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I've seen this a few times in the past few months, where questions that are blatantly off topic are still on the Hot Network Questions list. Great, it has more exposure, and people who are not familiar with the site's rules for what is a good or bad question for the site are voting up or down.

Having questions that are off topic can do one of two things to the site: either new visitors get the wrong idea about what the site is about, or they decide to open a Meta post to ask to change it.

What I propose is that when a question appears on the HNQ list, and there is a vote to close by a couple high-rep users on the parent site, the question is either temporarily removed, or the question is put on the top of the Close Vote queue for that site, to remove it from the list.

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    I think a single close vote is too easy to abuse. Maybe close votes should just factor (heavily) into the algorithm for determining the hotness score. (Moving the question to the top of the close queue sounds good also.) – Doorknob Jan 2 '16 at 0:21
  • ...or require two or three close votes instead of one to remove from the HNQ list. – bwDraco Jan 2 '16 at 0:21
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    @Doorknob冰 Edited the question. I understand your concern, and definitely agree about the abuse-potential. – Canadian Luke Jan 2 '16 at 0:22
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    Closely, closely related: At smaller sites, penalize hot questions having 3-4 close votes – Josh Caswell Jan 2 '16 at 0:29
  • Not sure who are referred to as high-rep users in this statement - there is a vote to close by a couple high-rep users on the parent site but that doesn't sound right because users with high reputation (say 5k+ or 10k+) need not be subject matter experts. I have seen situations where some users who had less activity on a tag wrongly vtc questions. If at all we need to bring in a user's rep into the equation then it should be the rep in that tag (the main tag in the question) or the tag badge score. – Harry Jan 2 '16 at 4:42
  • @Harry could be bypassed by using new tags or tags not many people have used yet – Canadian Luke Jan 2 '16 at 4:43
  • @CanadianLuke: Yes, but that still doesn't make the reputation check any better a choice. And, I don't think low rep users (below 1.5k?) can create new tags. – Harry Jan 2 '16 at 4:44
  • @Harry if we just bump the question to the top of the close queue, then high rep could be 3k users with the power to close. For removing right away, high rep could be whatever the mods or team decide. 5k? 10k? 15k? – Canadian Luke Jan 2 '16 at 4:46
  • That's where I have a disagreement. Who are we to say a 10k rep user has more knowledge or has correctly vtc'ed a question as compared to a 3k rep user? – Harry Jan 2 '16 at 4:50
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    If they are just starting to close questions properly at 10k, the site has bigger problems. If we can't trust 10k users with something as simple as closing, why do they get to see and vote on deleting posts? – Canadian Luke Jan 2 '16 at 4:51
  • @CanadianLuke: I am saying it already has. I have seen quite a few cases where users who don't have near enough activity in a given tag vote to close questions as broad etc (maybe because it didn't have code in question or maybe because it sounded broad to them). The problem is there already (but that's a different discussion altogether). All I am saying is that this criteria increases it further. And just to be clear, I like the idea of removing from HNQ based on close votes but just not the criteria. Maybe somebody (or you yourself) could come up with a better criteria. – Harry Jan 2 '16 at 4:54
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  • I find closed questions sometimes of the utmost interest, especially as they are short lived, it should be estimated how many of HNQ question generate how much traffic and how many would be affected. Otherwise this is at risk to render HNQ utterly useless or even close votes beeing abused to get question that steal your show of the sidebar (and potentially steal them). – HopefullyHelpful Feb 27 '17 at 16:05
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+750

I second the general suggestion.

To address the concerns of abuse raised in the comments on the question, I suggest the following criterion:

Do not list questions as hot network questions, if they are currently under review for closing and have two or more close votes.

This way, a single user with sufficient reputation cannot remove a question from the HNQs with a single close vote or flag. Also, if a non-closeworthy HNQ attracts more than one close vote due to the increased attention it receives, it can resume its status after being dequeued from the close queue.

This might still lead to some non-closeworthy questions being temporarily excluded from being an HNQ, but I think this is an acceptable damage. After all, there is no fundamental right on being eligible for HNQ.

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Something like this can be implemented with only minor modifications to existing system and with negligible performance overhead:

  1. Pick more than 100 "candidate" questions (150... 200... 300). Do it using current way, which is proven to work well and fast enough.

  2. Query the picked questions to find out whether some of them match the exclusion criteria - say, have 3 close votes from 10K users etc. This (and all subsequent ones) is constant time operation, since amount of "candidate" questions is fixed.

  3. Exclude questions that match the criteria (or scale their hotness score down if you prefer softer / more robust approach).

  4. Select top 100 "final" questions for the list from the cleaned candidates.

(Granted, there is chance that too many of the picked questions turn out inappropriate. But in (quite unlikely) case if that happens, this would rather make a food for thought, how come that over 2/3 selected questions are inappropriate, and is it the case that HNQ indeed do more harm than good, and could there be a way to pick less troublesome questions.)


Side note, they may tell you that you should downvote closeable questions to drop them off the list instead of requesting changes to the system. Just in case if they say so, keep in mind that this is nonsense. Jeff Atwood pointed long time ago that system just doesn't work that way:

it's too addictive and too easy, and in the absence of any moderation, the community would do nothing but add and upvote the easy, fun stuff. This is why community moderators have real power; they need that power to intervene, educate, and refocus the community's exuberance on more substantive content...

Votes down from those who care are easily outnumbered by upvotes from tens or even hundreds careless passers-by brought in from sidebar who just want to be entertained.


Per discussion in comments under the other answer, an adjustment worth considering is to remove not all the questions with close votes but only those that are currently under close review. This would be more fair because it would allow to account for opinions of those 3K users who are willing to keep question open (these users can drop the question off the review by casting Leave Open votes).

  • this was voted down, maybe by Stack Exchange developer who went in here to do a usual decline and discovered that their favorite performance justification has been dismissed beforehand. Sorry folks, you need to invent new decline reason for stuff like that :) – gnat Feb 12 '16 at 9:37
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    Also, due to the way the hotness formula is calculated, downvoting the question has relatively little effect. If you really want to push a question off HNQ, downvote all the answers instead. (Of course, you can still downvote the question too; it does have some effect, and costs you nothing.) – Ilmari Karonen Apr 19 '18 at 15:44
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I think this is a bad idea, because the presence of close votes does not mean something is off topic the same way that closing a question does.

For example,

On The Great Outdoors we currently have a question with 4 close votes. However, when it was sent to the review queue, all of the votes were to leave it open and before the comments were cleared, the comment disagreeing with closing had been upvoted 11 times.

There is also a meta post on the question now, and the votes on that all point to leaving it open.

In this case, removing it from the Hot Network Questions list because 4 users think its off topic instead of listening to the majority who think its on topic and vote to leave it open would not be fair.

If 4 close votes were enough to remove it from the list, then what I would do is vote to close, instantly edit and vote to reopen and then send up the bat signal asking other users to reopen. That seems like a lot of unnecessary work and users might get confused as to why their question suddenly dropped off the list.

For any problems it may cause, the Hot Network List helps increase the reputation of users and encourage participation, which in turn will help the site keep on track.

It seems to me that this is trying to solve a different question, off topic questions making onto the list but this isn't going to solve that.

Instead

  • Upvote good content so that there are more users who can vote to close.
  • Write meta posts clearly stating what is and what is not on topic.
  • Keep the site chat active so you can ask other users to vote to close off topic questions.

TLDR: Off topic questions getting onto the list isn't going to be solved by letting a minority of users determine what gets onto it.

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    "minority of users determine what gets onto it" -- this is in fact how system works now. When 5 users of this minority vote to close, the question gets off the list (closed questions are excluded from HNQ). Consider editing your post to clarify whether you want to change that or mean something different – gnat Apr 19 '18 at 10:07
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    @gnat But if closed other members can vote to reopen. What I meant is that if 4 vote to close and 15 choose to leave open, the system shouldn't let the 4 decide. – Charlie Brumbaugh Apr 19 '18 at 14:00
  • agree, that's a good point. Consider editing the answer to help readers see that difference – gnat Apr 19 '18 at 14:11
  • @gnat Edited to be more clear – Charlie Brumbaugh Apr 19 '18 at 14:57
  • if I understand your reasoning correctly, it would be more fair if questions with close votes were removed from HNQ while they are under review. I mean that this way votes to leave open would end the review and let question get back to hot list, so that 3K users willing keep it open could make a difference. Does that make sense? (this way would be somewhat similar to how regular 2K users currently can control hot questions at sites with enabled mathjax by editing it in and out of question titles) – gnat Apr 19 '18 at 21:16
  • @gnat No what I am saying is that if something is off topic and need to be closed to get it off the list, you need to find 4 other users to close it, either via meta post or asking in chat – Charlie Brumbaugh Apr 19 '18 at 22:08
  • no, sorry but to me this way would be even worse than what we have now by letting close-worthy questions hang in HNQ. I really dislike gang-voting like you suggest. I believe that closing should happen organically in order to keep sane site culture and quirks of irrelevant external network feature (HNQ) seem to be a very poor reason to bend that norm – gnat Apr 20 '18 at 6:10
  • @gnat You are wanting to ignore the votes of everyone who wants to leave it open and only count the close votes. And if there are few voters chat can be a great way to get more eyeballs on a problem – Charlie Brumbaugh Apr 20 '18 at 6:14
  • wonder if you have read my prior comment, "questions with close votes were removed from HNQ while they are under review. I mean that this way votes to leave open would end the review and let question get back to hot list, so that 3K users willing keep it open could make a difference" -- this is as far from ignoring leave open votes as it gets – gnat Apr 20 '18 at 6:16

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