As we all heard, you now get notified about changes in favourite questions. That is certainly an improvement, but I don't think it remedies the issue of comment notifications, because it notifies about favourited questions only.

When you're active on SO a lot, when you see an unclear question, you add a comment asking for clarification. Those questions are almost never favourite material, but you are usually somewhat interested and might return to the question to give an answer.

My argument has been that newbies are not able to figure out that they need to add @username to their responses to reach the asker, and that we need a notification system that takes this into account.

I just saw such a case - I had left a comment, never received a reply and stumbled across the question again by accident - and decided to compile a list, from today's activity list only, of occurrences where I left a comment, the OP answered but did not think to address me directly, and I thus forgot the question, and would have never returned to it.


One of those users even has 1.2k reputation!

Now most of these questions got answered competently anyway of course, and they usually do, regardless whether a specific user gets reached or not, and I was probably happier not to receive the replies and do more actual work, but this is still not how it should be, is it?

When you add a comment to a question asking for clarification, you are very likely capable of answering that question, and that is a potential that shouldn't be wasted.

As such, I don't feel the marking of this feature request, for example, as status-completed is justified. It would provide a means to subscribe to questions that are not favourites. I'm not saying that exact feature request needs to be fulfilled 1:1 but something needs to happen. I still think Facebook-like commenting - everyone in a thread gets notified - would be the easiest way to fix this.

I realize this is a triple-dupe, but I wanted to resurrect this explicitly, seeing as so much has been marked completed with the favourite change. Feel free to close if you feel otherwise.

If you don't: What do you think? What does your "recent activity" list look like, and do you have a comparable number of missed answers?



Micro-refinement to notifications for comments of others posts

If a user comments on their own post and there is only one person who has previously commented, then that person should be notified when the author comments even if '@user' is not specified.

  • Yeah, that fixes 99% of all cases. Genius idea
    – Pekka
    Jun 28 '11 at 9:21

I regularly troll my profile's "Activity" tab for comments of that sort and look to see if there has been any followup.

That's not nice and automatic, of course, but it works, and doesn't require

  • Sending out floods of notices
  • The system to have much smarts about who does and does not want to be notified
  • Okay - that's a point. I did that for the first time consciously today, and I've never thought of doing it frequently. It's not out of the question to do, though.
    – Pekka
    Jun 9 '10 at 20:47
  • 3
    /me hides in the bushes nearby to pounce on the first person who complains about your use of the word "troll"
    – mmyers
    Jun 9 '10 at 20:48

I actually find that I prefer using the favorites interface for exactly this. At least, when I'm not doing the same as dmckee suggests and observing my recent activity tab.

The reason is because I can un-favorite a question at any time. Even if my words on a thread are eternal, I'd like to think that my commitment to a particular thread doesn't necessarily have to, so there comes a point when I might think "I am satisfied, I do not need any more updates". Sometimes it's because I realized I can't provide anything to solve the problem. Other times it can be a simple comment I left as a tangent (I tend to leave comments about the comment reply system, in fact).

In the current favorite system, this involves me flipping off "favorite" for that question. In a proposed system where everyone in a particular comment thread is notified of any activity, I can possibly get endless updates to things which no longer matter to me. And deleting the comment is not always an option because that can destroy context to the thread. To me, the deluge from opening those gates would be a lot worse than the current flood of alerts for activities in favorites.

Because the favorite system is not exclusively linked to 'following a question', it makes sense for a system to subscribe to a post without it being a favorite. But don't link it to whether I decide to make a comment. All a comment says is when I begin to commit myself to a particular topic, it doesn't say anything about how long I want that commitment to last.

  • 4
    Wait... adding a question as a favorite is the equivalent of subscribing to it? Holy crap.
    – womp
    Jun 9 '10 at 22:36
  • 1
    In the light of the new features, perhaps "favourite" should be renamed to "subscribed" or "following". I've posted this as a feature request here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/53124/…
    – Ether
    Jun 9 '10 at 23:03

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