This issue has been bugging me for a while now. I suppose it's more appropriate for the main SE site, but I want to know how others feel about it.

I find it very annoying that the 'active questions' thread gets cluttered with older posts that received minor edits: LaTeX formatting, fixed grammar, a few words changed, and especially, retagging. There are a few prolific editors on this site; nothing wrong with that, but their edits are pushing recent answers off the main page.

I feel that new or substantially improved answers deserve to remain visible on the main page as long as possible, and they shouldn't get mixed with older posts that haven't changed significantly.

A related problem is that the 'active' thread doesn't show any information about when the question was posted, or what has changed: you have to click on the question to see how old it is, and whether someone posted a new answer or whether it was just a retag or a small edit. I find that frustrating, and a waste of time.

Now, I understand that any change shouldn't go unnoticed. So my suggestion would be to split the 'active' thread in two: one 'active questions' thread for new questions, new answers, major edits (say, e.g. more than 50 characters altered), and perhaps also new comments, which currently don't bump questions. In addition, there could be a new 'edited questions' thread that keeps track of retagging and minor edits.

Anyway, I'd like to know what the rest of you think.

  • $\begingroup$ Hi Pulsar, for this there is the alternative possibility to look at the newest questions... However, I would approve it too if small enough edits or just the retags would not bump the questions. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 5 '13 at 19:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Yes, but the 'newest questions' thread doesn't show new answers to questions that are a few days old or more. What I'd like is a similar 'newest answers' thread. $\endgroup$ – Pulsar Aug 5 '13 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ ah I see, yes that would be useful. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 5 '13 at 19:10
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    $\begingroup$ It's already been declined. I agree with the principle here, though -- not entirely, but I personally do feel that such a feature would be useful. $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Aug 5 '13 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ Having an extra tab "active sans minor edits" would be quite interesting, though. It's a nice idea, and it probably deserves its own post on MSO. (The main focus of this post is a minor edit feature, which has already been declined, which makes the post not as powerful) $\endgroup$ – Manishearth Aug 5 '13 at 19:32
  • $\begingroup$ Possible duplicates: meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/47/2451 and links therein. $\endgroup$ – Qmechanic Aug 14 '13 at 18:29

I definitely agree that some minor edits shouldn't make questions active. The one in particular, as you mentioned, is retagging. Why does this even make a question active in the first place? When you retag, the question itself is not changed, so in what sense is it "active"? I have not seen one situation when a retagged question deserved to be made active simply because it was retagged. Plus everytime someone makes a new tag, they retag a whole bunch of past questions with it and that effectively wipes the active board.

It occurs to me that retagging being made active is only good for people that have favourited that tag; then they notice that a new question has been added to a favourite tag of theirs. But that could easily be solved if instead of making it an active question, it showed up in the new questions section for that particular tag. Then people could just check new questions for a favourite tag rather than forcing everyone to see that an old question hasn't changed.

I kinda went off topic here, but retagging is the only minor edit I strongly (← key word) believe shouldn't make a question active.


Doing this would open up a huge can of worms: suddenly, there's an arbitrary threshold for "activity" that divides posts being worked on. Yes, it's easy to come up with individual changes that most folks probably agree don't warrant much oversight, but applying such simple rules broadly can have disastrous results.

Let's examine retagging, since that seems to be the primary focus here: it's true, most tag edits are fairly uninteresting...

  • Unless you happen to be following the tag that was added...
  • ...or the tag that was removed...
  • ...or someone decides that is used too carelessly, and replaces it with on all the questions they don't care for...
  • ...or decides that their profile page is too hard for their fans to find, and adds to all the questions they've answered...

These aren't hypothetical examples; folks make bad tag edits all the time. Heck, y'all have been arguing over certain tags fairly regularly here - kinda hard to read that and then come back and claim tag-edits are guaranteed to be minor or unworthy of attention.

And once you start trying to decide whether or not a body edit is major or minor, it just gets worse - particularly if you hope to base your decision on something as simple as the number of characters changed.

The "active" lists have one purpose: to show questions that have had recent activity (or more precisely, to order questions according to their last activity date). There are other filters and sort orders available, and we've been working on better ones for some time now - try this one out. We even have plans to replace the rather unhelpful "modified" indicator with something slightly more descriptive. So let's not make things more confusing than they need to be by changing the self-descriptive "active" to "active enough for someone's taste".

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    $\begingroup$ Ok, I think this is right. I was shocked at first to see the status-declined. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Aug 10 '13 at 3:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Shog9 I've written a new answer, and I'd like to hear what you think. $\endgroup$ – Pulsar Aug 10 '13 at 5:52

Having read Shog9's post, I have a very simple suggestion:

  • Keep the 'active' tab as it is, although it would be nice to see more info, such as the date at which the question was posted, and the type of modification (edit, retag, new question, new answer).
  • Create a new tab with only the newest answers, just like there's a tab for the newest questions.

I think this would be very helpful, and it requires no major design changes.


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