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