Shog explained in this question about hot list:

SO questions are penalized... if your goal is to get more SO questions into the list, you have a bit of a hump to climb.

How is this achieved?

Or, to be more precise, is it technically possible to set up similar "penalty" for some other site? If yes, what is needed in order to beg ask for similar protection penalty to be established for a particular site?

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    like "if more than x questions of this site appeared in the hot list in the last y days then add penalty"? Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 12:59
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    @ratchetfreak hard to tell, it seems to be secret. I for one imagine 10,000 little gnomes carefully counting SO questions and pushing these into the list or pulling out of it. Shog only knows
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 13:01
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    I would assume the views necessary to reach the hot list are proportional to the number of people on SO. Also, it seems the hot list keeps the most active posts of several different networks (English, PCG, Aviation, Money, workspace…) that SE wants to see grow. Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 13:16
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    To add to what @ArlaudPierre says, it's a conspiracy.
    – devnull
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:39
  • @devnull wow, little gnomes are involved in conspiracy, I didn't know that. This explains a lot...
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:42
  • @gnat Conspiracy because the super secret algorithm seems to depend on the number of active folks on a site and hits to a question to determine the hotness factor! So a question on a not-to-busy site with less than a 100 views would start to feature as Hot (really, really hot) but one on SO wouldn't. Additionally, it seems to take into account the number of views in a given time duration.
    – devnull
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:47
  • @devnull Just take your opinion and shove it up your nickname. Just kidding. Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:49
  • @ArlaudPierre A word of advice. Never argue with bots.
    – devnull
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:50
  • Back to the topic, do we know if there is a threshold of some kind? Like, if we have a network with 2 members (yay!) and 1 topic, if this topic is visited by both users, it would have to be in the hot questions. So we need to decide which networks are big enough to be on the list? Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 14:55
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    An alternate method to try is to use an adaptive per-site penalty. The penalty for each site starts out at zero. Each time a new question from site X reaches the hot list, you increment the penalty for that site. The penalties for each site decay over time. Obviously there's a lot of parameters to tweak. But it might just work.
    – Mysticial
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 17:56
  • @PierreArlaud they eventually shared detailed explanation of "penalty" here (I'm a bit disappointed to see that they don't use gnomes but oh well)
    – gnat
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 21:41

2 Answers 2


This isn't the kind of thing you could easily exploit to keep a site from appearing in the hot questions list too often. This is designed to ensure that a single site doesn't dominate the list, and that users see a good sampling of questions that are likely to interest them throughout the network.

I want to make something perfectly clear (speaking to the stuff you striked) ...

If you're a Stack Exchange site, getting on this magic carpet ride is something that is most decidedly good.

Yes, I know that sometimes being on the list causes:

  • Low quality / joke answers
  • Exaggerated voting
  • Excessive discussion in comments


Getting someone to find your site and then do something meaningful once there is an extraordinarily difficult thing to accomplish. You might not see it that way because you use our sites every day and have for quite a while, but steering new, productive people into established communities is hard. We spent an enormous investment in developer time to come up with systems that help us identify where we lose people, where we win people, and where we sort of flip-flop.

It's actually better than Hacker News or Reddit, because the people arriving are more likely to know how things work and make fewer messes.

If you get five, or ten contributors that stick around and actually do the sorts of things that you want them to do once the party bus leaves, even if they only do it two or three times, you win, even at the cost of 20 or 30 flags.

While I am working on the idea of a two-key system that moderators could use to eject a very limited number of questions from that list once certain criteria has been met, this isn't the magic shield you're looking for :)

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    Or it could be out of frustration of seeing sites like code golf and workplace take up 10-20% of the hot list. Before them, it was English and Math. In terms of looking for random interesting topics around the network, it sucks to find limited variety because a couple of sites come along that have an environment which makes it easy for their questions to stick to the hot list. I'm not sure excluding specific sites works either, because some new site will eventually come along that does the same thing.
    – Troyen
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 9:33
  • @Troyen you might be interested in this feature request: Make hot questions with multiple answers age away faster on smaller / subjective-ish sites, as it is intended to introduce some self-correction to make it less sticky
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 24, 2014 at 11:17
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    Hey Tim, I absolutely agree that if we got five or ten contributors that stick around and contribute to community moderation we win. From my admittedly limited analysis, this doesn't seem to be happening right now for The Workplace at any rate. If the SE team has better metrics, it would be absolutely awesome if we could have those shared with us, as my methods are crude (but the best I have access to).
    – jmac
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 23:48

As explained in the formula:

We make a per-site traffic adjustment so SO does not dominate the entire list

So, as I said in the comments, the score is multiplied by a factor, that is dependent to the traffic (number of people coming every day) of each network.

It's merely a quick mathematical tweak.

  • thanks! this seems to solve first part of the question. Now, what is needed in order to ask for similar adjustment to be established for a particular site? (I guess this has to wait for someone from SE team to answer... or maybe it was already been asked and answered elsewhere, I just couldn't find it)
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 15:23
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    Get more (or less) traffic to the site? That would be what determines the "per-site traffic adjustment", wouldn't it? Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 15:31
  • Exactly, if you know the daily visits for each network, it's relatively easy to adjust. Commented Mar 21, 2014 at 15:34

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