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Is there a way to filter the "hot questions" displayed in the Stack Exchange menu?

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I have a profile on Stack Overflow and that's pretty much it. Therefore the list as it is now is pretty useless because it just adds noise - I'm not coming to Stack Overflow to discuss terrorists and the like ;-)

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3  
I can see that you only want to see "hot" questions from those sites that you are active on (rep > 200?). –  ChrisF Mar 23 '11 at 11:53
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@ChrisF Much more important would be the ability to say "I never want to see questions from this objectionable stack exchange site ever again". I don't mind if other people see those questions, but I am not interested in any question that might be posed on that SX site and I never will. –  Mark Booth Sep 1 '11 at 17:09
3  
Agree, we really need to be able to black-list sites, some sites are producing content that is perfectly acceptable to members of those sites but can be quite offensive to members of other sites. –  jk. Sep 3 '11 at 10:36
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Agree, I basically never use the hot questions tab any more because of this –  Flexo Sep 3 '11 at 18:20
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43 Would Star Trek holodecks physically affect you once you exit the Holodeck? scifi.stackexchange.com <-- I don't care!! –  wim Jan 8 '12 at 23:13

5 Answers 5

There are two alternative solutions to this:

  • positive filtering: only show hot questions / sites that I'm active on. Much less noise, but doesn't achieve goal Jeff mentions — exposing you to questions from whole SE.

  • negative filtering: show everything, except the sites that I explicitly block. This will lead to some initial noise, but I will be able to adjust that. It's harder to implement, and bit harder to use. However, this will achieve goal of exposing you to questions from other SE sites, including new ones.

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18  
+1 for negative filtering, a user specified black list of sites is just the ticket to allow initial discovery of the new but allow blocking if a user decides they have had enough –  jk. Sep 3 '11 at 10:39

I agree with Jeff. As I said before, I feel the StackExchange™ MultiCollider SuperDropdown™ is one of the features that best help beta sites grow. It has done wonders for us at Skeptics, and I would be surprised to hear we are alone. As such, I am against the concept of filters.

With that said, I think that, eventually, filtering by language will become a necessity. Right now, there's only one site that is not in English - German - and it even allows questions written in English (really?). However, as the Stack Exchange Network expends into more and more language, the importance of this feature will increase. Discovering a new interesting or reading something thanks to the hot question is cool, but content in languages I do not speak are of no interest to me - or anyone, really.

It's not a priority right now, but it will be - eventually.

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Perhaps it could be tweaked by favoring sites which links you've followed before, but that would 'punish' all the newer sites –  Ivo Flipse Jun 3 '11 at 23:03
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If I decide I'm not interested in the topic of a beta site, I'm not likely to visit it and help it make it out of beta. Why therefore oppose me filtering it out? –  razlebe Sep 3 '11 at 9:25

Considering just how many duplicates and alternate versions of this question there are, it's shocking just how pitifully inadequate the response from the developers has been.

I'm tempted to believe that it's yet another case of SEO overriding user experience, but crawlers wouldn't get filtered, so that can't be the issue either. Seriously, what gives?

Let me be clear, here: I like the hot questions feature. I see a lot of fun/interesting posts that I normally wouldn't be exposed to. I get to pick up random useful tidbits of information and conversation pieces that actually benefit me in my daily life.

But there's some sh** that I'm just not interested in, was never interested in, never will be interested, just not going to happen ever, frickin' leave me alone already damn it!

Are you hearing me, SE? You've accomplished your goal, you've exposed us to the questions. We have, in turn, in our infinite wisdom, decided that entire categories are not of interest to us. I don't read the sports section of the newspaper - not even the headlines - likewise, I don't want to see links to questions on Chinese languages or have to keep hearing about the ever-expanding downward spiral of popularity contests on the "programming puzzles" site.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. "If you don't like the feature, don't use it/don't look at it. You're still not listening. I like the feature. I want to use it. But you could be linking me to interesting questions that I want to read, and instead they're being drowned out in noise that I'm never, ever going to care about. This is anathema to your goal of spreading the love. Instead of occasionally reading sci-fi questions that I know deep down are time-wasters, or trying in vain to remember my 3rd-year university solid state physics material, I just give up and ignore the sidebar because just looking at actually annoys me. And I'm not alone in this, just look how many people hate the system:

Geeze Louise, this goes way beyond "who moved my cheese" - people from all different backgrounds are screaming for some control over this feature.

I'm inclined to agree that whitelisting actually isn't the appropriate response here. Yes, really. This isn't a security or spam filtering system, and Jeff is/was right about one thing, its entire purpose is to bring people outside their narrowly-chosen fields of interest. That's a good thing, especially when it comes to new sites popping up - we want to give them a chance. However, we really should not rule out blacklisting here; I'm just never going to read a question on Islam or Biblical Hermeneutics. Seriously - not ever. For me, personally, those links are just taking up space that could be used to draw my attention to more interesting, more personalized content.

As both a user and a very experienced web developer who has spent a lot of time working with SEO, marketing and ecomm folks, I honestly cannot fathom why this isn't a priority. This is basically equivalent to having untargeted rather than targeted ads. We figured out more than 10 years ago that targeted ads got more than twice the click-through rate, and the statistic gets confirmed again and again. It's not just what the users want - there's real money in this equation.

Or, even better, instead of a blacklist, throw some of those fancy ComScore analytics at the problem to figure out which links people actually click on and how long they stay, and then apply some predictive personalization, which can actually give you 3-4x as many click-throughs.

Sigh. Anyway, time for something constructive from me. There was a user script posted in a duplicate question, but it was buggy and the UI has now changed (it's in the right sidebar instead of the "multicollider"). So, here's a newer user script, with bugs fixed and working on the right sidebar:

// ==UserScript==
// @name           Filter Hot SE questions
// @namespace      http://stackoverflow.com/users/390278
// @include        http://stackoverflow.com/*
// @include        http://*.stackoverflow.com/*
// @include        http://superuser.com/*
// @include        http://*.superuser.com/*
// @include        http://serverfault.com/*
// @include        http://*.serverfault.com/*
// @include        http://stackapps.com/*
// @include        http://*.stackapps.com/*
// @include        http://askubuntu.com/*
// @include        http://*.askubuntu.com/*
// @include        http://*.stackexchange.com/*
// ==/UserScript==

(function() {
    function embedScript(id, main, globalFunctions) {
        var scriptElement = document.createElement("script");
        scriptElement.type = "text/javascript";
        scriptElement.id = id;
        var name, content = "";
        if (globalFunctions) {
            for (name in globalFunctions) {
                if (globalFunctions.hasOwnProperty(name)) {
                    content = content + name + "=(" + globalFunctions[name].toString() + "());\n";
                }
            }
        }
        content = content + "(" + main.toString() + "());";
        scriptElement.textContent = content;
        document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0].appendChild(scriptElement);
        return scriptElement;
    }

    embedScript("filter-hot-se-questions", function () {
        var enableLogging = false;

        var blacklist = [
            "codegolf.stackexchange.com",
            "chinese.stackexchange.com"
        ];
        var whitelist = [
            "stackoverflow.com",
        ];

        $(function() {
            var retryCount = 0;
            const retryMax = 3;

            function tryFilter() {
                var $query = $("#hot-network-questions li").filter(function () {
                    var $link = $(this).find("a");
                    var site = $link.attr("href").match(/:\/\/(?:www\.)?(.[^\/:]+)/)[1];
                    if (!site) {
                        return false;
                    }
                    var isBlacklisted = $.inArray(site, blacklist) >= 0;
                    var isWhitelisted = $.inArray(site, whitelist) >= 0;
                    var isBlocked = isBlacklisted && !isWhitelisted;
                    if (enableLogging) {
                        var msgData = { 
                            site: site,
                            isBlackListed: isBlacklisted,
                            isWhitelisted: isWhitelisted,
                            isBlocked: isBlocked
                        };
                        console.log(msgData);
                    }
                    return isBlocked;
                });

                if ($query.length > 0) {
                    $query.hide();
                    return;
                }

                if (retryCount++ < retryMax) {
                    window.setTimeout(tryFilter, 250);
                }
            }

            window.setTimeout(tryFilter, 250);
        });
    });
}());

It's a crappy solution, but it's better than nothing. Of course, I personally use a much longer blacklist, but that's for individuals to decide. I'm not sure why the original had a whitelist and a blacklist, since whitelisting is already the default, but whatever, I've left it in just in case somebody wants it.

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Another option would be a 4th tab ("My Hot"), which uses either the positive or negative approaches suggested by vartec. Or you could beta-test both ideas with selected group, and see what the effects are on users.

My preferred method would be to "amazon" the data so that if you're signed up to say, "stackoverflow", "superuser" and "itsecurity", it works out that most people signed up to that are also signed up to "gaming" (even though you're not), and suggests questions based on that. (e.g. your stuff gets a boost to rank, stuff you "might" be interested in gets a minor boost, and stuff that's unlikely gets no boost)

I get the original idea, and as one of the primary contributors to parenting, I'm aware of the need to get the smaller sites more interest, but again, as one of the primary contributors to parenting, I'm aware that just because a question is popular with a large group of people doesn't mean it's not totally irrelevant to an even larger group. As stackexchange grows, not tailoring it is going to have a "wasting my time" effect.

If we're looking to avoid spurious and memeish Q&A's, better that we don't advertise "tex", "mathematica" and "cstheory" to people whose primary interests are "gaming", "parenting" and "judaism"

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Please note that the intent here is to explicitly expose you to the most interesting questions from across the network, whether you have accounts on those sites or not.

edit: at the time I wrote the above, we did not have German, Japanese, or Judaism -- I am more sympathetic to the "this isn't even in a language I can read!" argument.

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Isn't it a little skewed towards higher traffic sites? Which means you can be a small site with interesting questions, but because you're under the fold, you don't get extra attention. So the popular ones will become more popular (hellow Skeptics) and others will have to rely more on Google traffic... –  Ivo Flipse May 12 '11 at 10:19
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I like the idea of being exposed to interesting questions from across the gamut of sites, but I will never be interested in certain topics (*cough*religious-themed ones*cough*) and would prefer they didn't take up a slot that could have otherwise been for an interesting question on lemons from the cooking site... –  JYelton May 12 '11 at 17:33
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-1: how can a question in German be possibly interesting to anyone who doesn't speak it? –  vartec Jun 3 '11 at 14:27
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Or a question about Jewish tradition interest an Atheist... I'm much more likely to check out a random cooking or home improvement question because I cook and have a home. –  JYelton Jun 3 '11 at 19:03
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I will say this, however: I am not a parent, and don't intend to be, but some of the Parenting questions have been very interesting. I can appreciate the intentions for exposing users to other topics' hot questions (those which I otherwise would have ignored). Still, I think the network of sites will be more useful with filtering enabled. –  JYelton Jun 3 '11 at 19:20
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That's all well and good, but considering I don't speak a lick of German (despite English be a Germanic language) questions from german.stackexchange.com are purely noise. –  Lawrence Dol Jun 3 '11 at 20:40
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Given that there are starting to be websites that are just pure noise (to some, including me -- German especially, since I speak no German), is this still status-declined? Or has it been reopened for consideration? –  Reid Jun 5 '11 at 17:40
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@Jeff Please consider undeclining this. I have no interest whatsoever in seeing questions about religion when I visit stack. –  Iain Holder Sep 5 '11 at 20:06
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You're looking at this from a programmer's perspective. But to non-computer-savvy people, about half the sites are effectively in a foreign language (they're about esoteric computer stuff). –  Gilles Sep 17 '11 at 20:11
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this one needs to be reconsidered, with all the new stackexchange sites popping up the signal to noise ratio is plummeting and it's making the dropdown thing become spammy and useless –  wim Jan 16 '12 at 6:29
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@Jeff As an application developer working in Western Europe, I'm a lot more likely to learn German than I am to learn to use Mathematica –  deworde Mar 12 '12 at 10:19
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I don't play video games, yet they keep showing up at the top. Don't force ads on us. That's why adblock exists. –  siamii May 28 '12 at 5:19
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Another vote for the negative filtering. I don't know anything relevant about chemistry or aviation, yet I occasionally check out a question featured from there. But I have absolutely no interest in LaTeX or Judaism, the space taken up by those questions could and should be used for something more valuable for me. A negative filter could be used for these exceptions and this approach would not impede newly-started SE sites (since they would not be filtered by anyone when they are created) –  zovits Mar 11 at 12:40
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Exposing users forcefully to Hot Network Questions can spoil entire plots, e.g. from the Harry Potter universe. I would love to have an option to filter specific networks. –  robust Jun 28 at 12:05

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