Shamelessly ripping off Monica Cellio's post on The Workplace Meta.

The HNQ list consists of hot questions from around the network of Stack Exchange sites. It's visible on the Stack Exchange front page and on the right column of other sites.

If a question makes the list, it generates quite a lot of traffic. One might expect that especially smaller stacks could profit from it and gain new users.

It has often been met with criticism, though:

  • Hot questions are not the best and most useful ones, but the most controversial ones.
  • It's not clear how or if stacks profit from the additional traffic. It may be short-lived and restricted to the hot question.

HNQ may even have adverse effects by making stacks appear not so serious. In this case, HNQ would be detrimental.

Parenting.SE, although not the most active site, has had its fair share of HNQ questions and they certainly create more work for moderators. Comments from drive-by users leading to discussions, too many answers etc. Actually, SE is considering to change it some time in the future (see that link's answers for more critique).

It has turned out that sites can be excluded from the HNQ list, making such an experiment possible.

Quoting the post that inspired this:

Do we, as a community, want to opt out of having our questions shown in the Hot Network Questions list for 90 days?

What are you thoughts? Do you think it's worth investigating whether HNQ does us more good than bad (or vice versa)? What do you think about HNQ?


5 Answers 5


No, I don't think we should opt out of HNQ. Parenting's community is quite small, and I think it's important to bring new visitors here - even at the cost HNQs bring. HNQs aren't perfect, but they're better than not getting new users - they're how many of our current users, myself included, found the site.


I only know about Parenting.SE BECAUSE I saw something interesting (yes, it was probably controversial) on the HNQ list once-upon-a-time.

Perhaps a middle ground could be reached such as a question being "protected" as soon as it hits the HNQ list? That would allow the "publicity" of being on the list while also helping avoid some of the spam and trolls.

If the standard SE "protection" is not enough perhaps a way to force users to have more than the standard amount of rep to answer would help? (I'm not sure if this is possible, but adding in comment-locks unless a user has xxx amount of rep on Parenting.SE would probably help too.)

  • I had this idea a few years ago, too; but unfortunately it doesn't really mesh well with the idea of HNQ. Protecting the question means most of your visitors can no longer participate with the question, or worse - end up commenting instead of answering. Commenting is just as bad, if not worse, and honestly for the most part answers are fine - it's the comments that are the problem. Directing more to comments wouldn't help, unfortunately. But good idea!
    – Joe
    Nov 30, 2018 at 15:31
  • @Joe I'm not familiar with the moderation tools available on SE - is there no way to "protect" a question's comments? Nov 30, 2018 at 17:27
  • You can lock a question, but that’s not really a good option; it prevents all interaction.
    – Joe
    Nov 30, 2018 at 17:37

I very much disagree with opting-out. Yea we get some bad. But with the bad we also get plenty of good. It brings visibility to the site; visibility that this site needs because, let's face it, we're kinda fizzling out here.

Content generation seems to increase after HNQ traffic dies down so perhaps people don't quite know about parenting yet until they see it in the list. This site is about parenting, an already highly controversial topic. But we also have a pretty strong core user group to filter out trolls. If we, as parents, can't handle a few internet trolls, we might as well just throw in the towel on the entire site.


Having suffered through quite a few questions popping up in the HNQ, I am very much in favour of having it removed. HNQ typically brings many new visitors who have no experience in parenting, and often no social or moral filter- we have had comments with abusive language, rudeness, racism and other problems, and our only defences are deleting, protecting our suspending individuals... When we see the insults and problem posts, which may be some time after they have been posted.


I cannot support @Rory Alsop's answer more strongly without all caps: Yes, yes, yes, I am also in favor of opting out!

For all the reasons Rory named, and (also) in case it's not obvious: TROLLS.

@Joe makes a good point, and if the HNQ is the reason he's here, then I may be wrong to want to opt out. But... but... it would be nice to see some numbers on how many people become active members because of an HNQ.

The work they entail (which is often behind the scenes) can be very disheartening. A recent example is the Christianity/"load of bullshit" (pre-edit) question. Not counting the work Joe and Rory did, I had to delete at least 60 comments and a few answers, catching the usual flak for doing so in the process. But what was disheartening was the incivility in much of it. HNQs do bring in good, thoughtful comments and answers, but they are often overshadowed by the noise.

Regarding TROLLS: I haven't looked at how often this happens, but the OPs of some HNQs never even come back to see the answers posted by people trying to help. These are the less obvious trolls.

I'm very much in favor of a trial of opting out.

I want to add sexism/misogyny to the list of offensive aspects to some HNQs.

  • 2
    I'd also add that there's some permanent negative to these disheartening HNQ questions: They can also be good at shooing off active members. I stopped participating in no small part due to HNQ questions being impossible to overcome. "Common sense parenting" answers get highly upvoted, despite being counter to research and evidence. It's impossible to undo the damage that might do to genuinely curious parents with the same question.
    – user11394
    Dec 10, 2018 at 16:30
  • 1
    It's worth noting that such questions (and many of the answers) may actually repel possible new users. Proving a negative is notoriously hard - such users are simply not here to tell us, because they never joined in the first place. Hence, looking for users who came here through HNQ likely doesn't give us the full picture. From my own experience, I can't deny that I don't get a good impression of some stacks which regularly feature "controversial" HN questions. Dec 13, 2018 at 15:46
  • @Anne - Good point. Dec 13, 2018 at 15:55

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