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I understand that there's a regex that prevents questions with certain text patterns in their titles from appearing in the hot network questions list. I would like to propose an addition to this filter to exclude the below question from Hinduism:

part of the HNQ with a potentially-contentious question title highlighted

I would also like to know if 'ask question on big meta' is the appropriate way to suggest changes to the HNQ filter.

Here it is again:

part of the HNQ with a potentially-contentious question title highlighted

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    That's a problem, assuming you mean the word "semen" should trigger the regex. There are totally legit questions with that word in the title in sites like Medical Sciences (formerly Health.SE) so it's not that simple. If you find such things to be offensive, you can install userscript that hides the HNQ or filter it by sites, surely there are such userscripts around. – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Oct 25 '18 at 12:47
  • Anyway, yes, this is the correct place to request such a change, but don't build your hopes too high for it to be done. :) – Shadow Wizard is Ear For You Oct 25 '18 at 12:48
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    Given the latest furore regarding HNQ, it seems prudent to be prudent about the HNQ. Adding a word to the blacklist doesn't seem like a huge development task. – user351483 Oct 25 '18 at 13:26
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    And of words to add, this seems like a pretty obvious one to pick. – enderland Oct 25 '18 at 14:05
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    @ShadowWizard there’s a difference between a legitimate question for a site and the types of titles we want to use to advertise that site to the public at large. I think there are a lot of words that aren’t offensive but that we might not want to display out of context. Especially we they could leave a bad impression when displayed next to other titles that aren’t problematic by themselves. – ColleenV parted ways Oct 25 '18 at 18:56
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    @ShadowWizard: Nobody is claiming that these questions are bad, wrong, or improperly titled. But people don't come to a site called "Stack Overflow", which is about "Programming", so that they can get an advertisement about a question involving "semen." – Nicol Bolas Oct 25 '18 at 19:17
  • Along with masturbation, which seems to appear regularly on islam.stackexchange.com. It even has it's own tag ... – DavidPostill Oct 25 '18 at 19:55
  • You could flag that question and ask a mod to kick it off the HNQ list. Much more effective then waiting for 6 to 8 weeks for the regex to be updated – rene Jul 31 '19 at 10:43
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We talked through this and can't really see a reason for "semen" to ever appear in the HNQ list. This is in no way a statement that these questions are not generally welcome on their respective sites but, in the interest in keeping the HNQ work-safe, we feel that preventing these questions from being visible while this word is in the title is a reasonable request.

Particularly on smaller sites, the question may come and go from the HNQ list without a moderator seeing the flag. Because of this, I generally recommend editing over (or in addition to) flagging for a mod to remove from the HNQ list. If the title can be edited to remove the problematic term, that's great.

Removal from the HNQ list should be reserved for cases where the content of the question will never be appropriate for the HNQ list so if fixing the title is all that's needed, there's no reason to flag. This may be the case for most questions with "semen" in the title but I could imagine times where it'd be fine.

I do understand rene's point about having our regex get so cumbersome that it prevents benign titles from showing up but we're pretty careful about what we add to it, so I think we're unlikely to run into that problem any time soon.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

  • An alternative solution would be to replace the offending word with a euphemism or innocuous synonym, in this case I can't think of a suitable one to substitute "semen" but there other examples of ambiguous terms, like "cum" (Latin.SE) or double entendre such as "Why is wood so hard?" (Biology.SE) or just rewrite the title. – Mari-Lou A Jul 31 '19 at 19:29
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    I personally think "cum" is even worse than the technical terminology. I don't want to turn this into whack-a-mole... "man-seed" is just as problematic as "semen"... the point of rephrasing is to focus on something other than the word... so the Martial Arts example could be rephrased as "What are the implications to reproductive health in practicing Gaja Vadivu?" – Catija Jul 31 '19 at 19:33
  • I meant that you might have a perfectly legitimate question about the Latin term "cum", so what do you do, blacklist that word too? Possibly, or maybe it could be substituted by a mod if it happens to hit the NHQ fan. – Mari-Lou A Jul 31 '19 at 19:36
  • Oh, I see what you're saying... we're not going to ban ambiguous terms on a network-wide basis, that's why we have per-site bans. If a term becomes problematic on one site because of context, we're just going to prevent it on that one site. – Catija Jul 31 '19 at 19:36
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No, let's not try to regex ourselves out of every possible combination of words that might upset someone, somewhere, sometime.

If you see a case like this pop-up in the HNQ list, just visit the question, flag the question for moderator attention and ask for the question to be removed from the HNQ list with your argument why that is needed.

That is much more effective then tweaking a regular expression to the point it doesn't allow anything.

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