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    MathOverflow will, on request, email questioners when a new answer for their question has been posted. This is a useful feature, especially when the question has gone cold. But some respondents (perhaps sometimes out of modesty) post their response as a comment, rather than an answer, even though it may have content of value and interest to the questioner. Thus, could questioners be enabled to request an email notification when a new comment---not just an answer--- has been posted among the responses to their question?
    I believe that would require a modification to the software's source-code, and the moderators don't have access to that at present.
    • CommentAuthoran_mo_user
    • CommentTimeApr 5th 2011 edited
    Two remarks:

    a.) I did not notice this for a long time, so perhaps you did not either: if you are logged in and somebody commented on something you wrote, then just left to your user name there is a letter-symbol in orange (and clicking on it you will find out where the comments were).

    b.) This is not email, and I never tried it: the page of each question seems to have its own RSS feed, I assume (but actually don't know) if you subscribe to it for each of your questions you would get the updates you wish (in a somewhat different form).

    Both is esplained in more detail in the Tips&Tricks section (link on the right-hand side towards the top of the frontpage).
    an_mo_user is correct: the letter symbol is a notification system for when someone comments either on your question or your answer, and it is *extremely* useful.

    Now, it would be also very useful to be able to follow comments conversations automatically this way. So that when someone writes a comment that begins with @an_mo_user, then an_mo_user gets automatically notified the same way. I imagine that it would require a serious overhaul of the system, but this is definitely a feature that would come in handy, so if anyone has the ear of the software developers...
    Thierry: it's not as easy as that. The software we use is basically unsupported now. If the people running this site were to ask "can you implement this feature?" the response would be "upgrade to v2 of the software and we'll implement it in that" (actually in this case I think it would be "upgrade to v2 because we already implemented it").

    As time goes on, the fact that the software we use is "unsupported" will cause the site more and more problems, and the ultimate problem will be when a horrible bug is discovered which means that someone can completely vandalise the site, and we can do nothing about it.
    @Kevin: ouch! I was not aware of that. Is there a plan to move to v2?

    We're not willing to move to SE2.0 unless we retain access to full database dumps (in case we need to change platform in the future), which is not something they're very excited about. There are some other issues (e.g. we also want to retain control of (lack of) ads), but that's the main one.

    In the meantime, they've said that they're happy to continue hosting MO for free indefinitely. This is the medium-term plan. In the long run, we'll either move to SE2.0 (if we can get favorable terms), or we'll put in a lot of work to move to another platform. There are some open source alternatives, like OSQA. Scott has been reimplementing the software from scratch (see the thread about alpha).

    We have not yet been offered the option of moving to v2. We do not know what the conditions would be for such a move.
    Just wondering, why do SE admins have anything against open database dumps?

    They have nothing against open database dumps. In fact they provide them, and even give you a nice way to explore them. The thing in question is full database dumps, which include things like IPs, email addresses, OpenIDs, and identities behind all votes. These things should obviously not be public, but its impossible to migrate to a different platform without them since (for example) you would have no way of telling whether somebody is actually the owner of the account they claim is theirs.

    The full dump is also sometimes useful when tracking down strange behavior, since it allows me to look at deleted comments, owners of votes, to collate things according to IP, etc.

    Their argument (as I understand it) is that since SE2.0 is meant to be a network in which people can move fluidly, people might automatically create an account on the migrated MO, not realizing that they are revealing this private information to a third party (i.e. me). I don't understand this argument, since that private information is already available to moderators, just not in an easily manageable way. I've brought up this point in email exchanges, but haven't gotten a response to it. It's possible they have other privacy concerns, but they haven't told me about them.

    Ah, thanks for clearing this up. Data privacy seems to become more and more of a hurdle to usability...
    • CommentAuthortkoeppe
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2011
    Speaking of notifications, is there any chance to get the little drop-down notification box that stackexchange have to quickly navigate to new comments?

    I think not as I do not think the situation now is different than the one described by Anton Geraschenko in this thread some month ago.

    • CommentAuthortkoeppe
    • CommentTimeJul 5th 2011
    Oh, is SE commercial software? I didn't realize. No worries!