I've noticed that occasionally "hot questions" from SciFi and the Movies & TV network contain major spoilers about the movie/show discussed.

The Matrix spoilers:

(just now there's something about Cypher betraying Morpheus in the Matrix, which is a big deal for people who haven't seen the movie).

I like browsing through those but fear that one day one of these questions will spoil a show I'm excited about and yet to finish

Breaking Bad spoilers:

(like the finale of Breaking Bad, imagine a question asking why did one character betray another at the end or something).

Can users posting such questions be asked to label those with a tag (such as 'spoilers') and then somehow have the network hide those from the "hot questions" list? Or possibly format them differently?

Similarly, this could apply to the Arcade network too.

P.S. Love how this question spikes in popularity around the time GoT starts running again. I swear it should be fairly simple technically to ban questions that have a tag that says 'spoilers' from appearing in the Hot Network Questions.

P.P.S. Oh, and with every fresh release of Star Wars (The Last Jedi being the most recent one)!

P.P.P.S. Another year, another Game of Thrones, another spike in popularity!

  • 5
    Could the person who downvoted this question please explain what's wrong with it?
    – Nobilis
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 16:05
  • 31
    Is there a Hot Questions list somewhere that displays more than the title? If not, I think a courtesy "no spoilers in titles" rule (enforced through editing) should be sufficient. Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 16:09
  • @BilltheLizard Earlier I noticed a question with a major spoiler for The Matrix in the title and after checking it out it seems that it's not an issue on that network (I've seen the movie so that one wasn't a big deal but it could have applied to a movie I hadn't seen). I think a simple rule like that could also work out but I'm not aware of such a policy.
    – Nobilis
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 16:12
  • @LowerClassOverflowian I understand but beg to differ. People here have worked very hard to make sure that questions and answers are rigorously formatted and tagged. I don't see why this should be any different for questions that contain spoilers.
    – Nobilis
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 16:13
  • 11
    I think spoilers would be a meta tag. It doesn't tell you what the question is about, but instead tells you some attribute of the question itself. It feels similar to the now deleted homework and subjective tags on Stack Overflow. Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 16:32
  • 14
    I like the idea of editing the spoiler out of the title. I don't think there should be any markup though. For example: What were Cypher's motives with regards to Morpheus?
    – Travis J
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 16:34
  • 36
    Seriously, this sucks. Please make it stop. "Why did X kill Y" can trivially destroy a season finale - all the while I'm just reading about Android's Dalvik cache.
    – RomanSt
    Commented Jun 20, 2014 at 14:37
  • 4
    The sites you're talking about definitely have a working and applied "no spoilers in titles policy", though. So I have a hard time seeing the actual problem you're trying to solve here. Of course this doesn't prevent users from writing spoiling titles occasionally, but this just happens and usually people jump in and improve the title. Commented May 4, 2015 at 15:06
  • 7
    Right now there are a lot of hard spoilers giving away information about the Avengers. See Spoilers in the sidebar are annoying which was (legitimately) closed as a dupe of this one.
    – usr
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 17:35
  • 13
    So, um... this question about preventing spoilers has spoilers in hidden sections, but with no indiction of what they might spoil, making it impossible to know if one should avoid highlighting them. :P
    – Jaydles
    Commented May 27, 2015 at 18:08
  • 6
    Because of the frequent spoilers from the Movies & TV Shows SE, I have had to block the entire Hot Network Questions area. This, of course, reduces hits for StackExchange, which is not in their best interest. It also means I don't provide answers to (or votes on) any of the Hot Network Questions those questions, as I don't see them. Commented May 11, 2016 at 21:26
  • 2
    @RockPaperLizard how did you block the Hot Network Questions area?
    – mjeppesen
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 5:34
  • 3
    It's not a matter of "is it easy to ban the questions". It's a matter of "Why should our (SFF/M&TV/whatever) questions be denied the HNQ when others aren't"
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 11:36
  • 2
    @JoelBerkeley Maybe that hasn't come up in my read through of my python tutorial. What a spoiler that would be, maybe it's so overwhelming it puts me off my python learning experience and I give up. It's all subjective. I for one find spoilers tend to have a beneficial effect on my experience, especially the minor kind we get on our sites. The users work extremely hard to keep the content as clean as possible. If you're afraid of being spoiled either figure out how to hide the HNQ for a couple of days, or watch the film/episode. Or as an alternative, just be a mature adult about it.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 13, 2019 at 9:46
  • 5
    @mjeppesen you can block the HNQ here int the Sidebar section. Just tested it now and it blocks the HNQ for all sites (even ones you're not a member of). Then you just have to remember to not use the mobile app (got the last scene of GoT 8x03 spoiled for me this morning despite a self-imposed Twitter and FB moratorium 😰) Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 20:20

11 Answers 11


Can users posting such questions be asked to label those with a tag (such as 'spoilers') and then somehow have the network hide those from the "hot questions" list? Or possibly format them differently?

In general, what you propose there is a manual method to mark/format questions with possibly spoiling titles in some kind of way. Yet, this would only be for facilitating a possible filter in a feature external to the actual site and would not help with e.g. the questions lists on that site itself (except if it would implement the same filter). The far easier, less intrusive and much better solution would simply be to require users to write question titles which don't spoil anything. But you know what, this is already done on the sites you mention.

The two sites you listed in your question (namely Science Fiction & Fantasy and Movies & TV, not sure about Arqade, though, but most probably too) already have a running, enforced and working policy of not giving spoilers in question titles. So what you propose is actually already implemented in a much better and less intrusive way. Of course, as with any other manual policy this is entirely to be enforced by the sites' users through manual edits and if they don't do it that's bad luck. But this would be exactly the same for any other way of manually marking such questions and since there already are established manual policies to tackle this, there's just no need to add another one. And without manual intervention there is no way for the system to know what a spoiler actually is (which is an inherently subjective definition anyway).

The only option for automatic exclusion is then to exclude those sites from the HNQ completely. But this of course has to be done on a personal level (since the system can't just exclude a valid site from the HNQ because some user might possibly regard some question from that site as a spoiler) for which there already are other existing proposals.

  • Well, not sure about that, recently I came across another spoiler on the Movie and TV network in the question title that was in the hot questions section, not sure what happened to it. All it takes is for that question to have a tag spoilers and for it to be barred from appearing in the hot questions list or for the user to be careful how they post their questions. The fact that this question still gets attention shows it's far from ideal.
    – Nobilis
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 7:36
  • 2
    @Nobilis Then this question had an invalid title but nobody did something against it. Just happens. But this problem stays exactly the same when talking about any manually added tags, then users still have to add that tag on their own and if nobody does it we're screwed. Since the title should not spoil anything there is simply no need for a spoiler tag that says the title contains spoilers, since such titles simply have no right to exist and when you "repair" the tags, why not repair the title right away? Commented May 28, 2015 at 7:37
  • I'm not dead set on the tag solution, I just don't want to have shows spoiled for me and it's up to the moderators and the maintainers of the SE network to do something about that (if they want to address the problem, that is). This question has several duplicates on the meta network so I'm not the only thinking something still needs to be done.
    – Nobilis
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 7:41
  • 2
    @Nobilis No matter if tags or anything else. As long as it's a manual method, someone has to do it. And from all manual methods, why not just use the ones that are already implemented. As it stands there just is no use for another manual marking method, since there is already one in place. The only alternative would be an automatic method, but that seems impossible on a per-question basis, since a computer doesn't know what a spoiler is. Commented May 28, 2015 at 7:43
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    @Nobilis actually it's up to the members of those communities to decide how they want to present their content. As Christian said, these sites already have rules about this; if users there aren't following those rules, that's a valid complaint to raise on those sites. But there's really not much that SE or moderators can do if the communities won't act. Commented May 28, 2015 at 12:43
  • The current rules are clearly insufficient since they are failing to exclude spoilers from the hot network questions area. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 14:33
  • @JackAidley No, as already written, the rules cover the HNQ exactly as well as they cover the main site. Avoiding spoilers in question titles (which already is the rule) avoids them everywhere those titles are used, including the HNQ. What might not be perfect is the enforcement of those rules, but this is a natural consequence of humans enforcing them and is impossible to be improved by different rules. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 15:23
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    @ChristianRau The problem on the stack itself is different from the problem in HNQ because the audience is different. I expect to get titles that may reveal some details in Movies & TV (whilst the policy is to avoid spoilers, it is not possible to have questions that are both not spoilers and good questions) but I shouldn't have to avoid every last Stack Exchange in order to avoid them. The current solution does not solve the problem therefore it is insufficient. The simple addition of a filter would solve it. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 16:44
  • @JackAidley That is the point, though, the rules as currently written and supposed to be enforced should already prevent you getting anything spoiled. That's how the rules on those sites are. We're not talking about questions spoiling stuff, but solely about their titles, which are prohibited from doing so. So if a question title (which is the only thing you see in the HNQ list) spoiled something for you, someone violated the existing rules and wasn't corrected... Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:09
  • 1
    ...And as said a filter adds nothing, since that filter can only be enforced by manual human action (e.g. adding some tag to the question or whatever), the same way the current rules are. If the current rules, which, I repeat, already prohibit spoilers in the HNQ, don't work, another manual rule won't either. All that can be done is encourage and motivate people to abide the rules and correct posts that don't. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:10
  • @ChristianRau Adding a filter would let me filter out the entire Stack Exchange during Game of Thrones season. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:11
  • 1
    @JackAidley You seem to be talking about a different thing here, though. It seems you are talking about a filter that filters entire sites from the HNQ. That is quite a different thing from what's proposed in the question and might explain the confusion. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:14
  • @ChristianRau My point is that, unlike what is suggested in this answer, the problem is not solved. The correct solution may not be the one in this question, but it is still a serious problem without solution. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:18
  • 1
    @JackAidley Well, the answer clearly acknowledges the possibility of a customizable site-filter for HNQ, just that it's actually trying to answer the question asked here, which tries to solve the problem by asking users to do something they're...already asked to do. Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 17:19
  • One thing missing from the "they already block spoilers" is that my threshold might be lower than the site's community for what constitutes a spoiler. This in fact just happened -- I got what I consider a spoiler about Bandersnatch, and was told "we don't consider this a spoiler." If I were joining that site's community, then okay, I live by the community's rules. But given that I don't, I shouldn't have to.
    – yshavit
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 22:29

Here's a userscript to hide individual sites from your HNQ list.

All credit to SQB and phantom42 from Sci-Fi and Fantasy SE. (I'm not a coder, so any questions, complaints, or improvements on this script should be addressed to them on the linked meta post.)

// ==UserScript==
// @name        HNQ SciFi  Hider
// @description Hides SciFi in the Stackexchange HNQ

// @include /^https?:\/\/(.*\.)?stackoverflow\.com/.*$/
// @include /^https?:\/\/(.*\.)?serverfault\.com/.*$/
// @include /^https?:\/\/(.*\.)?superuser\.com/.*$/
// @include /^https?:\/\/(.*\.)?stackexchange\.com/.*$/
// @include /^https?:\/\/(.*\.)?askubuntu\.com/.*$/
// @include /^https?:\/\/(.*\.)?mathoverflow\.com/.*$/
// @include /^https?:\/\/discuss\.area51\.stackexchange\.com/.*$/
// @include /^https?:\/\/stackapps\.com/.*$/

// @require     https://code.jquery.com/jquery-latest.min.js
// @version     1
// @grant       none
// ==/UserScript==
$('#hot-network-questions ul li div.favicon-scifi').parent().hide();

(This one hides SFF questions from the HNQ; to hide M&TV questions, replace favicon-scifi by favicon-movies, or whatever other site you want not to see.)

  • 1
    Could someone please add a link to a "how to use userscripts" tutorial? Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 21:17
  • @OgrePsalm33 Someone, probably. Me, no - I don't even know what a userscript is or how to use one. I'll ask around. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 21:33
  • @Randalthor So far, your answer is one of the few suggestions I've seen that seems like anything will come of it in the near future--Sadly, if only because it's something actually within my control (the other good answer I saw was a Chrome plugin to block spoilers). Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 21:58

That seems like a lot of work for something that still won't solve your problem. To summarize:

  • Spoilerific sites already have (and follow) rules about no spoilers in titles, which is all you see on the HNQ.

  • Spoilerific sites already have (and follow) rules about using spoiler markup in post bodies.

  • You're asking for manual use of a meta tag (against SE norms, additional work) to block the question from HNQ entirely (overkill) lest you bypass the spoiler warning and look anyway (avoidable). If we need to do anything, there's a better way than what you propose.

Right now you're asking everybody to forgo questions that would otherwise be shared because of a concern about spoilers in some of them that can be avoided by not clicking (or hovering, if you do click). Shouldn't these sites, and the authors of their hot questions, have the same opportunity for network-wide exposure that others have?

Further, it wouldn't solve your problem. Meta-tags like this are discouraged across the network, so getting users to do it here for reasons external to their site is going to be an uphill battle. Instead, these sites rightly focus on things that matter to them. Manual, extrinsic meta-methods don't work.

If we decide that entirely blocking questions with spoilers is desirable, we don't need to push sites to do meta-tagging. The system could automatically filter from the HNQ any question that contains a spoiler block. That at least would be an automatic method; it relies on people using those spoiler blocks, but sites that care about spoilers are already enforcing that. I believe the HNQ already filters out questions containing certain words in their titles, so maybe adding this check is feasible.

Barring that, I recommend that you not click those questions, or that you use a userscript to filter your own HNQ list. Three days after The Last Jedi came out, what are the odds that an HNQ about it didn't contain spoilers, after all?


  • 9
    What about spoilers in the titles of those questions? It still happens and is what prompted me to post this question. The title may eventually get edited, meanwhile the damage is done (it's not the worst thing in the world but it's annoying). I like the hot questions sidebar so I'm not going to turn it off any time soon, but I don't think it's too much to ask for users to be careful how they post their questions. I posted this question a long time ago but it still gets attention, meaning the situation is far from ideal and I'm not the only one (it has several duplicates on the meta network).
    – Nobilis
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 7:35
  • 3
    @Nobilis ah, that wasn't clear to me from your question. Spoilers in question titles are either thoughtless or mean, and those sites already have rules about not doing that. Do you think that people who won't follow those rules would follow a different rule designed to keep those questions out of HNQ? Users should definitely be careful about how they post their questions, but not just for an HNQ filter -- they should do it for the people on their site too. Commented May 28, 2015 at 12:40
  • 2
    While I agree with this in principle, in practice it's pumping godawfully meaningless titles ("How did this army get here?", true story) into the HNQ list that are vigorously defended against any edits to increase their specificity. A technical solution is probably required here.
    – jscs
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 18:32
  • @JoshCaswell a technical solution that would be much more reasonable than "block everything from those sites" or "expect everybody to use meta tags even though we otherwise say not to" would be to prevent posts with spoiler blocks in their bodies from getting to HNQ. But that specific question contains no spoiler blocks either. Whether it should (I don't follow that show) I don't know, but that might be a better avenue. The OP's request here for magic tags that people are supposed to just use, that don't make sense on their own sites, isn't going to fly. Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 19:41
  • I agree, the original proposal is unworkable. Not adding questions with spoiler markup to the list seems like a good, straightforward idea.
    – jscs
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 19:57
  • @MonicaCellio The problem is that, at least on Movies.SE, spoiler blocks in the question body aren't mandatory at all (and downright discouraged if overused). The only thing required is a spoiler-free title, which...already solves the probem anyway. Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 18:17
  • @ChristianRau yeah, I think at some point the burden has to be on the person who decided to click through in the first place to deal with the possibility of spoilers. I assumed that the spoiler markup was created to support cases like this; if people aren't using it then HNQ obviously can't react to it. Maybe people would use it more if it affected HNQ; I don't know. In any case, dropping whole sites from HNQ because of concerns about spoilers not in the titles is overkill. Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 18:36
  • Blocking questions that contain spoiler markup isn't a solution to the problem here, which is people seeing the titles in HNQ lists. If people click on a question about X when they don't want to hear spoilers about X, it's their problem. It might be useful to abuse this feature to insert >! No HNQ in a question, but for that a [no-hnq] (or [spoilers-in-title]) tag would work just as well. Commented May 10, 2018 at 22:21
  • 2
    @Gilles SciFi and M&TV require titles to be spoiler-free already. If somebody violates that rule, they're sure not going to add a special tag to the question to mitigate it -- they're unaware of the rules or they don't care, but they're unlikely to know/follow one rule and not the other. More broadly, there are reasons other than spoilers for a site to want to keep a question off of HNQ; we get this on Workplace all the time. I know there are meta request somewhere for tooling to exclude a question. Commented May 10, 2018 at 22:29
  • @MonicaCellio AFAIR there's currently an indirect way to exclude questions from HNQ (at least, I think it's been implemented, even though I can't find a status-completed thread on MSE). 1. Write a lot of math in posts in your site. 2. Get MathJax on your site. 3. Put ${}$ in the title of a question and voilà, the question isn't eligible for HNQ. Commented May 10, 2018 at 22:43
  • @Gilles interesting. I doubt that sites without MathJax can get it just for HNQ-dodging, but for sites that already have it... (I once asked about excluding questions from HNQ and Shog said "close 'em", but many such questions should actually stay open.) Commented May 11, 2018 at 2:35
  • @MonicaCellio "SciFi and M&TV require titles to be spoiler-free already" - This is a half-truth at best. They have multiple contradictory Meta posts on what their spoiler policy should be, many of which explicitly endorse spoilers in titles, and in practice they do indeed frequently have spoilers in titles and even reject edits that seek to remove them, as Josh has already noted.
    – Mark Amery
    Commented May 13, 2019 at 8:50
  • @MarkAmery huh, didn't know that. I'm going by what their moderators have told me directly. I'm not active on either site, but I do see discussions around editing titles (and pushback about edits nerfing them, yet the edits seem to stand from the sample I've seen). It sounds like they have a rule that isn't always followed, which is exactly what would happen if that rule were instead "use a magic meta tag". (More likely with the tag, IMO, because that's counter to tagging norms across the network.) Commented May 13, 2019 at 15:10
  • @MarkAmery I just noticed that the question you linked is from 2011. I went to their help, which sent me to their FAQ, which sent me to this. That it's highly voted and has the faq tag suggests to me that it's the policy they aspire to. First line in the questions section: "Avoid spoilers completely in the title." Commented May 13, 2019 at 15:13

Considering the sheer amount of things one can be spoiled by that doesn't seem like an issue that should be solved by the Stack Exchange network. There's at least the dimensions of what and when, possibly where.

Just consider this example:

Bob, like many others doesn't like to get spoilers about Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, the Marvel stuff and for some reason Suits. On the other hand he couldn't care less about Breaking Bad and everything from DC on TV and cinema but loves the graphic novels regarding the latter (and uses that knowledge to avidly answer DC stuff).

Also Bob doesn't live in the US, so any given TV-series or movie reaches him from a few weeks earlier to six months later compared to the US release date.

To make Bob happy all those factors had to be considered. And that's just Bob. One could also easily image people only caring about spoilers regarding character deaths or hookups but not caring about the more general events.

Summarizing, the configuration variables are too many.

Thus, that doesn't seem like anything SE should tackle. However there are fantastic browser addons out there which tackle exactly that sort of thing. For example unspoiler me, which allows you to configure the stuff you don't want to be spoilered about yourself. And it works on any site, not just Stack Exchange.

  • 5
    "Thus, that doesn't seem like anything SE should tackle." ...except for the fact that SE themselves created the problem by having popular media Q&A sites, and linking popular questions in those on the side bar--which almost invite spoilers merely by their existence in the network. Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 22:02
  • 1
    @OgrePsalm33 that has nothing to do with the proper place to solve that dilemma. As I describe it's way too different what people feel spoiled by and there are available solutions out there...
    – Helmar
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 19:51

Another option could be to hide questions with tags that a user has added to their ignored tags from appearing in the HNQ list for that user. So if I know I haven't seen a movie yet, and I don't want to see spoilers for it (but I'm fine with still seeing questions for other movies or other questions from that Stack site), I would add that movie to my ignored tags, and wouldn't have to worry about spoilers. Then once I see the movie and am not worried about spoilers anymore, I can remove the tag from the ignored tags list.

This way, each user can specify what they don't want to see. It wouldn't just be useful for spoilers, either. For example, it would keep questions for programming languages I'm not interested in on SO from appearing in my HNQ, and leave room for other, slightly less hot questions that I might personally be more interested in.

EDIT: As pointed out in a couple of the comments, right now tags are created and tracked on a site-by-site basis (which I didn't fully understand when I first posted this answer). My suggestion really would work best if (at least some) tags are global between all stack sites, which I could see being a non-starter in a lot of people's minds. Still, I think it's a valid suggestion that could work (albeit with a lot of effort), so I'll leave this here.

  • 1
    Yeah, that sounds reasonable, it would be nice if the criteria for inclusion in the hot network questions list had some measure of customisation.
    – Nobilis
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 17:11
  • 1
    Won't help. Why would I ignore the tag "game-of-thrones" when I don't even frequent any of the media related sites? Furthermore, I couldn't since most technical sites won't even have it.
    – Helmar
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 19:53
  • @Helmar: It takes like 5 seconds to link to a new SE site if you are already on any of them, and another 10 seconds to add an ignore tag. Fifteen seconds of my time to avoid getting spoilers is entirely worth it to me, and I'd assume a lot of people would agree. And what do you mean by "most technical sites won't even have it"? Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 20:54
  • @GeneralMike potentially times 140
    – Helmar
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 20:57
  • @Helmar: realistically times 3 Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 20:59
  • Three is not nearly enough. Physics has no Game of Thrones tag and three question of which two are very spoilery. Now think of English (GoT:44), Worldbuilding (GoT:31), Astronomy, Space Exploration, Chemistry (Breaking Bad:18), Cooking, Arts & Crafts, all other language sites which could have questions on your favorite show/movie/game.
    – Helmar
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 21:12
  • Tags just don't work. Tagging is firstly site specific and secondly often only done half-heartedly.
    – Helmar
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 21:13
  • @Helmar: Tags are a big part of what makes SE sites work. A good number of edits are just to the tags of a question, and there's almost always a tag question in the Hot Meta Questions for each site (or at least the sites I'm on frequently). Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 21:27
  • They work, just not for what you're suggesting.
    – Helmar
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 8:46
  • @Helmar: We obviously have different opinions on that, but this doesn't seem to be going anywhere, so I guess I'll just leave it at that. Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 15:04
  • That can't work for several reasons. Users who don't want to get spoiled might not even have an account on the site with the spoilerly titled question. And the HNQ list is not customized per user anyway (though you could do that client-side, if the HNQ list included tag information). Commented May 10, 2018 at 22:24
  • @Gilles: I pretty sure "that's not how this works right now" could be a comment on any of the suggestions here. We know there is nothing to do this right now. We are making suggestions for things that could be changed. Commented May 11, 2018 at 13:25

Building on Jorn's suggestion, what about allowing sites to manually opt-out of the Hot Network Questions list?

Over on Science Fiction & Fantasy, there has been some discussion about willingly opting out of the HNQ list. It's clear that many communities considers spoilers to be an important issue (1,2,3,4).

Allowing each site to willingly decide whether they want to participate seems like a simple, low effort way of alleviating the problem.

While it's not a perfect solution by any means, if a site's community willingly asks to opt out of HNQ, I see no reason not to provide them the option.

If successful, this feature could later be expanded to give moderators the ability to hide either specific questions or tags from spoiler-heavy series, rather than opting out the entire site.

(For example: Temporarily hiding Game of Thrones questions while the season finale is airing)

  • I trust the moderators of those sites to make the right decisions. So yeah, I'm fine with this option.
    – Jorn
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 16:44
  • 5
    I'm pretty sure that M&TV would not opt out. HNQs are problematic but they're also a really nice way of saying "hey, look over here! This site exists!"
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 22:21
  • 1
    please let Puzzling opt out. Or let me opt it out.
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 17:56

To start with, functionality that could allow this already exists and is proven to work: questions having titles containing words like "incest" etc are blocked by the system from getting to HNQ.

If the list of such stop-words is expanded with "(spoiler)" this would allow users with edit privileges easily and quickly drop the troublesome questions from the hot list by adding it to the title.

At the sites that have (as pointed in another answer) a policy to edit spoilers out of the titles this would additionally serve as an indicator for concerned editors that title needs to be improved.

As a side note, while immediately editing a question to make a proper spoiler-free title may look like a better approach at a first glance, in the context of proposed feature it really isn't. If you think of it, making real, substantial improvements to titles is time and effort consuming while dropping from HNQ is typically about quick simple actions.

In that sense, adding "(spoiler)" to the title can be considered as sort of pragmatic intermediate step that relieves site regulars from need to hastily work on needed editing only to serve an irrelevant network-wide feature (hot questions) and allows them to focus on difficult part of this work without urgency.

It is interesting to observe how similar approach works at Math.SE, where they also have a policy and running effort to improve uninformative titles and in the same time use quick simple edits that inject MathJax into title with the purpose of dropping the question from HNQ (example).

  • Yeah...no, not gonna happen. If anyone would do something as usueless as putting the word "spoiler" into a question title, I'll go to great lengths for correcting such weirdness. Commented May 11, 2018 at 17:17
  • @ChristianRau funny... you do nothing to violations of no-spoiler policy mentioned in your answer I referred but gotta do useless rollbacks of the title that helps editors to find questions in the need to made compliant with that policy. I am not active at the no-spoiler sites you mentioned but guess what, I think it would be better if you put that great lengths energy into adjusting these titles to comply with the site policy (which would naturally involve removal of spoiler marker, as a side effect)
    – gnat
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 19:02
  • And that's exactly what's being done. No need for useless meta appendages to titles. Commented May 11, 2018 at 19:02
  • @ChristianRau about dozen questions I see in HNQ side bar right now (and many others that permanently hang in there) suggest that your statement about something being done are not quite what's happening. For the sake of precision I sometimes observe "de-spoilering" edits in HNQ but this is really rare. (ask yourself a question what could be the reason why this request has just got a new bounty, and how do I know that Thanos wants to kill half people at each planet)
    – gnat
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 19:04
  • The reason is the normal internet paranoia that regards all kinds of useless info a "spoiler". But on SE we can really only cater to the reasonable part of the internet, albeit that being the smaller part. And you know this info because, well, it's stated in the very first 5 minutes of the film. Commented May 11, 2018 at 19:15
  • by not addressing the part of my comment that says about spoilers permanently getting to HNQ (and in the same time demonstrating violation of respective sites policies) you essentially confirm that the problem is for real. The rest is luckily not to you to decide. Given how easy it is technically to include that additional word into HNQ stop list I won't be surprised if SE team makes this and lets folks at affected sites handle the consequences (not that I really care if they do this or not, I am personally not bothered by spoilers at all)
    – gnat
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 20:13

I'm assuming the HNQ is generated completely automatically, without anyone ever having to review questions. One option might be to make it so that a moderator or a set number of high rep users need to approve sending a question to HNQ. It could probably be tied into the review queues that SE already has. That way, the chances of a user familiar with the "No spoilers in titles" rules editing the title to remove spoilers increases significantly. Additionally, I've noticed that every once in a while a pretty bad question ends up in HNQ (for any one of a variety of reasons completely separate from spoilers), and a review queue could keep those questions out as well. Of course, the downside is it is a lot more work for mods and reviewers to do. Also, as noted in the comments, this just increases the exposure to spoilers for the mods and reviewers.


Introduce Inline Spoiler Markdown, Make Available in Titles

Currently, in question and answer text, we can add spoiler markdown to hide text until the user mouses over the spoiler text with >!, e.g.

>! This is how you create a spoiler currently.

This is how you create a spoiler currently.

It creates a block through to the end of the line, which wouldn't be suitable for a title, where only a specific inline segment would need to be hidden.

How about adding a new feature: inline spoilers, available wherever you can add a normal spoiler and also in question titles? Inline spoiler text would be in between >! and !<. (Other reasonable delimiters would be fine.)


Why did Darth Vader tell Luke >! sooper-sekrit plot reveal here! !< in Star Wars ESB?

Then, anywhere a question title is rendered -- in a questions list, tagged questions list, hot network questions, etc. -- the spoiler rendering would become effective. Perhaps it would look something like this:

Why would Darth Vader tell Luke in Star Wars ESB?

The spoiler section would be inline instead of a block that takes up an entire line.

This way, if a question that contains a spoiler in its title appears on the Hot Questions list, the spoiler is not initially rendered, but any user can mouseover the spoiler to reveal the contents at their discretion.

Users posting a question with a spoiler should know to use spoiler markdown already; they would simply use this new feature in the title of their question also. It would be easily edited into an existing question title when needed.

No filtering of the Hot Questions list would be necessary; they could still be displayed, with spoilers hidden.

  • That seems like a nice idea but they you first need to remove the [status-declined] from this feature request: Can we get Markdown support in questions' title field?
    – rene
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 19:53
  • 1
    And that status-declined is there for very good reasons.
    – Helmar
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 19:57
  • @rene I don't think I'd allow all markdown in titles; I would allow just the spoiler markdown. After all, IIRC one can use MathJax in question titles in Mathematics.
    – rgettman
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 19:57
  • This doesn't seem to make sense when the titles are already supposed to not contain any spoilers to begin with. Where there's no spoilers you don't need spoiler markup. I repeat, a question with a spoiler in its title is forbidden and supposed to be corrected accordingly. So when "correcting" these titles to add whatever weird spoiler markup, you can as well simply remove the spoiler altogether. This proposed feature doesn't change anything in the fact that people have to actively use that feature. But If they would do so, they would already abide by the existing rules anyway. Commented May 10, 2018 at 20:24

The biggest problem here is that many titles are effectively clickbait. You see the interesting title (that may have no spoiler in it) and off you go looking to see what its about, and whoops - there's a huge spoiler.

I clicked this one today

Why was Spider-Man the only person to feel any physical sensation from this event in Infinity War?

Why was... don't go there if you've not seen the current Avengers movie, really.

The post itself is good, spoiler tags hiding the relevant bits. But what I think would make sense is just to add a 'spoiler' tag that can be added to posts with spoilers (manually is fine - people put spoilers in the text, they'd be responsible enough to add the tag), and then to exclude all posts with this tag from the hot network question lists.

Simple? Easy? Effective. If you wanted to modify it, you could allow spoiler posts back on, if it was older than a year - but I guess by then it won't be showing up on the HNQ list anyway.

  • 4
    Meta tags are bad. No site is going to do that. A huge percentage of all of the questions on M&TV contain some sort of spoiler. It's already been discussed on M&TV meta and decided it was bad: Would a spoiler tag be a good idea?
    – Catija
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 18:06
  • 3
    And what on earth would make you click a title that literally mentions the words "Infinity" and "War" when you're afraid of spoilers for a movie called Avengers: Infinity War? We can't protect people from their own curiosity. Commented May 10, 2018 at 20:35
  • @ChristianRau it was just an example (personally I don't much care for superhero movies, but the question made me curious). And yes, you can help protect people from their own curiosity.
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 20:46

This has been a problem for several years now, and it doesn't look like we're closer to a solution. So:

Let's ban at least Movies, Scifi and Arqade from the HNQ sidebar

Feel free to suggest other sites too.

While it has some negative effect on exchanging traffic between network sites, I think the spoiler issue on completely unrelated sites is worse.

Some other solutions have been discussed, here is why they don't work:

  • Have a 'rule' that disallows spoilers in question titles: Won't work because there will always be (new) users who will (probably unintentionally) break it, and people will be spoiled before the question can be edited.
  • Have a mandatory spoiler tag: We don't like this type of meta tag that doesn't actually describe a question. Previous argument also applies, users will unknowingly forget to apply the tag.
  • Install an external script or plugin to block the HNQ bar: More of a workaround than a solution, and moves the problem to the user while the source should be fixed.
  • Has a spoiler-ish question from Arqade ever shown up in the HNQ? Questions on Arqade generally tend to be technical or gameplay-related.
    – Stevoisiak
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 15:34
  • I added it because it's in the question. I would personally be fine with just banning the other two. But for now I'd like to focus more on the solution itself than on which sites should fall under it.
    – Jorn
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 15:37
  • If specific sites were to be banned from Hot Network Questions, I think it's important to focus on the impacted sites. As an active member of Arqade who discovered the site via HNQ, I know I would want to have a discussion first.
    – Stevoisiak
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 15:42
  • 3
    To clarify, I'm not opposed to letting sites opt-out of the HNQ list. In fact, there's a feature-request on Sci-Fi to willingly remove themselves from the list. I just think this decision would need to be made on a site-by-site basis.
    – Stevoisiak
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 15:48
  • 4
    A more moderate approach might be to only put questions in HNQ if they were asked by people with 10,000+ reputation, the expectation being that they know better than to put spoilers in a title by that time.
    – VGR
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 16:11
  • 2
    @VGR Maybe 10,000 is a bit extreme, but that's an interesting idea for the HNQ problem in general really. Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 17:06

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