So as you all know, questions on Interpersonal Skills are no longer shown on the Hot Network Questions sidebar. As much as can be said about the way this came to be, it is interesting to reflect on the HNQ and what it does to the site.

HNQ is a double edged sword. On one side, It brings a lot of traffic to the site, on the other hand, it brings a lot of traffic to the site.

As Catija said in response in an earlier meta this week:

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.

Waiting till the end of the year seems long to me, but it might be that some of us think good riddance. Based on the overall opinion, it could be an option to push for a quicker reinstatement.

So all in all, I'm curious what IPS thinks about the lack of HNQ traffic in and of itself. Not about the way it came to be, but how it affects the website.

  • 7
    Note, I really want to approach this in isolation. So it's not about whether this is fair, whether we should be the only ones removed from HNQ, but rather, how do we feel about the traffic HNQ provides?
    – JAD
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 8:50
  • 5
    I personally think that it might be a good idea for SE to.... Sort out the underlying issues on their end first. The problem with decisions like this is it's really hard to do damage control no matter which way they go Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 10:57
  • @JourneymanGeek the way I see it, there are the underlying issues being fixed (I guess) by the MSE discussion. In the meanwhile, it is still interesting to know what the community's view is on HNQ and the traffic it provides.
    – JAD
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 13:17
  • Given recent massive changes to HNQ, a CM has started a new discussion as to whether or not this site should be re-added. New points should be brought to Revisiting HNQ participation for IPS so that the SE team sees them.
    – gparyani
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 23:03
  • @gparyani thanks for the headsup, I'll close this one then, to be sure.
    – JAD
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 7:56

3 Answers 3


Let's stay off for now.

There's no denying that HNQ definitely brought us a lot of traffic, and that we need traffic as a site to survive. That's self-evident.

The problem is, a lot of the traffic that HNQ gave us was.... negative. We had endless streams of comments, floods of answers that didn't meet our standards, and people not familiar with the site upvoting... well, everything. Including "try this" answers and the like.

These votes had more effects: for one, it made these answers very hard to get rid of - the more votes something has the more pushback there's going to be when it gets deleted, and regular users can't even vote to delete answers with a positive score.

As another effect, the people writing these answers got rep. Often, they got enough reputation from a single answer to be able to access the review queues.

Once these people could access the review queues, other things started to happen: they started to review. Without knowing what the site-specific policies (such as "try this" answers) were.

So answers that were correctly flagged as not being up to the standards that had been set on meta were getting reviewed as "Looks Okay", mostly by users who had gotten enough reputation from a HNQ to be able to access the queues.

And so the whole chain began again - once these new answers weren't being deleted, the authors gained rep, started reviewing... it got to be a bit of a mess. We ended up with a ton of comments everywhere - due to just being unable to keep on top of all of them because of the sheer amount.

Since we got kicked off the HNQ, I've noticed a visible change in the amount of comments we get. For those not aware, pretty much all comments are posted to chat by a bot in The Closet. I keep an eye on that room, and the rate of comments has dropped significantly since we got off the HNQ. This is a good thing. The less comments we have, the less work it is to keep them in check.

I've also seen answers getting dealt with much more quickly and without a big struggle to downvote them enough so that they'd be deletable - because those people who'd upvote them aren't seeing them.

Now, yes, we did lose a very large percentage of our traffic. I'm not saying that's a good thing in of itself - we do need traffic as a site. But even without that extra traffic brought by the HNQ, the site is still much more active than the vast majority of beta sites across the network. IPS is still much more active than is normal for a beta site of this age - but on a less huge scale. Which is a good thing, because we simply don't have a committed userbase large enough to deal with all that traffic and what it brings.

Staying off the HNQ brings the site traffic down to a manageable size without killing off the site completely.

I'm not saying that we should be permanently off the HNQ. I'm saying that for the moment, it provides us with a respite from the flood of bad content that we've had for almost the entire history of the site.

I'm also not saying that HNQ users are all bad. Many of our best users came from HNQ. But the ratio is a little... untenable at the moment.

I'd suggest that we be back on HNQ once we can make sure that we have a large enough and committed enough userbase to deal with all the bad stuff that HNQ brings... and that means getting traffic in ways other than HNQ. Like the classic way - search engines. We should be focusing on the goal of the site - to create a repository of high-quality questions and answers about interpersonal skills - which will bring traffic naturally without having to rely on the artificial boost of the HNQ.

  • 1
    You say, "The problem is, a lot of the traffic that HNQ gave us was.... negative." but how can you tell? I mean, how can you tell that the people who are negative, whose responses don't meet the standard, were the ones coming here through HNQ? Are there statistics available about where new members come from?
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 15:33
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    "they got enough reputation from a single answer to be able to access the review queues" - that seems like a problem with the system. There really should be some sort of "you need at least X posts / answers" type of thing before you're allowed access to review.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 16:19
  • @MrLister I think Arwen is saying this because it was/is a known fact that, once a question hit HNQ, the question then attracts a lot of bad answers (and bad comments and upvotes on bad answer/downvotes on good ones).
    – Ael
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 19:01
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    I cautiously support Arwen's points here. We had a lot of problems with the influx of people heavily skewing vote counts and heavily rewarding answers that would later on go on to be deleted, thus causing additional friction.
    – Magisch
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 8:32
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    @NotThatGuy yep. That system is called reputation. The problem is that such a huge fraction of questions used to hit HNQ that the amount of upvotes was highly inflated, inflating again the amount of rep gained. Graduated sites have higher requirements for the review queues, requirements that would better fit the amount of upvotes generated.
    – JAD
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 15:08
  • @MrLister sadly there is no explicit data on traffic from the HNQ. SE claims it is prohibitively hard to track. So the only reasoning we can resort to is post hoc ergo propter hoc.
    – JAD
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 15:09
  • if possible, can you link to a post discussing about "try this" answer type?
    – Ooker
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 16:20
  • 1
    @Ooker see here.
    – scohe001
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 16:24
  • 1
    @scohe001 I see, thanks. I think the answer should use "one-line answer" instead, and put the link in
    – Ooker
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 16:27
  • 1
    @Ooker the community has been calling them "Try this!" or "Do this!" answers for the last couple months. Also note that the top answer there mentions this isn't just about short answers: "An answer of 4 or 5 lines can be just as bad."
    – scohe001
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 16:28
  • @JAD Ok, actually I'm not sure how big of a problem the one-shot answerers are - I suspect the really problematic users are the ones who start contributing a lot while receiving constant positive feedback from outsiders (or regulars who just don't agree with or know the policies). Requiring X answers won't really solve anything in such cases. It's a pretty massive problem on Stack Overflow too, in my opinion, although, in that case, it's not about HNQ at all.
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 18:14
  • @notthatguy the hnq does generate a disproportionate amount of up votes for a beta site though. Votes are harder to get by on SO and the rep required for review queues is higher.
    – JAD
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 18:55

Does IPS want to be back on HNQ?

Yes!! I don't think there is a single IPS user I've talked to in chat or heard from on meta that is happy with this change. I know you're not focusing this question on "the way it came to be" that we're now excluded, but it honestly plays a big role. My knee-jerk reaction was "noooo put us back!"

My first thought was for how we'll fulfill our Area 51 requirements to get out of beta without the traffic. No HNQ means less questions, it means less votes and reputation gain for everyone and it means overall less content, which may make for some slow days. After all this site is a source of entertainment for me. It's something that I do for fun in my spare time. So to know there will be less fun is definitely a bummer.

However, I don't think this should be a question of "what do we want?" Rather, I think we should be asking:

Does IPS need to be back on HNQ?

And to this, the answer is "No."

We've been playing a defensive game with our site recently because of the HNQ traffic. It's caused us to take a "scorched Earth policy" on comments and alienate more than a few users. It's also caused us to narrow down what we call a valid answer and cleanup and delete those that don't comply. While this has been necessary on questions with 15-20+ answers that hit HNQ, that doesn't mean it makes these users happy or encourages them to contribute more.

I think that in trying to compensate for the traffic HNQ has given us, we've been growing callous. We've stopped trying as hard to teach our users what's expected of comments/answers and started leaving more canned comments and flags and downvotes without any personalized explanation for why things are being deleted. And in doing so, I think we've lost part of our own Interpersonal Skills in the process.

So what can we use this non-HNQ time for?

I think that while less content may be a curse in the eyes of the Area 51 req's, it's exactly what we need right now. I think we can use this time to better curate the content we do have. Instead of leaving a canned comment and moving on to the next HNQ answer that's on the chopping block for deletion, we can have more back and forth's with users to help them understand what we expect of them and work with them to make their answers stronger.

Maybe instead of simply deleting answers in comments, we can leave a comment reply explaining their comment will probably be deleted but that it would make a good answer if they were willing to flesh it out! After all, we don't have 1,000's of visitors breathing down our necks forcing us to delete comments and answers immediately, lest they gain views/votes/replies.

IPS has turned away a lot of users because of the tight ship we run. I'm not saying we loosen the ropes, but now is when we can spend a little more time on sub-par content to bring new users into the fold. Then when we do rejoin HNQ, we'll be stronger than ever!!

  • 1
    I don't think there is a single IPS user I've talked to in chat or heard from on meta that is happy with this change - I know a user. it's a mod. I agree, being in the HNQ is a double edged sword and we should weigh up the pros and cons carefully.
    – kscherrer
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 9:22
  • @Cashbee I haven't talked to/heard from HDE in particular, but I've seen at least a handful of users say something like "This is a change that I've been wanting forever, but now that it's happened the way that it's happened, I'm upset that we're no longer included." Also note that that quote you posted is followed by a disclaimer that the way things happened definitely affected everyone's opinion on the fact that we're out of HNQ.
    – scohe001
    Commented Oct 23, 2018 at 13:24

I might just be talking about me here but I think this a good question who was asked too earlier. It's not even been a week since the "HNQ ban" and now it's the weekend and none of us know how it feels like to be out of the HNQ list.

So, am I made that we are totally out of HNQ and that we are the only site who suffer from that treatment? Absolutely.

But, do I think that could also be a good thing? The answer is yes.

Just take a look at this question. I feel that the answers there are amazing but I also believe that, if the question would have ended-up on HNQ, we might have ended-up with a lot of terrible answer who would have completely overshadowed the great answers.

So, I don't know if I want IPS to be back on the HNQ list. But what I definitively know is that I want us to have a choice.

I mean, just give us a tag (or an HTML comment tag or whatever) and, when we think a question is ready, we will use it and show the world what great questions we have.

Or we can also do the opposite with a tag but that would need more work from us.


I don't know yet if want IPS back on HNQ but, please, let us decide.

  • 7
    Such a tag is bad, as it is a meta tag: stackoverflow.blog/2010/08/07/the-death-of-meta-tags
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 11:05
  • @gparyani I suggested this tag as a temporary solution. Something that, if I correctly understand how some tags/keywords are banned from HNQ, is easy to put in place. (Also, I edited the name of the tag to try to address your point, not sure I solved it, though)
    – Ael
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 11:30
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    Tags should never be used to indicate the nature of the question, only its content. Here's a simple test: can it stand as the only tag on any question? If it can't, it's a meta tag. I suggest an HTML comment at the top of the post, like I put in my posts.
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 11:45
  • @gparyani About what post are you talking about?
    – Ael
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 11:48
  • I said, on any question. (I edited my comment; comments aren't reloaded upon edit so it's likely you saw the earlier revision.)
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 12:18
  • Read my bio. I put HTML comments at the top of my posts on the main site. We can do something similar to vet HNQs.
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 12:27
  • @gparyani Oh, right. Well, I have nothing against using an HTML comment at the beginning of a post instead of a tag. I just want a way for us to say "this is okay for HNQ".
    – Ael
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 12:46
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    @Noon solutions are rarely temporary. If they work, they'll be kept in place as being "good enough"
    – JAD
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 13:16
  • @JAD you may have a point but since they are working on something for a new HNQ and that my suggestion was using the old system, using a temporary solution might very well work in this case (as in, the temporary solution really is temporary)
    – Ael
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 13:21
  • Absolute no to the tag suggestion. 1. Who decides if it gets the tag? 2. What if people disagree and you end up in an edit war? 3. How long does it keep the tag? 4. Does every tagged question appear in the HNQ list? Creates more problems than it solves
    – user2356
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 17:20
  • @Notts90 I was thinking about some meta post where people could post questions they think could be on HNQ (one question per post). They the community upvote and if when/the question get enough upvote, a mod tag the question and delete the proposition in the meta post (to keep everything clean)
    – Ael
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 17:22
  • @Notts90 To answer your other point, the tag are there to stay forever and the question tagged appear in HNQ only if the current HNQ algorithm want them.
    – Ael
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 17:25
  • @Noon sounds slow and like a lot of effort
    – user2356
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 18:19
  • @Notts90 It's suppose to be a compromise will we are waiting for something better
    – Ael
    Commented Oct 22, 2018 at 18:55
  • None of the posts that got IPS banned had titles that any reasonable person would object to, so the idea that this can be fixed by any kind of tagging/commenting system isn't going to work. Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 21:50

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