Hey, wasn't there a recent survey conducted about the profile page?
In December 2018, @Donna, Community Design Lead and Principal Product Designer, asked the MSE community
[emphasis in bold not mine]
With the launch of Teams, we have yet another set of use cases that the profile & settings has to serve, and it does so in a mediocre fashion. We want to change that. Not just because Teams needs a better profile, but because Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange have needed a better, fully responsive profile for a long time.
We need your help
We’re kicking off these changes by conducting user research about what people like and dislike about the profile, and how it might be improved.
The number of profile views, the calendar, the date someone created an account and the last seen elements were not issues for anyone three years ago. With 204 upvotes and one downvote the highest scored answer by @ArtofCode asserted
I think the profile is actually one of the most well-thought-out parts of Stack Exchange already, and I'd question whether it actually needs much changing. I can certainly see the argument for wanting to get Teams to feature in profiles, but I'd much rather see that get worked into the existing profile in some of the free space somewhere than a whole new profile page get built.
This answer by @hat suggested that security issues were close to their heart, but no mention was made about the “member for” or “last seen” metrics; overall they too liked the profile page.
Please don't make any big changes!
I like the SE profiles. The flow is logical and compartmentalised; the organisation works well for me. If I want to check up on rep, I can go to the reputation tab with one click. If I want to see reviews I have completed, I can browse through them without too much distraction.
For the same reasons I opt for separate profiles for each site. I like to have everything in separate "areas". The current profiles are almost integrated already, anyhow; if I want to check up on another profile, it is only a click away, in the menu. However, it is a real pain to have to log in to all sites individually. For security reasons I clean cookies regularly, which forces me to log in to every profile. If logins were network-wide I would be happy.
In the quest to make profiles fully responsive, @Aaron Shekey could have looked at the results of that research and determined that features such as “last seen” and “member for” were not highly valued by users and would not be missed. In fact, "last seen” is not even directly mentioned in the company's announcement.
[emphasis in bold, mine]
- Various links and other stats are now under the display name and some stats behind are only viewable by you or a moderator.
In case this needs reminding, using a site is not only about posting and voting on contributions, it's about curating a community, about helping newcomers learn the ropes, explaining why their question is considered off-topic, asking the OP for clarification, encouraging authors to improve their posts, but as a user myself with nearly 9 years of experience I want to be sure I'm not wasting my breath, so I visit a person's profile and check when they last participated or logged in. This is one of the reasons why it's important to consult a spectrum of people who actively and continuously use a site–not just Stack Overflow–before making significant changes to the site.
On the other hand, in a comment, animuson ♦ said: We've actually had quite a few complaints in the past that a "Last seen" indicator public visible is a creepy and intrusive thing to have on a user profile. So I imagine the disappointment will be very 50/50 here. ;)
I've been thinking about this privacy issue a bit and apart from the argument that it's “creepy”, I've not read anything that convinces me why this statistic should be hidden from public view.
For example, I now know that the last comment by @Yxxxx was posted 18 hours ago. What do I do with that information? Do I write them a personal email? Contact him or her via LinkedIn. Do I search for a developer with that name in the town they live? I suppose I could message them on Twitter (if I had a Twitter account). In actual fact, I could do any of things at anytime thanks to the links a user chooses to post on their profile.
I have free access to a great deal of information about many users because of what is written on their profile pages not because I read they were "last seen" 18 hours ago.
If someone desires to keep secret the time they last logged in there are many workarounds, especially for a developer, to use.
Supporters for removing the "last seen" statistic argue:
- The "last seen" fields leaks information about user behaviour, you might consider this information not significant yourself, but this feature clearly allows everyone interested to determine when a user is accessing the site (and with enough effort to fully map the times a user is active). If I say that this information is nobody else's business but my own, then this is fundamentally a privacy argument
- It's a creepy metric - I don't want people to know when I was last here, and there are many people with even stronger, more visceral and life changing reasons for wanting it gone.
- I think removing the "last seen" field is a good idea, …[it] simply leaks too granular information and allows a sufficiently determined person to track detailed access patterns for a specific user.
People who wish to remain anonymous are free to choose whatever username and avatar they please, some go a step further and use a fake user number. They leave their biography box empty, they don't chat, they don't participate on meta sites, they do very little, if any, interaction with other users. Stack Exchange allows users to set up multiple accounts and hide their accounts in their network profile, e.g. a user appears to have one account on their network profile when they may have joined 80 communities using multiple accounts, which SE allows users to create. And finally, SE allows users to lurk, to stop posting for years, and to create throwaway accounts. In fact, on Stack Overflow there are millions of accounts that are lying idle. So, if I am serious about guarding my privacy, i.e. it's nobody's business what I do in my work/spare time, SE gives me plenty of tools to do precisely that. I know nothing about computing so think what a developer is capable of knowing and doing if privacy is a security issue for them.
- Can someone please give a real-life scenario why the "last seen" feature is an invasion of privacy or poses a serious threat?
How is that type of data different from posting an answer or a comment which comes complete with edit and time stamps?