Currently there seems to be no functionality available to share a link to an unanswered or already answered question with another Math.SE user.

Indeed, if the question has no answers, then scrolling further down one can find the text "Know someone who can answer? Share a link to this question via email, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook" with hyperlinks triggering the corresponding action. If the question is answered, this suggestion is not displayed at all. Well, one can still share the question clicking on the share link just below the question itself, without a need to scroll further down (That link has no "email" option, though it allows to generate an example citation). Anyhow, what may be missing in both is an ability to specify a username of another Math.SE user.

Let's consider what happens as a result. When User X sees question and knows that User Y may be interested to have a look at it and maybe will even be able to provide a useful answer, there seem to be no straightforward way for User X to notify User Y via Math.SE. Instead, User X may use the following workaround, which takes more than two clicks, though, but it works. One need just to find some discussion where User Y has participated earlier, and post a comment with a hyperlink there, so that it will appear in the inbox of user Y. This works and may be regarded as useful by both User Y who will discover the question earlier, and by the OP who may get faster help.

This, however, populates the history of comments with comments which are mostly irrelevant to the original question. Such comments may be distracting for the reader who is looking for an answer to the original question. Cleaning them up will create an extra administrative overhead to moderators/administrators of Math.SE. I also presume that posted links may trick the routines which selects linked and related questions to be displayed to the right of the discussion.

I did not manage to find previous post on this matter, so may I suggest a discussion on whether it may be sensible to add functionality for sending a direct notification about a question to another Math.SE user? Would others find this useful? Which measures should be taken to prevent excessive use of this feature (e.g. a privilege requiring certain reputation, or a limit permitting posting no more than N notifications a day or, say, posting the next notification only after next T minutes, etc.)?

  • $\begingroup$ P.S. I think if the suggestion for the new functionality will not be regarded as useful, it may be helpful to clarify the policy about suggesting questions to Math.SE users anyway. In particular, one could say that tagging questions is already the mechanism for that which we have in place. For example, one could be subscribed to an RSS feed for a particular tag and discover new questions with that tag automatically as soon as they will get tagged. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Konovalov May 15 '13 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ 7 downvotes just overnight confirm that this does not seem to be a useful feature. I've also found some further arguments in this question, though my proposal is about one particular aspect of users interaction. So, I am withdrawing my suggestion. I think that it may be useful to explain this somewhere (in the faq?) and discourage users from using comments to post links to other questions just to turn attentions to them (except genuine cases when this makes sense). $\endgroup$ – Alexander Konovalov May 16 '13 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ It is difficult to avoid abuse if this is implemented. Both here and on MO I find sometimes questions that I believe specific colleagues of mine may answer in knowledgeable ways. In such cases, I may contact them by email and inquire. Note these are people with whom I have a professional relationship, so this is rather different than a sudden automatic request from the system. That, I would find intrusive and unwelcome. $\endgroup$ – Andrés E. Caicedo May 16 '13 at 16:34

I disagree with this proposal. Personally, I do not see my participation in Math.SE as an invitation for everyone to ping me with their questions. A user leaving an off-topic comment to draw my attention to their question goes on my personal "ignore" list at once. (Unofficially; there is no built-in ignore list.)

Tagging questions properly is the best way to maximize the chance that users interested in the question will see it. Indeed, users can subscribe to RSS feeds for particular tags, and thus be notified; but this happens only if they choose to subscribe. (Also, seeing an item in an RSS feed is quite different from getting an inbox message directed at you personally.)

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I see the point. My original motivation for the question was the problem of off-topic comments of a particular kind. Thinking more, I agree that tagging is a more reliable way to help with questions discovery. It will reach wider audience, whenever by RSS or via theirs favourite tags in the web-interface. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Konovalov May 15 '13 at 22:19

While I sympathise with the bona fide goals of your suggestion, I think it is too susceptible to abuse, and may excessively burden high-profile users. Consider the following thought experiments:

  • OP sends dozens of flags to users who have no acquaintance with them
  • Good-willing users flood high-profile users with a very large amount of "notifications"

Although it would be reasonably easy to circumvent the first of these, I think the second is really quite inevitable.

If I think about this for a bit, I would consider it reasonable to send a signal to a user one is somehow acquainted with (through e.g. chat communication, or real-life encounter). But in these cases, one is already reasonably likely to have access to the e-mail address (or other relevant contact information) of the other user, which considerably reduces the added value of this feature.

In conclusion, I consider the benefits too marginal compared to the potential abuse and flooding of high-profile users.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks and +1 too. I've accepted the other reply since it explicitly suggests to use tagging to facilitate questions discovery, but your explanation about the marginality of benefits also makes sense to me. I've also came up with another mind experiment: the pinged user does not provide the best possible answer, but the question is answered, the answer is upvoted, so the question disappears from unanswered. Now those who may provide more details will have less chances to discover the question. With tagging, we put everyone in the same position, so it's a more democratic approach. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Konovalov May 15 '13 at 22:30

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