So, first off, I want to get a few things out of the way.
Hi to all my lovely IPS friends!
This removal from the HNQ is temporary. How temporary will depend on a few things. It will probably last at least until next year but I'm hoping to turn a negative into a positive and use this to really see what effect the HNQ has on this site. More on this in a bit.
Was the removal of this site from the HNQ in response to a Twitter complaint?
Oh. Well, that seems... crummy.
Yep. Let me tell you about it.
The initial response to the tweet in an internal discussion wasn't actually "let's pull IPS out of the HNQ" it was "Maybe we should finally kill the HNQ or redesign it to make it better." I think that reworking the HNQ is something that many people want to see - myself included. Should a tweet be the final straw when it's been discussed so much over the years? No. Am I willing to be OK with that if it means something will change? Begrudgingly, yes... but that's a separate issue.
With over 170 sites, many people are surprised to hear the variety of topics that exist on the network. That's what happened in this case. Someone asked the inevitable question "what site is that?" which then followed what I find to be a pretty standard pattern:
- surprise that a site like this exists on the network
- questions of why such a site is hosted here
- discussion of whether such a site should be here
It's easy to panic and focus on optics instead of tenable solutions, and while it looks really drastic, pulling IPS from the HNQ was a pretty moderate response. Yes, it was a quick decision - like pulling your hand away from a hot stove when it burns. It was the solution we chose - without consulting IPS - because it was effective and easy to implement since it would fix the perceived problem immediately and there was already a technical solution in place for doing it.
We could have done better, though
- We could have waited a bit before acting. The immediate response doesn't set a great example and looks outwardly like we didn't think things over. That said, 24-48 hours later, we still think it was the right call.
- We did a lousy job of communicating this change here on IPS, at least partially because of #1.
We are going to have some internal discussions to improve how we respond in situations like this in the future. We don't want Twitter - or Reddit or any other external site - to be where users go to get real change to happen on the network. We love our meta system - the child meta sites and Meta Stack Exchange - and we need those to be where people feel they can come to and get a response from us.
There has been historical discussion both on IPS Meta and in chat plus in various places around the network about getting IPS off of the HNQ list. Knowing how users felt about the site's presence in the HNQ made it easier to justify the action both at the time and now. This discussion gets to the heart of the problem, though:
We've ignored the problems of the HNQ for too long, through too many changes to the network and it's biting us in the butt.
What worked well for the HNQ when this was a collection of largely technology-based sites that focus on primarily objective content doesn't work as well as we dive into more, varied topics - some of which scare us because they seem so different and difficult to control.
The unfortunate truth is that what is perfectly reasonable for IPS and makes for a great question isn't going to necessarily be something that everyone finds to be workplace appropriate, which is a big consideration for the network as a huge percentage of users are using the network during working hours. It's become clear that we need to make a change and the response we're getting to the discussion of how to change it has been really great, particularly as IPS isn't the only source of HNQ drama.
Regardless of the question titles or whether people want to see them in the HNQ list, this site does a lot of good work and the efforts of the users here to reign in what could have been a hellscape has been and continues to be laudable - the fact that three very similar proposals failed before going public is a testament to the work put in here. We want this site to continue to improve and grow and do the work of making the world a better place by helping people improve their interpersonal skills, which is something everyone needs.
I want to break in here to apologize. While I did let the moderator team here know that IPS was off the HNQ when it happened, I didn't correlate it to Twitter and I didn't say anything publicly about it. That wasn't a conscious choice. I didn't think about it because I didn't really have much to say at the time that I felt would have been useful because I was generally confused and upset that a site I feel very close to was under fire.
So, let's turn this into an opportunity. Am I spinning this? Hard. So, so hard... but yes... and I'm doing it openly and, I hope, with some support from y'all.
From the earliest days of the site, we've known that the HNQ was a blessing and a curse:
Moratorium on Hot Network Questions until we have greater control over content
I wrote my answer there before I was a moderator here and almost a year before joining the Community Team. I still agree with the sentiment there considering where the site was in its life cycle. And, generally, I think that the choice to stick it out was good for the site. I think that the HNQ list forced us to address a lot of things that would have slipped through without notice, causing us to reach the pretty healthy place we're at now sooner than we would have otherwise.
That said, the problems of the HNQ still plague the site - and many of the more subjective-leaning sites.
Now that we're over a year in and have some data to compare to, I'm excited to turn this into an experiment to see what the site does when it doesn't have a constant influx from the HNQ eyeballs. I've already got plans for the Community Team to look at some post-mortem numbers in a month or two with the goal of seeing how this affects a few things:
- Traffic numbers
- Question/answer quality (this will probably require more than just data and will be somewhat squishy)
My biggest hope is that seeing these numbers and how they change may help this site see what the HNQ impact has been and possibly help us decide what solutions to try in redesigning how the HNQ works for the entire network.
If y'all have other ideas for things to work on in this break from the HNQ, feel free! We'll do our best to support what you need so that we can all come out of this in a better place - and hopefully that place will include IPS being back out there on the new and improved HNQ (or whatever might replace it) - assuming y'all don't decide you much prefer the quiet of not being on the HNQ.
There's another rainbow to this timing - I'll be away for a while as I'm going to have a new baby in the next week or so, which means we can start looking at data when I get back in 6-8 weeks. I want to be here for this discussion because this site is still important to me, even if I'm not a moderator here any more.