In the coming weeks, we're going to implement a small change: We are changing the word "Active" to "Modified" in the subhead displayed below the title when you're viewing a question.

Screenshot of subhead with the word "Modified" replacing the word "Active"

We are doing this for two reasons:

  1. Based on user research, many users do not understand that the word "Active" means "recently created or edited."

  2. This will also make the wording consistent with the /questions view, which already uses the word "modified."

screenshot of /questions view that uses the word "modified"

  • 6
    @mods, the [last-activity] tag might need to be renamed once this goes through :)
    – bobble
    Feb 15, 2022 at 18:42
  • 4
    @bobble: Looks like the [question-activity] tag may be a duplicate of that tag as well...
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Feb 15, 2022 at 21:44
  • 5
    Thanks for letting us know before making the change, appreciated. Feb 16, 2022 at 12:23
  • Interesting. Do they know what "Edit" means? I have my doubts (normal meaning of "doubt"). "Change", "Modify", or "Update" may be better. Feb 16, 2022 at 12:38
  • @ Anita in the comments below my answer it is suggested that the reason for this change is that it is unclear that "Active" does not include new comments, while for "Modified" it is expected that people understand that comments are not taken into account - in other words, that the behavior wrt. comments is the main reason for this change (or in any case an important reason). Is that true? Maybe you could modify your announcement here to explain (both if it is true and if it is not true).
    – Marijn
    Feb 16, 2022 at 19:38
  • 1
    @Marijn Thinking about it, changing the label based on what most recently changed the timestamp would be better: created, edited, new answer, closed, reopened, bounty etc. but I think someone will be confused at some point no matter what we choose. I think the underlying issue is folding too much into one word, not what that one word is...
    – ColleenV
    Feb 16, 2022 at 20:18
  • 1
    Did Anita leave SE?
    – user1136431
    Mar 10, 2022 at 0:21
  • 1
    @richardec ah, so that's why I felt something's off when the post about the new part of the outdated posts project wasn't made by them (as we came to expect)... guess they have Mar 10, 2022 at 1:50
  • I'm so sorry to see you go. You were one of the good ones! I quite liked your style and how you made the announcements. Mar 29, 2022 at 21:07

2 Answers 2


Can we have a tooltip indicating what was the reason for the 'modification'? For edits or new answers, it's clear upon clicking on the active modified link. For other cases (reopening, bumps by the Community user) it's less clear, especially since I don't consider those modifications (but I do share your concerns about the old wording).

  • 12
    This would be very useful for low rep users in case of deleted answers. On sites where I can't see deleted posts it is always very confusing when a question gets bumped by a new answer which was already deleted when I view the page. Feb 15, 2022 at 20:52
  • Instead of a tooltip, which has accessibility issues, maybe it would be better if the label changed to reflect what actually happened most recently: edited, new answer, bounty started, reopened, etc.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 16, 2022 at 20:42

Based on user research, many users do not understand that the word "Active" means "recently created or edited."

I appreciate the fact that you are responding to user research - however, I fear that "Modified" may not be much clearer than "Active" in case a post is new and not yet edited (or old and never edited).

I interpret "Modified" as a change in an existing post, therefore this wording makes me expect an edit that is not there for not (yet) edited posts, i.e., Modified? What/where/how? I don't see any modifications! In contrast, the previous wording "Active" does not have such a strong "change" meaning.

You could say that this is a modification from the state of not existing to the state of existing - but that would be kind of a stretch IMO.

So I propose to either not show the field at all for never edited posts, or to write "Modified: never" instead of "Modified: today" in such cases.

  • 1
    Every file system I know of sets the initial modification time to the creation time. I think that considering the first revision of a post as something unique just because it's the first one isn't useful. I use the "active/modified" time to see if an old question has changed recently, not to see whether it has been edited after it was created. If I want to know that, I probably also want to scroll down and find out what changed by clicking on the "Edited x time ago" link. I don't think Asked and Modified being the same time is confusing. It tells me there is only one revision.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 16, 2022 at 14:10
  • @ColleenV regarding the last point: if they are both the same (today, yesterday, 1 year 10 months ago) then you actually don't know if there is only one revision or that the last edit happened on the same day as the initial post (which is common) unless you check the tooltip - so for this "modified: never" would als be more clear.
    – Marijn
    Feb 16, 2022 at 14:17
  • I was pointing out that I don't really care if there's one revision, and the character limit on comments caused me to mangle my point. If I care about the number of revisions, I probably also care about their content. I don't generally care if a question was edited on the same day it was posted. I care if it was changed after it was answered, or if it was changed years later and thats why it got bumped, etc.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 16, 2022 at 14:27
  • Regarding the first point: my file browser and terminal also consider the creation time to be a modification (and the file browser explicitly labels it as such, the terminal does not have column labels), but both of them show only this value (with default settings) and not an additional, separate value for creation time, which SE does with the "Asked" label. If my file browser would show both values I would similarly be confused, or maybe not because I know how filesystems work but this does not hold for new users who don't know how SE works.
    – Marijn
    Feb 16, 2022 at 14:28
  • The interface of other programs is irrelevant to whether the distinction is useful in this context. I mentioned it because setting the mtime equal to the ctime is very common practice, whether or not it is displayed, which speaks to whether or not "modified" would be confusing to the typical SE user.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 16, 2022 at 14:31
  • I think whether or not it is displayed is relevant here, an interface that shows only one value might trigger the interpretation "first mtime=ctime", while showing both values triggers the interpretation "mtime=first edit after initial post". Apart from that I think that many SE users are actually unaware of the details of filesystems, and/or that they assign a different meaning to the word "modified" on a Q&A site than they do in the context of a filesystem, i.e., I question the common practice argument.
    – Marijn
    Feb 16, 2022 at 14:40
  • It would be more confusing for the display of info to be inconsistent among posts for no easily discernible reason. Removing information from the interface is not a good way to communicate. If you think it is important to inform users that no edits have been made or answers posted since the creation of a question (I don't) then hiding the mtime is a bad way to do it. Showing "Modified never" or "Modified blank" would just be unnecessarily confusing for everyone who expects mtime to equal ctime. It's just not a useful distinction.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 16, 2022 at 15:19
  • I don't think informing users that no edits have been made is important (although it wouldn't be a bad thing), the main point is the other way around: I think this wording creates the expectation that edits have been made when this is not the case. I understand that you don't believe users will get such expectations, but I do believe that this can happen, because mtime=ctime is not a universal principle.
    – Marijn
    Feb 16, 2022 at 15:38
  • 1
    Edits and answers are easy to detect. Whether someone added a comment somewhere deep in the bowels of a long thread isn't easy to detect. So changing "active" to "modified" helps push any potential confusion to something easy for a user to figure out on their own. (Also, I'm going to kick that dead horse one more time and say again: the comment system causes a lot of problems and needs to be reworked.)
    – ColleenV
    Feb 16, 2022 at 15:49

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