So I've been thinking for a while now, I'd rather if topics told me how many questions have been asked since I last logged on, not how many questions have been asked since logging on.
Generally I'm more interested in topics that don't have a whole lot of action, like MIT OCW calculus, MIT OCW electricity and magnetism, calculus 1, physics, etc... and it's kind of a pain to check each one when generally speaking they accumulate questions while I'm away, not while I'm around.
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I completely agree, actually :/. The reason it was done that way was because we didn't really have a good way to determine when you last were online, and we wanted to get just something up there that let users know when there was activity in the "background groups." We've come a long way since we initially made that feature, and we're actually probably in a better place (code-wise) to make this happen now, so thanks for bringing it back up.
I'll run it by the rest of the team and take another look at its feasibility. I could honestly see it being a combination of both: the number of questions since you last were online and also incrementing while you are not viewing those groups, although that may make things a bit more complex, heh. Ideally, it should probably be number of questions since you last visited that group regardless of onlineness, but that may not currently be possible.