3 hours) which indicates (intuitively, I hope) that the most recent answer activity was 3 hours ago.
The plan is that...
- The typical user experience is unchanged. When you come to a question, you see the likely best answers on top.
- For users who spend more time on the site, when they see that there was some recent activity on the question, they may be curious about what it is, and check it out when they otherwise wouldn't have.
- New answers will be discovered more often, and have a better chance to acquire votes and contribute to the conversation.
There are some existing features that contribute to new answer discoverability, such as the "Active" tab on the questions page, the "Late answers" review queue, and the "real-time" tab on the Stack Exchange homepage. However, I feel that each of these features have common model that makes them not so effective in this outcome: first the user is presented with all the new content, then they must spend time figuring out which subset of that content they actually want to engage with.
This feature proposal would strengthen the inverted method, which I think is more effective: first the user chooses which question to engage with, then they are presented with the new content. Since the user is already browsing the question, they probably have some level of interest in the topic, and are more likely to have a meaningful interaction with the new content.
Due to the low profile of this feature, I think it could easily co-exist with the existing features. I just wanted to address the potential argument that this is feature is mostly redundant with existing ones.