I'd like to have Instant notifications by email of answers to my questions. Can this be implemented?


8 Answers 8


Instant e-mail notification of an answer is a must-have feature of any site like this. Someone usually asks a question when he has a problem, yes? - a problem that he usually wants to solve as fast as possible. So he wants to know immediately when there is some help available for solving his problem.

I don't understand why the notification is daily. That is almost useless. Questions get anwsered really quickly here, in a matter of a hour or two or three. Why add another 20 hours of delay before the asker can make use of the answer? It's a awful waste of time to sit on the site for an hour or two just checking if someone answered my question.

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    Then that person should work with the community and stay on the site, refreshing occasionally and answering questions. This isn't a drop-off-pick-up-do-my-work site. Waste of time getting help, huh? Why not continue trying to solve the problem while you wait? "I'm waiting for an answer" seems like a pretty lame excuse to slack off to me.
    – GManNickG
    Commented Dec 2, 2009 at 19:31
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    @GMan Not everyones boss would appreciate them dropping all work and helping people. Like you said they should continue trying to solve the problem. If I'm busy debugging trying to find out what went wrong and someone has already posted the answer I'd like to know now not tomorrow. I'm not saying they shouldn't help. I've answered 4 times as many questions as I've ask on SO. I just think there are good reasons for wanting to be notified in a timely manner.
    – drs9222
    Commented Apr 20, 2010 at 13:40
  • @drs: It takes no time to refresh the question. You can check in less then 3 seconds, and get back to work.
    – GManNickG
    Commented Apr 20, 2010 at 18:12
  • @gman "it takes no time" and "less than 3 seconds" seems controversial. multiply that by X number of URLs to monitor.
    – cregox
    Commented Dec 20, 2010 at 14:24
  • At the end of the day, implementing a feature like this just makes the site more user friendly. People don't have to use it and I don't see how it could make the site less accessible. Just add it to subscriptions tab or somewhere on the account page. I mean, what's the downside here? Just seems like there are ideological differences over how people should use the site. Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 17:45
  • @GManNickG - (8 years later ;)) "It takes no time to refresh the question. You can check in less then 3 seconds, and get back to work." - 3 seconds plus the context switch equals much more than 3 seconds.
    – PhistucK
    Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 17:38

While I'm not a heavy contributor by any means, I answer my share of questions, and I often find that if I don't answer the question within minutes after it's posted, I get no feedback from the OP. This makes me suspect that the OP never receives notification of the reply. Prompt user notification in this case might encourage people like me to keep posting answers.


I really think this is a must-have feature. You can be all idealistic over how to use this site, but don't forget that many are here to ask a question to get an answer. SO is amazing in the sense that both the quality and the timing of the answer is superb. On multiple occasions I posted a complex question or something that I was stuck for hours with, went of for a coffee, to find back multiple answers that solved my problem. That is tremendous value being offered, I cannot get this anywhere else.

Sometimes, it takes a little longer to get an answer, I may continue to try to solve the problem myself and eventually answer my own question. Or I may go do something else. In both cases I am repeatedly refreshing my question page just to see if any new answers arrive because the notification is not instant. I find this to be a needless gap in the usability of an otherwise awesome Q & A concept.

I also do not agree that this is an anti-social feature. The quality and responsivenees of the SO community is the key selling point here. If people make use of that you should cherish that just like most people leech and not contribute to Wikipedia. It is not anti-social, it is simply making use of. Most people's lives consist of getting things done, contributing to communities is not the priority, although it should be encouraged.

Furthermore, it could actually improve the social-ness of the community. Many questions follow a conversational pattern. There are requests for clarification, "have you tried this" comments, etc. The faster the response, the better the conversation. Instant notifications help in that aspect.


If we make the email too aggressive, it's a substitute for visiting the site, and it kind of destroys the whole community aspect.

I think we're all in agreement that in a social/discussion forum it's OK not to have email notifications, because in a social/discussion forum that's would be, well, antisocial.

In tech support forums, the question is whether you prefer to build up a group of people who hang out, thus making benefit #2 more likely to happen, or whether you prefer to make sure that customers get prompt replies to their posts, at the cost of sacrificing benefit #2.

Email is for the less urgent stuff where you're busy and don't have time to check the site.

Part of the implicit contract at SO is that you "pay it forward" and help others answer their questions while you're getting an answer to your own question.

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    that's like calling a mobile phone "antisocial". people in big cities never engaged in conversations with others on the bus or the street to begin with. the group of people who do hang out won't stop doing it just because others can benefit from email notifications. I believe there are other ways to incentive the "pay it forward" and no need to try to enforce it. at least not anymore.
    – cregox
    Commented Dec 20, 2010 at 14:27
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    These are again part of users choice and how they're used with the community. It's not really necessary to provide the complete post details. At least you can a hint to the user that, things have updated. E-mail is the only non-realtime thing which users check in real-time(at least me). In these days people are lazy around to keep the websites on. They wanted everything centralized. Email is the best way to get update in these days instead of visiting the website. You've to find a way to make sure of the traffic to the websites
    – sarat
    Commented May 17, 2011 at 10:17
  • What about AJAX notifications so if you leave the question page open new comments/answers would pop up with some sort of visual flag/flash? Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 12:08
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    I think instant emails would enhance the community. I want to be notified instantly when someone posts so that I can provide instant feedback. I want to be at the page when the replying person is at the page so that we can have a back and forth exchange if needed (and it usually is) instead of playing modern phone tag with replies.
    – CornSmith
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 6:52
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    Jeff Atwood POV is interesting and Machiavellian, aimed at the growth of the site in spite of users satisfaction. As the owner of a microscopic website with 500 users, I understood that imposing my view to users mostly causes a spread dissatisfaction as they don't perceive the long-term benefits of the overall plan. Here, preventing users from receiving notifications will surely generate a bit of additional traffic on SO, but surely the great majority of us remains discontent about it. Me included.
    – davide
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 5:15
  • I don't think we need to force some ideology on how to use Stack Exchange down people's throats. This is a pretty common feature for Q&A/forum sites, and I don't think email notifications to Q&As will decrease user engagement. In fact, the opposite appears to be true based on the feedback to this question. And at the end of the day, if you'd rather not use it, then no one is forcing you too. It will be out of site buried in the profile menu somewhere. Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 17:57
  • Basic forums provide practically instant email notifications and I find this helpful when I subscribe to a thread. SO is much more feature rich than basic forum, this should definitely be an option. Also, I visit SO more often looking to ANSWER questions, hence I visit often. I understand that there are some who ONLY ASK (and never give back), but those types are not "social" in the first place (in many ways).
    – franji1
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 17:52

So subscribe to the RSS feed.

  • I don't know of any RSS showing only the newest questions from given tag. Do you? Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 14:58
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    It's not that hard to differentiate; most RSS readers know what you've read vs what you haven't.
    – Randolpho
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 15:04
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    @Randolpho You are missing the point. I may don't want to look at old questions at all. They currently get to the RSS feeds just because someone added yet another answer to them. I'd like to have RSS feed with only new questions. This has nothing to do with my reader. Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 16:32
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    @Piotr - This question is indirectly related to meta.stackexchange.com/questions/666/…. If the Recent page gets a feed, then subscribing to it would get you where you want to go without SO having to send millions of tweets/emails/etc every second.
    – Rob Allen
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 16:55
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    Perfect an RSS feed, Do we have a way for me to get all my notifications that way, say a personal feed? Commented Jan 12, 2011 at 20:36
  • Each stack exchange site has a separate user id, so there isn't "the" RSS feed, but multiple feeds, one per site. Thus, that makes it quite cumbersome to add the feed url for "responses" (meta.stackexchange.com/a/151521/142333) to sites like feed2mail.com for each and every one of the stackexchange sites a user subscribes to (only to reach a limit with the number of RSS feeds you can add to feed2mail.com). If there was a single RSS feed for all stackexchange sites, I think that would be acceptable and put this whole discussion to rest for those of us who are email driven.
    – bgoodr
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 4:00

Although I why people would not like this (inbox getting flodded with answers), I would be good if we were given the choice. There have been certain questions where I would love to have instant emails.


Although I personally would hate it, I could see a user preference that someone could set which sent twitter messages to them on new answers, comments, etc.

I also wouldn't mind seeing a more active notification system like the big orange bar that flashes on the top of the page when you first log on or when you receive a badge.

Or as Joel said below, you could use the RSS feeds that are available. Those would allow you to get pretty instant notification of new activity.


I couldn't agree more. But it may take some time to be implemented, if ever...

I do think this will be implemented sooner or later, though. Back when this question was asked, there was no email notification system whatsoever. Now, there is the unified notification on top of every SEN site and while it has no RSS it does send out inbox only notification emails (every 3 hours, as of today).

So, other than having a stackexchange site open all the time, there is at least one other way to receive nearly instant notifications: Apps! In chrome, to me, this means Stack Alert. For mac, there's also Newt.

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