A recent edit to the title of a question that made the Hot Network Question list removed a — in my opinion — quite significant word. This might change the meaning of the title or how it is read, thus also affecting how the answers are read and perceived.

This is a bit strange, as I do not see the removed word as especially problematic on its own, nor even problematic as in "should not appear on the HNQ". It makes me wonder why it was removed, but looking into the revisions I do not find any explanation.

Note that this post is not about the specific question on main, nor about the specific edit, nor 'the word'. The above revision linked to should be seen as an example. This is not a strong complaint opposing the edit.

The more general problem when seeing such an edit:

Was displaying this word against any form of policy, seen as 'in bad taste' by the editor, flagged by people who took offence? Any other reasons?

To avoid this kind of guessing around, and to make policy and moderator actions (or in this case: mod-as-ordinary user decision; which hats are worn are hard to guess for mods that continue to participate as 'ordinary users' as well: another general problem to be addressed) more transparent:

Please try to always add an explanation for 'the why' on such edits.

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    There seem to be multiple unrelated questions in this one question. Perhaps this could be pared down to one, and anything else pressing put into other questions? Otherwise, answers are liable to be a mess.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Jun 2, 2022 at 15:45

1 Answer 1


as I do not see the removed word as especially problematic on its own, nor even problematic as in "should not appear on the HNQ".

You're correct, I should have updated the edit history. I apologize for the omission.

Although you and I don't perceive the word as problematic, the history of the HNQ list demonstrates that there exists a minority of people whose behavior is determined by different definitions of "problematic". SE in general has had ...disproportionate... responses to specific words in the HNQ list. I don't have the data to model the SE community, but my operational model is that there is some subset of the community who scours the HNQ looking for words that they perceive as prurient, descending on the community and reacting to the word without reading the rest of the question. I'm sad to say that when I went back to find a link to the original controversy (which was not on H:SE, but another site), I can't find it - there are too many examples of questions that had to be removed from HNQ because the only way to manage problem behavior is to make very conservative assumptions about what words are problematic.

The word isn't against any policy or guidance - but when that word appears on the HNQ list, I feared that it would draw attention that would detract from the value of the question to the history community.

In my opinion, the question is a well formed, a well researched question about the use of a term in a historical/legal context. In fact, I believe this is the kind of question at which H:SE excels; questions where some context can unlock the meaning of historical text. I wanted to ensure that the question drew attention for the historical value, not for potentially prurient value.

Feedback welcome

  • Hm. I still have more feelings & opinions than well formulated arguments on the specific edit, but the recent roll-back&re-addition of the word prompts me to ask: now that HNQ circus has left town, would/should the edit still be made? Your "appears on HNQ" lets me conclude 'no', but a clarification à la 'better toned down for 3 HNQ days, then it's relaxed' (if that's what you mean) might be handy. Jun 7, 2022 at 10:07
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    I couldn't have summarized better myself, "I still have more feelings and opinions than well formulated arguments" - this is a situation that is on the margin. No matter what decision I make, I'm going to second guess it, and accept that alternative opinions & courses of action are valid. I'd rather not manage the HNQ with a "toned down for 3 days" approach, merely because of the effort. But fundamentally this is an action to avert a possible future, and that's always going to be based on chance.
    – MCW Mod
    Jun 7, 2022 at 11:56

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