I love Hot Network Questions. I really do. But I've got a little gripe, that's been itching at the back of my head for a while.
Hot Network Questions is great at exposing a new site, and introducing popular questions from those sites to a broader environment. It's a form of populism-by-exposure that picks up interesting questions and flings them in front of everyone's eyes. That can be good for a site. Hot Network Questions makes people aware of niches for expertise that they might not have otherwise seen, and draws people to sites with an area of interest that, perhaps, they're either curious about, or actively pursue a hobby or passion in.
But Hot Network Questions has a serious problem: Hot Network Questions are not a representative sample of any site's content. However, because of the way they're presented, wanderers-from-elsewhere are going to see it that way. When people see something on Hot Network Questions, there's nothing in the design to discourage them from viewing it as a representative question. As a result, HNQ visitors get a skewed impression of most sites.
The truth is, I'm not sure how to fix it. There needs to be something in the UX of Hot Network Questions, either structurally or as a design goal, that either brings the users' perceptions in line with the reality of HNQ, or communicates that what ends up on HNQ is not a representative sample and doesn't really show what the site is about.
I'm open to any ideas. I'll be thinking about this, too, and I'll post an answer if I have a good one.