Freehand circles demonstrating my point

Seriously, WTF? (In case you can't read my cursorwriting, the line above that is "3 < 7".)

I'll admit that this example is a bit disingenuous. The question attracted a number of downvotes because it looked like Yet Another Bad Interview Question, but then it attracted some very interesting answers and started getting upvotes (and favorites). The actual ratio is +8/-5, which (in this case) explains why there are more favorites than upvotes.

But I've seen this before, and I doubt that every time it's caused by some intense downvoting. Some questions get more favorites than upvotes, and this is probably wrong.

I know some people use (or used) the favorites system as a way of getting back to questions where, say, they had asked the OP for clarification, but I believe that is now an unnecessary use of the favorite tool, with the addition of comment notification. There are so many ways now to get back to a question you asked a while ago that this use is no longer necessary.

In this case, I propose a modest change:

  1. If simple bookmarking is the intended use of the "Favorite" function, then we should change the name to "Bookmark" so it appears nonjudgemental.
  2. If the "Favorite" marking has no more use as a bookmarking tool, and solely conveys the "I like this question" or "I will find this useful in the future" meaning, why not add a popup saying "If you like this answer, perhaps you should consider upvoting it."

Note that these two changes are not mutually exclusive. People will frequently bookmark things they like, so the popup could be useful even if the name is changed.


  • Note that I consider this distinct from the previous questions about upvoting and favorite-ing because a) the conditions have changed, and b) I am proposing a possible solution to be implemented. If it would be better as a post in one of the older threads, I can do that too. Feb 4 '10 at 10:43
  • 6
    It looked more like a fish.
    – random
    Feb 4 '10 at 10:44
  • 1
    @random - Yeah, sorry. My < kinda got out of hand. You might say it's less than I hoped for. (instantrimshot.com) Feb 4 '10 at 10:46
  • Comedy goldfish right there. But your second point: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/19946/stars-and-faves
    – random
    Feb 4 '10 at 10:50
  • @random - As I said, Stack Overflow's site navigation is becoming increasingly sophisticated, the need for bookmarks on things like edit wars, comment clarification, etc. is extremely low. With judicious use of moderator tools (and before that, the back arrow of my browser), I've managed never to have to use the "Favorites" feature like this. Feb 4 '10 at 10:55
  • 3
    -1. A non-example of a non-problem
    – Perpetual Motion Goat
    Feb 4 '10 at 15:04

I upvoted you, but only because of your lacking cursor hand-writing skills.

The Favourite is a bookmark (bookmarks are called favourites in IE, too, IIRC). Even if people disagree and downvote they still could be interested how the question evolves. Maybe they hate it that much, that they want to watch it going down. I doubt that a renaming is necessary.

A tooltip "Do you want to upvote" isn't useful here, I think. Understanding and clicking the favourite star seems more complicated than the upvote arrow (according to support entries here on Meta). So I doubt that people who "bookmark" and do not upvote do that unintentionally.

  • 4
    I will single-handedly shoehorn the word "cursorwriting" into the English language if it's the last thing I do. But on topic, "IE does it" doesn't seem like a good reason to misname a feature. Is there any compelling reason to call it "Favorite" if it doesn't really mean that? Jeff has largely been open to small cosmetic changes like that. I will accept your argument against the tooltip. Feb 4 '10 at 11:31
  • I do that sometimes. A question bugs me and I just want to see how it develops. I wouldn't want some popup asking me to vote, because I don't want to do that.
    – alex
    Feb 4 '10 at 11:32
  • @cha: I do not like the name "favourite" for bookmarks. I think it was only invented to be different from Netscape. But nevertheless, it already exists and I do not see a compelling reason to change it. Users are used to it on SO. If it is changed, it only will lead to questions about that change here on Meta. Feb 4 '10 at 11:41
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    @joh - It will lead to more questions, but also may stop causing questions about "what does the favorite star mean?" since it will have a self-explanatory name. It seems like a net gain, because questions about a change will only happen for a short amount of time, but questions about a misnamed feature will continue to come as new users arrive. Feb 4 '10 at 11:44
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    Why not call them starred questions instead of favorites or bookmarks? In Gmail they simply mean you want to get back to them.
    – alex
    Feb 4 '10 at 11:47
  • @cha: I have checked the questions about "favourite star". Now I have to disagree with you even more (Sorry about that ;). There are feature requests for adding this functionality (yes, they missed the star). These requests are talking about a favourite list. They didn't find the existing feature, but they want it and named it the same way it is already named. I have found one request which does not use "favourite" but it doesn't use "bookmark" either. Feb 4 '10 at 11:52
  • 1
    @joh - Man, that is confusing. The people who don't know about them want Favorites, and the people who do know about them use them as Bookmarks. Feb 4 '10 at 12:03
  • 2
    @cha: Welcome to the real world :] Feb 4 '10 at 12:33
  • 1
    I guess my English is failing me badly, as I'd not interpret the current tooltip "This is a favorite question" to be indicating a bookmark-like favourite... (Still, I agree about the usage as bookmarks though.)
    – Arjan
    Feb 4 '10 at 14:52
  • I think that the 'Favorites' is misunderstood. Since I have bookmarking tools with a right-click of my mouse button, I don't even use web page bookmarking. I vote change the name to 'Bookmark'...unless you are going to give us an additional feature on our personal stat page that shows the questions we've marked as favorites???
    – IAbstract
    Feb 4 '10 at 17:26
  • Favorite is useful for bookmarking stuff you want to 1) make sure stays closed or 2) delete as soon as possible... Feb 4 '10 at 21:09

I've seen that behavior mainly on the "train-wreck questions", where , I suppose, people want to go back, not because of how good the question is, but rather to see how it turns out.

Also, I imagine some people might be a bit protective of their votes (not such a good example, as there is only one favorite there), so they might be favorite a question that they liked, but not cast a vote, for whatever reason.


Unfortunately I still find the need to use the favourite icon to bookmark a question you have commented on, as when asking for more information from users, you only get @replys if the user knows to use them, and I find that this is not often the case, especially on server fault where we get a lot of new users just asking 1 question.

  • 5
    Personally, I've always used my profiles "Activity" tab to find my recent comments. But at least it seems people do still use "Favorites" as bookmarks quite often. Feb 4 '10 at 11:33

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