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This SEDE query shows that a per-site moderator has been removing questions from the HNQ network literally every single day since 2019/03/13. So far, this single moderator has removed 1655 questions (out of the total 1743) from HNQ within about a year.

While this particular case is witnessed from a particular site, I am not asking for a per-site policy. Since the HNQ is not "owned" by a particular site, this is a function of SE by design.

Is it appropriate for a per-site moderator to do so? Does SE have some general, non-website-specific guidelines?

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    This might be something to bring up with that moderator (and others) on Math's Meta site. – Spevacus Jun 9 '20 at 21:37
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    I've voted to close as a site-specific problem, since this is basically a duplicate of Math.SE's meta question Under what criteria should we remove questions from the HNQ list? where said moderator explained their stance, and on which Math.SE community already reacted (they seem to mostly agree with it FWIW). – Jenayah Jun 9 '20 at 21:39
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    From the duplicate @Catija said: "I recommend each site have a meta discussion with guidance for moderators about when - if ever - a question should be removed." I suspect few sites noticed this and I know I removed a few HNQs before I realized that SE was recommending that this not be a moderator judgement call. It looks like Mathematics was one site that held such a discussion: math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/30671/… – PolyGeo Jun 9 '20 at 23:45
  • @PolyGeo: relevant though, I do not understand why you think this is a duplicate. – danq Jun 9 '20 at 23:59
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    "Does SE have some general, non-website-specific guidelines?" is answered by @Catija there: "I recommend each site have a meta discussion with guidance for moderators about when - if ever - a question should be removed." i.e. SE only provides the guideline that the per-site Meta should discuss what they want removed from their HNQs. – PolyGeo Jun 10 '20 at 0:09
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The comments on the question quote my statements from the original announcement of this tool and I think that, for the most part, that's still correct. The main point of guidance is:

We're putting the power in the hands of our moderators to remove questions that don't set a good example for their sites. I recommend each site have a meta discussion with guidance for moderators about when - if ever - a question should be removed.

This is the overarching rule and what I still stand by. When we created this tool, I had no way of knowing how often it would need to be used so I deferred to the most knowledgeable people - the engaged users on a site - to help inform the mods about when to remove questions.

For most sites, the rest of my guidance was (and still is) good -

In general, we recommend that you exclude questions that attract negative attention to your sites, that is, questions that are controversial, start large amounts of debate or arguments or even edit wars. Removing a question should not be a substitute for fixing it! Remember that it may take several hours for a moderator to respond to a flag so do what you can, first:

  • If the title seems click-baity or doesn't adequately describe the question, edit it!
  • If the body is full of spelling or grammatical errors, fix them!
  • If the body contains unnecessary detail or salacious content, see if it can be removed without impacting the question.
  • If the question is unclear or broad, vote to close it. In most cases it will be better to close a question and wait for it to be improved rather than asking for it to be removed.

This tool is a big gun and should be used sparingly. Don't reach for it if you think the question can be fixed.

When moderators kick a post off the HNQ list there will be a delay of up to fifteen minutes or so as the list is cached but the question will be removed the next time it runs. In addition, an event will be logged in the post timeline and edit history that indicates when it was removed and by whom. This will help us understand what sort of posts are unwelcome in the HNQ list on different sites.

At this point in time, mods can only use this tool on a post currently in the HNQ list - they can't use it preemptively to prevent a question from being added to it.

This tool should be used relatively rarely... on most sites even getting a question on the HNQ list is pretty rare in the first place - that's why we added rules to set an upper limit to the number of questions from a specific site - to share the limited spots more around the network.

On some sites, it's very common - sites that have healthy voting cultures or where questions regularly get multiple answers. On some sites, those featured questions are still interesting and engaging - the concern that the mods on Math, specifically, have, is that the questions that tend to be selected are not the sort of question that help the site look good to visitors and look like a place where experts want to participate.

And I respect that reasoning. Not all questions can be excellent, clever ones but that doesn't mean that banal ones that just happened to get a couple of answers and an upvote should be broadcast to the entire network. This wasn't something I was thinking about when I wrote my considerations (quoted above) and I think it's a decision that is in the interest of the site, if that's what they feel is best for them.

So, the original advice stands - mods (or site users) should use meta to figure out what policy best suits a specific site rather than relying on one network-wide policy for guidance.

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  • maybe Math.SE mods / community are not aware that system allows lowering limit of their site questions in HNQ? Given their removal stats it seems natural to at least have a meta discussion about that but I haven't seen it – gnat Jun 10 '20 at 11:00
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    @gnat I think that this would not really solve the issue. There would still be many of the "wrong" questions on the HNQ, and if they are kept being removed new ones enter. It'll still be too rare that all the slots are taken by good questions. Also, there is no real practical problem, all things considered, it's not that much work to remove a handful of questions a day that we spot (especially not for me as another mod does it all! :) ) The problem that exists is a difference of opinion regarding what should be on the HNQ-list. There were some controversial discussions on mathmeta about HNQ. – quid Jun 10 '20 at 11:40
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    @quid I think I understand. You mean, it would work like a Pez dispencer? In this case, indeed, lowering limit wouldn't really help to decrease mod removals, thanks for pointing – gnat Jun 10 '20 at 12:05
  • Due to the unbalanced power of moderators and ordinary users, I don't see how the intended use of meta-discussion works. And actually, in the particular case mentioned, one moderator in the math site has no intention whatsoever to really listen to the ordinary audience regardless of the strong objection by an experienced user of his decision. He continues, almost unilaterally, removes almost all math questions he found on HNQ as one can easily see from the SEDE query. – danq Jun 14 '20 at 14:24
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    @danq I checked discussions at Math meta and it looks like removals have fairly solid support from community and other moderators. I saw disagreeing opinions there (which is normal) but to me these didn't look like sufficiently popular to justify stopping that. As for only one mod doing this, it may be a matter of simple division of labor, when one moderator picks to focus on handling particular kind of issues, mostly for the reasons of efficiency, I saw something like that at Stack Overflow – gnat Jun 15 '20 at 9:43

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