We have amongst others:
- Please make the "last seen" entry optional (which is not a duplicate of)
- "Last seen" time appears on Google and SE profile pages and should be removed
Personally I have used the last seen field a lot. It has never been to check how often etc. people are on the site(s), albeit I am sure some do – and as we know, big-tech etc. are among these. SE included – which makes the removal kind of leveling the information to the elite only. (Do mods etc. see this field? Another question, I guess.). One thing for sure: this information is tracked nonetheless. Hiding it from you does not make it disappear. If one uses Gmail or the like for it then, duh.
But in relation to the myriads of other uses like “has my comment likely been read”, “how to help this new user”, “is there any point in answering this narrow-scoped question” etc., as for the latter answering old questions where the questioner has not had any activity the last N months, or even days, is skipped faster than a heartbeat now.
Quite often as well, it is in relation to clarify questions; something that feels like pulling teeth at times. You ask for some information – wait and check if the user has seen the comment, wait some more. After N days you post an answer nonetheless in hope the questioner someday comes back, or you ditch it altogether if they very likely have seen the comment, but they did not respond with anything.
I do understand that people do not like it. Heck, I even think it is good that people do not like it. But, and there is a big but, the use of it is very helpful in a Q&A site. That's simply part of the nature of the beast.
So what should we do about this?
I strongly believe that the SO community can come up with a better solution than removing it altogether. I throw out a few of the top of my head suggestions and likely someone can come up with better suggestions.
- Last seen N days ago
- Limit the information to N days. Say a user has not visited for 30 days; then say not seen for 30 days, 31 days...
- Opt out
- Let the user opt out of showing last seen, optionally implementation-wise with a shown nonetheless if above N days.
- Opt in
- Just as with cookies. If not set by the user, show a dialogue asking if this information should be visible.
- Dialogue after N hours
- If not visited for N hours, show a dialogue with options such as “status online”, “status hidden”, ... and the option to set this status on the profile page. Keep the status without dialogue if manually set.
- Opt out at N reputation
- Make the field an opt-out after reaching, e.g., 50 reputation.
I have to throw in a conspiracy theory to spice things up. OK, heh, not as much as a conspiracy as an example of the negative effect it can have.
I have seen an influx of new users asking questions. Perhaps I have been away for too long, or not noticed it in the same way before, but there are a lot. The issue with quite a few of these is that there are many that ask a question and never visit the site again. (Noticed before removal of the last visited field.)
When active users see this, some take questions with a pinch of salt. This of course likely has an effect on the Q/A ratio. By this one theory is that this field was not removed due to privacy, but in an attempt to raise the answer to question index.
However: I believe this can have the opposite effect. Quite often as well, new users ask questions, check in later, and then check in even later to see an answer. Without the last seen, potential answers go unwritten because one assumes it is likely the user has not visited for N days.
It has as much to do with respect for the time of the ones answering questions as to the time for the ones asking questions!
OK. Enough of that. Q&A sites are dating sites. Questions (and answers) are linked to the person that pushed them into the wild. Just like hunting bears, (not that I would hurt those furry puppets), is knowing how long ago the bear crossed that hillside.
Without this it's more like a mailing list with a somewhat nice UI.
Thank you all! (post scriptum)
Thank you all for thoughts, views, speculations, ideas et cetera en masse!
I post this as an “answer” as I do not want to add more clutter in “the post”.Revised after feedback. The point is that I do acknowledge and value the discussion.
- Thought was to give this a somewhat light tone. Sorry if it it did not come across as intended :).
- Was not meant as a “these are the arguments” – I have some, but also admit a lot of the use has been on auto pilot where arguments can be hard to describe.
There is a lot of good points brought forth from all corners. My thought and belief has always been, in this kind of matters, that one should encourage an open debate and willingness to actually listen to, criticize - both harsh and soft, be passionate about, fight for, try to convince, argue good, argue bad, throw out thoughts and ideas dumb, good, brilliant – but not the least accept that we are tuned differently.
One thing is for sure: this is a topic with a lot of good points in all camps – and the intention is in no way to close or conclude anything – besides once more emphasizing this is a topic with a lot of good arguments.
The “site”, (it's a lot broader, but not sure what to call it), is a community, - a conglomerate of themes. We have mod's doing an incredible job and the fabric (y'all) contributing to the enrichment for generations for all from assembly coders to ... ____.Most things is assembly in a way?! Part of my reason for saying all thisSuddenly having a feeling of being a pink cloud philosopher; but let it go. is that I hope the entities surfing the upper layers of this ecosystem see discussion, and perhaps more pre change discussion, as a value that both enrich but not the least acknowledge the users (aka the fabric).
p.s.p.s: Have decided to “simply post” more often then is in my nature. So I jump off the wagon once again.