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Future planning: what user preferences would be useful?


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?

Why should this post be closed?


Sorry for the spam - I'm basically just going through the incomplete feature requests lol ‭Moshi‭ 11 days 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 11 days 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 11 days ago

9 answers


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.


Was debating whether to put this as its own feature request but since this discussion exists might as well put it here. ‭Moshi‭ 11 days 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 11 days 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 11 days 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 11 days 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 11 days ago

Show 4 more comments

Enable/Disable Autosave

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


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 10 days 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 10 days ago

@OlinLathrop I actually like the autosave. I posted this because of the linked post, not because I'd use it myself. ‭Moshi‭ 10 days 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 5 days 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 5 days ago

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.


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 10 days ago

I could even see this being a per-category preference. ‭ShowMeBillyJo‭ 10 days ago


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.



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

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

1 comment

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 11 days ago


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.


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 10 days ago

@MonicaCellio premature suggestion: I'd be down for you to add bbcode as an option. ‭Moshi‭ 10 days ago


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.

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 10 days ago


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.


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 10 days 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 10 days ago


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.


The last-seen time is for everyone else. It's something that users shouldn't be able to hide. ‭Olin Lathrop‭ 10 days 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 10 days 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 10 days ago

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