This was a point raised in a micro-study performed by ArtOfCode, but is even more relevant now because of the recent removal of an entire site from Hot Network Questions for...known reasons.

To quote a part of the study results (emphasis mine):

Hot Network Questions - what?

HNQ was one of the most confusing features mentioned. On a page full of questions about gardening, looking at the sidebar and seeing questions about Star Wars and Windows 10 next to each other confused my test group. Some sample reactions:

Aren't those questions off topic here?

What's the network?

What's Hot?

Why are these questions here with the gardening questions?

From what I can tell, this played a rather large part in provoking the original tweet that resulted in the site's removal: a visitor saw links to questions about personal relationships on a site that was supposedly focused only on programming.

When I began my first foray into teaching older, middle- and high-school kids, the first course offered at my university for students in that particular track involved teaching kids as young as first grade. The reason they did so was that you can't assume that those older children have the same level of general knowledge as yourself: the fact that you start off teaching kids who are totally new to reading, math, or science helps demonstrate that perfectly.

Similarly, you can't assume that someone who isn't familiar with Stack Exchange shares the same background knowledge, or is aware that the term "network" refers to the overall Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites (or in the case of readers of Stack Overflow or other sites not hosted on a stackexchange.com domain, know that that site is a part of it).

For this reason, I propose that the title of "Hot Network Questions" be changed to something that makes it clear to users unfamiliar with the SE network, such as "Hot on the Stack Exchange Network", "From the Stack Exchange Network", or per Monica Cellio's suggestion, "From our other sites". Either one of these titles would directly address the middle two issues mentioned earlier, and a user who looks just a little further will probably get their answer to the first and last issues.

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    If we're renaming things, wouldn't it make sense to drop the "hot" part altogether and just emphasize that they're questions from other sites? After all, that micro-study showed that users don't understand what hot means either, and it's not actually all that well-defined, and some people might not consider "hot" to be an accurate description of the list. More like a set of potentially interesting questions to expand your horizons. – animuson Nov 25 at 6:01
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    @animuson How about "From the Stack Exchange Network"? – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Nov 25 at 6:02
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    Why is this request disagreed? – Sonic the Inclusive Hedgehog Nov 25 at 6:09
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    Added my own reason for downvote, though others might have different reason. – Shadow Wizard Nov 25 at 14:03
  • I should have checked but I was led to believe that the mini-study was a fairly recent thing. Instead, it wasn't, it was posted two and a half years ago. My fault, I should have checked the date but... I don't think it had anything to do with the Twitter debacle. The person who sparked the debate is a female native English speaker who is also a developer. – Mari-Lou A Nov 28 at 13:18
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    If a developer does not understand the meanings of network or hot I would have them checked. The simple truth is that SE has a pretty poor reputation on the net, from my very modest investigations, but especially among strong feminists and users who didn't survive the first rejection or couldn't leap over the first hurdle. Upvote retracted. – Mari-Lou A Nov 28 at 13:20

From our other sites conveys the meaning more clearly, is no longer than "Hot Network Questions", doesn't rely on obscure jargon, and leaves room to someday reform how questions get onto the list (i.e. curation rather than the current algorithm). It tells the reader that Stack Overflow has other sites, and the selection of questions shows that they're rather different from SO.

People should be less surprised by questions about fictional inhabitants of Mars, or people trying to deflect unwanted flirting, with clearer labelling.

Comments have objected to this suggestion, saying that the words "hot" and "network" are clear to people who understand English. That's not the point. There is a space between "know how a dictionary would define" and "understand in context". Stack Overflow gets tons of visitors (mainly via Google) who are not aware that there are other sites. In the context of the SO front page, "network sites" is not very meaningful to these visitors. If it were, we wouldn't get so many questions like "why am I seeing stuff about {religion, relationships, politics, etc} on a site about programming?". "Network sites" is insider knowledge, but we need to reach outsiders too. The phrase "our other sites" conveys clearly what we mean. No, it doesn't have as much sales-pitch "zing" as "hot network questions", but if we have to choose between clarity and zing, I favor clarity.

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    I disagree that the words "hot" and "network" are obscure jargon for Stack Exchange users or native speakers. – Mari-Lou A Nov 27 at 11:21
  • @Mari-LouA given the items which gave rise to the controversy about HNQ it is perhaps unfortunate that hot means sexually attractive (amongst many other things) at least in the dialect of English spoken in South-East England. – mdewey Nov 27 at 13:27
  • @mdewey A valid point and a better reason for preferring "top" then. Thank you! I have never thought of "hot questions" as meaning sexy or "smoking hot" but it could be a possible misunderstanding for an outsider unfamiliar with SE. Saying that, would you argue that "hot" is an obscure or jargonistic term? – Mari-Lou A Nov 27 at 15:04
  • @Mari-LouA not obscure.. Perhaps more common among younger people. – mdewey Nov 27 at 16:29
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    @Mari-LouA the complaints from SO visitors seem pretty clear that they don't even know there's a whole network. They're there for programming Q&A. While the words have clear meanings in English, I don't think "network" carries particular meaning with that audience. My proposal uses clear language that should be understandable even to people with limited English, with no head-scratching (network?) or misunderstandings (as mdewey said). It lacks the carnival-barker "step right up, see hot stuff now, right over here!" aspect, but I think that's a feature. – Monica Cellio Nov 27 at 17:04
  • HNQ is not only meant for casual visitors to Stack Overflow but also SE users across the board. Visitors and users should already be familiar with the term "network", why else would they visit a site (SO) that is dedicated to computer coding, glitches, etc. in the first place? As for "From our other sites", which has a clear meaning, it sorely lacks zing and sounds boring. That may be a necessary sacrifice, but I think "top" overcomes the drawbacks of "hot" rather well. – Mari-Lou A Nov 27 at 17:30

I disagree. The whole point of that sidebar widget is to give something short and simple.

Changing the short and catchy "Hot Network Questions" to something like "Questions from around Stack Exchange, the network of sites" makes is both not short and not simple to understand. People new to SE won't understand what Stack Exchange means either, hence this defeat the whole purpose of the feature.

I can't see any good way to change it. IMO, it's let it be as it is now, or just remove it altogether.

Some Background History…

Originally called Hot Questions, the feature was affectionately known as the MultiCollider and SuperCollider by users until @radp renamed the drop down menu the MultiCollider SuperDropdown™ in September 2010.

enter image description here

Sometime around December 2013 it was upgraded and promoted to the front page

enter image description here

Today the title Hot Network Questions is composed of three words and 19 letters. Generally speaking, the title is reasonably short and easy to understand but it is clunky-sounding and not the easiest of phrases to say. The use of the term hot, whose meaning most non-native speakers are familiar with, is quite clever for several reasons. Its primary meaning is one of "heat" and "high temperature" but it also means (especially of news) "fresh", "up-to-date", "most recent" as in hot off the press, "trending", "passionate" as in to have a vivid interest in something, as well as "popular".

So, I'm not sure it is absolutely necessary to replace "hot", it's been part of Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange for over ten years but if we wanted to reduce ambiguity, "top" could fit the bill. Top also means to be in the highest position, rank or level. If something is "top" it suggests it is the best of something. At school, students receive top grades and achieve top results.

In fact, Stack Exchange uses the expression "Top Questions" on every one of its sites. So why not for the network?

  1. Top Network Questions (3 words and 19 letters)

Like hot, top is another three-letter word, and it will give you a title with the same number of words and letters as the original. And for some reason, it seems to be easier to say aloud.
Initialism: TNQ

  1. Currently On Stack Exchange Sites the Most Popular Answers and Questions

It is comprehensive, and unambiguous but it's too long… this exemplifies Shadow Wizard's criticism.

Acronym: COSESMPAQ virtually impossible to memorize but if we take PAQ, which is very reminiscent of FAQ, we get

  1. Popular A&Qs (3 words, 11 letters)

It's two letters fewer than the original title. It's a twist on the very recognizable initialism Q&A but it could also be interpreted as Popular Asked Questions, and it has the no small advantage of being easy to abbreviate.
Acronym: PAQ

However, while browsing the archives of MSE I came across the following piece of information posted over four years ago
What is the Goal of "Hot Network Questions"?
The author says

The goal of the hot questions should be to drive traffic to general-interest questions. After all, the Hot Network Questions used to be more accurately named as "Popular Questions".

This might explain why the term “popular” will probably be rejected, it's been used before and it was changed to “hot”. Jiminy Cricket, someone could have warned me!

Which leaves me with the following suggestions

  1. Top Q&As (2 words, 7 letters)
    New Q&A (2 words, six letters)
    Hot StackExchange Q&A's (3 words, 20 letters)

The first two titles are comprehensible, commonly known, and above all, snappy. The last one is more complete and replaces "network" with the actual name of the site.
Initialisms: TQ&As, NQ&A, and HSEQ.

If the OP wants to convince the SE team to change the name "Hot Network Questions" to something less obtuse, they will need to propose a shorter and catchier name than From the Stack Exchange Network (5 words and 27 letters) or From our other sites (4 words and 18 letters).

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    Only suggestion #2 addresses the issue mentioned in the question, that a user unfamiliar with the system won’t know that these questions are coming from other Stack Exchange sites. – Alex Nov 26 at 2:27
  • @Alex I have explained why I suggested these solutions. I have also switched the order around so what was No.2 is now No.3 – Mari-Lou A Nov 27 at 11:24
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    IMHO, "top" or "best" suggest high quality - whereas In the current version, the 'hot' questions are the ones with a lot of activity, which doesn't say anything about there quality. Thus, I am not a fan of suggestions #1 and #2. – Marzipanherz Nov 28 at 18:57
  • @Marzipanherz is it a bad thing to suggest that the answers or questions are both of a high quality? Why is there a lot of activity in these posts, if not b/c they are the most interesting? Easy questions rarely generate high quality answers. If the answers are not "good", or worse "wrong", they'll attract downvotes. The whole ethos of SE is based on the theory that good posts rise to the top while the bad ones sink to the bottom, and in some cases, even be deleted. – Mari-Lou A Nov 28 at 20:16
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    but that's what I mean: a HNQ might be of good quality - but maybe there iss just a lot of editing or a heated debate whether it's on-topic or not etc while the question (and its answer(s)) is far away from having high quality. So new people might read "best"/"top" > read crap > think 'What, this is your best?!' and judge accordingly – Marzipanherz Nov 28 at 20:32
  • @Marzipanherz Usually, questions that hit HNQ are the ones that have received a flux of upvotes in a relatively brief space of time or have a number of answers (more than one!) that have been upvoted. I agree that sometimes a very good question or a very good answer gets overlooked, but that is the law of physics or popularity. SE's whole focus is on upvotes, users earn rep with upvotes and if new visitors think the posts are crap, I don't see why naming the feature "[questions that come] from our other sites" would be an improvement or a guarantee of quality. – Mari-Lou A Nov 28 at 20:47
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    "In fact, Stack Exchange uses the expression "Top Questions" on every one of its sites. So why not for the network?" - Technically, the term "Top Questions" is similarly wrong. They're not "top", they're "most recently active". There's nothing "top" about them and we should probably not call them "Top Questions" for that reason. One of the biggest complaints of the HNQ list is that the questions often aren't good questions, they're just easy. This makes sense since the quickness of answers and quantity of them are the major factor in deciding hotness. – Catija Dec 6 at 21:38
  • @Catija not all of them are great questions, and not all of them received great answers, but they have all enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame. It's like music, some No.1 hits are timeless and will continue to provide joy to listeners in years to come while others are just cringe-worthy commercial successes. But they all topped the billboard. – Mari-Lou A Dec 6 at 21:46

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