This is a recently introduced feature:

There are times when the hotness formula selects a question that a site would rather not have featured. Up until now, the only recourse that was available was to close the question (which may be appropriate anyway but isn't ideal when done purely to manage traffic), or to do nothing. We're putting the power in the hands of our moderators to remove questions that don't set a good example for their sites. I recommend each site have a meta discussion with guidance for moderators about when - if ever - a question should be removed.

Per recommendation above, let's discuss when we are generally expected to use it at our site. Statistics data here suggests that quite a lot of our questions are eligible for that new feature (it says there were 142 hot questions at Workplace in about two months).

For readers who don't yet know how this works, I think it is important to know that removal from hot list is publicly recorded in question history (example) so that regular community members can easily review and discuss it if needed.

- One case that I am particularly curious about is questions having many close votes. Removing these from hot list would prevent quick (and often troublesome quality) answers from careless passers-by which in turn makes it easier to edit the question into better shape, because less answers mean lower risk of edits being blocked because of invalidating these answers.

Technically, something like that can be also achieved by protecting such questions but I am not quite comfortable with such an approach. We don't have a rule to protect any question with 3-4 close votes, nor do I think that we need such a rule. And making a habit of protecting only some of such questions only because of not particularly relevant network wide feature (of getting into HNQ) just doesn't feel right.

- Another case are questions with click-bait / dramatic looking titles and topics. From perspective of hot questions these tend to be troublesome, see eg this discussion at MSE and some discussions at our meta, does it make sense to remove such questions from hot list?

One alternative that comes to mind is to edit such questions but if you think of it, it's not particularly appealing. Good edits that both make it read neutral and in the same time accurately preserve important meaning and details tend to take much time, sometimes even a day or two. While this is not much of a problem in regular questions, it looks much harder to make it quick enough to handle hot questions.

Another problem with "neutralising" title edits is, these make site harder to use. As a site regular, when the question is about toilet, or beating, or harassment, or someone drunk it is clearly more convenient for me to see it explicitly mentioned in the title. Do we have to give up this convenience and edit the titles only because these are considered entertaining by some outsider watching the sidebar at Stack Overflow when we can simply remove the question from HNQ.

For the sake of completeness, there is yet another recent feature helping to tame this issue: we can make site-specific list of "stop words" to block questions with titles containing these words from getting into hot list. We can and probably should use this feature if we know that particular words frequently are troublesome but this is hardly an universal solution because it just doesn't make sense to make an endless list of each and every word that can be perceived as troublesome by some random user staring at their sidebar at some random site in SE network.

Interested to learn what others think.

  • 1
    unexplained downvote, hm, let's see if I can make sense of it. Say, someone willing to make cheap rep out of hot questions might fear that if community makes some consensus in this discussion, this might put their future gains at risk. Yeah, if I was a guy like that I would be certainly willing to suppress discussing these matters
    – gnat
    Jun 9, 2019 at 17:41
  • ...for the sake of completeness, a possible downvote explanation from opposite perspective. :) Say, someone is willing to remove hot questions based on particular grounds (using mod flags for that). They might fear that community consensus in this discussion can turn out different from the way they want. A guy like that would be also willing to suppress discussion
    – gnat
    Jun 10, 2019 at 8:49
  • 6
    I didn't downvote, but another possible explanation might be that people are sick of this drawn out HNQ drama that seems to have been sparked by a single tweet a year ago, and has been overwhelmingly voted on in meta as something the community doesn't have a problem with.
    – Player One
    Jun 10, 2019 at 9:58
  • @PlayerOne that's definitely interesting interpretation, I would be really interested to learn about mind process of people thinking that way. The way I see it has nothing to do with drama. There is a new feature, and statistics I saw at MSE suggests that about 1/4 of our site questions are eligible for it. Now, do we want to use that feature and if yes then how. It's simple as that, wonder what one might find dramatic here
    – gnat
    Jun 10, 2019 at 10:10
  • In my mind the drama isn't as much this one post, as the series of posts that it's part of. For example workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5779/…, workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5765/… and workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5754/… are all meta threads where the votes said "it's fine, change nothing", but the threads about how it should be changed keep on coming.
    – Player One
    Jun 10, 2019 at 10:14
  • @PlayerOne that reasoning is understandable but I fail to see how it applies here. Thing about this is, the change is already there, this new feature was already added to the system and whether we wanted it or not is now irrelevant. The only thing we can do now is to discuss how to adapt to that new feature. There is no sense to pretend that nothing changed because this new feature will be used anyway, with or without discussion
    – gnat
    Jun 10, 2019 at 10:18
  • 4
    There was frustration and angst about the HNQ long before the twitter incident. Everyone agrees that HNQ is here to stay. This question centres on maintaining some form of quality for those questions and limiting the exposure for some of the more sensationalist questions we're seeing.
    – user44108
    Jun 10, 2019 at 10:41
  • @JoeStrazzere final decision on removing particular question is made by a moderator, and regular users can use flags to ask them for that. If it turns out that site community has solid preferences on particular kinds of questions then moderators will take it into account
    – gnat
    Jun 11, 2019 at 5:31
  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere Yes, moderators have the ability, users have the ability to flag. However, we'll only remove questions from HNQ if they're blatantly created to hit the HNQ list.
    – user44108
    Jun 11, 2019 at 9:41
  • 1
    Okay. Then we have smart Moderators. I'm confident that they will do the right thing. I don't see the point of this question. Jun 11, 2019 at 10:21
  • 1
    I'll rely on the wisdom of the Moderators. Jun 11, 2019 at 10:50
  • 1
    It sounds like we'll all eventually rely on the wisdom of the Moderators anyway - without regard to how much discussion occurs in the context of this question. Jun 11, 2019 at 17:25
  • 5
    I'm wondering to what extent a discussion or "guidance" makes sense beyond simply relying on the moderation team to exercise their best judgement. I realise that's an easy argument to make as one of said moderators, but what I'm wondering is whether anyone would be truly perturbed if a question was removed from the HNQ when it might not have needed to be? I suppose it can reduce rep-capping so some Legendary badge enthusiasts might suffer, but the general spirit of the site seems to have been negative towards HNQ.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Jun 12, 2019 at 19:59
  • 2
    Though I suppose it doesn't consider the case of moderators not using the new feature often enough to take questions off HNQ. But I'd say it might be premature to judge that at this point in time?
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Jun 12, 2019 at 20:00
  • 1
    @Lilienthal I think it will take a bit of time for us to firmly settle on these matters. Maybe a year of maybe half year. OTOH as of now it was probably used sufficiently to start reflecting on meta. It was there for about 3 months already and per my reading of the stats Workplace has got about 200 hot questions and about 20 of these were removed from list using that feature in this timeframe
    – gnat
    Jun 12, 2019 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


When looking at this, there's a couple of questions that I ask myself as a basic litmus test:

  1. Is this a story masquerading as a question?
  2. Does this question look as though it's been engineered to hit HNQ?

In cases where the answers to both are 'yes', it's more than likely that the questions are created for entertainment purposes rather than solving an issue that people are actually experiencing.

I'm not a great fan of these "entertainment" questions going into HNQ - they tend to attract answers to these contrived questions and entice people to ask the same kinds of questions so that they can also hit HNQ.

Your suggestion of editing out the extraneous narrative out of these questions is a good one. If, at the end of judicious pruning, there's a good question, then it can remain. It's entirely possible of course that the core question has a clear duplicate, so it can then be closed.

It's also fine to place these questions on hold if they don't contain enough actual detail to form a good answer - people sometimes don't let details get in the way of telling a good story. We often see question askers drop these kinds of questions and then never return to answer comments. In that case, it's fine to place these questions on hold.

Basically, SE isn't here to entertain. It's here to answer people's questions and allow people with questions to find answers to their questions.

We are not trying to remove all questions from HNQ - we're simply wishing to limit the number of obviously contrived questions appearing. Removing the reward (HNQ/clicks/views/mayhem) will hopefully allow real people to get resolutions to their real issues.

  • 4
    I pretty much follow the same criteria as well, FWIW
    – Neo
    Jun 10, 2019 at 14:47
  • 3
    Seems like a very reasonable approach. Thank you both for the moderation work you do. Hopefully, this new feature won't add too much to the burden. Jun 11, 2019 at 17:41

sounds like a waste of time for something that isnt a problem that I can see. this place is dull unless you just want to be doing it just to be busy. I think you should be taking care of the bullying in here first. Ive been lurking for about a year and dont post much but i think your working on the wrong job with this.

  • 8
    If you're seeing cases of bullying, you need to flag them.
    – user44108
    Jun 12, 2019 at 7:06
  • 6
    @Tina_Sea from this and other oblique comments I get the impression you are unhappy with some of the interactions you've had here on TWP. Ideally of course that sort of thing shouldn't happen in the first place - but if it does the best chance you have of seeing it addressed is to flag. This is a high-traffic site and the mods can't be all places at all times - give them a heads up and they can take a look.
    – motosubatsu Mod
    Jun 12, 2019 at 16:42
  • 5
    @Tina_Sea Please please please flag any cases of bullying. Your moderation team will not tolerate that, but we don't see everything. So as mentioned, please FLAG it.
    – Neo
    Jun 14, 2019 at 12:57
  • @MisterPositive I did that and left a comment with one and my comment got killed but the bullying one didn't just like my comment here got killed. So if you aint gonna do nothing about it why should I?
    – Tina_Sea
    Jun 19, 2019 at 18:20
  • 3
    Don't use comments, raise a flag and select in need of moderator intervention and provide the details.
    – Neo
    Jun 19, 2019 at 18:30

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