The March madness starts today (Basketball thing)
So to celebrate the March Madness I have released the set of new features I call "Follow madness"
Now a user can follow another user, can follow a specific tag and can follow specific question (thread) on the site.
So far only the mechanism of follow/unfollow has been added as well as follow/unfollow buttons have been added to pages like Question page, Tag page and user profile page.
All of these features work great.
But what does the follow actual do? What does it mean to you to be following a tag or a question or a user?
Let me explain:
So far only following the tag has any meaningful effect. If you follow specific tag then questions (the title/link, intro block) on the home page and unanswered questions pages will have questions with your followed tags appear slighly highlighted and with a thick green border on the left. This would visually draw your attention to questions that are most interesting to you (because they tagged with tags you follow)
Also, in the "recent tags" block the order of recent tags will be rearranged that tags that you follow will always appear first. I find this helpful to see my favorite tags first, so they are not lost among the other 30 most recent tags (be default up to 30 tags appear in recent tags)
If none of your "followed" tags are among the 30 most recent tags, then it has no affect on what you see, but if any of the recent tags are the tags that you follow - then they will be moved to the top. This adds probably 2 or 3 milliseconds to a page rendering time, but it's worth it. Also, the script is smart enough to not even attempt to reorder the recent tags if the user viewing the page does not follow any tags. So for a guest user this extra function is not performed at all and the cached version (already parsed html block) of recent tags is used just as before.
One more thing: you are automatically following your own question. But you can unfollow it at any time.
I will also make it so that you automatically follow the question for which you submitted an answer. For some reason I have not added it yet, but it's coming up in the next release
This is just the beginning as far as what the "Follow" features will add to the site.
Other things that will come soon:
Email notifications when new questions with the tag you following is added.
Email notification when a question you follow has a new activity like a reply/comment/edit
Email notification when a user you follow makes a new post like question or answer or comment
And later when the site messaging system is implemented, the site messages will be sent to your account. site messages are just like in-site private messages that you will see only while on the site, they are not emailed to you.
Now in order for Email notifications system to work I am starting to write a new class. That class will be smart. It has to be. It has to make sure that if you follow a user and a tag and the user you follow added a new question with the tag you follow - you should receive only one email, not two.
Also when a user you follow replied to a question you follow you should also receive one email, not two.
Another thing I am sure to do do is that if several thousands of users follow something like a popular tag, then notifications are not emailed all at once but in sets of about 500 at a time with at least 30 seconds intervals. This will make it easier for your server and for your bandwidth and will not get you in trouble with your hosting provider.
Other intersting things can also be implemented with the "Follow" feature. There could be a feature that if you login with Twitter - we can check your twitter's following list and see if anyone you follow on Twitter is already registered on our site and then have your new account to follow them on our site automatically. The same could be done for Facebook login. This is just some extra possibilities with the "follow" realm.
Please post your requests and comments here. I really want to hear from you.
Since we're back in March Madness, I have feature request: A personalized dashboard where user sees activities by people/tags/questions he follows only. I think email notifications should be limited to tags & questions followed only. But activities by people you follow should be seen on dashboard, (a la twitter & tumblr) because email notifications can get out of hand if user follows many people. This dashboard's tab can fit nicely next to "Most Active."
Thank you for this wonderful software