This question was posted a few hours ago on worldbuilding. Its status on the hot list seems to depend on whether the word "incest" is typed in full, or starred out (like this: "inc*st").

Upon observing this, we assumed that it has now been blocked on the hot list and we'd like to know why, since:

  1. it's a term, not necessarily replaceable without losing meaning
  2. it is not profanity
  3. the question is legitimate and on-topic
  4. if it was blocked to punish click-baiting, it contradicts the treatment of arqade questions.

Preventing the use a technical term may cause issues in legitimate questions, like the one linked. Regardless of whether this was a punishment for a provocative title, it is a double standard and not in agreement with the culture of stackexchange as a whole - thus, it is a punishment for rules that the poster was not aware of.

It would seem that there is a degree of cultural sensitivity that can be offended by question titles. If this was done to prevent such offense, why was this solution chosen instead of allowing users to pick what sites to include or exclude from the hot questions list, as it appears to them?

  • 2
    censorship :)
    – gnat
    Oct 14, 2014 at 15:36
  • 6
    @gnat Incest is not a swearword though.
    – Tim B
    Oct 14, 2014 at 15:38
  • 1
    My first thought is that the title is provocative and risks offending some people therefore it's been reduced in site visibility as a result.
    – Tim B
    Oct 14, 2014 at 15:46
  • 2
    Letting users pick which sites to include, while nice, wouldn't work for the majority of people who visit our sites anonymously.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Oct 14, 2014 at 16:32
  • @AnnaLear true but perhaps the opposite solution would work best: block questions for anonymous users but allow logged-in users to decide, with either everything unblocked by default or having the auto-blocking list active by default, allowing users to fine-tune later. It seems to me that would be the best of both worlds.
    – mechalynx
    Oct 14, 2014 at 16:41
  • @ivy_lynx I don't think it's worth putting the effort into it to get it done completely right (let people know when new sites are launched, etc). I can see how it could be confusing, but even a subject line warning just isn't a concern for the vast majority of questions since they won't come close to making the list in the first place.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Oct 14, 2014 at 16:43
  • 1
    Technical as it may be, I've never heard a breeder use the term "incest". Seen plenty of folks who aren't familiar with animal husbandry use it, to the general amusement of those they're speaking to.
    – Shog9
    Oct 14, 2014 at 17:18
  • @Shog9 The question wasn't focused specifically on animal husbandry however - the stronger focus is on inbreeding between individuals of an intelligent species. The OP already mentions inbreeding amongst animals and that we perform it, but it was not the main focus, hence the terminology used.
    – mechalynx
    Oct 14, 2014 at 17:22
  • I'm not disputing the nature of the question - I'm disputing your characterization of "incest" as a technical term, @ivy_lynx. I'm fairly certain it is a much narrower term, used to refer specifically to social taboos - I've never encountered it used professionally outside of that scope.
    – Shog9
    Oct 14, 2014 at 17:33
  • 3
    Actually, the term comes up legitimately and technically on Mi Yodeya, in questions about the laws of forbidden marriages. A search there will reveal several, though (so far) none in titles. It's possible that this could come up on other religion sites too (and maybe History). Oct 14, 2014 at 17:58
  • @Shog9 you're probably right on that and although I have heard it used non-casually, my point was simply that it defines something specific and can't be replaced with another word, without losing accuracy (even "inbreeding" doesn't specify the exact same thing and even if it did, I'd assume offense would be the same, if any). Since it refers to something without necessarily implying that the user approves or disapproves, I'll change "technical term" to "specific term that cannot always be replaced without losing meaning".
    – mechalynx
    Oct 14, 2014 at 18:05
  • New title is all around better: more descriptive, less "click-bait"
    – Shog9
    Oct 15, 2014 at 14:24

1 Answer 1


The hot list is shown to visitors of all sites, including many who may not be familiar with other sites topics, etc.

Questions containing terms which may be entirely on-topic for a given site, but which are potentially traumatic or risk meaningful distraction to others are blocked.

The list is very short, entirely discretionary, and updated based on what we actually observe to be a problem.

And "censorship," while technically accurate, seems a bit aggressive here. If the New York Times runs my article in their paper, but doesn't put it on the front page above the fold, I probably wouldn't describe it as "censorship".

  • 2
    Fair enough, I've changed "censored" to "blocked" in the OP as others brought this up as well. My discomfort was connected to the abruptness of what happened, as I've seen plenty of equally provocative questions on the hot list (hence my reference to "double standards") and never expected this. While stackexchange is of course entitled to its own policies, perhaps some warning, such as stating that "Your question uses words that may be prevent it from appearing on the hot questions list" if one of those already established words is present in the title, would help prevent surprises.
    – mechalynx
    Oct 14, 2014 at 16:37
  • 10
    @ivy_lynx Most questions never appear in the hot questions list though :)
    – Tim B
    Oct 14, 2014 at 16:43
  • @Jaydles, I have changed the title so it provides more context and doesn't directly imply intelligent species. Tell me if this is an acceptable title.
    – overactor
    Oct 14, 2014 at 17:37
  • @overactor, yeah, that very likely would have preemptively sidestepped the issue.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 14, 2014 at 17:39
  • @ivy_lynx, appreciate the edit. There's not much point in telling an asker what's blocked given how incredibly short this list is currently, but I agree with your point - if it were more broadly relevant, that would probably make some sense.
    – Jaydles
    Oct 14, 2014 at 17:40
  • 6
    You're saying the word incest is so traumatic or distracting that it should be treated like profanity?
    – Drew
    Oct 14, 2014 at 20:55
  • 6
    @Drew It's not blocked, censored, etc. But because of the nature of the subject, it's simply not promoted/highlighted/recommended. The hot network questions list is a recommendation engine, and like food, it has to have a certain amount of blandness so that few find it annoying, distasteful, or offensive, and most find it useful enough. Those questions that approach sensitive topics will still have a place on their own site, but they don't have a right to be considered on the same level playing field as questions that are more universal and less sensitive for a network wide recommendation.
    – Pollyanna
    Nov 24, 2015 at 14:49
  • 1
    Thank you for this answer. Can you chime in on this meta ELU? english.meta.stackexchange.com/q/10775/50044
    – NVZ
    Sep 18, 2017 at 5:05
  • Encouraging words like incest to keep themselves off titles strikes me as one step away from treating, say, hooch or robbery the same way. When did discussing a word become an encouragement to try it out, Brother? Sep 19, 2017 at 14:39
  • I thought "sexual" titles are blocked from HNQ but this question somehow got in there. Wonder if this is by design or IPS questions don't block like that (are these expected to somehow avoid train wrecks like that at ELU)
    – gnat
    Nov 23, 2017 at 5:14
  • 1
    I'm curious to hear your opinion about excluding whole site from the HNQ sidebar based on a single tweet. Oct 17, 2018 at 11:18

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