There has been a tug-of-war in the hot-questions list.
Community members like JonW seem to be unhappy with the traffic that it brings to their site:
'But we want to encourage people to post, that's the whole point of the HQ list!' I hear you cry. I disagree. We want to encourage people to the site not just to that question.
The SE Community Team seems to have a different opinion as Shog9 points out (emphasis mine):
the results have been... Not great so far: a significantly smaller number of people are clicking through to randomly-selected questions than to the top questions, which hints that the algorithm may've been doing a better job of identifying general-interest questions across topics than some expected.
Disclaimer: This should not be taken as a slight of the community team whatsoever, nor do I think this is some cause for revolt or a boxing match as the below prose may indicate. These are just poorly applied literary tools to emphasize the drastically different approaches to the same list between two groups.
In the Red Corner, the Community Members
The goal of the hot questions should be to drive up interest in the site. The hot questions should be a lure to encourage SE network users to contribute to other content, not just do a drive-by on the hot question.
In the Blue Corner, the Community Team
The goal of the hot questions should be to drive traffic to general-interest questions. After all, the Hot Network Questions used to be more accurately named as "Popular Questions".
What is the Goal of Advertising Network Questions?
Before discussing how to calculate hotness, or how the list should be ordered, we need to come to an agreement on what the heck we are actually trying to achieve. Once we know what we are looking to accomplish, we can find the best way to do that.
The list of questions from a variety of sites is in a great location screen-wise, it is readily accessible and does get a lot of eyes on it. But as with any marketing, the goal isn't just to grab eyes, it's to grab the right eyes.*
* I have nothing against left eyes. Most of my friends have left eyes too. And they are awesome. But in the context right eyes are not a geospatial thing, but rather in the 'correct' sense.
So what are the right eyes? What type of people do we want to attract to our site? What would we determine as 'success'? How can we measure that success?
Please do not limit yourself to the very narrowly scoped topic above. Think outside the box if you'd like. On every page across the network we have a nice piece of real estate for showing off the rest of the network. How can that space best be used if not on a list of questions picked by an arbitrary algorithm?