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The only way to get to your inbox is to click on the Stack Exchange logo and pass over a list of hot questions.

I'm not asking for these to be user configurable (which has been asked many times before) but it would be excellent if the questions that appeared there were relevant to the Stack Exchange site you're on.

If I'm on Stack Overflow, a bible study from the new Christianity Exchange is not relevant to a programming Q&A, just as questions from Math Exchange won't be relevant to the folks on the Cooking Exchange.

Short of making this list configurable (or blocking absolutely uninteresting Stack Exchange sites), the relevancy of cross-promoted sites in the hot questions list should be dramatically increased.

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Dude, math, physics (and maybe even philosophy) are relevant to cooking - it's a real complex science/Art. :) –  Mat Sep 3 '11 at 16:55
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@Mat Everything is related to math and physics in some way! –  Matty Sep 3 '11 at 16:57
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Obligatory xkcd link - xkcd.com/435 –  ChrisF Sep 3 '11 at 17:21
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And you pray when you don't know how to cook. The point of the dropdown is to draw attention to sites you don't know. Paying attention to the clearly listed site name shouldn't be too difficult. –  Uphill Luge Sep 3 '11 at 17:54
    
@hans - you should prob make this an answer. –  Martin Beckett Sep 3 '11 at 19:36
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For me, it would already help if each site would be in the list (or in its Top 5) at most once. –  Arjan Sep 3 '11 at 20:00
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I tend to regard the hot questions drop down as a way to broaden my horizon, even in areas that I have zero interest in and no clue of. For example, almost everything I know about Judaism I know from Judaism.SE - just from a bit of browsing and reading, not really understanding much but getting a tiniest glimpse into how complex and manifold life is when seriously practising that faith. Now, that is knowledge that I will probably never be able to use as such - still, I do not regret having got that small glimpse into a world totally alien to me. I'm in favour of leaving things this way. –  Pëkka Sep 3 '11 at 21:27
    
@Hans, you also pray if you DO know how to cook! –  GUI Junkie Sep 3 '11 at 22:10

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted
+150

For logged-in users, it would make sense to weigh the hot questions based on the user's cross-site browsing activity (taking account views, votes, posts, etc.). For users who aren't logged in or have had default activity, an average cross-pollination statistic could be used (again taking into account commonality of views, votes, posts and so on). (I'm not a statistician, I don't know what measure to use.)

With Stack Exchange expanding more and more to non-computer related topics, the hot question list is becoming irrelevant to more and more of the user base. Consider Joe Average human being (not Joe Average programmer), who's a German native, English-speaking hobbyist gardener and reader, parent, practicing Christian, manages his finances and keeps fit... What does Joe care about computer stuff, computer stuff, computer stuff, computer stuff, computer stuff, …?

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+1, I'm an avid generalist and even for me the Hot Questions list is nothing but UI clutter. To be honest, wasn't aware folks used it for anything other than the Inbox considering how poorly the questions are chosen. –  user7116 Sep 8 '11 at 1:46
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Agree, cross-pollination is a) interesting b) good for the SE network –  Factor Mystic Sep 8 '11 at 2:50
    
On the other hand, unless you scroll periodically to the bottom of the page (on both beta and established sites), how do you even discover some of the (potentially interesting) new sites that are popping up all the time? –  Benjol Sep 8 '11 at 5:08
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I think that, if this was done, it would also have to take into account the sites the person visits. I lurk on several sites that I don't know enough about to be very active in, but would still be interested in seeing the hot questions from them. Also, the interest I have in questions on some sites, such as math, vary wildly depending on the question. –  Peter Olson Sep 8 '11 at 16:10
    
@PeterOfTheCorn Good point. I actually meant “activity” as encompassing everything including browsing, which isn't the meaning on SE. Fixed. –  Gilles Sep 8 '11 at 20:07
    
Re "I'm not a statistician, I don't know what measure to use.": sounds like a job for Cross Validated (AKA Statistics SE)! –  Pops Sep 13 '11 at 3:28

In my experience, a disproportionately high number of programmers are either really active theists or really active atheists, and are less likely to be in the middle ground of apathy.

So making hot questions more relevant could make things worse in terms of the number of theistic Stack Exchange questions appearing.

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I disagree.

I am a big fan of the hot questions list. I look through it almost daily to see if there are any interesting questions. It's purpose is (at least in my mind) is to show the top questions thoughout the Stack Exchange network. It would defeat its purpose if it excluded some sites.

Consider that many people have different varieties of interest than you do. Some programmers are interested in the top questions on the Christianity site, and some cooks are also interested in math. Removing "irrelevant" sites from the hot questions list would likely upset more people than it would help anything.

That said, I can relate to not wanting to see questions from particular sites. For example, most of the gaming questions that make it up to the top of the list relate to games I've never heard of before and don't care about, and most of that math questions are completely incomprehensible to me. Even so, there is the occasional gaming or math question that I think is interesting, and if those sites were blocked from my hot questions list I never would have seen them.

If you only want to see the hot programming questions, you can click the "hot" tab on the Stack Overflow questions list. Same for Cooking, and every other site.

This is a feature that would be complicated to implement (Who considers which sites are relevant to users of other sites? What about people who use multiple sites?), would not really provide any benefit, and would upset cranky people like me.

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The sheer amount of noise in the Hot Questions list has basically kept me from ever using it. –  user7116 Sep 8 '11 at 1:44

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