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The Hot Network Questions (HNQ) algorithm was changed a little time ago.
Along with these changes, an event in the question timelines is created if it goes on the list, and moderators now have an extra power: to remove a question unilaterally and permanently from the HNQ-list.

Our current track record for what questions we have put on the HNQ-list recently (just a list, no quality judgement either way at this point):

  1. Did war bonds have better investment alternatives during WWII?
  2. Who is Alexandra K. Trenfor? Did she say the quote?
  3. Did the Roman Empire have penal colonies?
  4. Where was the County of Thurn und Taxis located?
  5. Was there a Viking Exchange as well as a Columbian one?
  6. Why was Germany not as successful as other Europeans in establishing overseas colonies?
  7. How would one muzzle a full grown polar bear in the 13th century?
  8. What route did the Hindenburg take when traveling from Germany to the U.S.?
  9. Did Henry V’s archers at Agincourt fight with no pants / breeches on because of dysentery?
  10. What was the state of the German rail system in 1944?
  11. Catholic vs Protestant Support for Nazism in Germany
  12. Has the United States ever had a non-Christian President?
  13. What battle of WW2 is depicted in this Battlefield V level?
  14. When did England stop being a Papal fief?
  15. Why did WWI include Japan?
  16. Is there a reason why Turkey took the Balkan territories of the Ottoman Empire, instead of Greece or another of the Balkan states?
  17. What happened to the British convicts transported to America after the American Revolution?
  18. Was there a contingency plan in place if Little Boy failed to detonate?
  19. Is there any evidence to support the claim that the United States was "suckered into WW1" by Zionists, made by Benjamin Freedman in his 1961 speech?
  20. What was the plan for an abort of the Enola Gay's mission to drop the atomic bomb?
  21. What is the significance of 4200 BCE in context of farming replacing foraging in Europe?

A while ago I complained about a perceived discrepancy between Consistency of quality standards and Hot Network Questions and in light of the changes to SE algorithm and mod powers, it seems an updated discussion might be worth it.

From the HNQ questions I listed above I am still unsatisfied with the quality of these questions as they appear on the network list. Not always, but sometimes, and to me that means 'too often'.

  • How do they get on the HNQ-list?

    We put them there.
    By many quick views, quick upvotes and quick answers. Quick is only rarely congruent with quality, as explained in the linked post.

  • How do they get off of the list?

    By negative voting, putting on hold, removal by moderator.
    If fixed quickly, post-on-hold questions (re-opened) can re-enter. Mod-removed questions can not. Controversial voting seems to favour HNQ as long as the resulting number is positive.

The biggest problems of poor questions making the list are

  • the representation of this site towards the network (rarely with: "good question!"),
  • voting windfalls for substandard questions (thwarting part of 'our model'),
  • attracting even more comments and answers of questionable quality,
  • blocking good questions from entering the list (including the vote pattern distortion introduced by HNQ voting effects)

As my personal opinion on question quality alone doesn't count for much, I'd like to discuss a couple of things here:

  1. Should we remind people that upvoting poor or substandard questions is 'not a good thing™'?
  2. Should we encourage moderators to remove a few questions that do not meet agreed upon standards and formulate a policy framework for that?
  3. Should we do nothing and just watch, and be content with what the HNQ-algo does, and what all votes from all over the network accomplish?

Some related thoughts on MetaSE: Dealing with HNQ drama before it happens - how do we deal with questions that can lead to trouble?


Probably the first post that got moderator-removed from the HNQ list:

And as another empirical data-point, a post that was mod-removed and was then discussed on meta, with a mod stating some reasons for the decision:

  • The list of options isn't exhaustive and 'to choose from'. Please add more either in comments, an edit or answers. – LаngLаngС May 6 at 12:56
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    Can you elaborate a bit more on the questions you don't like in the above? I've only skimmed a few of them and while some arguably weren't great none of the ones I read struck me as particularly bad -- except perhaps in that they were trivially answered, but those make good questions in practice when it's a piece of minutia that wikipedia doesn't make explicit in the intro of relevant articles. – Denis de Bernardy May 13 at 18:44
  • @DenisdeBernardy I could, but the ones above are just all that went hot since I can monitor them. I do not say they are all bad (some are a bit unclear, some not researched, some were badly written [but actually cool]– they just show what happened), but that few of them are great and many great questions never go hot: exactly because they are non-trivial! This is a windfall for newbies but in SE-gamification a negative incentive for regulars, as well-researched and well-written answers, that both take their time to construct, cannot participate in these stampedes. – LаngLаngС May 13 at 20:01
  • @DenisdeBernardy BTW. One thing I really wanted to draw attention to (but have to wait now) is 21. Am sure it's a good Q in there. But it went hot and off the list before it was fixed, despite me being convinced that there were problems, asking clarification from OP and for help in chat. Sth was not quite right. Now OP is surprised by unspecific As to 'real' Q, ton of upvotes on As and I regret even posting A there. – LаngLаngС May 13 at 21:05
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Might it be that the number of comments to a question might be a good criteria to blacklist some questions?

Take this question for instance. As things stand it's well on its way to hit the HNQ, and both the question and the answer will get upvoted to oblivion. Yet there's a laundry list of comments on it, and that is often a sign that a question is problematic.

  • Haven't thought of that hard number. But yes, as per standard comment policy, this is almost by definition true. (But they must be there before it hits the list, as once it's 'on'…) Although HSE isn't that standards conform either (I'm quite glad, most of times), so it's of course a weaker indicator than the text of the policy implies. – How do you translate this into 'blacklisting'? (DV and hold are reversible, mod-removal not. – LаngLаngС May 14 at 22:01
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I don't think any of the questions on your list are especially bad (although I find Nr. 6 in particular too basic and hugely over-voted, a couple good answers notwithstanding). You might add this question to your list: it can easily be answered by a simply googling the OPs very own words "women who were against giving women the right to vote" - there are several sites which give the answer on the very first search result page.

Bad questions can still produce good, or even excellent, answers. What I find far more problematic (and discouraging) is hinted at in your comment "well-researched and well-written answers, that both take their time to construct, cannot participate in these stampedes".

However, I'm less concerned with the lack of stampedes for good answers - there are still enough voters on Hist SE for good non-HNQ answers to get a decent amount of recognition - than with the upvotes gained by answers to HNQs which show little (if any) research and no sources (and which are often just one or two sentences).

I'm curious as to why we seem to be more tolerant of poorly-researched answers than poorly-researched questions, but maybe I'm wandering off-topic here...

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    You're not really wandering OT. Both connected. To that I've come to see that 1. HNQs are apparently by design 'non-protectable'? (1st time posters often vent just opinion or assertion w/o backup; often coming from unregistered or <100rep) – if that's a popular one…we need more banners, more DVs, more deletions…?) 2. added to that: who is tolerating H:SE 'bad' As on HNQ – HNQ visitors able to vote, more than regulars? // I now delay to UV for things I fear might go HNQ, but certain topics seem to be in-themselves 'viral' ("Were Hitler & WWII really on the same channel…") p(going hot)=~1. – LаngLаngС Aug 20 at 23:07
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    @LangLangC Hard to understand why HNQs might be non-protectable when they need protecting more than anything else! Agree with pretty much everything you say. Too many answers here are no better than low-grade quora ones, yet they get upvotes in stampedes. This can't be helpful to the uniformed visitor/researcher looking for reliable info, and is thus damaging the image/reputation of the site. – Lars Bosteen Aug 21 at 2:33

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