Based only loosely on How are questions in the 'hot' tab selected?

Some people seem to enjoy landing with their posts on the frontpage, possibly influencing their reputation quite massively (either up or down). But this comes sometimes at a high price for the quality of the whole post. Since SE is supposed to be a community of experts quality of content is judged by votes. Fine so far. But as lamented here before in various forms: Attracting large numbers of visitors from other communities can also be quite detrimental in so far that some ("non experts"?) start a bandwagon or hop on one, thereby letting a somehow popular answer triumph over a more technical, more proper, or more correct one. In conversation I was told that sometimes length alone would be reason for a certain voting behaviours (Distinguishing here between unwanted one-liners, chatty page fillers and appropriately or necessarily lengthy answers, if the topic is complex).

How do I translate into a practical strategy the algorithm for HNQs to make as sure as possible that neither a question nor – more importantly an answer – will trigger a HNQ by my actions? Is timing the key? If I suspect that HNQness might do no good to the topic: Should I avoid answering for the time being if the question is "in danger of going hot"?


2 Answers 2


Is timing the key?

Yes, timing is a crucial factor, and the single thing you can control as one posting an answer. If you're really afraid that your answer will send the question to the HNQ list, just wait before answering. Half day should be enough.

Answering within half a day is still fine, but this is still something that feels wrong to me, considering that Stack Exchange is focused on good content, and this will delay possibly good content.

But worth to mention, there is very big "risk" that someone else will post similar answer anyway, or other answers that will attract quick upvotes, so this might all be in vain.

  • 2
    I'm not sure holding back a good answer half a day is against the spirit of Stack Exchange. Usually thinking about something half a day—even if it's only an subconscious later I'll post about X —will enhance your own answer so the overall quality of said answer and the reduced HNQ-bandwagon answers may very well be more in the spirit of SE.
    – Helmar
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 16:00
  • 3
    @Helmar delaying an answer just because the risk of HNQ just feels wrong. It is legit, possible, but not something I will do personally. Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 16:12
  • I'm not saying it's something I'd do either. When I delay answering it's because I've got other things to do that are more pressing. Either way I think against the spirit of Stack Exchange is a bit harsh.
    – Helmar
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 16:16
  • @Helmar fair enough, edited. Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 16:17
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    I think @ShadowtheHedgehogWizard has pretty good instincts when it comes to thinking about the goals in delaying an answer before you do it, and giving honest thought to would delaying really make anything better? is a good question to ask if only to be respectful of your time. That said, back when SO was younger and stuff actually 'stuck' to the front page for 20 - 30 minutes, timing questions to not show up there during high traffic times was something we used to do. [1/2]
    – user50049
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 18:00
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    ... folks used to time certain kinds of questions to times when they knew Jon would be using the site, or when certain users that were obviously out to collect rep above being helpful tended to be inactive, etc .. so it's not exactly new precedent to time posts strategically for whatever reason. As long as you aren't consciously pulling shenanigans, I wouldn't worry too much about it. [2/2]
    – user50049
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 18:02
  • @TimPost One big problem I felt was that often my posts weren't really "finished", as I was notified via comments. Editing a HNQ has almost real-time requirements, since so many potential and actual voters cast their lot on sth still in refinement. HNQ visitors almost never come back to see either improvement or not, leaving the votes counting in either direction on sth that is now quite different. Reason to upvote added after 12000 hits, tough luck. Reason for downvote removed after HNQ went thru town, same? Of course, no revisits also happens on inner circle posts but not in that magnitude. Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 20:30

First, I think you're linking to the wrong formula. This is the correct one for Hot Network Questions.

Should I avoid answering for the time being if the question is "in danger of going hot"?

That helps. According to the post I linked to,

  • Questions with no answers are excluded

If you feel your answer can wait a week, it definitely helps in avoiding the HNQ status, but it does not prevent it; somebody else can still post an answer.

Is timing the key?

There's a penalty for the second, third, etc. question from a single site, so if you post a question at a moment when there are multiple other hot questions from that site, it will get a lower score. But the penalty is not really severe, just 2% per question.

  • I've suggested edits to the question and answer linked in the question to better clarify it's not about HNQs. Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 15:23
  • @SonictheAnonymousHedgehog thanks, that's definitely a good idea. Even the [hot-questions] tag is ambiguous, but with 368 questions it's going to be tough to fix that.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 15:26

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