Lately, I am getting the impression that on relatively low quality questions comments requesting clarification and "what has your prior research shown you so far" are getting fewer in numbers. It seems they were replaced with immediate upvotes. Securing those questions a spot on the Hot Network Question (HNQ) list.
HNQs can have quite pleasant effects: reputation for the posters, exposure for the site on the network etc.
But this has also effects that seem concerning:
This site gets outside exposure on the network primarily with low quality questions, which attract often quite a bunch of votes, newbie answers of comparable quality lacking sources and so on.
While HNQs are primarily about popularity of the topic, not about the quality of the posts, and the results predictable, we place those posts on that list. Before there is time to improve the post (that is: if the original poster improves the question along the lines we should desire) a huge bandwagon of voters has already stampeded over the whole thread – distorting the StackExchange voting model and this site's standards.
Why? Why are there so widely differing standards on posts sometimes requesting prior research and requesting sources in questions or answers? Shouldn't we aim at a little more consistency on desirable quality standards?
As a rule of thumb I would say that if a question is low quality, like "does not show prior research effort" we should seriously restrain us from upvoting too quickly. Assuming that as the main reason for HNQ placement.
As a second rule of thumb I would say that if an answer has "no sources" a "sources would improve this answer" banner should always be added.
As a third rule of thumb I suppose that an answer that is judged as "good enough as to not needing sources" then the question falls automatically into the category of "too basic" and should be closed.
It seems that the hotness algorithm is not fully published and different for different sites (depending on its size on the network) and different for the sidebar and the hot notwork page. (Two metaSE discussions on this).
From what I understand about this it seems clear that the huge disproportionate voting effects from HNQ only start to pile in once we upvoted a poor question quickly, after we answer such a question quickly and then upvote that answer equally quickly. The situation gets worse if there are multiple answers.
The conclusions to draw from that seem difficult. I guess we do not want to stifle HNQ effects completely and especially not for relatively new users. But how to organise the community better into knowing this, into restraint for quick voting and quick answering.
And how to work with that algorithm?:
A question might be "bad" but with a good core. Holding that quickly will prevent it from going hot forever, despite the core and perhaps the eventually fixed version deserving a wide audience.