As of today (11 March 2019) we've made significant changes to how the Hot Network Questions List works, including giving moderators the ability to remove questions from the list and limiting the number of questions that can be on the HNQ list at a time for any one site.

Before reading any further, please read about the update on MSE:

The Hot Network Questions List - now with a bit more network and a little less "hotness"!

Thanks to these changes, you have the opportunity to decide whether you wish to be on the HNQ list again and to what degree. So, you have two questions to answer:

  1. Do you want to be back on the HNQ list?
  2. If so, would you like to set an alternate maximum number of questions for IPS in the HNQ list (default is 5).

I see that you've had a few discussions about this, as recently as last month, and it seems that there are certainly concerns that you have for the site, both in quality and traffic. I can understand these!

One of the major concerns about inclusion in the HNQ from the beginning was that it drew too much attention so it was difficult for the regular users here to cultivate and curate the content that was created.

But a site lives and grows with traffic drawing in experts. While search engine traffic may do some of this, there may be experts participating elsewhere on the network who discover the site through the HNQ list.

There's no rush to decide and what you decide can be revisited in the future whether that decision is to stay out for now or return but with a maximum of only one or two questions on the HNQ list at a time.

Talk about it. Take your time.

2 Answers 2


Yes, I think we should go back on HNQ

We had a discussion about this last month, and the consensus was that we do eventually want back on HNQ, but that we shouldn't do it yet. I can't speak to the other answers, but my answer to that question where I suggested we wait was based on the (then) current state of HNQ. The problems we had with HNQ were based largely on the fact that so many of our questions ended up there. Given that we can select a maximum number and that mods can remove troublesome posts, I think that we will be able to handle the increase in traffic that comes with HNQ.

Several of the answers to the recent discussion point out that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to growing our community. I agree, we still have a long way to go, but I think that being on HNQ can help us get there. HNQ will draw new users to the site, and we should try to capitalize on that. The best thing we can get to help us improve is new voices providing feedback on where our shortcomings are.

What do we need to do in order to be ready to go back on HNQ?

There are a couple of things we should discuss before re-entering HNQ. If we decide that it is time, we should have meta discussions to decide the following things before actually pulling the trigger.

  • What (if any) kinds of questions should we automatically exclude via the regex?
  • What criteria should mods use to determine when to remove a question from HNQ?
  • Where we want to set the IPS limit for HNQ questions

I don't want to get into the first 2 bullet points here as I think they would be better suited to having their own meta question. The third point however, I think is important to consider when getting back on HNQ. I think we should start at 1 question. At the very least, it will get us HNQ exposure again, but it will do so without (hopefully) bringing too much traffic for us to handle.

Essentially, I am proposing the following experiment.

Let's put IPS back on HNQ with 1 question at a time. In 2-3 months time we can look and see how being back on HNQ has affected us. If we are struggling, we can always drop off of HNQ again. If things are going well, we could consider increasing the number of questions we allow onto HNQ at a time.

  • 25
    Upvoted, because we should get back on HNQ, but... I just want people to remember that none of the questions that caused us to be removed from HNQ in the first place had anything objectionable about them, nothing that would have caused a reasonable reviewer to flag them. It happened purely because of a kneejerk reaction to a twitter stink. That sort of thing can not be predicted and filtered out in advance. Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 23:50
  • 13
    @kbelder, I think that's an overly dismissive view of the situation - the complaints were a wake-up call to consider how our question titles could be very off-putting when taken out of context. Since HNQ still displays titles out of context, it's entirely possible that could happen again. So we still need to consider whether the site has improved enough to avoid and mitigate such reactions (whether that's through higher overall quality, better editing and reviewing, and/or the new HNQ controls).
    – Em C
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 1:33
  • I absolutely do agree that it can happen again, due to titles taken out of context. I just don't think you can preemptively correct that by guessing what might trigger that. The actual value of this change, I think, is allowing questions that are triggering somebody to be quickly hidden without banning a whole exchange off the HNQ. Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 17:07
  • 1
    @EmC the first response to a title being misunderstood should be to edit the title, shouldn't it? The community needs to be thinking about how titles would look out of context -- on HNQ, tweeted, whatever. IPS is not the only community that needs to look at its questions through an outsider lens, but it's one of them. Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 17:14
  • @MonicaCellio I agree - especially since kicking a question off can't be undone, I'd prefer to (try to) improve it first.
    – Em C
    Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 17:50
  • 1
    Just because a question's title is likely to be taken out of context when listed on other sites is not a reason for removing that question from HNQ. In that case, the title should probably just be edited.
    – gparyani
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 19:27

I spent a while reading through IPS's old meta discussions on the HNQ - the two you linked to (1, 2), as well as some slightly older stuff (3, 4). After sifting through them all, I've isolated some of the main concerns with being on the HNQ that have been popping up again and again:

  • While we got more traffic from the HNQ, we got too much - and, moreover, a lot of it was problematic, including way too many comments and answers.
  • Some people have concerns about the site itself that get magnified by the HNQ (e.g. uneven application of our admittedly somewhat arcane policies because of the flood of content).
  • The content we're generating isn't necessarily high-quality, and obviously poor questions shouldn't make their way to the HNQ, ideally.
  • Many sites on the network are technical/professional sites, and some segments of their userbases don't want or need to see our questions.

The benefits to IPS, of course, seem reasonably well-agreed upon:

  • The HNQ would be getting us more traffic, and currently, things seem kinda quiet. Obviously, we don't want to stay this way long-term, and we've heard plenty of testimonials over the months (years?) about how the HNQ has drawn users here.
  • More activity means that existing users are more likely to stay. We're retaining many core community members, but we need to keep new blood coming through, and the HNQ is arguably the best way to do this.

Back last fall - and, arguably, last month - I think there was a substantial feeling that the cons outweighed the pros, or at least that the cons were not insignificant. The question we have now is whether the new HNQ improvements can nullify enough of them.

First, let's talk about the question cap. A site can now have a maximum of 5 questions on the list at a given time. Catija suggested considering taking that down to 1-2; I'd be great with a max of 3, but I think we should first have a trial period of maybe 30 days with 1-2 questions to see how the site deals with a dash of HNQ seasoning added to the mix. If we only have a couple questions on, as opposed to the (if memory serves) 6 or so we often had, then it's going to be much easier to fight the flood - partly because it'll be more like a trickle than a flood.

Various internal issues are . . . well, not going to be fixed by getting on the HNQ again. My pet project would be figuring out how we can write awesome titles - a failing which partly contributed to the October fiasco, given that out of context, a conservative interpretation of the relevant questions might make someone flinch. (I also think that reducing clickbait is awesome, although we're getting better at that.) Regardless, though, every site has problems with scope, question quality, answer standards - you name it. I'm going to completely subjectively argue that we're okay in that department.

I've lurked in the Awkward Silence during the past week or two, and I've noticed that people are getting really good at improving and editing questions. I'm super happy to see that, and it's gone a long way towards making the site's content more awesome. Plus, this is happening quickly. We have vigilant editors and commenters, and I don't think those folks were quite so busy 6 or 12 or 18 months ago. We're getting good at closing low-quality posts while turning middling questions into great ones. Also, the mods now have a new hammer as a way of disaster control in the worst cases: removing a question from the HNQ entirely.

Finally, I love the option to turn off the HNQ. I wouldn't mind some tweaks to it (I'll be back in a second; I should write an answer on the main Meta question about that. . .), but it can definitely go a long way towards reducing concerns about the more professional sites being exposed to . . . well, whatever you want to classify us as. Going forward, this is definitely going to reduce negative attention from other SE sites - not sure I can say how, though.

To make another subjective analysis, I think that the new tools/changes do significantly fight many of the historical objections towards us being on the HNQ. I think we're ready for a tentative moderate increase in the level of traffic we get, and if we can deal with 2-3 HNQ questions at a time, then maybe we can one day deal with 5. I'm ready to try it out.

  • FYI to solve the fourth bullet, I proposed a feature on MSE to allow specific sites to be excluded from other specific sites' HNQ lists (e.g. exclude questions from this site from appearing in the HNQ list on Stack Overflow).
    – gparyani
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 23:25
  • 1
    I would just like to comment, that I wasn't aware of the fact that IPS didn't want to be on the HNQ at all. I just wondered that there are no IPS questions anymore. But because there were no IPS HNQ I didn't visit this stack anymore. So yes, I would say IPS should definitely go back to the HNQ. In my opinion IPS is loosing traffic and users if they're not on it
    – undefined
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 14:09
  • 4
    @gparyani I'm not sure I support with that proposal; I agree with TheLethalCoder there that it doesn't seem fair for a small subset of meta users to effectively modify the preferences for everyone on the site - particularly given that a lot of users find smaller sites after beginning on larger, traditional, technical/professional sites. I like the everyone-chooses-individually-whether-to-have-the-HNQ as is currently proposed, although allowing people to customize which sites they see would be nice. But I guess this is all a discussion for that Meta post.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 14:21
  • @HDE226868 Yep; I was going to propose that but I read the last section of the question which says they are not planning to implement that.
    – gparyani
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 14:50
  • @undefined It's not so much that IPS didn't want to be on HNQ. What happened is that we were removed from it, and then the community realized that it could be a good thing, which it has. Before we went off HNQ, the mods were swamped dealing with the amount of flags being generated by chatty comments. It was hard to focus on improving the quality of questions and answers. Being off of HNQ has given us the opportunity to address the issues we have with question and answer quality.
    – Rainbacon
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 18:21
  • 1
    @Rainbacon even more than a year before that, there were talks of the ill-effects of HNQ on our site. This discussion garnered the most attention, but there was definitely talk of it every few months when we'd have another question blow up.
    – scohe001
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 18:26
  • 3
    I would posit that starting with allowing at most 1 or 2 IPS questions at once should give moderators the tools and limited volume they need to quickly remove problematic questions while not flooding the community with too much work to moderate on. Then, after a while, we could re-evaluate.
    – Magisch
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 13:08
  • Many sites on the network are technical/professional sites, and some segments of their userbases don't want or need to see our questions. Ironically, I'm the opposite, I come form SO and HNQ about electronics or other "technical" stuff don't interest me.
    – Walfrat
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 13:41

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