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Future planning: what user preferences would be useful?

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I am starting to think about user preferences. This won't happen for a while, but I'd like to gather input so we can start thinking about a functional design.

Currently a user has a single account across our network. When you edit your description or your display name or your blog link, those changes apply on all communities where you have a presence. Similarly, when you link a Stack Exchange account (on communities that support data import), what you're really linking is your SE network account -- you only need to link it once.

User profiles have a very small preferences section now -- there's one preference, to turn keyboard shortcuts on or off, which I believe is a global preference. We've had a request for a per-community preference for a default license -- you might ask why per-community, but it makes sense to me that if you are hobbyist photographer but a professional writer, you might want different settings on those two communities.

The possibility of per-category preferences has also been raised, again with licenses.

We need to understand the potential use cases before we design something. Knowing whether there are 3 or 30 things, for instance, or knowing whether preferences are mostly global with a few exceptions or mostly local or all over the place, makes a difference.

My question to y'all is: what kinds of things should be settable as user preferences, and with what scoping (global, community, category)? Some suggestions I've heard (please feel free to develop these in answers) include:

  • default license -- per community, maybe per category

  • whether your votes are public or private by default (assuming we implement optional public votes; we don't have this now) -- per community

  • enable keyboard shortcuts - global?

  • just to acknowledge it before deferring it: dark mode :-) (yeah maybe someday, not now, presumably global)

What else should we be considering?

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status-completed Favorite tags It's an idea I was thinking about since a while ago, but wouldn't it be nice if use …

~2mo ago

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Sort posts in one's own profile by score or age The profile main page includes a selection of posts (currently top 15 …

3mo ago

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whether your votes are public or private by default I would probably use that, but it also shouldn't be a big deal to …

5mo ago

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status-completed Enable/Disable Autosave Self-explanatory, let users choose whether they want to turn the autosavi …

~2mo ago

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status-partially-completed: can now set per community (but not per category). Allow users to select their own default …

~2mo ago

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status-completed Be able to not have default licenses This is related to being able to pick a default per category …

~2mo ago

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Enable/disable display of Hot Notable Network Questions. [If we ever have the Notable Network Questions at all.]

3mo ago

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Use a monospace font in the editor (enable/disable) For those like me who want to use a proportional font when writin …

5mo ago

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Some way to track the votes you are receiving. Some kind of "reputation timeline" that explains which posts were voted u …

~2mo ago

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Assuming the favourite tags per community feature gets implemented, then how about some manner of social media-like "fee …

5mo ago

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With respect to licence types per category: the Photography & Video site default is CC BY-SA 4.0, but the Contests/Criti …

5mo ago

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Choosing the language of the interface. In my experience in non English sites from SE, not having a user interface in …

~2mo ago

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Currently, the user profile has these fields: - Avatar - Username - Profile description - Website URL - Twitter a …

~2mo ago

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I would enjoy having a network profile, where I could see all the posts and comments I have posted over time.

~2mo ago

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A succinct list of posts, the time they were posted and its current score, as well as the last time they were active. (a …

~2mo ago

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Show/Disable last seen time This is a pretty standard preference for those sites that do have "last seen" tracking, f …

5mo ago

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It would be great to have a way to define where the preview is showed: above, below, or next to the text editor

~1mo ago

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status-declined I would like a way to disable Markdown by default in posts I write. The HTML formatting is richer, …

~2mo ago

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Title before body in post editor There has been much discussion about the fact that the title is put after the body o …

3mo ago

3 comments

Sorry for the spam - I'm basically just going through the incomplete feature requests lol Moshi‭ 5 months ago

No worries @Moshi; having one place to collect it is handy, and if something has been brought up elsewhere (or it's big enough to call for a separate discussion), it can just be linked. Monica Cellio‭ 5 months ago

Regarding my default license setting proposal, note that the proposal is per community and category, possibly per post type. So one could select a different default license for Writing Q&A compared to Writing Challenges, and possibly a different default license for questions in Writing Q&A compared to answers in Writing Q&A. Judaism or Software Development or Cooking would have a completely different set of settings. Canina‭ 5 months ago

19 answers

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Favorite tags

It's an idea I was thinking about since a while ago, but wouldn't it be nice if users could choose 'favorite' tags, and they would be highlighted in some way on the feed? (maybe with a different background).

For example, on Software Q&A, I would favorite JavaScript and Node.js, since those are the technologies that I work the most in. On Languages Q&A, I would favorite Japanese and Chinese, the languages I'm learning.

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9 comments

Was debating whether to put this as its own feature request but since this discussion exists might as well put it here. Moshi‭ 5 months ago

Interesting edge case -- technically tags aren't per-category but, rather, tags are part of a tag set and each category uses a tag set, which can be shared. So, for example, if Software Dev had a Code Review category and it used the same tag set as Q&A, then we'd probably highlight that JavaScript tag in both places by default, unless you think it needs to be per-category? So I guess you've found a fourth scope: "tag set". :-) Monica Cellio‭ 5 months ago

@MonicaCellio oh, is that how it works? Are tag sets per-community? Because in that case, I'll edit it and change it to suggest a per-community setting. Moshi‭ 5 months ago

Tag sets are per-community, yes. Every community has two tag sets to start, called Main and Meta. Most of our communities that have other categories are using Main on them. Meta doesn't have meta but both Blog and Site Proposals have their own tag sets. Note that tag names are unique within tag sets but not globally; on Writing, Main "editing" and Meta "editing" would be two different tags (as is proper; they're talking about different things). Monica Cellio‭ 5 months ago

@MonicaCellio Wait, so communities can have multiple tag sets? That makes things a bit more complicated... I guess it really is gonna be a "per tag set" scope if it gets implemented. Moshi‭ 5 months ago

Show 4 more comments
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Sort posts in one's own profile by score or age

The profile main page includes a selection of posts (currently top 15 by score), which highlights contributions by that user.

It would be nice if it was possible to select whether to show, say, the top 15 by score or the most recent 15 posts. The latter choice would highlight recent contributions, at the expense of long-lived posts where the latter are likely to have received more votes simply by virtue of having been around longer.

I imagine that this would apply to the user's own profile only, not to how other users' profiles appear to the user who changes the setting. (This would allow precomputing and caching the list, requiring updating only after posts by that user are voted on or added, respectively.)

This could hopefully be at least per community; I suspect that more fine-grained than that would increase the complexity a fair bit but provide little value, but people may want to make different trade-offs between different communities. (For example, it doesn't seem unreasonable to want to highlight recent posts on Code Golf but highly voted posts on Software Development.)

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0 comments

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whether your votes are public or private by default

I would probably use that, but it also shouldn't be a big deal to click the appropriate button at the time of voting. Maybe this is to make the immediate voting interface less cluttered, but there still has be a means to override the default at each particular instance.

If this is implemented, it should be by community, not globally.

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2 comments

The vote-time override has to be there too, but in some earlier discussion some brought up the hassle of having to click it every time, so there was a request for a default. Monica Cellio‭ 5 months ago

I could even see this being a per-category preference. ShowMeBillyJo‭ 5 months ago

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status-completed

Enable/Disable Autosave

Self-explanatory, let users choose whether they want to turn the autosaving feature on/off.

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5 comments

Would you still care about auto-save being disabled if there were a "Cancel Changes" button? It seems to me that is the real issue. Olin Lathrop‭ 5 months ago

@OlinLathrop Not everyone wants their works-in-progress to be saved to a remote system, for a variety of reasons far beyond the ability to reset the state of a post edit. Besides, this should be quite easy to implement, especially if we assume some kind of overall preferences infrastructure already being in place. Canina‭ 5 months ago

@OlinLathrop I actually like the autosave. I posted this because of the linked post, not because I'd use it myself. Moshi‭ 5 months ago

I don't think there's any inherent contradiction between liking a feature and advocating for it to be selectable by the user, but that's just me. :-) Canina‭ 4 months ago

@Canina (I assume you were responding to me) Its not just you, I don't see any contradiction either. I was just explaining to Olin that his assumption about why I posted this was wrong. Moshi‭ 4 months ago

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status-partially-completed: can now set per community (but not per category).

Allow users to select their own default license per site and category, possibly per post type

I'm adding this as an answer here mainly to aid in prioritization relative to other preferences that the community would like to see.

For an in-depth discussion of that feature, please see the linked question.

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0 comments

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status-completed

Be able to not have default licenses

This is related to being able to pick a default per category, but what I'd actually like is the option to not have the License filled-in at all, and force me to explicitly pick it for each post. That is, each time I write something I want to be mindful about what permissions I want to give and what to reserve, and it may be different depending on what I'm writing about and how much effort was involved in making it. But sometimes I have forgotten to change the license before posting and ended up with the default. So if I could have the system force me to make an explicit choice I'd probably turn that on.

(Of course it makes perfect sense to have usage of default licenses be on by default. This is just for weirdos like me who might pick something different each time depending on what fits my fancy at the time.)

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0 comments

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Enable/disable display of Hot Notable Network Questions.
[If we ever have the Notable Network Questions at all.]

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0 comments

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Use a monospace font in the editor (enable/disable)

For those like me who want to use a proportional font when writing posts.

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4 comments

I would opt for this to be per community and/or category. For example, I'd want monospace when writing code, but proportional when writing a blog post. ShowMeBillyJo‭ 5 months ago

An alternative could be a toggle switch to change it on the fly. So e.g. when writing a question involving code, you can toggle to monospace while writing the code section, and to proportional while writing the text section. celtschk‭ 3 months ago

I don't know if there's easy support in browsers, but it might be nice to have an even more WYSIWYG option and have code blocks automatically monospace with non-code areas proportional. Peter Cooper Jr.‭ 3 months ago

@PeterCooperJr. That's definitely possible in some sense, but it would also likely be fairly heavyweight. I get the feeling that @celtschk's suggestion of a toggle switch might work reasonably well. Canina‭ 3 months ago

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Some way to track the votes you are receiving. Some kind of "reputation timeline" that explains which posts were voted upon over time.

It may not be used in the long run if reputation is removed entirely, but currently it is a good way to show the success of a post.

This may be specially useful in Meta, where agreement/disagreement is shown through votes.

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3 comments

Voting feedback is important, independent of rep. If something I posted is getting downvotes but not comments, I want to know to take another look. If a quick-and-dirty answer I posted a while back is suddenly getting a new flurry of upvotes, I want to know so I can consider improving it. Monica Cellio‭ about 2 months ago

@Monica Cellio. Exactly, for example now I just noticed my rep has gone up some tens and to know where they come from I have been browsing through my posts. Comparing its score with the one that stores my faulty own brain caché is quite buggy :D fedorqui‭ about 2 months ago

This is more of a feature request of its own rather than a user preference. Agree it would be useful though. ArtOfCode‭ about 2 months ago

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Assuming the favourite tags per community feature gets implemented, then how about some manner of social media-like "feed"/start page?

Where all activity involving yourself pops up.A compilation of customized relevant information: new answers to your questions, votes, comments, dev/mod announcements etc. Everything involving yourself on one big, scrollable, easy to navigate page, in chronological order.

But of course without all the "John likes this", "Jane shared this" spam of social media.

Rather than the current system where one has to dig through some 5+ notifications à la SE, then open them in new windows for readability to see what they were about. And then when you are done checking notifications, you go jumping around manually between the various communities to manually check activity in tags you are interested in. Cumbersome even with a favourite tag system in place.

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2 comments

This is an interesting idea to talk about, but is a little beyond what preferences are needed. We've talked informally about customized views, filters, etc and I want to come back to that later. Monica Cellio‭ 5 months ago

I agree with @MonicaCellio here. This is an interesting idea (I'm not sure I'd use such a view myself, but I can certainly see how some people might find it useful), and it can probably be broken down into a handful of actual specific features, but it's a bit beyond the scope of this question. Canina‭ 5 months ago

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With respect to licence types per category: the Photography & Video site default is CC BY-SA 4.0, but the Contests/Critique category within it defaults to CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. On the other hand, Outdoors just uses the site default of CC BY-SA 4.0 for its Photo Contest category. If I had the option to set NC for all photo contest categories then I would, because if I stop to think about it I'd prefer a more restrictive licence for my photos but I don't always pay enough attention to that when posting.

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1 comment

We can also change the default for the category on Outdoors (for new posts) if the Outdoors community requests it. Probably nobody thought about it. Monica Cellio‭ 5 months ago

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I would enjoy having a network profile, where I could see all the posts and comments I have posted over time.

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2 comments

Likewise, this is more of a feature request than a user preference, but again useful, and is already one on our list. ArtOfCode‭ about 2 months ago

@ArtOfCode oh, I see. I don't want this answer to divert from the main goal of the question, so please let me know if you prefer this to be posted as a brand new question. fedorqui‭ about 2 months ago

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A succinct list of posts, the time they were posted and its current score, as well as the last time they were active. (and maybe show how many comments they have)

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3 comments

What about the current homepage/category questions list doesn't satisfy this? ArtOfCode‭ about 2 months ago

@ArtOfCode well I was meaning this list to just contain the posts of the specific user. More or less the structure of the "Questions" and "Answers" sections of a user profile in SE, only that having all the info together, for example. fedorqui‭ about 2 months ago

That also exists in your user profile; does that do what you want? ArtOfCode‭ about 2 months ago

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Choosing the language of the interface.

In my experience in non English sites from SE, not having a user interface in their own language was a major obstacle for many users that would otherwise have joined and participated more often.

If we foresee a future where communities can accept posts in other languages, choosing that language for the interface would be very beneficial for the users.

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2 comments

We want to be able to support internationalization. Right now our effort there is "don't do things that will impede internationalization"; we don't have enough people to be able to do better now and still get everything else done that we've identified as priorities, but this is on our roadmap. Monica Cellio‭ about 2 months ago

@Monica excellent! I have worked very hard in the i18n of SE, and also in some open source projects. Since I am Spanish native speaker, count on me whenever there is a need to start doing steps in that direction. fedorqui‭ about 2 months ago

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Show/Disable last seen time

This is a pretty standard preference for those sites that do have "last seen" tracking, for those who want to opt out. If they enable it, their last seen time would be shown on their profile, if not, it wouldn't.

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5 comments

The last-seen time is for everyone else. It's something that users shouldn't be able to hide. Olin Lathrop‭ 5 months ago

I'm not convinced it's a good idea to advertise when somebody last visited the site. It feels kind of stalkerish. You can't tell when somebody else last looked at Twitter or Reddit or (AFAIK) Facebook, for instance. When somebody last took an action is public information, but just browsing feels like it should be private or at least private by default. Monica Cellio‭ 5 months ago

@OlinLathrop It's a standard and expected setting if the site tracks last seen times. @MonicaCellio Me neither, but the point here wasn't to debate the merits of tracking last seen times but just to point out that it should be a user preference. Moshi‭ 5 months ago

Agreed, this should definitely be up to the user. Sure, you can look at their "activity" like posts and comments, but users shouldn't be able to see when someone last visited. That's creepy. For example, Telegram has this, but also a setting for users to choose to restrict who can see it, or turn it off. mbomb007‭ 3 months ago

Fwiw, iinm WhatsApp had this as a preference with the tire that if no one else can see yours then you can't see anyone else's. (Here that'd work only if it's visible only to logged-in users, natch.) msh210‭ about 2 months ago

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Currently, the user profile has these fields:

  • Avatar
  • Username
  • Profile description
  • Website URL
  • Twitter account

When in a community, I sometimes feel like sharing some of my personality with those in the community: who am I, what I like, etc. However, what refrains me from doing it is the fact that anyone will be able to see it, no matter if they are registered in the site or not. That is, any passer-by will see the same information about me.

For this, I think on having a way to chose how public is every item in your profile: just you / just registered users / everyone.

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3 comments

Would being able to limit the profile description to people who are signed in, versus anybody, meet your need? This would give you a place to put whatever you want that you don't want in Google results etc, while not making the user interface complex. Monica Cellio‭ about 2 months ago

@Monica Cellio that is a good idea! Say "basic description" vs "extended user info". I had thought on a toggle for every item (twitter account, etc), but your solution seems easier and to me it would be very useful (twitter account can be put in the extended characters, etc). fedorqui‭ about 2 months ago

Right, if you want to tell people about your blog or Twitter account or whatever else, but you don't want it to be publicly linked, then you could put it in the not-completely-public block. You'd just have to do it manually -- type "Twitter: " or whatever, instead of filling in a form. Monica Cellio‭ about 2 months ago

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It would be great to have a way to define where the preview is showed: above, below, or next to the text editor

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1 comment

We should probably show it next to the editor if there is enough space ("enough" to be determined). Monica Cellio‭ about 1 month ago

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status-declined

I would like a way to disable Markdown by default in posts I write.

The HTML formatting is richer, and it's what I use because I don't feel like having to remember yet another set of formatting syntaxes.

One big disadvantage of Markdown is that it's too easy to trigger by accident. This has tripped me up a few times already. I'd like a setting that disables Markdown so that seemingly-innocent characters don't start doing strange things to my posts.

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2 comments

Composition style: Markdown or HTML (which allows room to add some third thing that becomes popular later that we haven't thought about now). Monica Cellio‭ 5 months ago

@MonicaCellio premature suggestion: I'd be down for you to add bbcode as an option. Moshi‭ 5 months ago

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Title before body in post editor

There has been much discussion about the fact that the title is put after the body of the post when writing a question. I, and a number of others, find this unintuitive and annoying. At least give us a way to shut this off when we take the trouble to do so.

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