One of the contentious issues on today's Stack Exchange is the Hot Network Questions sidebar, which can drive a lot of traffic to junk-food questions that can be very poor fits to the sites that host them (and, because of that, it can land a ton of rep on askers and answerers that by normal site standards should not get any at all).
Unfortunately, it is very hard to audit what does and does not get on this list, which makes it very hard to gauge the impact it has on a given site. A previous question asks how to get information on this via the data explorer, and it seems this is not possible.
So, I have a feature request: please make the Hot Network Questions list auditable from within the Stack Exchange Data Explorer.
What I have in mind is a new table which contains:
- the question id
- the date and time the question got on the list
- the date and time the question got off the list
- if feasible, the number of views driven to the question via the sidebar
- if feasible, the per-site breakdown of those referrals
- if that's not feasible, maybe a breakdown per category as separated on the main SE list, or just
- a per-site breakdown only for sites within the same category as the hosting site
A table like this would go a long way to help understand the effects of the sidebar. For example, it would enable queries to dig out
- HNQs that were closed after their time on the spotlight, or
- that were heavily downvoted, possibly
- preferentially by users with 200+ rep on the host site.
These give a better idea of what sorts of questions cause tensions within the site, which can help suggest ways to minimize those tensions, as well as provide a more accurate picture of the extent to which it is a problem.
A table like this would also provide of information on how the sidebar can help a site, including
- users whose first answer is on a HNQ that go on to become established users, and the questions that capture them
- good answers (as e.g. with a high score accumulated after the spotlight goes away) posted during the spotlight period, and the questions that sparked them.
A lot of the good that the HNQ does to a site is much harder to measure (as it is mostly in the form of traffic, what it does after landing, and whether those users return later or not) but a simple table like this provides a fair amount of insight.
I am aware that any addition to the SEDE needs to be thought about carefully, and there is always a development cost, but this one looks rather simple to me. It rides on logging that is (hopefully) already done, and which otherwise should pose a very small performance hit, and the rest of the processing can be done offline. The table itself should be pretty light (particularly if it only contains on and off dates), and it represents a small subset of questions to begin with. If nothing else, can the dev team comment on how feasible this is?